Russian Organized Crime
On October 31, 2007, In the Russian province of Togliatti, a bus carrying several passengers including women and children exploded, killing eight people and leaving approximately horribly wounded. Local authorities attributed the bombing as an act of terrorism perpetrated by Russian organized crime. Unfortunately, these horrific acts of violence have become commonplace in Russia and a regular part of daily life. Not only does the mob hold a tight grip on their homeland, but they also maintain a significant influence on worldwide criminal activity. Despite this, much about the Russian Mafia remains unknown, with little understanding of its history, organization, extent of criminal activity and its global presence. The history of Russian organized crime dates back to the early 1700s, in the time of the Russian Imperial era. Criminal activity was rooted among loose gangs of thieves formed from the common people. These rebellious bands would come to be known as the “Vory”, who upheld a specific code of honor and believed in an anti-government philosophy. In order to join the Vory, a prospect had to be a professional thief and voted in by the other members. Numbering in the millions, the Vory began entrenching themselves in Russian society, fueled by resentment of the government and class divisions of the time. At the start of the twentieth century, Russia was changing, and so was organized crime. In 1917, Russia exploded with the advent of Communism. The Bolshevik revolution ushered in a new era of organized crime. With the Vory in support of the new regime, an uneasy alliance was formed between the criminal organizations and the fledgling government. Through bribery, blackmail, and extortion, the corruption of government officials provided organized crime with protection and immunity from prosecution, forming mutually beneficial relationships that have existed to this day. Some scholars believe that “During the Communist years..., Communist Party members existed above the law and that they were the real organized crime figures during that time” (Lanka). By the 60s and 70s, irregular methods of acquiring money (extortion, laundering, bribery) had not only become commonplace, but was required due to the nature of the Soviet system. The failings of a government in a classless society enabled organized crime to flourish during the Soviet era because it was seen as a means to attain a higher standard of living. Yuri Maltsev, then senior advisor to former Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, believed that “...essentially prohibited any form of social or economic activity that didn't advance the interest of the state. In short, they criminalized everything” (Grigg). By this time, organized crime in Russia had evolved from honor-bound gangs of petty thieves to ruthless, violent and independent minded “businessmen” bent on attaining wealth and power through any means available. Although the mob’s activities were still mainly limited to the homeland, the stage was set for expansion and growth after the fall of the Soviet Union. Rather than stimulate legitimate businesses in striving to create more opportunity and to expand, the demise of the Soviet Union enabled Russian organized crime to further tighten its grip on the country and expand outside of mother Russia itself. This new government created free markets which allowed the mob to wield huge economic influence. According to official government reports of the time, “... it is estimated that there are some 50,000 companies in Russia that are controlled by organized crime groups and that these groups control 40% of Russia's gross national product” (Anderson). Authorities were already dependent on organized crime to promote their own agendas and enhance their own personal fortune. As far as the mob was concerned, the change in government was merely superficial, and allowed them to expand their criminal enterprises...
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