Corruption and the Russian Mob

Russian Mafia Members in the Ubiquitous Tracksuit

Corruption had always run rampant in Russia/ the Soviet Union. It was part of life because it had occurred for generations. People in the business world expected a bribe to facilitate contracts and permits. Police officers did not want a ticket to be paid through the city. But most of all in the 1990s after the fall of the USSR, people expected the Russian Mafia to protect them, if they took care of the Russian Mafia. An interesting article from The Current Digest examines a one-off “hooliganism” situation, and compares it to other happenings in Russia at the time. It mentions that, “According to the opinion that is forming here, these are the actions of a corrupt, well-organized mafia group. Its aim is, riding the waves of democracy, to minimize the role of Soviet and Party agencies and to intimidate the bulk of the population”(Levin 22). This may have been one of the first accounts of the Russian Mafia being noted in the press, before their semi-takeover of the country in the 1990s. “Much of this ‘quiet revolution’ became possible because the end of mass terror also meant an end to the individual’s paralyzing fear, and because bureaucratic actors saw opportunities for self-aggrandizement with minimal risk or cost”(Barker 677). There is a similar irony embedded in both of these quotes through the use of two words: democracy and bureaucratic. On paper, the mafia may have seemed somewhat democratic in their ways, because they did not agree with Communist ideologies. This was due in part to the fact that they wanted to achieve their own agenda, rather than listen to an appointed leader. Individualists, yes. Democrats, no. Organized crime in all countries operates in a well-orchestrated manner, free of any type of political ideology. Their main intent is to make as much money as possible through drug-running, completing “hits”, gambling, and overall corruption of society. Russian mafia members were professionals at the final intent, and these extremely corrupt ways have become the butt of jokes about Russian culture for years. A Russia Reader contributor, Alexander Dallin, argues that the spread of corruption was one chief cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union. He makes a valid point, saying that Stalin controlled the corruption, but after he and his political machine died, people cared more about their self-interests than the success of society as a whole. This “me, me, me” culture is synonymous with the West, and having it invade Soviet ideologies did nothing to help the communists in their pursuit of collectivist ways. The following video is extremely interesting, and gives a great overview of the Russian Mafia through their history and immense power:

– Alex


Barker, Adele Marie, and Bruce Grant. The Russia Reader: History, Culture,  Politics. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2010. Print.

Levin, A. “WHO IS BEHIND THE HOOLIGANS?On the Events in Fergana Province.” The Current Digest of the Russian Press 41.23 (1989): 21-22. Eastview. Web. 6 Dec. 2015. <;.

The Russian Mafia Documentary 2015

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5 thoughts on “Corruption and the Russian Mob

  1. tlamm418 says:

    The way that the organized crime the Russians had differs from the Italians is very interesting. Also in the video the clever way that the Russians smuggled vodka into their country is a great example of the genius of the Russian mafia or “Red Mafia”. This is an extremely interesting topic and I watched the entire documentary! What percentage of the banks nowadays do you think have to do with organized crime in Russia?


  2. This is a really fascinating and complex topic. The Russian Mafia, while not as well known as the Italian mafia, is still extremely developed and dangerous. Their members and leaders basically rose out of the gulag system and remnants of the Soviet empire. Once Upon a Time in Russia is a really good book detailing the rise of the oligarchs and their fall as well when Putin came to power.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a compelling post about a really important topic! I found the article you used from the Current Digest especially intriguing, although in this case, the use of the word “mafia” probably confuses more than clarifies. The article is written in the aftermath of violent conflict in the Fergana valley between Uzbeks and Meskhetian Turks in June of 1989. The precipitating factors were complicated and still not fully understood, but the clash was one of the first salvos in the collapse of the Soviet Union.
    Corruption at high levels had become a big problem in the late Soviet period — members of Brezhnev’s family were implicated in diamond smuggling rings, for example, and one of Andropov’s (and then Gorbachev’s) appeals was that they were not corrupt (Andropov came from the KGB, which was seen as a “clean” organization). So, lots of intrigue and opportunity for more research (beyond History channel documentaries!) Thanks, Parker for suggesting a book.


  4. Patrick Butler says:

    Wow, that was a really interesting post. I found it incredibly interesting that the mobs protected the people in a way. Mob culture in Russia is incredibly complex and this would definitely be a topic I would research in the future to hopefully gain a better understanding of the mobs.


  5. cturrrn says:

    Corruption in post-Soviet Russia was a huge problem, and it probably contributed to the heavy handedness of the current government. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the new government was much more timid than the old one, which left a lot of room for the mob to grow and become more powerful. Great post!


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