The Godfather: Russian Edition

While the collapse of the Soviet Union shook Russia’s economic foundations and government infrastructure as a whole it also created an open window for a new kind of leadership within the weakened Russian government: Russian Organized Crime (ROC). Also, known as the Russian Mafia of Bratstvo (the brotherhood), the Russian Mafia quickly made their presence known in a time of uncertainty and insecurity. Though the mafia itself existed during the communist ruled Soviet Union, it lived through deals and “hush hush” transactions. The Soviet government allowed the mafia to exist as long as the organization did not effect communist rule. Though the Russian Mafia was present during communist’s rule, the organization did not thrive but only survived. It was the fall of the Soviet Union and communism that consequently led to the downfall of government infrastructure that welcomed the Russian Mafia and other organized crime organizations to the beginning stages of the Russian market economy.

In a struggle to consolidate and systematize a new working government, Russian government officials fell into the traps of the corrupt who often worked hand-in-hand with organized criminals, the mafia. Soon after gaining a hold on government officials and politicians, the mafia began to expand their reach to more profitable and dependable resources. Their first stop to power was the purchasing of state-owned assets including communication, energy, gas, and oil and various other industries that would help the mafia cause: control and cash intake. Secondly, the mafia began to sell its goods to the public: protection and security for those who performed well in the eyes of the mafia. These tactics were used to intimidate and control the Russian population both civilians and political persons.

The rise of Russian Organized Crime led to the creation of numerous oligarchs alongside the rise of the Russian Mafia that would rule in the chaotic post-Soviet era. These oligarchs came from all backgrounds, businessmen, political and criminals but they all used organized crime to their advantage and to push their agendas forward in a new Russia. After the fall of the Soviet Union many government functions failed to last: social security, pensions and property protection are only a few. The Russian people were in peril and at the time the Russian Mafia wore the red cape.

Jumping forward, once Vladimir Putin came to power he recognized the potential threat that organized crime as a whole could present: it was easily more effective than the current ruling state and it owned all assets valuable to the Russian government. Power therefore did not rest with the state but rather than these numerous organized crime organizations. Since 1999, Putin has made numerous adjustments to gain the upper hand and to put an end to organized crime within the Russian government.

Consequences of the Collapse of the Soviet Union. Norwich University. October 2017. Accessed April 26, 2018. https://graduate.norwich.edu/resources-mah/articles-mah/consequences-of-the-collapse-of-the-soviet-union/.

Utrata, Alina. Russian Organized Crime. Stanford Model United Nations Conference. 2014. Accessed April 26, 2018. http://web.stanford.edu/group/sias/cgi-bin/smunc/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Russia-BG-Final.pdf.

Organized Crime in Russia. Stratfor. April 16, 2008. Accessed April 26, 2018. https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/organized-crime-russia.

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11 thoughts on “The Godfather: Russian Edition

  1. I love the title of this post! I think its a really important topic to talk about because after the fall of the soviet union the people who were most experienced with “capitalism” such as the mafia and other black market organizations really rose to power due to their knowledge.

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  2. Rachel, this post is pretty cool. Loved the subject and the way you presented the Mafia. I know from the work I did on my post before this, that some of the roots of organized crime were bred with the spread of the black market economy. In fact, it even exploded in its reach and importance with the fall of the Soviet Union due to that big power vacuum that was just waiting to be exploited. Awesome post!

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  3. Very interesting. Although I can see how they were advantageous to the government at the time, I can’t imagine that all politicians and oligarchs were supportive of their influence, as you show when Putin comes into power. Do they still exist and hold influence today?

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  4. Really good post! I’m glad you did a topic that no one else really covered. Growing up on tv we always heard about the Russian Mafia but we didn’t really get that many specifics. You said that it thrived after the fall of the Soviet Union. Was there a reason why they didn’t do so well during the communist rule and better during the “capitalist”?

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    • I think if anything they thrived immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union because so much many were unsure, “what next”? I think once they rooted themselves in the government and started to reach out it just became harder to rid of the mafia and their organized crime tactics.

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  5. The Russian Mafia (“bratstvo” means “brotherhood”) is an important post-Soviet topic. How does this connect to the end of the Soviet Union? Was the corruption of the late Soviet period a precursor to the post-Soviet mafia? Were there particular aspects of the way the national wealth was “privatized” that facilitated the mafia’s rise? Who exactly were they?

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    • I think this relates to the end of the Soviet Union because it opened a window for the Russian Mafia to come through. Though the Russian Mafia was present during the Soviet Union, as mentioned in my post, they allowed them to work as long as it did not effect the agenda of the communist rule. After the fall their was no real agenda or plan and this made the Russian Mafia an accessory to the government.

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  6. Really cool post! Was the Russian Mafia an extension of the black market or was it something entirely different? Has Putin’s crackdown on organized crime in Russia affected the oligarchs in any way, or have they been co-opted under Putin?

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  7. Great post! I honestly didn’t know too much about the Russian Mafia, so your post was an awesome read. I wonder how citizens opinions varied about the Mafia regime compared to the previous one before the collapse of the Soviet Union?

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    • The mafia that was present during the Soviet Union was the same that was present afterwards. The only difference is after the collapse of the Soviet Union the Mafia was able to gain control within the government.

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