Proposed Solutions to the Organized Crime Problem in Russia

Article excerpt

Lessons learned from Social and Legal Approaches Employed in The United States, Great Britain, and Sicily

Organized crime has become one of the major problems facing the modern world. It no longer exists within the boundaries of individual countries; today, primarily because of advances in communication and transportation technology, the organized criminal has become a citizen of the world, unwelcome, but nonetheless there.

It is naive to view the phenomenon of organized crime in provincial terms as has become the fashion of those who point to Russia as experiencing a volatile and unique epidemic of this form of criminality.(1) Every major country--the United States, Germany, Great Britain, Columbia, China, and Japan, to mention only a few--is engaged in its own war on organized crime.

In responding to the specific and rapidly increasing threat of organized crime currently facing Russia and the Russian people, we believe it to be a challenge and obligation of social scientists, along with specialists from other disciplines, to offer solutions. In that spirit and framework, we seek to offer solutions to the problem of Russian organized crime by drawing comparisons with the results of measures that have been attempted in the United States.

Although we respect the conclusion drawn by scholars at the conference "The Black Market as a Political System," as reported in the Moscow News,(2) that there is no sociological solution to the mafia problem in Russia, we believe that there is a solution. However, that solution depends solely on the sincere involvement of the Russian government and the individual Russian citizen. In opposition to the conclusion that there is no possible solution to the mafia problem is a statement made by Russian sociologist Tatyana Zaslavskaya in 1989:

   Perestroika is like a spring bursting from the rocks in this mountainside
   of ours.... It comes from an underground stream flowing somewhere beneath
   the surface of the soil.(3)

Despite the brutal depredations from black market and other criminal enterprises in Russia today, we outside observers cannot help believing that there is indeed "a stream flowing," starting with perestroika, in the direction of increased privatization and the growth of individual rights and enterprises. That force, once it begins to manifest itself, as history has shown us, can generate its own irresistible power. It was that force that generated democracy and capitalism in the United States.

We in America, like the Russians, have had our own robber barons and problems with outbreaks of rampant criminality. It is not an outside enemy that Russia is fighting in the fight against organized crime; rather, the criminal is a Russian. As individuals, Russians must learn that successful economic and individual competition is based on self-interest. But, to be effective as a social process, that self-interest must show respect and concern for the ultimate welfare of others and of society as a whole. Only then can competition exist in the spirit of free enterprise rather than an oligarchy of terror, power, and force employed and enjoyed only by certain individuals and groups.

Russia is in a stage of transition. The average Russian has not considered the fact that a form of commercial enterprise in the exchange of goods and services was taking place during the Communist era, and its current presence in Russian society is nothing new. The process was and is called the black market, and the institution to be feared and deceived in this process was and is the government. Ironically, as numerous students of the subject such as Rosner(4) and Simis(5) have shown, many aspects and agencies of the government itself were involved in the process. So who, in fact, was being cheated and deceived? Today, Russians must learn and adjust to the fact that in every case of black market enterprising it is ultimately the individual Russian citizen who is paying the price. …