The Russian Mafia: Private Protection in a New Market Economy

The Russian Mafia: Private Protection in a New Market Economy

The Russian Mafia: Private Protection in a New Market Economy

The Russian Mafia: Private Protection in a New Market Economy


What is the Russian Mafia? This unique book thoroughly researches this question and challenges widely-held views. The author charts the emergence of the Russian Mafia in the context of the transition to the market, the privatization of protection and pervasive corruption. The ability of theRussian State to define property rights and protect contracts is compared to the services offered by fragments of the state apparatus, private security firms, ethnic crime groups, the Cossacks and the Mafia. Past criminal traditions, rituals and norms have been resuscitated by the Mafia of today toforge a powerful new identity and compete in a crowded market for protection. The book draws on and reports of undercover police operations, in-depth interviews conducted over several years with the victims of the Mafia, criminals and officials, and documents from the Gulag archives. It alsoprovides a comparative study, making references to other Mafia (the Japanese Yakuza, the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, American-Italian Mafia and the Hong Kong Triads).


This is a study of the forms protection has taken during the transition from Soviet planning to the market economy in Russia. The transition to the market has often been considered solely as an economic problem. Little attention has been paid to the institutions that make a market economy work: a system of clearly defined property rights, a swift and effective court system, and a credible police force that deters crimes.

The question of property rights—their definition, diffusion, and enforcement—is crucial in the transition from a centrally planned economy to a market economy. When a centrally planned economy comes to an end, the result is a dramatic increase in the number of property owners and in transactions among individuals with property rights. The transition to the market amounts to the diffusion of private property rights; such diffusion produces a whole new set of problems actors must solve.

The fear of losing property and of being cheated arises as a result of transition to the market. The increase in property and economic transactions leads to more opportunities to engage in criminal activities. The opportunities to commit crimes like theft, robbery, embezzling, the forging of wills, grow manifold. Also, new types of crimes become possible with the transition to the market, such as certain types of fraud and financial crimes.

Russia is experiencing such a transition, embarking on a path that many other countries have followed before. North and Thomas locate the time of the breakdown of feudal property rights, which did not recognize or secure private ownership, and the transition towards institutional

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