Economic Transition in Russia and the New States of Eurasia

By Bartlomiej Kaminski | Go to book overview

Sicily. It should be noted, however, that in general the Italian economy prospered despite the costs imposed by the parasitic mafia organizations.

The greatest economic threat is not, I believe, from organized crime proper or even from rampant unorganized crime. These are more the products of economic dislocation and political instability than causes or indicators of potential economic and political collapse. Despite brave talk and recent optimistic forecasts, the economy continues to falter.16 Meanwhile, privatization has transferred great wealth, both tangible and financial, to a small, strategically positioned elite. Many Russian citizens label the beneficiaries of these transfers mafiya, but this is really just a term of opprobrium and has little to do with organized crime proper. Stamping out all organized crime would not help restore production or reclaim national assets. These unhappy developments, along with both unorganized and organized crime, are the consequences of the failure of economic (and political) reform.17


Notes

I would like to thank William Hemphill and Bart Kaminski for helpful comments on an earlier version of this chapter. My thanks also go to Julijana Budjevac for her research assistance.

1.
See, for example, Lee Hockstader, "Russia's Criminal Condition: Gangsters Spreading Web From Moscow to the West," Washington Post (part 1, 26 February 1995; part 2, 27 February 1995); Steven Erlanger, "Images of Lawlessness Twist Russian Reality," New York Times ( 7 June 1995, p. A10); John Gray, "The Rise of Russia's Crime Commissars," World Press Review ( June 1994, pp. 13-15); Stephen Handelman , "Inside Russia's Gangster Economy: Why Capitalism and the Mafiya Mean Business," New York Times Magazine, 24 January 1993; and Stephen Handelman , Comrade Criminal: Russia's New Mafiya ( New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1995), pp. 3, 21.
2.
See, for example, Arkadii Vaksberg, "Fitting the Punishment to the Crime, and Politics Too," in Remaking Russia: Voices from Within, ed. Heyward Isham (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1995), p. 208: "We need to define the term 'mafia' more clearly. With the blessing of lawyers and journalists, it is now loosely applied to anything: street vendors who are in league with each other to keep the prices of tomatoes and meat high, taxi drivers who charge a visiting foreign businessman three times the normal fare (and take only hard currency), government bureaucrats who are lining their pockets in the process of privatization of state property (that is, property nobody owns)."
3.
See Jay Albanese, Organized Crime in America, 2d ed. ( Cincinnati, OH: Anderson Publishing Co., 1989), especially ch. 2, "Historical Facts and Myths, 1890-1950," pp. 17-77; and Alan A. Block, "Introduction," in The Business of Crime: A Documentary Study of Organized Crime in the American Economy ( Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1991), pp. 11-17.
4.
For Sicily and Italy, see Alexander Stille, Excellent Cadavers: The Mafia and the Death of the First Italian Republic ( New York: Pantheon, 1995).
5.
The Sicilian mafia appears to be a special case of the crime family, one in which the extended family is the model for the organization and family members are added by marriage, adoption, and initiation. One sees very little to indicate that the mafia family organization as such has developed in Russia. See Alexander Stille, Excellent Cadavers.

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