Banditry and thievery, common in the world’s societies. In some parts of the world, it is a source of livelihood, where surviving means more than living. In the 1720s, during the Russian Imperial period, these acts were considered a norm, such as stealing, so it all
depended on who was good in the art.
In Russia, poverty was at its peak where the vast majority of the population were peasants. The top peasants in hierarchy would steal from the government entities and divide the proceeds amongst all the other peasants extortionately. These brought about to the formation of, “Vorovskoy Mir” meaning, “Thieves World” in Russian.
These were criminal grouping similar to the Italian crime families, which had strict conduct rules and loyalty to the group and each member. Their main agenda was, never bow down to any authority especially the Russian Government. All you had to it is steal from it without reason and order. When the Bolshevik Revolution came to power in 1917, organised crime was advanced and steady grounded in the Russian society, it was a rule of nature. Vladimir Lenin, founder of Leninism, a Marxist, political revolutionist and theorist, was dedicated to clear these groups from Russia but it was futile hence, the groups reigned to Joseph Stalin’s era.
Stalin forced the criminal gangs’ members into Soviet labour camps, “gulags” where they were subjected to servitude. They worked for the government as forced manual labourers. They worked for the government in the industrialisation sector such as coalmines. Some were used to try new drugs or vaccines for various diseases and military hardware test researched by the government research facilities. Therefore, if the KGB wanted to test the impact effect for a new bullet prototype to a human head, all they had to do is look for real head amongst the errant prisoners. In the forced labour camps, the imprisoned developed thick hippo skin attitude towards oppression and authorities thus they became tough as steel. Living conditions were pathetic, the camps had all types of disease causing vectors and contagious diseases were in abundance just like blessings from the gods, due to lack of proper sanitation, ventilation and personal hygiene. They were also half-fed prisoners suffering from malnutrition.
In the prisons, the prisoners had developed complex and elaborate tattoos, which they used to identify each gang member from their rank in experience and membership. Gang members were brutal to rival gangs. Brutal killings and bodily harms were the order of the day. The prison guards were faced with mammoth tasks in combating the prison gangs, which had also external influencers mostly politicians. It got to a point that the authorities encouraged the gangs to fight amongst themselves so that they would eradicate themselves, popularly known as Bitch Wars (1945-1953). No official record of the number of prisoners who died during the prison wars.
World War II came in to the Soviet Union and Joseph Stalin had to react against Adolf Hitler’s invasion. He had to perform a mass recruitment of soldiers to fight for the country. According to the “vorami v zakone” meaning “thieves-in-law”, it was an act of misconduct to cooperate with any government authority. It was considered an act of being a traitor, punishable by death penalty. Stalin promised the co-operators freedom after the war ended which led to many joining the military as foot soldiers. After World War II ended, Stalin refused to fulfil the promise, sent them back to prison disappointed and frustrated
Back in prison, there were now two distinct groups, those who collaborated and those who refused government influences. Those who refused to ally with the government were at the top of the tire. They controlled all prison wars and businesses. They referred to the collaborators as “suki” meaning “bitch”. The prison authorities identified non-collaborators and locked them up separately. This reduced their power since the collaborators outnumbered them. Some of the prisoners had turned into cannibalism where they ate their foes. They claimed food scarcity hence they had to look for alternative sources of proteins. The “suki” worked with the prison officials hence they were awarded comfortable treats. A prisoner would kill a fellow inmate for a pack of cigarettes as compensation.
After Joseph Stalin’s reign, the Soviet Union was in a collapse mode, so the criminal organisations had developed roots into the government. They were in control of sixty percent of the government entities and they were working to diversify and spread their wings globally. Most of the forced labour prisoners had been released by then and they were now free in to roam the Soviet Union.
Mikhail Gorbachev was the eighth and last leader of the Soviet Union. He supported MarxistLeninists doctrine but later changed to social democracy. He allowed private entities to grow but it was too late since the Soviet was collapsing. In Soviet, the government ran the country and it owned the bigger part of all social and business institutions. During this period 1970s to 1980s, America allowed the Soviet Jews to immigrate to America where they settled in Brooklyn area, Brighton Beach popularly known as “Little Odessa”. This provided the right channels for Russian mobs to come into USA. The first criminal activity to be recorded was, “Potato Bag Gang” where some Russian con artists disguised to be selling antic gold rubbles, but when their client bought in bulk of thousands, they would package the potato bags and sell to them.
Russian organised crime involved the elite individuals and highly educated of the society. Top professionals including professors controlled crime. Most lived in foreign countries and led luxurious lives, which was an unpopular trait in the world for people working their jobs positions. They took their children to British schools and they shopped at high-end shopping outlets in London and lived in the finest hotel suites instead of mediocre, low class apartments just like the British. This attracted the attention of the Interpol, which led to the launch of investigation into the matter. Most elite Russian crime members were known of playing chess.
After the end of the Cold War, the USSR had collapsed and it was opened up as a free market. The learned and elite Russians took over government entities including financial institutions, nuclear plants and mines. Former KGB and Afghanistan war veterans offered their skills to the new bosses where they would start taking advantage of the situation. Russia had a vast and robust cold war artillery and military hardware, which was not in use. The crime bosses who some were government officials had found a goldmine. They started selling this hardware to terrorist groups, drug cartels and other governments across the world.
Gangster summits were being held across Russia in order for the them to know who will be in control of the free nation. Vyacheslav Ivankov alias “Yaponchik” which in Russians means “little Japanese” was appointed to head the USA and head the Brighton region. He was a top thief-in-law; he had killed so many people in Russia that the gangster summit saw him fit for the new region in 1992. Within a year, he had established international networks and allied with Italian Mafia and Colombian Cartels hence spreading the Russian wings to Los Angeles, Miami and Boston.
Some of the top international crimes that Russians participate in up to date included bootlegging, murder for hire, money laundering, electronic hacking, identity theft, narcotics and commodities trafficking such as vodka and cigarettes, racketeering, credit cards fraud, extortion and firearms trades. One of their international high profile case involved vodka bootlegging. They shipped thousands of barrels of vodka from America labelled as industrial fluid for windshield washer. They added a blue dye and transported it in industrial barrels. When the liquid got to Russia, it was chemically purified to remove the blue dye and the vodka parked into bottles for sale and distribution. Considering an average Russian consumes 6.6 litres of vodka per annum, the Russians mafia made an unknown amount of billion dollars in profits through tax evasion. That was a top multi-billion bootlegging syndicated ever discovered by America involving organised crime.
In illegal firearms trade, they sold cold war military supplies by collaborating with corrupt Russian Military personnel. Ludwig “Tarzan” Feinberg was involved in a global scale military transaction where he facilitated the task as an intermediary between Juan Almeida, a Colombian cocaine dealer and the Russian Military. He helped him source for three Russian Military helicopters which was a successful deal and a submarine all for drug trafficking. The FBI ambushed the submarine deal and they were arrested. Tarzan owned a strip club called Porky’s in Brighton Beach, Miami that was a popular hangout joint for international underworld criminals.
Unlike the American Mafia where the hierarchy was established and well known even by the public and authorities, the Russian setup was similar but operated differently. You could not easily identify those in power, which made it hard even for the authorities to identify the rulers of the crime clans and it members.
Each member had his role designated to him. The Boss “Pakhan” or Vor “thief” heads and controls everything, which comprised of four criminal cells. Two Spies watched over the brigadiers to ensure loyalty and non-became very powerful. The bookkeeper, “Derzhatel Obshchaka” collects money from brigadiers and pays off the government officials with money set aside for the clan’s interest called “Obshchak”. Next is the Brigadier, who heads a group of men who are warriors, “Boyeviks” where a brigade comprises of 5-6 of them. Bratok, Brodyaga or Patsan are the ones who works for the Brigadiers criminal units. They are charged with the mandate to recruit new soldiers and associates. Shestyorka is an associate, who rank lowest in the crime family. They work errands for the family such relaying intelligence and information concerning a matter of concern or target hence they always stay out of action to avoid being identified.
In Russia history, the most notable crime groups include, Solntsevskaya Bratva Gang, which is the largest group with over five thousand members. The oldest gang is, Izmaylovskaya Gang. The two gangs mostly operate in Moscow. The second largest group is Dolgoprudnenskaya Gang. Chechen Mafia, the largest ethnic crime groups operating in former Soviet Union. Georgian Mafia, which has produced the largest number of thieves-inlaw across Europe and the Odessa, which is the most dominant Russian crime group in America, which operates around Brighton Beach. The Tambov Gang, which operates in Russia, has one of its close members a long time personal bodyguard to the Vladimir Putin. The Uzbek criminals have former Uzbek KGB and FSB officials including Col. Evgeny Khokhoklov who are well known for narcotics.
These crime families have imparted heavily and negatively in the progress of Russia as a country, which makes it a corrupt, hostile and free world dominated by all form of illegal dealings. They impart the country’s economy by corruption and extortion of private and government sector hence poverty being a main course of livelihood. In Russia, killing a fellow human being will attract a less penalty, just a couple of years in prison unlike corruption and extortion, which can attract even life imprisonment.