Is Sicily the future of Russia? Private protection and the rise of the Russian Mafia

I T I S D I F F I C U L T  to discuss a phenomenon when one does not know precisely what it is. This problem is particularly vexing in the case of the Mafia. It has been argued that ‘the need for a definition [of the Mafia] is crucial; not just for any definition with some degree of contingent empirical plausibility, but for a definition with some analytical clout’ (i). The word ‘Mafia’ itself has travelled far to distant lands, such as the former Soviet Union. For instance, according to Arkadii Vaksberg, Russian journalist and author of The Russian Mafia, the Mafia is ‘the entire soviet power-system, all its ideological, political, economical and administrative manifestations’ (2). In an article published in a magazine for British executives dealing with Russia, the label Mafiosi is used to lump together bureaucrats, smugglers from the Caucasus, the CPSU nomenklatura accused of embezzling state funds, the late British businessman Robert Maxwell and many others (3).

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