The Resilience of the Russian mafia: An Empirical Study

Federico Varese,  Jakub Lonsky,  Yuriy Podvysotskiy

The British Journal of Criminology, azaa053,

Published: 07 August 2020.

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Criminal organizations constantly face challenges that threaten their existence. This paper discusses the effects that state repression and state transformation have on criminal organizations and how such organizations respond. We focus on the case of the Russian mafia, known as the vory-v-zakone. We identify the key challenges faced by the vorythroughout Soviet and Russian history and examine how the Russian mafia adapted to such threats. We conclude that the biggest threat came not from state repression during Stalin’s Great Terror but rather from state transformation in the 1990s. We also show that Putin’s era repression of the vory has not been more intense than that of the late Yeltsin’s years. The paper is based on a new and unique data set we constructed, which contains biographical information of more than 5,000 members of the vory fraternity.

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