Russian Mafia

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The Russian Mafia, Red Mafia or Jewish Mafia is a name given to a broad group of organized criminals in the former Soviet Union territories after its fall in 1991. The Russian Mob's own members have been known to call their crime group "Организация" ("The Organization").


Despite seeming to arise during the Fall of the Soviet Union, organized crime had existed throughout the imperial and communist eras as a form of open rebellion against the systems in the form of the "Thief's World". During this time organized crime was fiercely honor-based and often attacked and killed traitors among their ranks. Nevertheless, during World War II, many enlisted in the Russian Army resulting in the The Bitch Wars, which killed many of the thieves who were branded as government allies as well as the original thief underworld during Stalin's reign. The criminals, seeking a new survival strategy, began to ally with the elite in the Soviet Union as a means of survival, creating a powerful Russian black market. The Russian Mafia is notorious for underground operation and clean transactions, and, unlike certain vestiges of the Italian Mafia, it is known for its secrecy and un-flamboyant manner.

The real breakthrough for criminal organizations occurred during the economic disaster and mass emigration of the 1990s that followed the fall of the Soviet Union. Desperate for money, many former government workers turned to crime, others joined the large numbers of Soviet citizens who moved overseas primarily to the United States and the Mafia became a natural extension of this trend. Former KGB agents, sportsmen and veterans of the Afghan and Chechen Wars, now finding themselves out-of-work but with experience in areas which could prove useful in crime, joined the increasing crime wave.[1]. Others found that it made sense to go to America - [2]

Backed by its extensive connection to the apparatchik (аппаратчик) power network of the Soviet Union, between 1992 and 1994 the Russian Mafia targeted the commercial centers of power, seizing control of the nation’s fragile banking system. At first the criminal gangs were content to merely “park” their large cash holdings in legitimate institutions, but soon they realized that the next step was the easiest of all: direct ownership of the bank itself.

One of the ways the mafia got so much power was that after the breakup of the union, many state-owned industries were privatized. Rather than bidding for shares, the general public were randomly given vouchers which represented share certificates in the companies. After Moscow lost direct control of Eastern Europe and had more open borders, many Russians wanted higher quality western goods and given that they lacked basic necessities, a few pieces of paper were of little use. So they traded their shares for the goods they wanted, which only the mafia were able to smuggle and supply, giving the various criminal organisations legal and financial control of major industries, obtaining international business contracts by bribery and offering jobs in the companies to mafia allies and those who would infiltrate the company for them and act as enforcers. Thus the privatization backfired and rather than leading to widespread, but private-sector public ownership, instead led to ownership by an elite cabal of criminals.

It is believed, however, to be a very loose organization with internal feuds and murders being commonplace. Banking executives, reform-minded business leaders, even investigative journalists, were systematically assassinated or kidnapped. In 1993 alone, members of the eight criminal gangs that control the Moscow underworld murdered 10 local bankers. Calling themselves thieves in law (Воры в законе, Vory v zakone), Russian gangsters murdered ninety-five bankers between 1993 and 1998.

Beginning in the late 1970s systematically, the Communist bloc began encouraging large numbers of its people to emigrate to the United States and Europe.reference required Encouraged by diplomatic feelers put out by the Soviet government, both the Carter and Reagan Administration in association with the government of Israel began pushing for the emigration of the Soviets' large Jewish population, establishing Russian organised crime in Israel. That was soon joined by other non-Jewish ethnicities. By the late 1980s large colonies of former Soviet and Communist bloc subjects had been established throughout the United States. Most of these ethnic colonies became dominated by the Soviet crime groups who answered to their associates and superiors in the USSR. After the fall of the Soviet Union that emigration increased.

Via their large communities throughout the West and in particular the United States, since the mid-90s the crime groups have been trying to expand their criminal empire into the United States, most often via the trafficking of drugs, illegal weapons and prostitutes. This has led to some brutal wars with the organizations already present, including the Italian Mafia, and Chinese Triads all of whom also had their own communities to operate inside of with protection.

This has led to a number of alliances between the gangs of the former USSR and others. The group is believed to have links to Colombian drug smugglers and many smaller gangs as a result of the fall of the Soviet Union. Some also believe they are at the heart of gangs smuggling illegal workers west to the European Union and often Britain, though no proof has been offered for this at this time. While the home of the Russian Mafia in America is in the Brighton Beach neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York City, it is also widely believed that there is a prominent West Coast operation as well, with constant communication between the two coasts.

The "Russian" mafia is ethnically diverse[3] [4] [5], Chechens[6], Georgians[7] and many Jewish people as has been noted by David Duke[8].The Russian Mafia is still operating and running today.


  • The Solntsevskaya bratva, or Solntsevskaya brotherhood (Russian:Солнцевская братва), was one of--if not the--most powerful organized crime group operating in Moscow.
  • Dolgoprudnenskaya (Долгопруденская) was a Russian mafia organization and was considered one of the largest groups of organized crime operating in Moscow. It was named after Dolgoprudniy, which is a Moscow suburb. It was founded in 1988 and was allegedly very influential.[9]
  • The Izmailovskaya gang (Russian: Измайловская мафия) was considered one of the country's most important and oldest Russian Mafia groups in Moscow and also had a presence in Tel Aviv, Paris, Toronto, Miami and New York City.[10] It was founded during the 1980s under the leadership of Oleg Ivanov (Олег Иванов) and was estimated to consist of about 200 active members (according to other data of 300-500 people). In principle, the organization was divided into two separate bodies - Izmailovskaya and Gol'yanovskaya (Гольяновская) ,[11] which utilized quasi-military ranks and strict internal discipline. It was involved extensively in murder-for-hire, extortions, and infiltration of legitimate businesses.[12]
  • The Obshina(Община, "community" in Russian), or Chechen mafia, was a formidable organized crime group in the Russian underworld. According to experts, ethnic Chechen criminal gangs formed the most dominant minority criminal group in Russia. It is believed some gangs may have ties to Chechen militant factions.
  • The Potato Bag gang was a gang of con artists operating in New York's Brighton Beach in the mid-70's.
  • The Orekhovskaya gang (Ореховская банда) was a powerful criminal group in between the late 1980s and early 90s.
  • In California Armenian-American organized crime groups have also appeared in Los Angeles County, and are involved in many white-collar frauds as well as drug trafficking and extortion. [13]

Notable members

Foreign businessmen and the Russian mafia

An unknown number of foreign businessmen, believed to be in the low thousands, arrived in Russia from all over the world during the early and mid 1990s to seek their fortune and to cash in on the transition from a communist to a free market/capitalist society. This period was referred to by many of the businessmen as the "second great gold rush".

Generally, 1990 to 1998 was a wild and unstable time for most foreign businessmen operating in Russia. Dangerous battles with the Russian Mob occurred, with many being killed or wounded. The Mafia welcomed the foreign businessmen and their expertise in facilitating business and making things happen in a stagnant and new economy. The Mafia considered them as a good source of hard currency, to be extorted under the usual guise of "protection money". Many different Mafia groups would fiercely compete to be able to "protect" a certain businessman; in exchange, the businessman would not have to worry about having more than one group showing up demanding tribute from him. Many foreign businessmen left Russia after these incidents.

Foreign businessmen associated with the Russian mafia

  • Paul Tatum: American joint owner of Radisson-Slavanskaya Hotel (Радиссон-Славанская гостминица) in Moscow; shot 11 times in the head and neck (his attacker knew he was wearing a bulletproof vest) and killed in a sensational shooting in a Moscow Metro station in November 1996 for refusing to pay "krysha" (крыша, "roof" in Russian) and to be squeezed out by a silent partner. Tatum was surrounded by his own bodyguards when attacked; however, they made no attempt to save him and allowed his attacker to escape unharmed. Tatum had, only weeks before this, taken out a full-page ad in a local newspaper denouncing his Chechen partner Umar Dzhabrailov (Умар Джабраилов) for trying to squeeze him out of their hotel joint venture. Tatum, a multi-millionaire, had connections to the then U.S. President Bill Clinton and many high ranking Moscow politicians. His murder has not been solved.
  • Ken Rowe: Canadian businessman and joint owner of Moscow Aerostar Hotel; threatened by the Russian mafia in an attempt to force him out of a joint hotel-airline venture. Mafia at one point entered the hotel with armed men and forced all employees out. Rowe later fought back and seized an Aeroflot aircraft in Montreal to recover his award in a Russian court.


  1. [BBC News - The Rise and rise of the Russian mafia]
  2. Red Mafiya : How the Russian Mob Has Invaded America
  9. Oleg Liakhovich, A Mob by Any Other Name, The Moscow News
  10. B. Ohr, Effective Methods to Combat Transnational Organized Crime in Criminal Justice Processes US Dept. of Justice
  11. Домашняя библиотека компромата Сергея Горшкова (Home library of Sergei Gorshkov)
  12. US, COMM, PERM, p. 201
  13. Russian-Armenian organized crime 'like the 1930s New York mob' Los Angeles Daily News
  14. Friedman, Robert I. Red Mafiya: How the Russian Mob Has Invaded America. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2000.
  15. The HUMINT Offensive from Putin's Chekist State Anderson, Julie (2007), International Journal of Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, 20:2, 258 - 316, page 309.
  16. Friedman, Robert I. Red Mafiya: How the Russian Mob Has Invaded America. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2000.
  17. Telegraph - Mobster turns from gunning down rivals to shooting TV series
  18. Friedman, Robert I. Red Mafiya: How the Russian Mob Has Invaded America. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2000.
  19. Friedman, Robert I. Red Mafiya: How the Russian Mob Has Invaded America. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2000.
  20. Friedman, Robert I. Red Mafiya: How the Russian Mob Has Invaded America. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2000.
  21. Friedman, Robert I. Red Mafiya: How the Russian Mob Has Invaded America. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2000.
  22. [ Kavkaz Center - Georgian Police Seize House of Top Russian Mafiosi
  23. Jürgen Roth, Die Gangster aus dem Osten, Europa Verlag Publishers
  24. Bandits, Gangsters and the Mafia (Martin McCauley)
  25. Hughes, James, Chechnya: The Causes of a Protrated Post-Soviet Conflict, 2001
  26. BBC News- Alleged Russian mafia boss cleared
  27. Semyon Mogilevich, the 'East European mafia boss', captured in Moscow
  28. Friedman, Robert I. Red Mafiya: How the Russian Mob Has Invaded America. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2000.
  29. Aleksandr Zhilin, The Shadow of Chechen Crime Over Moscow, The Jamestown Foundation 1999
  30. BBC article, with information on Alexander Solonik
  31. BBC News, So Who are the Russian Mafia?, BBC Online Network, April 1, 1998
  32. CNN:Russian organized crime implicated in skating scandal
  33. Why gangland's bloody code is hard to crack John Silvester, The Age April 20, 2003

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