Mafia Relations In Russia Essay, Research Paper
Mafia Relations in Russia Since the downfall of the Soviet Union and the elimination of the intimidating but strict rule of the communist party, there has been a market increase in organized crime. Thousands of gangs of both big and small deal drugs and raw materials, export money, rob and steal, as underpaid often corrupt police stand idly by. The breakup of the Soviet Union has set off a criminal free-for-all, led by the Mafia. Plus the Russian Mafia is ripping off hundreds of millions of dollars from the U.S. Government and they are linking up with other international drug smugglers, and many launderers and illegal arms dealers around the world. U.S. Customs Services, Mr. George Wise was quoted as saying “the breakup was one that offered entry, almost overnight success to a vast supermarket of orthodox weapons of mass destruction and their components”(Schmid 1). What is the Mafia? The mafia refers simply to whoever is in power at nearly any level. A popular subject in today’s Russia, one that dominates public discussion is the Mafia. When Russian law enforcement officials declared, for instance, that “4,000 organized criminal groupings” are operating on Russian soil, on envisions thousands of well structured and extensive networks of criminals. But, by official definition, an “organized criminal grouping” can consist of as few as two people. In deed, in 1990, nearly half of the criminal groups had only two or three members. Fewer than one percent had ten(Zimmermann 2). The origin of the Mafia criminal organization in Russia today lies in the Soviet government. Corruption and organized crime were well established in the Soviet planning economy. The Mafia or Russian organized crime grouping may be enmeshed in a host of illegal activities, including drugs or weapons dealing. The Mafia provides a code of conduct for business not yet provided by professional societies or government regulation. If a business has a problem with labor or another business, the business owner contacts the Mafia representive and the problem is quickly, quietly, and efficiently resolved. There are some positives of siding with the mafia, like benefits. By definition, private providers of protection-Mafia offer security against harm in a business deal. At times protection is needed to protect the citizen from the mafia itself. Crude as the mafia’s enforcement tactics are, they give business people the confidence to enter contracts that would otherwise be too risky. Of course, when there are also pros, their are also cons, and in this case the violence, increased prices of protection and the chain of dynamic economic activity are the problems. Mafia sharks prowl the airports seeking foreign patsies for spendy rides into the city. Author Steven R. Van Hook said of his visit to Moscow, “The mafia taxi rate from the Moscow airport to a western style hotel ride is one hundred and forty dollars. I paid a gypsy cab driver fifty dollars, but he made sure that the money exchange took place well out of the view from the public.” And in good reason, the penalty for flaunting mafia authority is a brutal beating or death. Many high government officials too, are shamelessly enriching themselves, some of them have made common cause with the criminals. They bent duty taxes and assist in the illegal export of raw materials to the West. The net impact of organized crime in Russia today is probably beneficial to many of them. In fact, under current conditions in Russia, organized crime is a necessary evil. In today’s Russia, which is in the process of discovering the free market, a middle class, and the rule of law, everything is marked “Mafia,” that smells of violation of the law. Underpaid and often corrupt Russian police are virtually helpless before the over powering Mafia. According to a high Saint Petersburg official at least seventy percent of that city’s policemen are corrupt. Last year eight hundred eighty-six people were killed in pre-meditated murders, compared to four hundred and sixty-four in 1991. Steven R. Van Hook said when he traveled to Russia last year, “I did not speak to one single person who had not been directly indirectly terrorized by one of the so-called mafia’s. I met active, clear eyed, hopeful family people immobilized by fear, whispering of their ordeals in hushed tones,” when ask if he had contact or knew anyone who had contact with the mafia(Strand 3)
Russian entrepreneurs are afraid to promote themselves, while charitable contributations are dwindling, since no one wants to demonstrate they have money to spare. Many foreign investors are afraid to even visit Russia cities, let alone plant roots there. When in an accident of some sorts, the involved police warn the citizen to quickly settle an accident claim with the Mafia. So the helpless victim, typically devoid of savings, must often sign over his/her family’s apartment for sale on the real estate market, and move out to God knows where. Good citizens do not know where to turn, knowing too well that the underpaid police could be on the Mafia take. According to official Russian information, nearly all the Russian commercial bands that have sprouted like weeds are partly or entirely controlled by organized crime, which launders it is dirty money, as well as the new gambling casino in the back. According to a western restaurant owner who described his own experience this way. “A man in a pinstripe suit drives up in a dark coup, accompanied by six to eight sinister looking, bullnecked bodyguards with walkie talkies and sunglasses. The man congratulates me on my decision to do business in beautiful Russia, and to cooperate with him. In passing, he also mentions that he knows the route my daughter takes to school every day. The rest is routine.” Those who don’t cooperate are first warned, then beaten and have the risk of being eliminated entirely(Leitzel 4). “It was not unusual for me to receive nine billion in cash per week in paper bags from Russians,” replied Michael Franzese, a former mobster, to reporter Paul Strand. Ten of twenty- five banks in Russia’s Big Banks has Mafia connection, a secret source replied. It is estimated that over 40,000 enterprises are connected in some way to organized crime. But there is hope, for the first time in Russian history Russian Duma passed a measure that would make organized crime eventually illegal. Russia’s new plan to fight crime includes passing laws that would outlaw money laundering, financial scams, and bribing. Also the law would penalize leaders of organized crime, with ten to fifteen years in prison, along with prohibiting arms trafficking and illegal position of weapons. But these rules will not be followed through unless the police get paid more so they want to do their jobs. The Russian economy is evolving rapidly. The Russian “Black Market,” rampant in the 80’s and early 90’s, is no longer a disparaging term; it has simply become legitimate business. Perhaps the same will be true of the Mafia? It may give way to guilds and unions and clubs enforcing their own rules of conduct. Perhaps the Russian Orthodox Church will again provide moral leadership for a people stripped of any ethical belief system. And perhaps the pervasive fear now turning to anger will counter the Mafia reign. “Perhaps Russia’s saving grace will once more be the grandmothers and old women, who will remind their misguided children of their forgotten moral heritage,” author Steven R. Van Hook(Van Hook 5). Work Cited Leitzel, Jim. “Mafiosi and Matrioshki’.” The Booking Review Winter 1997: SIRS, Crime, V5, #41Morvant, Penny. “Drug Market expands in Russia’.” Duke University Press Sept. 20, 1996: SIRS, Drugs, V6, #39″Russia’s Really Hostile Takeovers” Business Week 14 August 1995: 56-57Schmid, Ulrich. “Russia and the Plague of Organized Crime’.” Swiss Review of World News Sept. 1997: SIRS, Crime, V5, #16Strand, Paul. “Threat of the Russian Mafia’.” CBN News May 1996: Online, www.cbn.org/news/stories/sovmafia.htmlVan Hook, Steven. “Russian Mafia Shakes Down the Country’.” World Wide Media Relations Nov. 1996: Online, www.west.netZimmermann, Tim. “The Russian Connection’.” U.S. News and Report Oct. 1996: SIRS, Crime, V5, #60 The question is no longer whether constructive change will happen, or even when. The lingering question is simply, will one be a part of the change or not? Maybe the American mafiosi could hold a seminar for the Russian counterparts to teach them how to suck the life- force from a society, but without bleeding it dry.