Over time, the vory would lose their dominance, but they did not disappear altogether. In post-Soviet Russia , they blended in with the new elite. In the s, everything was up for grabs, and the new vory reached out with both hands. State assets were privatised, businesses forced to pay for protection, and as the iron curtain fell, Russian gangsters crashed out into the rest of the world.
The vory were part of a way of life that, in its own way, was a reflection of the changes Russia went through in the 20th century. Organised crime truly began to come into its own in a Russia that itself was becoming more organised. Since the restoration of central authority under President Vladimir Putin since the turn of the millennium, the new vory have adapted again, taking a lower profile, and even working for the state when they must.
The challenge posed by Russian organised crime is a formidable one — and not just at home. Across the world, it trafficks drugs and people, arms insurgents and gangsters, and peddles every type of criminal service, from money laundering to computer hacking. Do the gangsters run Russia? No, of course not, and I have met many determined, dedicated Russian police officers and judges committed to the struggle against them. However, many businesses and politicians use methods that owe more to the underworld than to legal practice.
The state hires hackers and arms gangsters to fight its wars and there remain suggestions that criminals were used as agents in the attempt to assassinate Sergei Skripal in Salisbury this month. You can hear vor songs and vor slang on the streets. Even Putin uses it from time to time, to reassert his streetwise credentials. Perhaps the real question is nothow far the state has managed to tame the gangsters, but how far the values and practices of the vory have come to shape modern Russia.
It is certainly a catchy epithet, but what does it actually mean? The truth is more complex. The Kremlin does not control organised crime in Russia, nor is it controlled by it. Rather, organised crime prospers under Putin, because it can go with the grain of his system. There is a very high level of corruption in Russia, which provides a conducive environment for organised crime. Putin has publicly acknowledged, time and time again, that corruption is widespread.
However, after 18 years of his rule, we have seen little evidence that he has ever intended more than a public show of resolve and a periodic purge of officials who serve as disposable scapegoats. The connection between the elite and the gangsters usually revolves around mutually profitable relationships — but these relationships can also fall apart in spectacular ways.
Take the case of Said Amirov.
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From onwards, Amirov ran the city of Makhachkala, the capital of the North Caucasus republic of Dagestan, as his own political-criminal fiefdom. It took a special person to control what was arguably the most unruly city in Dagestan, itself in many ways the most unruly republic in the Russian Federation. Amirov seemed virtually indestructible, in every sense of the word. He survived at least a dozen assassination attempts, including one in that left him in a wheelchair after a bullet lodged in his spine, and a rocket attack on his offices in Just as importantly, he appeared politically unassailable.
Despite continued allegations of brutality, corruption and crime links, he saw out four Dagestani leaders and three Russian presidencies. For 15 years, Moscow had been happy enough to let Amirov build his fiefdom, because at least he kept it disciplined, and posed no overt challenge to the centre. When the state finally decided to move against him, in , it had to consider the strength of his local power base.
His arrest was like a raid in hostile territory, spearheaded by Federal Security Service FSB special forces brought in from outside the republic, backed with armoured vehicles and helicopter gunships. Such was the concern about his sway over the local authorities that Amirov was immediately airlifted to a Moscow prison along with 10 other suspects.
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Why did Moscow turn against Amirov? He appears to have fallen foul of the powerful Investigative Committee — the organisation Putin uses to prosecute and repress his enemies — thanks to his involvement in the murder of one of its regional heads. This was not about seeing justice served so much as settling a score.
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Amirov was sentenced to 10 years in a maximum security prison colony, and stripped of his state awards including some, ironically enough, given him by the FSB. The very attributes that once seemed to make Amirov such an admirable local proxy — his skill at managing the complex politics of Dagestan, his ruthlessness, his network spanning both the underworld and the legitimate world, his industrial-scale corruption, his acquisitive ambition for himself and his family — all had become liabilities.
The modern Russian state is a much stronger force than it was in the s, and jealous of its political authority. The gangs that prosper in modern Russia tend to do so by working with rather than against the state. In other words: do well by the Kremlin, and the Kremlin will turn a blind eye. If not, you will be reminded that the state is the biggest gang in town. I remember once talking to a Russian entrepreneur whose business seemed to mainly involve unloading poorly made counterfeit CDs on to the market on behalf of some Ukrainian gangsters from Donetsk.
Unpicking dirty from clean money in Russia is a hopeless task, not least because in the s it was next to impossible to make serious amounts of money without engaging in practices that were ethically questionable at best, and downright illegal at worst.
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During that time, murder was a depressingly common way of resolving business disputes. Recent research suggests that the contract killings related to those wars likely numbered in the thousands. Since the 90s, though, the overt role of gangsterism in most of the economy has been declining.
And while I sat in the police department they would release three robbers—they would photograph them and release them. If you gave the majority of our people more power, they would act in the same way. The majority of people who live here are dishonest. Law enforcement agencies work well. Citizens simply do not understand whom these agencies work for. In Russia, cops exist to keep people in a state of submission. In Russia, cops are the armed servants of the authorities. In order to fix this situation we need to do away with cops. I want to solve my problems myself.
I want to have my own firearm and solve my problems independently. Cops only interfere with me. Distrust of police is, after all, highly unsurprising in Police States also called fascist, communist, dictatorships, theocracies, and modern-day monarchies. And I see inly one place where my comments deleted — New York Times paper.
We are russians and we are the great nation. I should have been more specific, the focus of my criticism was the government, not the country or the citizens. Whereas Chinese citizens might have their organs confiscated and sold if they tried the same thing.
All of us, adults at least, have done something illegal or wrong at some point. So when we run into a cop, our subconcious tells us we just got caught for stealing library books as a youth.
When I was traveling in Russia last year, the cops stole my cell phone. They wanted to check my documents, then search me for drugs. There were three of them, and I was mainly trying to keep my eye on my wallet, passport, and camera, and sure enough, when they finished and drove away, I realized my phone was no longer with me. I learned many new Russian words and phrases from the locals after that. Whole nation were laughing! That news beats everything! They mean they will newer allow Freedom of Speech in Internet! University officials are proud of themselves killing basic civil rights in MSU!
Sounds like an insult to me. I was especially shocked by mr.
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Just on the other side of the globe, remember? And I bet that calling U. Nobody takes bribes neither? Is there a country like that in this m. I am almost sorry I wrote it already, as I feel it plain senseless a.