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Russian Organized Crime
The research paper investigates the history of the origin of the Russian organized crime. The purpose of the study is to discover the value of the Russian mafia in history both worldwide and in the USA. Russian criminal groups have established connections in many countries abroad. Criminal groups operating in the international arena specialize in drug trafficking, laundering of “dirty money”, theft as well as smuggling of currency valuables and antiques, the illegal export of raw materials, arms business, theft of vehicles, radioactive materials, and prostitution.
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The introduction gives some general information about the issue of the Russian organized crime and the purpose of the investigation. The body of the paper presents information about the definition of organized crime, the history of it in Russia, the ideology of Russian mafia, and the history of the Russian offenders in the USA. The research paper focuses on the definition of organized crime, aims at finding the origins of the Russian organized crime and its peculiarities, and analyzes the issues of Russian Mafia in the USA to prove the significance of the need to fight with this issue.
Since the mid-90s of the XX century, the activities of Russian mafia have become of growing concern to law enforcement agencies around the world, turning into the subject of inter-institutional negotiations and international agreements (Surhone, Timpledon & Marseken, 2010). Often, however, this term implies not only the Russian organized crime but also the criminality of immigrants from the CIS states, regardless of their nationality and citizenship. To some extent, the use of the term is permissible, because all the offenders of the CIS abroad are united not only by the knowledge of the Russian language but also the criminal traditions (Surhone et al., 2010). However, the identification of these phenomena negatively affects Russia’s international reputation, competitiveness, and investment attractiveness of the economy, as well as creating a very negative image of the Russian citizens.
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The research paper focuses on the definition of organized crime, aims at finding the origins of the Russian organized crime and its peculiarities, and analyzes the issues of Russian Mafia in the USA to prove the significance of the need to fight with this issue.
The Definition of the Organized Crime
The organized crime is a complex criminal activity carried out by a large-scale organization and other groups that have an internal structure, receive a financial profit and gain power through the creation and operation of illegal goods and services markets (Surhone et al., 2010). These crimes often go beyond national borders. An understanding of organized crime is even less defined than the awareness of violent crimes, mercenary or economic ones. The basis of allocation of the organized crime from the total of illegal behavior is the nature and extent of the organized interaction of several criminals among themselves in the implementation of its prolonged activity. As a rule, organized crime is determined like a process of rational reorganization of the criminal world by analogy with legitimate business in lawful markets (Surhone et al., 2010). This criminal business activity in pursuit of its objectives is involved in such illegal activities like illegal transactions in goods and services, market monopolization, corruption, and intimidation. Making the same or different crimes is a relatively common cause of organized interconnected entities (groups), each of which has its responsibilities, rights, and powers.
Mafia as the organized crime is a hierarchically organized group of criminals, who are collectively and systematically engaged in criminal crafts. The term “mafia” has appeared in the mid-19th century, and it was originally used to refer only to the organized crime in Sicily, Italy (Surhone et al., 2010). The etymology of the term of the Sicilian dialect is not clear, and it is most often translated as “protector, patron” (Surhone et al., 2010). Thus, in the mid-20th century, the Sicilian organized crime gained resounding popularity in Europe and the United States in the criminal world, and the word “mafia” has become synonymous with any strong criminal organization.
There are few large criminal organizations, which are internationally involved in criminal crafts. The most known organizations are the Mafia in Sicily, the American Cosa Nostra, the Japanese Yakuza, and the Chinese triads. In the last third of the 20th century, an increasingly active role came to new criminal organizations – Latin American drug cartels, Russian and Albanian mafia, Nigerian criminal organizations (Williams, 2014). Contrary to the opinion of the omnipresence of the Mafia, in most countries, large and influential mafia organizations are absent.
The History of the Russian Organized Crime
The community of thieves-in-law is the oldest and well-known Russian criminal group. While abroad people usually talk about the Russian mafia, the term is inaccurate, since the majority of criminal authorities belong to different national minorities of the country (especially to the peoples of the Caucasus) (Williams, 2014). The formation of the community of thieves-in-law refers to the end of the 1920s- beginning of the 1930s (Williams, 2014). However, this community has been able to achieve a substantially high degree of self-organization, which occurred abroad only in criminal organizations of a modern type. The home cohesive existence of the criminal environment relates mainly to the time when the mass expropriation of land from farmers took place. Consequently, fast nationalization created conditions for primitive capitalist accumulation. This is the last third of the XV century – the first decade of the XVI century (Surhone et al., 2010). By this time, the first evidence of the existence of thieves’ organizations appeared in written sources.
Researchers, who have studied Russian history, noted that there were whole villages of thieves and robbers in the XVIII century (Surhone et al., 2010). This situation was typical for any more or less populated territory of Russia. The same period is known for the emergence of traditions and laws of the criminal world, some of which have survived to the present time. However, the establishment of the “Russian mafia” was influenced by the absence of a strong military and political state power in the Russian Empire (Surhone et al., 2010). The embezzlement and bribery of court officials have always been a chronic disease of the empire. In this regard, they also did not develop organized crime, because they were not associated with the shady manufacturing process and capital flows.
The 1917 Revolution and subsequent developments have radically changed the situation in the Russian world (Surhone et al., 2010). In the first years after the revolution, many professional criminals were released, and some of them even came to serve in the police and the KGB. Thus, the age-old thieves’ laws were violated. At the same time, organized gangs united former gendarmerie officers of the defeated White Army. By the mid-80s, antisocial forces existed in the highly organized society like the corrupt part of the party-state bureaucracy and mafia structures (Williams, 2014). They poured into the resultant vacuum at scrapping administrative structures, actively breaking the structure and getting enriched in the chaos. Resolution cooperatives and joint ventures conducted the uncontrolled foreign trade with non-convertible ruble, artificially low domestic prices compared to the world, and the presence of large shadow capital, which subsequently led to the speculation of a national treasure.
The ascending crimes scale has contributed to the so-called contractual, cooperative prices and since 1992 to the tempered prices, as well (Williams, 2014). Pricing without government regulation in many cases used to abuse, while concealing the true revenue from trading and sales. All this predetermined the new variants of the organized criminal activity. In the 90s, despite the countermeasures on the part of law enforcement agencies, even more, criminal gang formations and orientation of racketeering have appeared (Surhone et al., 2010). They were distinguished by a high level of professionalism of the criminal, strict hierarchical structure, and division of roles.
Further developments in the Russian Federation have also created a fertile ground for the growth of organized crime. Pushed in the “500 Days” program slogan of conversion and legalization of the shadow capital has played an extremely negative role in the fight with the mafia and corruption (Surhone et al., 2010).
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An especially negative impact it has had on the provision of public prosecutor’s supervision and other law enforcement monitoring the compliance with laws in terms of entrepreneurship, commercialization, taxation, and antitrust laws. As a result, the process of changing the form of ownership in the 90s often took a criminal nature (Williams, 2014). The instability of the social situation has contributed to the activity of criminal structures, formed on ethnic or religious grounds. Some of them specialize in the commission of specific illegal activities but mainly are engaged in extortion, drug trafficking, arms trafficking, fraud and theft in the economic sphere, controlled prostitution, gambling, and auto business.
The Ideology of the Russian Organized Crime
Thieves-in-law is the elite of professional criminals, whose genes are in Russian prisons, and whose history dates back to imperial times (Williams, 2014). Thieves-in-law is a criminal ringleader. Given the transnational nature, the Russian mafia has a global involvement, hence, acts everywhere. It is possible that some immigrants, who are involved in illegal activities in the United States, were part of the Soviet bureaucracy, which included the Soviet mafia. Many of the thieves-in-law found their place in the elite of international crime, as demonstrated by their strong ties with the leaders of the criminal groups from other countries. A thief-in-law may be considered a criminal, having a criminal record, the authority in the criminal world adopted by the community at a special gathering (Williams, 2014).
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The ideology, which implanted coordinators of the criminal environment, is heterogeneous. It has observed a trend of retro-professionalism, which is a resuscitation of traditions and customs of the thieves-in-law and neo-professionalism as a backup system of relationships of the Western (or Eastern) mafia and gangster organizations (Williams, 2014). The views and habits differ depending on the membership of a particular type of criminal fishing (dealers, robbers, corrupt state apparatus, gangsters, racketeers, pimps, pickpockets, etc.).
One of the dangerous trends in community activities of the thieves-in-law is systematic work to establish its influence on prisoners and those, who are being released from correctional institutions. This is done both directly and via bribery, threats, terrorizing inmates, and by sending special envoys who are given mandates with the authority. It suppressed to resist the will embark on the path of correction, localized sources of information on organized crime. Leaders organize spreading false rumors against convicts embarked on the path of the correction process of newcomers in the area of convicts, distorted interpretations of the penitentiary laws, and rules of serving the sentence.
In this regard, the upgraded, rich international experience subculture of the thieves-in-law enforces the relationship-building both horizontally and vertically. The process of active defense became characteristic of the existence of structures of organized crime. The criminal environment constantly forms reserves of organized crime. The so-called territorial forms with antisocial and extremist groups are essentially organized criminal groups of teenagers and young people, and in many cases, are under the control of the organized-crime environment.
The analysis of the operational information and investigative practice shows that the Russian organized crime has reached a qualitatively new level at the beginning of the XXI century (Williams, 2014). Participating in market relations with their legitimate businesses, the organized crime acquired property is a self-organizing community. This is due to the increased efficiency of multiple mechanisms of committing major crimes in the economic sectors, as well as the credit and financial sphere. In the new environment, organized crime is using innovative methods.
Russian Mafia in the USA
According to American scientists, for a fair understanding of the nature of the Russian mafia, it is necessary to turn to its roots. These roots were in the prisons and camps of the Gulag and gave rise to a class of ruthless professional criminals. The first wave of immigrants appeared at the end of XIX – early XX century (Serio, 2008). The second and third ones took place after the First World War and the Second World War consequently. Between the mid-1970s and 1991, there was a wave of the fourth and fifth waves, named after the Soviet Union’s collapse (Serio, 2008). Although each immigrant group has its own characteristics, its language and origin are common. In addition, the economic experience and interaction with crime and corruption are part of a common origin.
It is worth noting that the Russian-US relations, both before and after the Union, are unique. The Soviet Union for half a century recognized the United States as an enemy. Its economic, political, and social system opposed the US alone in the international sphere of influence in the field of nuclear weapons and space programs. Since 1991, the US foreign policy goal has been to maintain the struggle for democracy in Russia, but the fight was destroyed by the sprawling organized crime and corruption (Serio, 2008).
Russian immigrants in the US inhabit places like Brighton Beach, New Jersey, Long Island, and Philadelphia (Serio, 2008). Russians are not the only ethnic group that emerged in the United States and are known as the founders of organized crime in the region, but it is one of the famous ones. One of the most controversial figures of the Russian Mafia in the USA was Vyacheslav Ivankov, known as “Yaponchik” which is translated from Russian as “Little Japanese” (Radanko, 2011). After arriving in the US in 1992, and until his arrest by the FBI in 1995, he was a mysterious and even mythical person. Rumors made him the image of a person, who was called the father of extortion and the most influential thief in the Soviet Union. He was the criminal leader of the Russian Far East, and one of the largest New York newspapers called him “the Red godfather,” who was sent to New York by the thieves to organize and control the criminal activity there. The US officials, particularly the FBI, definitely thought Ivankov was the main organizer of criminal acts on the territory of the United States.
Ivankov arrived in the US in March 1992, with a permanent business visa, which stipulated that he worked in the film industry. Back in the 1980s, he created a criminal group, which was called “Solntsevo,” which is translated from Russian as “Ones from the sun” (Radanko, 2011). Among other activities, they engaged in false police documents for the study of the houses secured owners, penetration and theft of money and other valuables. The authorities claim that the division of Solntsevo in the USA gained about 100 members (Serio, 2008). Ivankov was arrested by the FBI on charges of the extortion of several million dollars from the two Russian executives in 1995 (Serio, 2008). He and three accomplices were sentenced in July 1996 (Serio, 2008). Several years after, he died, but the death of famous “Yaponchik” had never stopped the distribution of the Russian organized crime.
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The US State Department called the “Russian mafia” the most dangerous for the US foreign organized crime. It became the first in the list of foreign criminal organizations, compiled by the American Foreign Ministry. In addition to measures of criminal law, the American authorities began to apply financial measures. Therefore, in July of 2011, a new strategy to combat transnational organized crime was released, providing a wide range of preventive measures (Williams, 2014). In order to implement it, US President Barack Obama issued a decree imposing sanctions against four foreign criminal organizations, among which is the Eurasian Brothers’ Circle. According to the FBI, Brothers’ Circle is a multinational criminal organization composed of leaders and active members of several organized crime groups based in the CIS, but spreading its activities in the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America (Williams, 2014). The decree provides the freezing of bank accounts and seizure of the property of members of these organizations, denial of their entry to the United States, and a ban on transactions with them.
The Fight with the Russian Organized Crime
Pure power methods of dealing with the Mafia give limited results. On the one hand, in an open confrontation with the state, any criminal organization is inevitable to be eventually defeated. However, eliminating a specific crime boss or criminal organization has no possibilities to destroy very organized crime. As long as there is a demand for criminal commodities, the place of liquidated mafia will be taken by new criminals. Therefore, at present, the strategic goal of law enforcement is not the elimination of organized crime, but the restriction of its activity.
The measures now taken by the US administration are based on estimates contained in the report of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). This document, prepared under the leadership of the former chief editor of the Washington Times newspaper, Arnaud de Borchgrave, reported that organized crime groups from Russia operate in 50 countries around the world (Williams, 2014). Moreover, their number is doubling every nine months. The report was compiled based on a two-year study conducted at the Washington CSIS using the data from US law enforcement and intelligence services. It says that the 200 biggest Russian criminal groups have become considerably successful in terms of the global corporation (Williams, 2014).
According to the Saint Leo University core values, a different approach is needed in every case, especially when taking into consideration the activity of organized crime. Curbing the Mafia with the most efficient, yet purely economic methods is a constraint “money laundering” and the legalization of criminal crafts. If the criminal fishing becomes legal (as happened with the prostitution and trafficking in soft drugs in the Netherlands), the mafia, in general, is losing a source of income. However, the use of this technique has limitations. It is impossible to prevent money laundering completely because of the tightening of control over the deposits and remittances inhibit the development of the banking business. It is impossible to legalize completely all illegal products and services (such as assassinations). Therefore, the organized crime will exist for a substantially long time as unavoidable that should face a restriction, but never face a complete elimination.
The Russian organized crime is often called the most dangerous to the public in regard to criminal activity. However, many criminologists point out that some of the targets of organized crime coincide with the objectives of the state, which is to minimize gang feuds and violence. Some scholars even make the conclusion that the organized crime in some circumstances is more useful than the unorganized one; thus, there is a need for a reasonable compromise with the mob. This justification of the organized crime, however, has weaknesses. First, it ignores the problem of the national economic security: strengthening of the organized crime weakens the state. Secondly, the development of the organized crime hampers the development of business, as a criminal tribute diverts resources from the productive investment. It should be emphasized that the weakness of the state domination of organized crime can be considerably better than a criminal outrage. Therefore, organized crime should not face any support in any country in the world.
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