Russia Organized Crime
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
Moscow's 1995 statistics included 93,560 crimes, of which 18,500 were white-collar crimes--an increase of 8.3 percent over 1994. Among white-collar crimes, swindling increased 67.2 percent, and extortion 37.5 percent, in 1995. Among the conventional crimes reported, murder and attempted murder increased 1.5 percent, rape 6.5 percent, burglaries 6.6 percent, burglaries accompanied by violence 20.8 percent, and serious crimes by teenagers 2.2 percent. The rate of crime-solving by the Moscow militia (police) rose in 1995 from 57.7 percent to 64.9 percent, but that statistic was bolstered substantially by success in solving minor crimes; the projected rate of solving burglaries was 18.8 percent, of murders 42.2 percent, and of crimes involving use of a firearm, 31.4 percent. Moscow and St. Petersburg were the centers of automobile theft, which increased dramatically through the first half of the 1990s. In Moscow an estimated fifty cars were stolen per day, with the estimated yearly total for Russia between 100,000 and 150,000. In the first quarter of 1994, Russia averaged eighty-four murders a day. Many of those crimes were contract killings attributed to criminal organizations. In 1994 murder victims included three deputies of the State Duma, one journalist, a priest, the head of a union, several local officials, and more than thirty businesspeople and bankers. Most of those crimes went unsolved.
The 1995 national crime total exceeded 1.3 million, including 30,600 murders. Crime experts predicted that the murder total would reach 50,000 in 1996. In 1995 some 248 regular militia officers were killed in the line of duty.
Confiscation of firearms, possession of which has been identified as another grave social problem, increased substantially in 1995, according to the Moscow militia's Regional Organized Crime Directorate. About 3 million firearms were registered in 1995, but the number of unregistered guns was assumed to far exceed that figure. Military weapons are stolen frequently and sold to gangsters; in 1993 nearly 60,000 cases of such theft were reported, involving machine guns, hand grenades, and explosives, among other weapons (see Crime in the Military, ch. 9). The ready availability of firearms has made the work of the poorly armed militia more dangerous.
By early 1994, crime was second only to the national economy as a domestic issue in Russia. In January 1994, a report prepared for President Yeltsin by the Analytical Center for Social and Economic Policies was published in the national daily newspaper Izvestiya . According to the center, between 70 and 80 percent of private enterprises and commercial banks were forced to pay protection fees to criminal organizations, which in Russia received the generic label mafiya . Unlike organized crime in other countries, which controls only such criminal activities as drug trafficking and gambling, and specific types of legitimate enterprise such as municipal trash collection, the Russian crime organizations have gained strong influence in a wide variety of economic activities. In addition, beginning with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the weakening of border controls, Russia has been drawn into the network of international organized crime. In this way, Russia has become a major conduit for the movement of drugs, contraband, and laundered money between Europe and Asia. In 1995 an estimated 150 criminal organizations with transnational links were operating in Russia.
Among the main targets of organized crime are businesses and banks in Russia's newly privatized economy and foreigners--both individual and corporate--in possession of luxury goods or the hard currency (see Glossary) to purchase them. Many of Russia's mafiya figures began their "careers" in the black market during the communist era. They are now able to operate overtly and are increasingly brazen. Many current and former government officials and businesspeople have been identified as belonging to the mafiya network.
The 1994 report to the president described collusion between criminal gangs and local law enforcement officials, which made controlling crime especially difficult. The enforcement problem, which became acute in 1993, was exacerbated by overtaxation, confusing regulations, and the absence of an effective judicial system. By 1993 criminal groups had moved into commercial ventures, using racketeering, kidnapping, and murder to intimidate competition. In 1994 an MVD official estimated that there were 5,700 criminal gangs in Russia, with a membership of approximately 100,000.
In March 1995, Vladislav List'ev, a prominent television journalist, was assassinated. List'ev had been a supporter of efforts to stop corruption in state television, where large amounts of advertising revenues were being extorted by organized crime. A Russian news agency reported that, between 1992 and mid-1995, there had been eighty-three attempts--forty-six of which were successful--to kill bankers and businesspeople. In 1996 contract killings remained a regular occurrence, especially in Moscow.
Data as of July 1996
NOTE: The information regarding Russia on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Russia Organized Crime information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Russia Organized Crime should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.