What emerges most clearly from these books is that the Russian 'mafia' (the Italian name has been taken over into Russian) has so deeply penetrated government, business and the security forces as to have reconstituted the society which lives on one-sixth of the earth's land surface into a wholly criminal formation. Organised crime, all four writers warm continually, has encircled the globe, has found in Russia a safe laundry for its money and is trafficking in nuclear material drawn from the ex-Soviet arsenal. The picture is one of a vastly rich, closely calibrated series of crime networks which are now able and willing to challenge the Russian Government, among others. Handelman quotes President Yeltsin in January 1993: 'We have become a mafia state on a world scale. Everyone thinks that political issues could lead to an explosion but crime could as easily blow us asunder.' Sterling quotes him as saying a month later: 'Organised crime is destroying the economy, interfering in politics, undermining public morale, threatening individual citizens and the entire Russian nation ... our country is already considered a great mafia power.'
LRB 11 May 1995 | PDF Download