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Gulags, Crime, and Elite Violence: Origins and Consequences of the Russian Mafia

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  • Lonsky, Jakub

Abstract

This paper studies the origins and consequences of the Russian mafia (vory-v-zakone). Using a unique web scraped dataset containing detailed biographies of more than 5,000 mafia leaders, I first show that the Russian mafia originated in the Soviet Gulag archipelago, and could be found near the gulags' initial locations in mid-1990s Russia, some three decades after the camps were officially closed down. Then, using an instrumental variable approach that exploits the proximity of the Russian mafia to the gulags, I show that Russian communities with mafia presence in the mid-1990s experienced a dramatic rise in crime driven by elite violence which erupted shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The violence – initially confined to the criminal underworld – eventually spilled over, leading to indiscriminate attacks against local businessmen, managers of state-owned enterprises, judges, and members of the state security apparatus. However, there was no increase in politically-motivated violence, suggesting a widespread collusion between the mafia and local politicians in the early post-Soviet Russia.

Suggested Citation

  • Lonsky, Jakub, 2020. "Gulags, Crime, and Elite Violence: Origins and Consequences of the Russian Mafia," GLO Discussion Paper Series 711, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:glodps:711
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    File URL: https://www.econstor.eu/bitstream/10419/226013/1/GLO-DP-0711.pdf
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    1. Toews, Gerhard & Vezina, Pierre-Louis, 2020. "Enemies of the people," SocArXiv gnypr, Center for Open Science.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Russian mafia; Gulag; Post-socialist transition; Crime; Elite violence;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • N40 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • P16 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Political Economy of Capitalism
    • P37 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Institutions and Their Transitions - - - Legal

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