The Russian Mafia (Russian: рoссийская мафия, translit. rossiyskaya mafiya, Russian: русская мафия, translit. russkaya mafiya), sometimes referred to as Bratva (Russian: братва: “brothers”/”brotherhood”), is a collective of various organized crime elements originating in the former Soviet Union. Although not a singular criminal organization, most of the individual groups share similar goals and organizational structures that define them as part of the loose overall association.
Organized crime in Russia began in the imperial period of the Tsars, but it was not until the Soviet era that vory v zakone (“thieves-in-law”) emerged as leaders of prison groups in gulags (Soviet prison labor camps), and their honor code became more defined. After World War II, the death of Joseph Stalin, and the fall of the Soviet Union, more gangs emerged in a flourishing black market, exploiting the unstable governments of the former Republics, and at its highest point, even controlling as much as two-thirds of the Russian economy. Louis Freeh, former director of the FBI, said that the Russian mafia posed the greatest threat to U.S. national security in the mid-1990s.
In modern times, there are as many as 6,000 different groups, with more than 200 of them having a global reach. Criminals of these various groups are either former prison members[clarification needed], corrupt officials and business leaders, people with ethnic ties, or people from the same region with shared criminal experiences and leaders[clarification needed]. However, the existence of such groups has been debated[clarification needed]. In December 2009, Timur Lakhonin, the head of the Russian National Central Bureau of Interpol, stated “Certainly, there is crime involving our former compatriots abroad, but there is no data suggesting that an organized structure of criminal groups comprising former Russians exists abroad”, while in August 2010, Alain Bauer, a French criminologist, said that it “is one of the best structured criminal organizations in Europe, with a quasi-military operation.”
|Founding location||Russia, former Soviet Union|
|Territory||Active in many parts of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union; throughout Russia, parts of the United States, Canada, Spain, Portugal, France, Hungary|
|Ethnicity||Predominantly Russians, Russian Jews and former Soviet nationalities|
|Membership||unknown in Russia  1996|
|Criminal activities||Human trafficking, racketeering, drug trafficking, extortion, murder, robbery, smuggling, arms trafficking, gambling, bribery, fencing, pornography and fraud|
|Allies||Italian-American Mafia, Armenian mafia/Armenian Power, Israeli mafia, Triads, Corsican mafia, Italian mafias (Sicilian Mafia, ‘Ndrangheta, and Camorra), Jewish mob, Irish mob, Serbian mafia, Mexican Mafia, Bulgarian mafia, Albanian mafia, Macedonian mafia, Greek mafia, Greek Core(South Cartel), Romanian mafia, Turkish mafia, Los Zetas|