The Age of Magic Money
Can Endless Spending Prevent Economic Calamity?
POLITICS BY OTHER MEANS
Organized crime is the most explosive force to emerge from the wreckage of Soviet communism. The so-called Russian mafiya has undermined reform, spawned extraordinary levels of violence in major cities, and helped fuel a growing ultranationalist backlash. Although it is considerably less organized than its Western counterparts, and for that reason often misunderstood or underestimated in the West, Russia's crime syndicate constitutes a serious threat to post-Soviet democracy.
The "mafiya," Russian-style, is a hydra-headed phenomenon that feeds on the emerging market economy. Between 3,000 and 4,000 gangs operate in Russia, including several hundred whose activities span the territory of the Commonwealth of Independent States and cross the old Soviet borders into Central Europe and the West.
The definition of Russian organized crime is sometimes stretched for domestic political purposes. Police and politicians still fall into the Soviet habit of ascribing mafiya connections to anyone who possesses what seems