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RUSSIAN Mafia: Disorganized crime
Does the so-called Russian Mafia constitute genuine
"organized crime"? This is more than an esoteric
question. It involves an understanding of what has
happened in organized crime in the last decade or so.
Is the Russian Mafia really a threat to the American
Mafia? Or is it a prop that has aided the traditional
Mafia to make a strong comeback, which has
become more apparent in the beginning of the 21st
century? In the 1990s it was clear that the Depart-
ment of Justice, while proclaiming its triumphs over
the Mafia at the time, had no interest in pursuing this
"other Mafia." As the Washington Post reported,
"... since the Justice Department does not consider
the Russian mob to be organized crime, it doesn't
treat it with the seriousness that it reserves for more
VIP criminals." It was noted neither the FBI nor the
New York City police was doing much about the
Russian "Mafia." The New York Times declared the
Russians were not a major enforcement problem
since they were tiny in size. In the assessment of the
Russian Mafia in the early 1990s it was found that
the findings of the Immigration and Naturalization
Service consisted of little more than material taken
from the Times.

Less knowledgeable investigators have insisted
that the Russians perpetrate many of the crimes prac-
ticed by mafiosi, going so far as attributing the word
Malina as the Russian term for "Mafia." Actually,
however, Malina is used by Odessa criminals both in
Russia and in the United States as a generic term for
the underworld; it literally means "raspberry." It is
very difficult for law enforcement to get a handle on
Russian crime groups because they are disparate in
numbers and loyalties. The government has not been
able to put a number on the gang members, and even
the name of "Russian Mafia" is somewhat of a mis-
nomer, since a great number of the criminals are of
Soviet-Jewish background.

Many members are in this country legally as polit-
ical refugees, but it is known that within this group
are considerable numbers of Soviet criminals who are
not Jewish at all but had acquired their identities
from dead or incarcerated Jews in the Soviet Union.
Some, it has been alleged, further launder their iden-
tities by first immigrating to Israel before moving
onto the United States. Still others are suspected to
have been long time "sleepers" planted in the United
States with fake identities by the KGB. Left on their
own with the fall of the Soviet Union, these former
agents gravitated toward the crime groups. Most
criminal groups come from various geographical
locations, such as the Odessa Gang — historically the
most violent of criminals in the country — the Kiev
Gang, the Moscow Gang, the Leningrad Gang and
smaller scattered groups called "gypsy gangs."

From time to time some of these groups have
attempted to unite or at least cooperate with one
another, but such arrangements are very fluid and are
marked by such great treachery in the divisions of
spoils that they simply degenerate into warfare far
greater than that seen in the American Mafia in its
brutal organizing years. The various Russian Mafia
groups have tried to move into such areas as
Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and as far away as
Toronto, Canada. They may pull singularly brutal
crimes but operate without any trust within their
own ranks and with corrupt elements on the outside.
Thus the Russian Mafia apparently will never
achieve full maturity but will operate simply as jun-
ior partners with various mafiosi who at the turn of
the century were demonstrating that their power has
ceased to diminish. Rather, they frighten the Russian
Mafia and other ethnic groups into subservience to
the elements who still control within the American
power structure.