The Russian Mafia
The Russian mob has been around for a long time. But after the collapse of the former Soviet Union in 1991, the organized crime community in Russia came into its own. The underworld went above ground and thrived as it never did in the era of communism. There had been an American-Russian mob in Brooklyn since the 1970s, but in the early 1990s New York City saw an influx of fresh mobsters from Russia and some of the breakaway republics.
Like the crime families of the American Mafia, the Russian Mafia is not a monolith but rather a loose confederation of crime outfits. This makes them difficult to track and adept at moving from crime to crime. And though their presence in America is on the rise, their hold over Russia is staggering.
Perhaps the most infamous activity the Russian gangsters are involved in is far removed from low-level scams and bookmaking. Since the Soviet Union fell, it has been a primary concern of both Russia and the United States to keep an eye on Russia's nuclear stockpile. There is a great fear that the Russian mob would not hesitate to get its hands on nuclear material and sell it on the thriving black market that emerged as the former communist countries were exposed to the world of capitalism.
This unthinkable horror is no longer the farfetched plot of a James Bond movie. Starting in the mid-1990s, intelligence agencies in Europe began receiving indications that Russian gangsters were actively looking to get their hands on nuclear material, including enriched uranium.
Yearning to Breathe Free
In the 1980s, when the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union was at its most frigid, it would appear that the sneaky Soviets played a nasty trick on America. Anti-Semitism was rampant in Russia, and as part of the many negotiations that went on during the Cold War, the communist government agreed to let many Russian-Jewish refugees leave the country. They also used it as an excuse to open their jails and rid themselves of their worst criminals by shipping them off to the United States under the guise of a liberal and compassionate policy.
Fidel Castro did the same thing with the Mariel boat people in 1980. Soviet Russia and communist Cuba simultaneously got rid of the lowlifes in their society and inflicted them upon the United States. Hundreds of thousands of criminals came to America to continue their criminal activities in the New World.
In January of 2008, Russian police commandos swarmed over a group of men leaving a supermarket in Moscow. They grabbed a sixty-one-year-old man, wearing jeans and a leather jacket. He was Semyon Mogilev-ich, the most notorious Russian Mafia boss around. Worth an estimated $100 million, he was wanted for multiple murders, drug running, and arms trafficking.