Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10419/240375
Authors: 
Lonsky, Jakub
Year of Publication: 
2020
Series/Report no.: 
BOFIT Discussion Papers No. 24/2020
Publisher: 
Bank of Finland, Institute for Economies in Transition (BOFIT), Helsinki
Abstract: 
This paper studies the origins and consequences of the Russian mafia (vory-v-zakone). I web scraped a unique dataset that contains detailed biographies of more than 5,000 mafia leaders operating in 15 countries of the (former) Soviet Union at some point between 1916 and 2017. Using this data, I first show that the Russian mafia originated in the Gulag - the Soviet system of forced labor camps which housed around 18 million prisoners in the 1920s1950s period. Second, I document that the distance to the nearest camp is a strong negative predictor of mafia presence in Russia's communities in the early post-Soviet period. Finally, using an instrumental variable approach which exploits the spatial distribution of the gulags, I examine the effects of mafia presence on local crime and elite violence in mid-1990s Russia. In particular, I show that the communities with mafia presence experienced a dramatic rise in crime driven by turf wars which erupted among rival clans around 1993 and persisted for much of the 1990s. Further heterogeneity analysis reveals that mafia presence led to a spike in attacks against businessmen, fellow criminals, as well as law enforcement officers and judges, while politically-motivated violence remained unaffected.
Subjects: 
Russian mafia
Gulag
Post-socialist transition
Crime
Elite violence
JEL: 
K42
N40
P16
P37
Persistent Identifier of the first edition: 
ISBN: 
978-952-323-354-6
Document Type: 
Working Paper

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