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4 Eur. J. Crime Crim. L. & Crim. Just. 243 (1996)
Criminal Kaleidoscope: The Diversification and Adaptation of Criminal Activities in the Soviet Successor States

handle is hein.journals/eccc4 and id is 245 raw text is: ,L.Shelley
Criminal Kaleidoscope: The
Diversification and Adaptation of
Criminal Activities in the Soviet
Successor States
Post-Soviet organized crime is often analyzed as a homogeneous phenomenon. All of the
post-Soviet successor states face serious organized crime problems but very significant re-
gional differences exist which challenge any efforts to address it as a uniform phenomenon.
Moreover, the distinct successor states have different capacities and political will to fight the
problem ensuring that regional differences will grow over time.
Almost all the countries of the former Soviet Union have extortion rackets, casinos, pros-
titution rings and illegal drug trafficking but in certain regions particular crimes predominate.
In regions devastated by civil war and/or the collapse of the Soviet state support system, or-
ganized crime is more concentrated in certain types of illicit activity. For example, in the
Caucasus, arms trafficking is a central activity of organized crime whereas in Kyrgyzstan, or-
ganized criminals engage predominantly in drug trafficking. In Central Russia, the Far East
and the Baltics, where the legitimate economy is more intact, organized crime is less con-
cerned with these two forms of criminal activity; its criminal activities are tied more closely
to the legitimate economy.
The endemic corruption and shadow economy of the Soviet period are now being trans-
formed into the contemporary problems of organized crime and corruption.2 Their metamor-
phosis is shaped by a multiplicity of political, economic, geographic, cultural factors, the
overarching legacy of the Soviet period and the years of post-Soviet transition. The diversity
of contemporary post-Soviet organized crime is also explained by contacts with international
crime groups and traditional factors contributing to the rise of organized crime such as
strategic ports, presence of significant ethnic minorities and longstanding trade routes.3
As the centralized controls of the authoritarian Soviet state are lifted, regions are devel-
oping distinctive political, social and economic features. The observed diversity of organized
crime in Russia and the successor states mirrors the visible changes occurring in all aspects
of post-Soviet society.
The conventional wisdom is that post-Soviet organized crime is a transitional phenomenon
1. Professor of Sociology, American University, Washington D.C., United States.
2. For a discussion of this by V.M. Episov see A.I. Dologova and S.V. D'iakov, eds., Organizovannaia
Prestupnost' Vol. 2 (Moscow 1993) pp.56-63.
3. P. Williams, 'Transnational Criminal Organisations and International Security', 36 Survival 1 (1994) pp.96-113.
European Journal of Crime,
Criminal Law and Criminal Justice     1996- 3                                243

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