on 4 June 2004
No understanding of contemporary Russian society is possible without an understanding of how the oligarchs raped the old State to secure their wealth. And no account of that process is complete without recourse to this account of the way that organized criminality supported and prompted mass theft. The oligarchs -- the kleptocracy -- had a mutually supportive relationship with organized crime, as this book demonstrates. Written with academic rigour yet accessible to the general reader this is an outstanding achievement and deserves a wide readership -- especially among the newspaper editors and politicians who fawn over the economic criminals who now dominate Russian society simply because they have lifted the collective wealth of ordinary Russians from their pockets and placed it in their own. An excellent companion to David Slatter's "Darkness at Dawn" or Chrystia Freeland's "Sale of the Century".
on 13 August 2001
I was given this book by a friend and found it very interesting. It is not only a book about the 'mafia', but also the transition to the market in Russia, courts, the history of Soviet criminality and an in-depth study of a city in Central Russia. All the material is tied up in a compelling argument, which is - as far as I know - highly original and persuasive. I am not suprised that a sophisticated reader like Le Carré wrote an endorsment.
on 20 March 2007
Running a business in Russia is every bit as unsavory as you might imagine, according to Federico Varese's thoroughly researched look at that nation's organized (but not very organized) criminals. Even the lowliest shopkeeper faces shakedowns from drug addicts and teenage thugs, as well as bribe demands from tax collectors and police. In this chaotic climate, the protection racket thrives. Pay the right person, and not only will the shakedowns end - you might even gain a business partner and a fishing buddy. But the penalties for making the wrong move can be severe. One shopkeeper who refused to pay up was burned to death in his store. Varese offers an intricately detailed look at the realities of the Russian Mafia. His excellent reporting is undermined only by his frequently academic writing style. We recommend this guide to those who are doing business in Russia or who hope to. Caveat entrepreneur.