Gangster’s paradise: how organised crime took over Russia / Гангстерский рай: как организованная преступность захватила Россию

Under Vladmir Putin, gangsterism on the streets has given way to kleptocracy in the state.

I was in Moscow in 1988, during the final years of the Soviet Union. The system was sliding towards shabby oblivion, even if no one knew at the time how soon the end would come. While carrying out research for my doctorate on the impact of the Soviet war in Afghanistan, I was interviewing Russian veterans of that brutal conflict. When I could, I would meet these afgantsy shortly after they got home, and then again a year into civilian life, to see how they were adjusting. Most came back raw, shocked and angry, either bursting with tales of horror and blunder, or spikily or numbly withdrawn. A year later, though, most had done what people usually do in such circumstances: they had adapted, they had coped. The nightmares were less frequent, the memories less vivid. But then there were those who could not or would not move on. Some of these young men collaterally damaged by the war had become adrenaline junkies, or just intolerant of the conventions of everyday life.

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