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Gangs of Russia

Since their spectacular rise in the 1990s, Russian gangs have remained entrenched in many parts of the country. Some gang members have perished in gang wars or ended up behind prison bars, while others have made spectacular careers off the streets and joined the Russian elite. But the rank and file of gangs remain substantially incorporated into their communities and society as a whole, with bonds and identities that bridge the worlds of illegal enterprise and legal respectability. In Gangs of Russia, Svetlana Stephenson explores the secretive world of the gangs. Using in-depth interviews with gang members, law enforcers, and residents in the city of Kazan, together with analyses of historical and sociological accounts from across Russia, she presents the history of gangs both before and after the arrival of market capitalism. Contrary to predominant notions of gangs as collections of maladjusted delinquents or illegal enterprises, Stephenson argues, Russian gangs should be seen as traditional, close-knit male groups with deep links to their communities. Stephenson shows that gangs have long been intricately involved with the police and other state structures in configurations that are both personal and economic. She also explains how the cultural orientations typical of gangs-emphasis on loyalty to one's own, showing toughness to outsiders, exacting revenge for perceived affronts and challenges-are not only found on the streets but are also present in the top echelons of today's Russian state.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: In the Shadow of the State 1. Street Organizations and Gangs in Russia 2. The Transformation of Gangs in the 1990s 3. The Business of Bandit Gangs: From Predation to Assimilation 4. Gang Organization 5. Street Trajectories 6. The Gang in the Community 7. Life according to the Poniatiia: The Gang's Code 8. Navigating the World of Violence 9. Gang Culture and the Wider Russian Society Conclusion: Out of the Shadows? Appendix. Development of Tatarstan Gangs: Three Examples Key to Interviewees Methodological Note Glossary References Index


About the Author

Svetlana Stephenson is Reader in Sociology at London Metropolitan University. She is the author of Crossing the Line: Vagrancy, Homelessness and Social Displacement in Russia and coeditor of Youth and Social Change in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union.


"[I]n her landmark study, Gangs of Russia: From the Streets to the Corridors of Power, Svetlana Stephenson finds an analytical similarity between the two types of organizations: like the Mafia, gangs in Russia are woven into the fabric of society. They have roots in the community and instead of challenging the established order, they reinforce it ... Stephenson finds that most of her interviewees had finished high school, were studying at university (in some cases, medicine and law), or held professional jobs. They do not come from broken homes and are in steady relationships. Many are married. Some even belong to belong to political parties, such as the pro-Putin United Russia, and have relatives working for the police. Over time, a number of them become respected businessmen and even local politicians"-Federico Varese, Times Literary Supplement (July 1, 2106) "This is a history of the growth and partial assimilation of youth gangs in Russia after the collapse of Soviet socialism...highly recommended." - M.G. Meacham, CHOICE "A recent and valuable contribution to this field of study is Dr. Svetlana Stephenson's book Gangs of Russia, a fine expose that contributes much to our understanding of the very roots of the reality of Russia 'corruption [...] violence and crime'." - David Holohan, East-West Review (Spring/Summer 2016) "There is still much to be learned about Russian organized crime, and a key gap in the literature has been serious, detailed local studies. Now, in Gangs of Russia, Svetlana Stephenson sets out the workings of Russian street gangs in a way that enhances our understanding of Russian social development and the interactions among politics, crime, and society over the past twenty years. Her detailed research into the gangs of Kazan is new and provides a level of depth that is simply not available elsewhere."-Mark Galeotti, New York University "This is a terrific book, based on fresh research and with a new approach. Instead of reducing Russian gangs to their economic operations or rationalizing them as a substitute for the authority of the state, Svetlana Stephenson analyzes gangs as a form of society. She sees them as warrior alliances, a perspective that enables her to penetrate a whole panoply of cultural forms of solidarity, ethos, leadership, territoriality, and gender not usually brought together."-Caroline Humphrey, King's College, University of Cambridge "Svetlana Stephenson once again demonstrates her excellent empirical research and in-depth cultural knowledge to produce a groundbreaking book on Russian gangs. This much-needed, sober analysis of the complex relationships and historical and social contexts of crime in Russia will appeal not only to scholars and students across a variety of disciplines but also, in its highly readable form, to the interested lay reader."-Paddy Rawlinson, University of Western Sydney

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