When a large autocracy, particularly one with a major military force, changes government, you will find a lot of highly-trained people out of a job.
So, they frequently become Hired Guns
. An aversion of Full-Circle Revolution
, where they may all get new jobs in the new regime like nothing had changed.
The former USSR and South Africa are good sources for them. Many members of The Mafiya
may be ex-Soviet military or ex-KGB, as many were let go without a pension. Note that before The Great Politics Mess-Up
, it was kinda taboo among The Mafiya
to accept ex-military or ex-KGB people, but during the Nineties it all broke.
May or may not wear a Commissar Cap
Contrast Dangerous Deserter
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Anime and Manga
- Hotel Moscow from Black Lagoon is a Russian mob. The Roanpur section is built around ex-paratrooper Balalaika and her unit. There is also an internal rivalry between members with military background versus members with intelligence background.
- Monster takes place in post-unification Germany, and has some ex-members of secret GDR organizations.
- Simon and Chief Chef of Russian Sushi in Durarara!! were both part of the KGB before the Soviet Union fell, after which they joined The Mafiya together. As of now, they're both hiding from the organization in Japan and one of them has become a major Atoner.
- Many characters in Rurouni Kenshin are former members of the Imperial or Shogunate forces, including Kenshin himself. Many of them have become criminals or swords-for-hire.
- Leonardo DiCaprio's character in Blood Diamond is a former Rhodesian mercenary turned diamond smuggler.
- His character is an inversion in this instance as Archer was never depicted as a former soldier of the Rhodesian state. He pretty much went straight into mercenary work (albeit under the wing of Colonel Coetzee) after the Rhodesia fell.
- Colonel Coetzee is a straight example, as he became a mercenary when Apartheid ended in South Africa.
- Xenia Onatopp in GoldenEye.
- Die Hard with a Vengeance
- The Pigs (a Polish film about former officers of the Polish Secret Police and their work as proper policemen in the independent, democratic Poland).
- The International. Wexler, the most disillusioned member of the IBBC, is revealed to be a once-fanatical communist and high-ranking member of the Stasi.
- Yuri's uncle in Lord of War
- Most of the characters in Ronin are former spies and soldiers who were turfed out after the Cold War ended. They're explicitly compared to the ronin of Japanese history: master-less samurai, stripped of honor, Walking the Earth and working for money as bandits, mercenaries or bodyguards. Though one of the major characters never left their organization, playing The Mole in so they could neutralize the guy who hired the mercenaries.
- In The Lives of Others, the protagonist, a Stasi officer, ends up working as a cabbie after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
- The Devil's Guard trilogy tells about former Waffen-SS paramilitaries in the French Foreign Legion fighting in the French-Indochina War.
- In Robert E. Howard's Shadows In The Moonlight, Conan the Barbarian was one of the mercenaries of a rebel prince until he made his peace.
I was one of those dissolute rogues, the Free Companions, who burned and looted along the borders. There were five thousand of us, from a score of races and tribes. We had been serving as mercenaries for a rebel prince in eastern Korb, most of us, and when he made peace with his cursed sovereign, we were out of employment; so we took to plundering the outlying dominions of Koth, Zamora and Turan impartially.
- Popov from Rainbow Six is Ex-KGB now renting his services to stage terrorist incidents (originally just as security consultant).
- In The Sum of All Fears, the False Flag Operation that was part of the terrorists' plans to get the US and Soviet Union fighting one another was assisted by several former agents of the East German Stasi, who also arranged for the technical expert to work on the nuclear bomb they had acquired.
- In the Honor Harrington novels, the fall of the People's Republic of Haven and the restoration of the old Republic put State Sec's private navy out of a job. Those who weren't hunted down by the Navy fled the Republic, and typically turned pirate. Two were destroyed by HMS Hexapuma in Shadow of Saganami. Most were eventually rounded up into the People's Navy in Exile, which was effectively a mercenary organization employed by Manpower Incorporated. They launched an attack on Torch, only to be stopped by a Commodore Roszak of the Maya Sector.
- One small part of Freedom gives us the viewpoint of a mercenary who used to serve in the regime of Romanian Communist leader Nicolae Ceaușescu.
Live Action TV
- MacGyver tackles multiple intelligence agencies during the series- once, he gets involved in a case of former-East German intelligence operatives trying to locate and retrieve their smuggled, stolen gold from the States.
- Some are seen in the East European mob in The Sopranos.
- Nikita: when first introduced, the Gogol organization likes to portray itself as a Russian version of Division. But Nikita knows that they are actually former Soviet intelligence officers who went into business for themselves and are mostly mercenaries.
- A good deal of ex-KGB personnel turn up in Burn Notice. Sometimes these are employed by Russian intelligence, sometimes they are not.
- Jagged Alliance: After the fall of the Soviet Union, Ivan Dolvich joined up with A.I.M, and became a mercenary for hire.
- A plot point in Star Trek Online - After the militaristic Cardassian government fell, a huge number of the former spies were now unemployed and out of power, which they weren't too happy with. Gul Madred, a recurring character from the TV series, hires many of them into the mining league, which helps to restart the planet's economy. Unfortunately, the mining league is a cover for the "True Way" terrorist group, which wants to re-institute the fascist, authoritarian powers of the past. A number of missions deal with fighting back this group, and eventually capturing Gul Madred.
- In the Ace Combat series, a lot of Belkan officers and military personnel emigrated to other countries after their defeat in the Belkan War and an aggressive demilitarization of Belka by the Allies. Notable examples: Ashley Bernitz (Bonus Boss in Zero mission 10) leads the Osean Grabacr Squadron in AC5; ditto Michael Heimeroth for Yuktobanian Ofnir Squadron; Wolfgang "Huckebein the Raven" Buchner a.k.a. Peter N. "Pops" Beagle became mechanic in Osea (though he defected before the war ended); it has been speculated that Erich Klinsmann (from the same mission) is actually Yellow 13 from AC04 and Axel Reichert (mission 5) is Scarface One from AC2; Lorenz Riedel (mission boss in mission 17, Soldier path) designed the Estovakian Airborne Aircraft Carriers in AC6; also, it's safe to assume that Belkan emigrants developed the Osean Arkbird laser, based on Excalibur, and the Yuktobanian Scinfaxi-class submarines in AC5. The Belkan War is one of the two seminal events of AC world history, along with the Ulysses meteorite.
- The mercenary companies available for hire in Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty include several elite forces from the defeated Terran Confederacy, one from the defeated United Earth Directorate invasion force, and one that went rogue from the current (but threatened) iron-fisted dictatorship, the Dominion. The rest are typical thugs, pirates and adventure capitalists.
- Colonel Badass Sergei Vladimir is a former Red Army colonel who serves as Dragon-in-Chief to Ozwell E. Spencer, and as the de facto Big Bad of Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles. He is distinguished by his Undying Loyalty to Spencer, who gave him a place after the fall of the U.S.S.R.
- The U.B.C.S. and U.S.S. seem to attract these sorts of people, with former East Bloc soldiers making up a sizeable portion of both. Reasonable Authority Figure Mikhail Victor, Sociopathic Soldier and Sergeant Rock Nicholai Ginovaef, and possibly Brazillian mercenary Carlos Oliviera are examples of this.
- The Metal Gear Solid series loves this trope, as the emotional motivations of soldiers is one of the series' main motifs, with many of the series' villains categorizing soldiers as people who need war, basically deducing that were there to be World Peace, people like them would create conflict just to have a purpose. Sergei Gurlukovich and Revolver Ocelot are both ex-Spetznaz, and Big Boss himself temporarily becomes a mercenary for hire after leaving the United States in Peace Walker. One heroic example, however, is Boris Popov in Revengeance, the head of Maverick Security and a former solder during the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan.
- It is often said (how often it is, usually depends on one's political views) that many former members of secret police of USSR and Eastern Europe ended up as mobsters or businessmen (to be exact, businessmen of a kind which is hard to distinguish from "honest" mobsters).
- With the fall of the apartheid government in South Africa there were an awful lot of highly trained special forces and police paramilitaries who were no longer wanted in their nation's service. South Africa became the centre for various mercenary companies until restrictions came into place in 1998.
- After the World War One ceasefire and the signing of Treaty of Versailles, the German army was restricted to just 100,000 men, as well as the disbandment of much of the navy and the entire airforce. Many ex-soldiers joined right-wing organizations, blaming the then current government (a left-wing one), for the signing of the Treaty, which also took away a lot of German land. Much of the Nazi Party was made up of this trope - Hitler was a decorated soldier. The Communist Party also attracted a good number of former conscripts, in Germany and elsewhere; a lot of veterans of the trenches came home with very little reason to love the regime that had sent them there.
- Happened again after WWII, with the added distastefulness of lots of Nazis finding work with their former enemies. Gestapo personnel, German scientists, and other potential assets were recruited by both sides in the Cold War, and Nazi soldiers worked throughout Europe as anti-communist activists (with varying levels of violence and government support). A fair number also made their way to other places with communist threats, and one (Special Operations chief Colonel Otto Skorzeny) trained various Arab armies for a while (they eventually ditched him in favor of Soviets, and then Americans in the case of post-Camp David Egypt).
- On the American front, the U.S. heavily downsized its army after the war ended. A lot of out-of-work veterans came home to various American cities and joined the various criminal gangs in their communities. The Irish Mob and The Mafia, in particular, recruited a lot of their muscle from this pool.
- The French Foreign Legion has been giving such individuals gainful employment that puts their skills to good use almost as long as it has existed. They try to screen out anyone who's wanted for war crimes these days, though in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War they weren't in a position to be so choosy.
- After Baghdad fell to the US Army, the interim government fired all Baath Party-related military and civilian personnel and barred them from participating. Since being part of the party was the only real way of advancing through the ranks during the Saddam era, many people had joined up simply to survive, have a decent income or help their communities without necessarily supporting Saddam. The firing of the civilian personnel left Iraq without vital utilities (water and electricity) that wouldn't be restored to pre-Saddam levels until 2008 and the firing of the military/police personnel caused anarchy to break out within hours of the Coalition taking control. A lot of these people also took their expertise to the insurgency, thus bolstering its ranks with knowledge and equipment. Nice Job Breaking It USA.
- The "Los Zetas" cartel in Mexico was founded by former Mexican special forces who, allegedly, were trained by the US Army at the School of the Americas at Fort Bragg.
- A number of former Soviet soldiers now run training seminars dedicated to self-defense and firearms instruction in America and Canada. Two of the most well-known examples are Saulius "Sonny" Puzikas and Maxim Franz. They appeared on the "Green Berets vs. Spetsnaz" episode of Deadliest Warrior. More infamously, Sonny is also known for an incident where he negligently shot a fellow instructor during a training course in 2012. Fortunately, the instructor survived. *