"A fellow prisoner once told me he will kill my family, cut out my tongue, eyes, burn off my skin with acid and shut down my business. Well, he did kill my family. But I still have my eyes, tongue, skin. Most important: I'm still in business. Because I understood the man. So, I was ready. See, we Russians don't make threats—only promises."The Mafia — but Russian! OK, that's not exactly accurate. While mobsters existed in Tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union (a lot of people in The Gulag were actual criminals by objective standards), they really exploded with the collapse of the Soviet Union. There was widespread unemployment, many ex-military men and others with the right skill-set for this sort of thing, but no work. Old KGB men and lots of abandoned military hardware quickly found themselves both with new homes. Note that before The Great Politics Mess-Up, it was kinda taboo in The Mafiya to accept people who once wore uniforms and shoulderboards of any kind. After WWII, when the majority of Soviet male population (including the crooks) served in the Red Army, it even caused a major internal conflict in the gulags, called "Bitch Wars" (Сучьи войны Suchyi voyny), when the vory v zakone refused to welcome back their former peers who fought in the war. But, after the USSR fell, this restriction became mostly obsolete—even mobsters with rules are still mobsters and won't turn down a golden opportunity to make money. There is another school of thought that posits that vory v zakone actually died slowly during the Soviet Era and that the new gangsters of the 90s coopted old structures as a source of pride and tradition without the baggage of the vorys limitations such as a ban on family life. Russian mobsters engage in all the activities that the Italian mobsters do. However, they are frequently depicted in a much more openly ruthless, sadistic, brutal and vicious fashion than the Italian Mafia, without the thin veneer of class and sophistication that many depictions of the Italian Mafia have built up around the organisation. This is often explained by them being tough enough to survive and prosper in the underworld of both the Soviet Union and post-collapse Russian society, neither of which were/are exactly healthy environments for milquetoasts to begin with. These days, many of the biggest Organisatsiya potentates are actually worming their way into government positions: not for nothing is The New Russia sometimes known as a "mafia state." "Organizatsiya" ("The Organisation") is the name the Russian Mob outside of Russia use for themselves. In Russia proper, they are called "Bratva" ("The Brotherhood"). Members are called "tolkachi" ("pushers") or "bratki" ("bros"). There's a subtle distinction in terms:
— Vadim Solonick, Boomtown
- Low-level bros may be recruited from the population of petty street Gang Bangers called gopniki (more of them below).
- A bratok is a low-ranking mafiya soldier. These are stereotyped as extremely stupid and sometimes tastelessly flamboyant.
- An avtoritet is a "middle manager" of the Bratva. Usually an old, crusty, experienced bro who proved to be smart enough to survive and outlive his peers.
- A vor v zakone (lit. thief in law) is a high-ranking mafiya member, like an Italo "wiseguy". Traditionally, vory v zakone lived by an ascetic code of conduct that forbade having a family or large living expenses. By now, this code is a thing of the past. Another dying tradition is that because by the old proverb the prison is the home for a thief, no crook should be made without a prior conviction. Becoming a vor v zakone is a ritual that is often called "coronation" by the Mafiya members. Nowadays it's often enough to endow the "obschak"note with a large sum of money to be crowned. There is no Capo-equivalent boss rank in The Mafiya. The most powerful Russian criminal masterminds are simply the older, smarter vory v zakone, with no special fancy title. Because Communism.note
- A tolkach (possibly an outdated term) is a nonviolent crook with big connections, who uses these connections to help people for a price. Unlike The Don of an Italian Mob, a tolkach doesn't directly command lesser bros, but he knows many people who do. In modern times, these people are more associated with government graft than The Mafiya proper.
- A suka or ssuchenniy (literally "bitch") is any former member of the mafiya who tries to reform and aid the law. These are the enemies of any mafiya members, and that's why you should never call any Russian criminal a "bitch".
- In the years following WWII, avtomatchiks (lit. "riflemen") were the crooks who fought in the war and then got back in prison for old or new crimes. The vory considered them a kind of suka because of the aforementioned taboo.
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- Featured in an M&M commercial, of all things.
Anime and Manga
- In Black Lagoon, the Mafiya is represented in Roanapur by Hotel Moscow, a group of ex-Airborne Troops led by The Baroness Balalaika. It's heavily suggested that the criminal nature of Hotel Moscow is just a front for having a large, well-trained and self-sufficient special forces unit with plausible deniability in a potentially "hot" region. Just look at Balalaika's connections!
- The manga Sanctuary has them show up near the end.
- Simon and Dennis from Durarara!! In their past, that is. Later volumes introduce Slon note and Vorona note .
- In Nikolai Dante, the new Russian aristocratic houses are descended from old Mafiya clans.
- The comic "Blue Estate" features Russian mobsters operating from the West Coast of the US. Some members are vor and have visible Russian prison tattoos.
- The Mafiya play a huge part in The Winter Men.
- The Punisher seemingly kills Mafiya as often as he does Mafia. They tend to be slightly more competent than the usual goons.
- In the 2012-on Hawkeye solo title, Hawkeye gets into a feud with a bunch of dumb but dangerous Russian gangsters who are responsible for street-level crime in his neighbourhood.
- Eastern Promises features a group of Russian mobsters in London.
- Janus aka Alec Trevelyan aka 006 from GoldenEye and Valentin Zukovsky from GoldenEye and The World Is Not Enough.
- Ivan Checkov and the Russian mob dudes from The Boondock Saints.
- The Russian mob dudes from Rock N Rolla.
- The Brooklyn-based mob in Little Odessa that has the protagonist working for it as a hitman.
- They feature early in Lord of War, operating from Brighton Beach.
- The 1988 Walter Hill film Red Heat.
- Plays a role in Blues Brothers 2000.
- The Russian mob feature prominently in the action movie The Jackal where they hire the title character, a hitman to murder the First Lady, in retaliation for the death of the mob boss's brother during a joint US-Russian arrest.
- Featured in Training Day where Alonzo has a debt to the Russian Mob. He doesn't pay it back in time.
- A drunk chap called himself the Russian Grim Reaper in Bad Boys 2.
- In the remake of The Italian Job the most feared gangsters are Ukrainian.
- Playing God, starring David Duchovny, has Estonian gangsters.
- In 25th Hour, Monty's associated with them, despite being of Irish descent himself.
- In 2012 it is strongly implied that Curtis Jackson's Russian boss became a billionaire through less-than-legal means in one scene, although the movie never really follows up on it. Given that this is frequently the case in Real Life, though, it's not much of a stretch.
- Boris the Bullet Dodger (a.k.a Boris the Blade) in Snatch. is, as pedantically noted at several points, actually from Uzbekistan, but that doesn't stop pretty much everyone in the movie from thinking and speaking of him as "that sneaky fuckin' Russian." As both his previously mentioned nicknames suggest, he's pretty hard to kill.
- A major antagonist in Ronin seeking the mysterious suitcase.
- Antikiller interestingly portrays various strata of Russian organized crime world.
- The Cindy Crawford vehicle Fair Game features an ex-KGB crime organization.
- The Jean-Claude Van-Damme film Maximum Risk, the protagonist discovers that he had a twin brother who was in the Russian mob. The head of the Mafiya is also shown reading Crime and Punishment at one point... in English.
- Iron Man 2: Ivan Vanko's tattoos identify him as a member of Russian organized crime. Or, at the very least, someone who's been perennially incarcerated and familiar with the prison culture of the vory.
- In Eraser, the Big Bad is involved in the deal to sell a large shipment of Magnetic Weapons to The Mafiya. After being arrested, he claims to have acted in the best interests of his nation by destabilizing a potential enemy from within. Of course, all it would take if for one of those weapons to fall into the hands of the Russian officials, where it would be reverse-engineered and used by the government. How does Arnold's character deal with The Mafiya? By bringing in The Mafia.
- The Drop has Chechen mobsters who take over the protagonist's bar.
- The main villains of The Equalizer.
- John Wick goes to war with these guys after their boss's idiot son steals his vintage muscle car, then shoots his puppy for no reason.
- In Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident, Artemis is trying to rescue his father from them.
- The Sterling Inheritance, by Michael Siverling, featured Uncle Gregori, who was quite kind to his nephew-in-law, even going so far as to send an arsonist to help burn down a theater for insurance when the poor nephew lost the mafiya money that he was supposed to launder to an unscrupulous Nigerian Businessman.
- In one of the sequels to Gorky Park, Red Square, Renko has to deal with the Chechen Mafiya.
- In Andrew Vachss' Burke book Dead and Gone, Burke meets with some Russian dudes, not too clear whether they're Bratva or gopniks, and has their tight-lipped leader assassinated so as to get in place a more talkative replacement. In Mask Market, this is subverted (!) The Russian thugs that show up are really Russian Jews.
- The antagonists in Quiller Balalaika by Adam Hall.
- The protagonist of the Birthright series, Anya, is from the Balanchine Mafiya family that manufactures illegal chocolate. The book takes place around 2083, when chocolate and caffeine are illegal and paper is hard to come by.
- Like The Mafia, these guys show up in the setting of Time Scout. Like The Mafia, not explicit, but implied to be part of the cause of the Crapsack World.
- In Accelerando, the Mafiya of Twenty Minutes into the Future (who are all now hardcore Objectivists) have taken over the remnants of the American recording industry, which they are attempting to restore to profitability by using direct physical violence to settle intellectual property disputes.
- In Margin Play, Vadim is unreformed and runs a gang of gopniki. He has a scar on his forehead where he had a prison tattoo removed. Govrolev may or may not have reformed. There are also a couple dozen gopniki (Gang Bangers) who serve as dumb muscle for the bad guys, and admire and follow Vadim. Izzy knows far more than she's happy with about how the Mafiya works because she grew up surrounded by them.
- The catalyst for Neal Stephenson's REAMDE is when a Mafiya associate gets his criminal activities hacked while playing a computer game, and a crime boss shows up to straighten things out.
- They're referred to as the Kosher Nostra in Mr Blank and its sequel, but they're clearly the Mafiya.
- The Goldfinch includes a number of shady Russian and Eastern European hoodlums with criminal contacts. Boris insists that he's not an actual gangster.
- The James Bond novel High Time to Kill features Russian mobsters as one of the two rival expeditions climbing the Kangchenjunga to retrieve the MacGuffin. While Bond never comes across them, his rival Roland Marquis has deals with them.
- In Zeroes, Mob's father owes tens of thousands of dollars to the Mafiya. He tries robbing a bank to get the money to pay off his debt, kicking off the main conflict when the robbery goes wrong and the Zeroes get involved.
Live Action TV
- Spooks. Lucas North, although not a member, spent eight years in a Russian prison and has a number of tattoos as a result.
- The Sopranos features Mafiya as occasional antagonists of the DiMeo crime family. They also show up as business associates; Tony's underworld accountant/money launderer at the beginning of the series is a Russian with Mafiya connections. Of course, one of his "connections" is the guy Paulie kills and tries to bury in the Pine Barrens...
- An episode of Frasier revolved around him and Niles trying to get cheap, high-quality caviar from a guy with connections in the Russian Mafiya. Believe it or not, authentic wild beluga sturgeon caviar is worth twice its weight in gold. Poachers and traffickers often have connections to the Mafiya. So this episode was Truth in Television.
- Roman Nabokov, shadowy nightclub owner in Life, who's turned out to be the key in the whole plot.
- The Russian Mafiya features prominently in the Criminal Minds episode "Honour Among Thieves".
- If the Mafiya makes an appearance on an episode of Law & Order, lots of people are probably going to die. In one of the only two-parters in the run of L&O Prime, they murdered several witnesses, killed an ADA, slashed the throat of a ten-year-old boy, and tried to blow up the two-seven. It's only when a banker is convicted under RICO of actively turning a blind eye that Jack manages to put the mobsters away for good. This often results in a Family-Unfriendly Aesop about how, no matter how bad the regular Mafia is, at least they have rules.
- Law & Order: Criminal Intent subverts this in "Maledictus": when the daughter of a Russian mob boss is decapitated and her body dissolved with lye (a "signature Russian mob hit"), the police first suspect she was killed to prevent her from writing a follow-up to the tell-all book that helped send her father to prison. But the cops later discover she was actually planning to write about an old classmate who had poisoned his pregnant mother when he was ten years old and said classmate killed her to keep the truth from coming out - before the Russians could carry out the hit.
- In Bandit Petersburg TV series old-school, elderly criminal authority figures (think Don Vito Corleone) are juxtaposed with modern, westernized, aggressive criminal types.
- In Firefly, Adelai Niska and his men are basically Russian mobsters in space.
- In Dollhouse, Lubov is introduced as a low-level mobster working with the Borodins. Turns out, not so much.
- In the travelogue Long Way Round, featuring Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman, the two stars stay at the mansion of a friendly Russian man who says he's in the "washing machine business." Ewan McGregor notes with increasing unease that their host seems to know an awful lot of very large men, and has a surprisingly comprehensive personal arsenal.
- Played for Laughs in Delocated with Yvgeni Mirminsky, the vodka enthusiast assassin with an ambition for stand-up comedy. Then the next season they bring in his brother Sergei and things get serious.
- In Cra$h & Burn the local Russian crooks are just bottom-feeding scam artists. The mob boss who comes to collect a debt from them is a high-ranking member of the Mafiya. His Dragon feels it is beneath them to handle this personally and would much rather have everyone involved killed so they can go home and get some decent food. If you try to jerk them around, they will kill you without blinking.
- In Sons of Anarchy the Russian Mafia are portrayed as being ruthless and vindictive.
- Major antagonists in Dexter. Though actually Ukrainian.
- They show up in Burn Notice. As murderers. As traffickers in sex slaves. And as movie pirates.
- Michael tries to get one of them to trust him by claiming to be one of them. He even manages to explain his obvious American accent by claiming that his family moved to the States when he was little.
- Person of Interest:
- Elias drives the Russian mob out of their undisputed stronghold in Brighton Beach during his rise to power. This leads to an alliance between the Russians and the corrupt police organization known as "HR."
- Has also featured a ruthless Eastern European gang that was similar to the Mafiya but was Polish rather than Russian.
- Ukrainian mobsters are apparently after a super model and Lionel is forced to hold them off by himself.
- Season 8 of 24 has Mafiya bosses Sergei Bazhaev and Vladimir Laitanin as antagonists, as well as Davros, a more minor Mafiya member who's hired to assassinate President Omar Hassan.
- In JAG, pretty much every time a storyline involves either Russians or when the main characters go to Russia, this trope almost instantly comes into play or is hinted at.
- An episode of NUMB3RS dealt with a Mafiya boss who threatens Don's family in order to divert attention from his real plans, leading Don to kick Charlie off the case. It nearly works, except Charlie's brain refuses to stay off, and he eventually figures out the boss's plan, culminating in a rather complicated scheme to nab him. As in many depictions, the boss is portrayed as vicious and brutal. One character provides the following line:
You know what they say about the Russian mob? They'll shoot you just to see if the gun is working.
- Arrow gives us the Bratva. The third episode reveals that Ollie somehow has the rank of captain (tattoos and all). As revealed in "Vertigo", he apparently saved the life of Anatoli Knyazev (who in the DCU is the KGBeast).
- Daredevil has the Ransakhov brothers, who operated in Moscow and later moved to Hell's Kitchen, using a taxi company as their front. There's also their rival Prohaska, who also has a front taxi company.
- Galina "Red" Reznikov's backstory in Orange Is the New Black prominently features the Russian mob. Initially, Red and her husband were forced to by the mobsters to aid their smuggling business in order to repay a debt after an incident where she had punched a mob boss' wife's chest, accidentally rupturing a breast implant. Later on however, she began to impress the bosses by providing cunning and shrewd advice and eventually became a well-respected member of the organization in her own right.
- The local Russian Mob in Daredevil is run by immigrant brothers Vladimir and Anatoly Ranskahov, who of course are under the employ of The Kingpin. They are both the first of Hell's Kitchen's organized crime syndicate's targeted by Matt Murdock and the first to openly express discontent with the way Fisk is running things.
- The third The Flash (2014) episode briefly gives us the Darbinyan crime family of, presumably, Armenian origin (based on the name). They meet at a restaurant owned by them to discuss a move by their unnamed rivals, which involves convincing their drivers to steal from them. They have previously testified against Kyle Nimbus, who used to work for them as a hitman. Thanks to the particle accelerator explosion at the same time as Nimbus's execution, Nimbus was granted the ability to turn into poison gas, which he uses to get revenge on those involved in his betrayal and execution. His first targets are the high-ranking members of the crime family. It is likely that Nimbus himself is not Armenian, which may have facilitated the family's betrayal of him.
- Sergei in Flesh and Bone is almost certainly involved with the Russian Mob. Daphne spotlights it by jokingly calling him 'the Mobster' and is rebuked by one of his bouncers.
- Frank Semyon in the second season of True Detective is a Russian-American with a violent background he's trying to bury. Some of his associates are old country Mafiya members.
- Niko Bellic of Grand Theft Auto IV used to work for them, but didn't exactly part on good terms. They become the main antagonists during the game. Vlad Glebov is a low-ranked member of Bratva and Mikhail Faustin and Ray Bulgarin are vory v zakone.
- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas also has C.J. and Big Smoke butting heads with Russian arms dealers in an early mission. Whether they were true bratvas or just gopniki is rather unclear. Most likely bratva, because gunrunning is usually too big and dangerous a business for gopnik gangs to organize.
- The Mafiya also appear in Grand Theft Auto 2 in the Industrial District (the last level) of Anywhere City.
- Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction had them as one of the four factions with which the player could work in North Korea. Unlike the Allies, South Koreans, and Chinese, they don't have a personal stake in the conflict; they just want to exploit the reconstruction efforts. Unluckily, this arrangement is upset by their local don, a Pointy-Haired Boss who keeps provoking all of the factions until, inevitably, his capo gets sick of it and deposes him. Since they run the shop from which you purchase all your gear, it's a good idea to keep on their good side (though if you do tick them off, you can just bribe them through the website).
- Vladimir Lem and his arms-dealing empire in the Max Payne series. One might consider Vlad something of a subversion of the normal Russian gangster portrayal, given that he is suave, sophisticated and friends (kinda) with the protagonist. That is, until the sequel. The suaveness can be explained by the fact that he was Alfred Woden's protege.
- Damon and Vladimir Zakarov of John Woo's Stranglehold run a Russian crime syndicate that want to take over Hong Kong.
- The bandits in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. are thoroughly gopniki. Their leaders, most notably Borov, Yoga and Sultan act as typical avtoritets, though.
- Featured in the Moscow mission set in Mafia Wars.
- Russian organized criminals are sometimes mentioned in Hitman series. Arkadij Jegorov is a target in Codename 47 and Sergei Zavorotko is a Big Bad in Silent Assassin.
- Alpha Protocol has contact with several elements of the Russian mafia during the Moscow mission. Sergei Surkov is an ex-vory y zakone gone semi-legit businessman (who has a lot of his ex-KGB ex-mafiya friends on payroll as security). Konstantin Brayko is a still-active gang leader and Surkov's former lieutenant who acts very much like a stereotypical bratok, what with his focus on Eighties pop culture and general lack of taste in clothing.
- If you piece together the Jigsaw Puzzle Plot, you'll find the majority of the mooks you kill in Hotline Miami are Russian mobsters. In Wrong Number, you get to play as two of them.
- According to Lazarus, the Russian mob runs Mexico in Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
- Which serves as a Call Forward since according to supplementary materials of the original Deus Ex, at some point before 2050, The Mafiya and the Mexican drug cartels join forces and gain power rivaling that of their respective governments.
- Deus Ex: The Fall: Has them as enemies in the first mission.
- The Getaway: Black Monday has them as the main antagonists in the form of the "Skobel Group". They're led by Viktor Skobel, a vory y zakone who has a charming exterior and a taste for fine art and culture, but is brutal and ruthless nonetheless.
- Also in the spin-off "Gangs Of London", one of the five gangs you can play as is the "Zackarov Syndicate"
- Part of Grigor Stoyanovich's backstory in the first Empire Earth was that he used to be a member of the Russian mafia, where he earned his nickname "The Crocodile."
- Brighton Beach, Brooklyn.
- And, strangely enough, West Hollywood of all places. Must've been the combination of cheap, dilapidated property, and the chance to tell your friends back home that you live in Hollywood. They share space somewhat uncomfortably with one of LA's Gayborhoods (which, come to think of it, may well have started up in West Hollywood for more or less the same reasons, although the parts that are Gayborhood are rapidly gentrifying).
- West Ridge and Rogers Park on Chicago's North Side, along with most ex-Soviet-immigrant heavy suburbs such as Skokie, Des Planes, etc.
- Pick a Russian city. Any Russian city. Or any former Soviet republic or Eastern-bloc country... You can even still find a Town with a Dark Secret in a remote area of the country that is run by the mafiya and the lawful administration is In-Name-Only.
- With a surge of immigration (of varying degrees of legality) from Eastern Europe, London and other parts of the United Kingdom have also seen a significant increase in the presence of the Mafiya.
- Older Than Radio: The Vorovskoy Mir (Thieves' World) originated in the early years of Tsarist Russia.
- Older than the Mafia: Modern scholars estimate that Cosa Nostra (The Sicilian Mafia) originated in 1812. Almost a century later than the Russian Mafia.