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The Mafiya

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Stay away from people like me...

"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."
Vadim Solonick, Boomtown (2002)

The Mafiabut Russian!

OK, it's a little more complicated than that.

Russian mobsters engage in all the same activities as Italian mobsters but are typically depicted as much more openly ruthless, sadistic, brutal, and vicious — in other words, totally lacking the veneer of class and sophistication that many depictions of the Italian Mafia have built up around the organization. The thinking is that because they had to operate in the Soviet Union, The New Russia or some other former Soviet countries, they are by definition stronger than your average mobster.

They're known outside of Russia as the Organizatsiya ("The Organization") and within Russia as the Bratva ("The Brotherhood"). Members are called tolkachi ("pushers") or bratki ("bros"). But there are a lot of different terms for these guys, all with their own distinctions:

  • A bratok (lit. "bro") is a low-ranking Mafiya soldier. These are stereotyped as extremely stupid and sometimes tastelessly flamboyant. They may be recruited from the population of petty street Gangbangers called gopniki.
  • An avtoritet (lit. "authority") 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 Italian "wiseguy". Traditionally, vory v zakone lived by an ascetic code of conduct that forbade having a family or large living expenses. This code included a requirement that a vor v zakone have a criminal record, in keeping with the old proverb that a thief's home is the prison, and there was also an elaborate "coronation" ritual by which one formally became a vor v zakone. But nowadays, that code and those traditions are a thing of the past, and one can simply pay one's way to becoming a vor v zakone (usually by a large endowment to the "obshchak", the underground mutual help fund-cum-expense account). The Communist influence in the organization means that this is the highest rank (i.e. there's no Capo equivalent in the Mafiya, there's just really powerful vory v zakone), and this also traditionally allowed the Mafiya to operate in smaller, more independent groups, which made it unlikely for the whole network to collapse if one group gets taken down.
  • A tolkach (lit. "pusher", 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 (in this case, the term reshala, lit. "solver", is more apt).
  • A suka or ssuchenniy (lit. "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 ever call any Russian criminal a bitch. A variant is the avtomatchik (lit. "machine-gunner"), who left prison to fight in World War II and found themselves back in prison after the war — even they were considered a kind of suka. This led to a long-standing taboo (since abandoned) of accepting people who once wore a uniform into the Mafiya and led to the bloody "Suchyi Voyny" ("Bitch Wars") in The Gulag between the end of WWII in 1945 and the death of Stalin in 1953 (at which point changes in the Gulag led to the separation of the avtomatchiks from the more traditional vory).

These are also distinct from the gopnik, or Russian Gang Banger,note  who's basically just the garden-variety petty criminal youth from the Wrong Side of the Tracks. They're not in the Mafiya — they're just interested in petty crime and beating the crap out of rival gopniki. In Russian media, they frequently overlap with the Lower-Class Lout stereotype. A relatively recent development is the "AUE" subculture, which consists mostly of underage gopniki who still aren't in the Mafiya but pretend they are and really want to join. Actual career criminals tend to see them as useful idiots, but there is evidence that the Mafiya has started to recruit from their ranks.

Organized crime has existed in Russia since Tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union, but it really exploded with Soviet collapse, when newly unemployed military men (and others with the right skill set for this sort of thing) found themselves suddenly unable to find work. They put their skills — and the newly abandoned military hardware — to use. The desperation of The New Russia also saw the Mafiya dispense with old traditions like the uniform taboo and the restrictive lifestyle of the vory v zakone as a matter of practicality — or perhaps greed, as even rule-abiding mobsters will never turn down a golden opportunity to make a lot of money. The Mafiya was totally pervasive in Russia in The '90s, to the point that Russia was sometimes called a "Mafia state" and most small and medium businessmen had to employ them for "protection".

Prison gang culture was historically very important to the Mafiya, in part because no professional criminal in the Soviet Union could hope to evade imprisonment for long. Prison gangs in The Gulag were branches and schools of the Mafiya called blatnye or otritsalovo, being in prison was a requirement for being a vor v zakone, and someone with no prison history at all was limited to gopnik or bratok status. Nowadays, with a less efficient police force, guard-sponsored gangs tend to have more influence. The Mafiya retains a system of symbolic tattoos that reflect not only a member's position in the hierarchy, but also their criminal and prison history — including symbols for "snitch" and "prison sex slave", naturally applied forcibly. Various offenses against the prison gang, including not contributing to the community slush fund (and "eating alone" as an American wiseguy might put it), could be punishable by demotion of the offender to the latter status, with the tattoos being applied as a Mark of Shame.

Something never seen in Western media — and even rarely in Russian media — is Fenya, an extensive and idiosyncratic Thieves' Cant that makes true Bratva dialogues indecipherable to civilians. Western productions don't use it because they have enough problems with regular Russian, and Russian productions would have to rely on Footnote Fever or assume that viewers have extensive knowledge of the criminal world — although it was so pervasive in Russia that odds are, an average Russian who was reasonably plugged in during The '90s (especially an ex-gopnik) will understand Fenya, if a bit erratically. Gopniki will try to speak Fenya as well, with varying degrees of success (and usually with a lot of needless swearing).

Aside from the Bratva proper, there are also ethnic Mafiya in Russia, mostly from the Caucasus, Ukraine, and Armenia. Some of them follow the usual Bratva mold, but are even more vicious and ruthless. Some (most famously the Chechen Mafiya, who are more similar to the Sicilians in their clannish organization and insular nature) do not, and are even worse.

See also Yakuza, Former Regime Personnel, The Mafia, The Triads and the Tongs, The Cartel, The Irish Mob and Red Scare. Often the Ruthless Foreign Gangsters in works set after 1991 since they are portrayed as stereotypically linked to human trafficking alongside other Eastern European criminals. Kosher Nostra also overlaps with the Mafiya since some members are of Jewish descent such as Evsei Agronnote  and Semion Moglievichnote . See also Spell Our Name With A Po for their uniformed counterparts, otherwise not much different.


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  • A vor v zakone and his crew feature in a commercial for M&M candies, of all things!

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Black Lagoon, the Mafiya is represented in Roanapur by Hotel Moscow, a group of ex-Airborne Troops led by The Baroness Balalaika. They're greatly feared in the area for their ruthlessness, personal loyalty to Balalaika, and fighting skills that are far above average for gangsters. However, it's heavily suggested later in the series that Hotel Moscow is actually a front organization for Russian intelligence that allows them to deniably have a foothold in a potential conflict zone, similarly to the real-world Wagner Group: Balalaika is even able to act with Diplomatic Impunity in Japan at one point.
  • Simon and Dennis from Durarara!!. In their past, that is. Later volumes introduce Slon note  and Vorona note .
  • The manga Sanctuary has them show up near the end.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman:
    • Gotham City's "Little Odessa" neighborhood was controlled by organized crime originating from the old Soviet Union.
    • In Robin, Ariana Dzerchenko's father, who had a history working as a forger for the Bratva, was murdered when he refused to get involved in organized crime again and start forging from his print shop in Little Odessa.
    • Greg Rucka's post-No Man's Land status quo for Gotham had ex-KGB Vassily Kosov as one of the five reigning kingpins, though he ultimately turns out to be something of a pushover when Ra's al Ghul's people start helping his rivals in a Gang War.
  • 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.
  • Grimm Tales Of Terror Volume 3 Issue No 1 ("The Invisible Man") has the eponymous Invisible man (real name Tom) attempt, in his invisible state, to steal money from a Russian mobster and casino owner named Vasiliev. It does not go well.
  • Hawkeye: In Hawkeye (2012), Clint gets into a feud with the Tracksuit Mafia, a bunch of dumb but dangerous Russian gangsters who are responsible for street-level crime in his neighborhood.
  • In Nikolai Dante, the new Russian aristocratic houses are descended from old Mafiya clans.
  • The Punisher seemingly kills Mafiya as often as he does Mafia. They tend to be slightly more competent than the usual goons.
  • In Ultimate X-Men Colossus was forced to work for them, as they had his brothers hostage. Even more, they had a Leonine Contract forcing him to work. The X-Men rescued him, and when the Mafia wanted him back, Wolverine shows up to say that it's a good moment to "renegotiate the contract".
  • The Mafiya play a huge part in The Winter Men.

    Fan Works 
  • Freezer Burn has the Winter Soldier sub-contracted as an assassin to a powerful Vory, and from him by HYDRA - specifically, by the Red Skull - and his true loyalty is to Alexander Lukin. This leads to some confusion as to why a) such a lethal assassin is working for the Russian mob, b) how he can be both working for the Mafiya and Lukin. Per Natasha, the answer is that his real loyalty is only to the latter, and if the Vory in question even realised he was the cut-out man, he was smart enough not to make further enquiries.
  • The Horsewomen Of Las Vegas has the Bratva, led by Nikolai Volkoff. In the story, the Bratva were nearly run out of existence at one point, but were able to rebuild.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In 25th Hour, Monty's associated with them, despite being of Irish descent himself.
  • In 2012, it is strongly implied that Jackson Curtis' 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.
  • Antikiller interestingly portrays various strata of Russian organized crime world.
  • Bad Boys II: Unbeknownst to both Marcus and Mike, Syd is working undercover for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a money launderer to a branch of the Russian Mafia operating in Miami's drug trade.
  • In Blues Brothers 2000, Willie runs a strip club but rejoins the band after it is burned down by the Russian mafia because Elwood enlisted the help of Willie's barman, "Mighty" Mack Mc Teer, to try and convince them to leave the club alone.
  • Ivan Checkov and the Russian mob dudes from The Boondock Saints. They're led by Yuri Petrova, who gets offed along with his underbosses when the Saints drop in on them at Copley Plaza.
  • Brother (1997) is a Russian crime film about a young man who is seeking his brother, who has become a hitman under Russian mob boss "Roundhead".
  • The 2009 French film Le Concert has a scene in which the protagonists are in the middle of a Russian wedding. Out of nowhere, the wedding becomes a gunfire between rival gangs.
  • In The Con is On, the Big Bad Irinia is the boss of an Eastern European crime syndicate, whose henchmen are all thuggish Slavic types. Her reputation for violence and cruelty makes her The Dreaded.
  • The Chechen from The Dark Knight is a Chechen drug lord in charge of the drug-trafficking operations in Gotham City.
  • The Drop has Chechen mobsters who take over the protagonist's bar.
  • Eastern Promises features a group of Russian mobsters in London. Noteworthy in that they are all main characters and essential to the film's plot rather than generic mooks or simply scary Ruthless Foreign Gangsters. The culture of the Mafiya, the tattoos in particular, are gone into in some depth (to the point that Viggo Mortensen started to carefully wash off his fake tattoos after each shoot after he went to have a meal in a local restaurant and accidentally terrified the people there who knew what they meant). It's also implied that they're a comparatively small branch; unlike the vast wealth and power they often have in the media, this film is centred almost entirely around a fairly small Sex Slave operation, a fancy restaurant and some contraband alcohol, and a rival Chechen gang that apparently only consists of three brothers with knives are a major threat.
  • The Equalizer: The primary villains are Russian mobsters who have operations on both US coasts, with the boss himself in Moscow.
  • 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 John deal with The Mafiya? By bringing in The Mafia.
  • 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 The Italian Job (2003), the most feared gangsters are Ukrainian.
  • The Russian mob features prominently in The Jackal, as 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 U.S.-Russian arrest.
  • James Bond:
    • Janus a.k.a. Alec Trevelyan a.k.a. 006 and the Janus Syndicate from GoldenEye. According to Bond, they were "top-flight arms dealers headquartered in St Petersburg", and were responsible for restocking the Iraqis during the 1990–91 Gulf War.
    • Valentin Zukovsky from GoldenEye and The World Is Not Enough is an ex-KGB intelligence officer turned Russian mafia head who runs a bar, a casino, and a caviar factory.
  • At the start of John Wick, the ruling power in New York's underworld is the Tarasov family, run by Viggo Tarasov. John Wick himself worked for Viggo and his family during his career as an assassin, for which he earned the nickname "Baba Yaga", or "The Boogeyman", and essentially put them into that position of power in the course of completing Viggo's One Last Job when he eventually wanted out. Then John, now retired, has a run-in with Viggo's gopnik son Iosef, who decided to steal John's vintage muscle car and kill his puppy for no reason, and John brings himself out of retirement to get his revenge on Iosef, waging war on the Tarasovs in the process.
  • The secondary plot of Jungle 2 Jungle revolves around a Russian mob boss that Michael (Tim Allen) sold a bunch of coffee beans to only for the price to drop the next day, leaving the boss to think he's been swindled and come looking for revenge.
  • The main antagonists of Lethal are a Mafiya unit who are trying to get ahold of Department of Defense documents.
  • Little Odessa features a Brooklyn-based Ukrainian Jewish mob that has the protagonist working for it as a hitman.
  • Lord of War: In the early 1980s, Yuri Orlov, the eldest son of a family of Ukrainian refugees, is visiting a Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, New York, restaurant where he witnesses a Russian mobster kill two would-be assassins holding Kalashnikov rifles. The incident inspires him to go into the arms trade.
  • In Maximum Risk, Alain discovers that he has a twin brother who is in the Russian mob. The head of the Mafiya is also shown reading Crime and Punishment at one point... in English.
  • The Machine (2023), based on the comedy routine of Bert Kreischer, follows a college-aged Kreischer as he falls in with Russian mobsters, and then an adult Kreischer (played by himself) as the consequences of his youth brings a new generation of Mafiya to his doorstep.
  • In Molly's Game, the federal government is so focused on prosecuting her illegal poker games because they think she is a part of the larger Russian crime network. Much time and effort is spent trying to figure out just what it is that she knows before they learn that the references to 'needing molly' that the criminals kept saying referred to the drug ecstasy. Molly's poker games really didn't have any connection to the Mafiya beyond their members playing at the table.
  • The Mongolian Connection features a Russian crime syndicate operating out of Ulaanbaatar as the bad guys. Their activities include drug running, human trafficking and forced prostitution, and, locally to Mongolia, illegal gold mining.
  • Our Kind Of Traitor features a more benign version of these when a London couple vacationing in Morocco is befriended by a Russian gangster who wants to get out of the business but knows that doing so will be fatal to him and his family. He asks the pair to be a go-between for him and MI6, offering them information on other gangs in exchange for immunity and protection for his family.
  • Playing God, starring David Duchovny, has Estonian gangsters.
  • Red Heat has a Soviet police agent and a Chicago police detective taking on a Russian mobster who escaped the Soviet Union and came to America.
  • In Rock N Rolla, Uri and Victor are heavily implied to be gangsters trying to go legit. Uri is at least a corrupt oligarch.
  • in Ronin (1998), Deirdre meets with her handler, Seamus O'Rourke, who tells her that the Russian mafia is bidding for the case and that the team must intervene before they get it.
  • In Rounders, the protagonist repeatedly clashes with Teddy KGB, a vor v zakone who runs an illicit underground poker club.
  • The main antagonists of Skin Trade are Serbian, but they live and base their human trafficking ring in Russia.
  • 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.
  • In Son of a Gun, the underworld fixer Sam has connections to the Russian Mob that he uses to fence the stolen gold. Lynch and JR hit the handover to steal the gold back.
  • Thieves By Law is a 2010 documentary detailing the rise of the Russian Mob after the Soviet Union. The cover is also the source of this page's image at the time of writing.
  • In Training Day, Alonzo has a debt to the Russian Mob. He doesn't pay it back in time.
  • We Are the Night: A group of Russian gangsters in Berlin feature as prey/antagonists.

  • In Accelerando, the Mafiya of 20 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 Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident, Artemis is trying to rescue his father from them.
  • 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.
  • 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 Bridge Trilogy by William Gibson is set in Alternate History 2000s and features the "Kombinat" — an unholy merger of late Soviet bureaucracy and the Mafiya, with the resources and international sovereignty of the former and all the brutality and disregard for the law of the latter.
  • The Death of Russia: When Siberia falls into anarchy following the outbreak of the Second Russian Civil War cutting the region off from being supplied by everything west of the Urals, the Bratva are one of the factions that spring up. They manage to take over numerous towns and cities (including the most prosperous nickel mine in the world), by taking control of the limited food supply; in many places, the male population just give up and join the organization just to get access to food. Due to being so entrenched, they prove one of the biggest obstacles to Alexander Lebed's attempts to restore order under his provisional Siberian government, but they do eventually fold.
  • A Russian-led criminal organization plays as the (seeming) main antagonist in Dance of the Butterfly. This is explored further in the second book of the series.
  • The Goldfinch includes a number of shady Russian and Eastern European hoodlums with criminal contacts. Boris insists that he's not an actual gangster. One Russian gangster notes that he wouldn't be considered "Russian" in Russia because he's an ethnic minority there.
  • 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.
  • The final book of the Kenzie and Gennaro Series has Patrick and Angie deal with the Russian mob for the first time, and neither of them are happy about it since even Bubba (who is allowed to do his own thing by both the Italians and Irish because fighting him is so much more trouble than it's worth) thinks they're too tough to take on. The Brute for them is Yefim, an extremely cheerful, friendly guy who calls petty criminal Kenny a "piece of shit" for giving a young girl a major drug habit, before kidnapping the girl and idly musing whether they'll rape her or test out his colleague's new gun on her.
  • The non-fiction book McMafia, by Misha Glenny, discusses modern organized crime in many parts of the world — Colombia, South Africa, upstate New York, etc. — but the author devotes the most space to Eastern Europe. This is partly due to his own expertise and contacts in the region, but he clearly explains how the Soviet collapse impacted the global underworld in parallel with politics and "legitimate" business.
  • 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.
  • They're referred to as the Kosher Nostra in Mr Blank and its sequel, but they're clearly the Mafiya.
  • 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.
  • In one of the sequels to Gorky Park, Red Square, Renko has to deal with the Chechen Mafiya.
  • The main antagonists in The Witness novel by Nora Roberts.
  • The antagonists in Quiller Balalaika by Adam Hall.
  • 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.
  • 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 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 
  • 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.
  • All Rise: In the third season, Mark's father Vic has gotten indebted to a Russian gangster. Mark, a prosecutor, is then blackmailed into throwing cases on the gangster's behalf under threat of Vic being killed. However, he works with the FBI to bring the gangster down.
  • Arrow gives us the Bratva. The third episode reveals that Oliver Queen somehow has the rank of Captain (tattoos and all). As revealed in the episode "Vertigo", he apparently saved the life of Anatoli Knyazev. Flashbacks in season 5 show how Oliver became involved with them, while in the contemporary plotline Oliver's role as a Man of the City causes an inevitable break with Anatoli.
  • In Bandit Petersburg, old-school, elderly criminal authority figures (think Don Vito Corleone) are juxtaposed with modern, westernized, aggressive criminal types.
  • Barry: Season 1 has Barry called to Los Angeles to do a hit for a Chechen mob boss, only for things to get complicated between Barry and the gang. The show's comedic aesthetic has several of the Chechen gangsters behave surprisingly low-key and friendly in spite of being ruthless murderers.
  • Season 3 of Billions has Bobby reluctantly approach Grigor Andolov for an investment to keep his embattled company afloat. Though Andolov never displays any tattoos etc. he barely bothers to hide the fact that he is a ruthless murderer, and he starts causing problems immediately. Wielding a level of power that Bobby is not accustomed to dealing with (bribery and corporate sabotage he's an expert at, murder and mutilation are not something he's ever dabbled in) Andolov eventually offers to kill someone for Bobby, with the latter fully aware that both accepting and refusing will have consequences he'd much rather avoid.
  • The Russian mini-series The Bitch War tells the story of Misha, who left his village in 1935 to escape famine and became a thief after failing to find work in the city. He is initiated into the Bratva and refuses to cooperate with the authorities when arrested, which gains him the respect of the vor v zakone, who consider him a member in good standing. When war breaks out, Misah is offered a pardon if he joins the army, but as a good Bratva thief, he declines — however, after Germans massacre his family, he joins up to fight them, getting him a death sentence from the vor v zakone. Misha survives the war, but when he gets home, he returns to crime — he is soon arrested and sent to a gulag where he has to survive the "Bitch Wars", with the Bratva old guard that sat out the war determined to kill those Bratva members who joined the army to fight the Germans.
  • In one episode of Blue Bloods, Danny and his partner protect a witness in Erin's case against this sort of kingpin, despite the man's ruthless efforts at killing and intimidating her — even as she prepares to testify, he taunted her about knowing where her mother lives, despite it being thousands of miles away.
  • Little Nina in The Boys (2019) was The Baroness and head of New York's Russian mafia, who was Frenchie's former employer and lover that made him perform hits for her on anyone who got in their way as well as their families. When Frenchie's other former lover ruins a major drug deal for her, Frenchie helps her escape the country and Nina's wrath which leads to Nina terrorizing him instead by trying to make him get back to work.
  • Season 3 of Braquo finds Caplan and his team tangled in a war of succession within the French branch of the vory v zakone.
  • These show up in Burn Notice as murderers, traffickers in sex slaves, and 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. It helps that he knows the Russian martial art style Sambo, helping him sell the disguise.
  • 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.
  • The Russian Mafiya features prominently in the Criminal Minds episode "Honour Among Thieves".
  • Daredevil (2015): In season 1, Vladimir and Anatoly Ranskahov are capos who relocated to New York City, and are trafficking women and drugs through Hell's Kitchen. Their outfit serves as one of several to make up Wilson Fisk's crime syndicate, alongside factions of the Triads and the Yakuza. They serve as the first of the criminal gangs in Hell's Kitchen to be targeted by Matt Murdock and the first to openly express discontent with Fisk's leadership. The syndicate ends up being eradicated early on after Anatoly makes the mistake of intruding upon Fisk's private life. This results in Fisk brutally murdering Anatoly, and then purging the rest of the Ranskahov organization for good measure.
  • Played for Laughs in Delocated with Yvgeni Mirminsky, the vodka enthusiast assassin with an ambition for stand-up comedy. Then the next season brings in his brother Sergei and things get serious.
  • Major antagonists in Dexter, though actually Ukrainian.
  • In Dollhouse, Lubov is introduced as a low-level mobster working with the Borodins. It turns out that he's actually a Doll planted by the LA Dollhouse to try and throw Agent Ballard off his hunt for their operation.
  • The Endgame: Elena married into a Belarusian crime family and in the present is still the leader of a major criminal operation (it seems she's Belarusian on her father's side).
  • In Firefly, Adelai Niska and his men are basically Russian mobsters in space.
  • The Flash (2014): The third 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. Daphne and later Claire perform in a strip club which he owns. Claire learns of his involvement with trafficking underage girls. One girl appears to have "vanished" as a result of becoming a problem as well.
  • Frasier: One episode revolves around Frasier and Niles trying to get cheap, high-quality caviar from a guy with connections in the Russian Mafiya. Truth in Television, believe it or not — authentic wild beluga sturgeon caviar is worth twice its weight in gold, and poachers and traffickers often have connections to the Mafiya.
  • Gang Related: The Russian Mafia Family are criminal players in LA, with one episode focusing on them as it's found they were trafficking young Mexican women as breeding slaves. Vee's brother Anton, who's doing a life term for murders she's convinced he didn't commit, is a member (they're Russian-Americans).
  • 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.
  • 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, they murder several witnesses, kill an ADA, slash the throat of a ten-year-old boy, and try 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 someone declaring that no matter how bad the regular Mafia is, at least they have rules.
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent uses Mafiya as a Red Herring 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.
  • Nate's father Jimmy Ford teams up with a gang of Russian blackmailers and robbers on Leverage although his real goal is to steal evidence from a police locker that will earn him the gratitude of Boston's old crime families.
  • Roman Nabokov, shadowy nightclub owner in Life (2007), who's turned out to be the key in the whole plot.
  • In Long Way Round, Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman stay at the mansion of a friendly Russian man who says he's in the "washing machine business". McGregor notes with increasing unease that their host seems to have an awful lot of physically imposing houseguests and has a surprisingly comprehensive personal arsenal.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • The series has also featured a ruthless Eastern European gang that was similar to the Mafiya but was Polish rather than Russian.
    • In one episode, Ukrainian mobsters are apparently after a supermodel and Lionel is forced to hold them off by himself.
  • One of the recurring villains in RoboCop: The Series is Russian gangster Vlad "Stitch" Molotov.
  • Shooter: One of their bosses meets Swagger in prison and protects him out of gratitude for killing the Ukrainian president, whom the Russians had hated.
  • In Sons of Anarchy, the Russian Mafia are portrayed as being ruthless and vindictive.
  • 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 Valery the ex-VV (Interior Ministry Internal Troops) veteran of the First Chechen War that Paulie kills (or tries to) and buries (or tries to) in the Pine Barrens...
    Paulie: You're not gonna believe this. The guy killed 16 Czechoslovakians. Guy was an interior decorator.
    Chris: His house looked like shit.
  • The Spencer Sisters: It turns out that Billy is not actually a con artist or Gold Digger. In fact he's on the run from the law and a Russian mobster over a rare, very valuable painting. Finally he gets tracked down by the Russians, who kidnap him and extort Victoria to get them the painting back.
  • Spooks: Lucas North, although not a member, spent eight years in a Russian prison and has a number of tattoos as a result.
  • One storyline in Third Watch has cop Sully's wife and stepson being threatened — and sadly, eventually murdered — by one of these.
  • 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.
  • Wild Bill: Oleg Kraznov is a powerful Russian crime boss in the area who grows into Bill's nemesis as he fights to stop Kraznov's operation.

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • The real-life model for Van Wilder is even more famous for his routine about (he swears) his real-life involvement with these guys. Ladies and Gentlemen, Bert Kreischer, THE MACHINE (warning: definitely NSFW).

  • The Musical adaptation of Matilda adds a Russian mob who are sold dodgy cars by Mr. Wormwood. Near the end of the musical, they meet Matilda and discover that she can speak fluent Russian, greatly impressing them.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Delta Green features the Tadjbegskye Bratva, a Bratva created by veterans of the Soviet-Afghan war who accidentally discovered access to the Dreamlands through the plateau of Leng in the mountains of Afghanistan. The Bratva has access to spells, sorcerers, can travel between dimensions and some other supernatural resources. They are in a conflict with GRU SV-8.
  • Night's Black Agents: The main antagonists of The Zalozhniy Quartet are the Lisky Bratva. Josef Lisky is an old-school vor who adapted to the modern post-Soviet world by making his bratva part of the Conspiracy.

    Video Games 
  • Alpha Protocol has contact with several elements of the Russian mafia during the Moscow mission. Sergei Surkov is an ex-vor v 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.
  • Bad Boys Miami Takedown has them as one of the gangs you go up against, they are led by Akimov who is in debt to Tulio Mendoza.
  • Cyberpunk 2077 has the Scavengers, a gang based around Organ Theft and human trafficking that are seemingly affiliated with Eastern European organized crime as most of their mooks speak Russian and dress in Gopnik-style tracksuits.
  • Deus Ex:
    • At some point before 2050, the Mafiya and the Mexican drug cartels joined forces, gaining power rivaling that of their respective governments. This received a Call-Forward in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, with Lazarus mentioning that the Russian mob practically runs Mexico in 2027.
    • Deus Ex: The Fall: Russian bureaucrat Mikhail Kontarsky hires the Bratva as his personal bodyguards in the prologue mission. Unfortunately for Kontarsky, they aren't really a match for The Tyrants.
    • The Dvali crime family plays a prominent role in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, and while the organization is ethnically Georgian, it has more than a few Russian members and is similar enough in appearance and operation to count as this.
  • 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."
  • Mikhail from the Co-Op Mode of Far Cry 3 is a Russian hitman who used to work for the Mafiya, but was banished from Russia after breaking the code and marrying a woman named Katya, with whom he had a daughter. As you can see when he's shirtless, he has a tattoo of Saint Peter's Cathedral with six spires on his chest, indicating six years of prison service.
  • Even though he is from Serbia, Niko Bellic of Grand Theft Auto IV used to work for the Bratva, but didn't exactly part on good terms. They become the main antagonists during the game. Vlad Glebov is a low-ranked member of the Bratva and Mikhail Faustin, Dimitri Rascalov, Kenny Petrovic and Ray Bulgarin are vory v zakone. Faustin and Bulgarin are both heavily tattooed, though Bulgarin seems to have been pragmatic enough to have the ones on his hands removed. Additionally, the Rascalov Crime Syndicate is based in the predominantly Eastern European Liberty City neighborhood of Hove Beach (based on the real-life Brighton Beach, the main hub of the Russian Bratva).
  • The Getaway: Black Monday has them as the main antagonists (Thieves in Law) 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".
  • 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 part of the Bratva or just Gopniki is rather unclear. Most likely bratva, because gunrunning is usually too big and dangerous a business for gopniki gangs to organize.
  • The Mafiya also appear in Grand Theft Auto 2 in the Industrial District (the last level) of Anywhere City.
  • 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.
  • The main enemy faction in Hotline Miami is an unnamed Russian mafia organization, of which most of the Mooks and the game's Final Boss are afilliated to (with the boss serving as the organization's Dragon-in-Chief). In the sequel Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, you get to play as two of the mafia's mobsters, including the new leader and son of the aforementioned boss, and it's shown that their main rivals are a Colombian drug cartel.
  • Featured in the Moscow mission set in Mafia Wars.
  • Vladimir Lem and his arms-dealing empire in Max Payne and Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne. 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.
  • 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).
  • Mother Russia Bleeds is set in an alternative version of Russia in the Eighties, where the Bratva controls the country and distributes a Psycho Serum named "Nekro". Some of the mooks encountered are shirtless Tattooed Crooks.
  • 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. Being Eastern European game, it's also notable for heavy and accurate use of Fenya in dialogues (including the now-iconic "Cheeki Breeki").
  • Damon and Vladimir Zakarov of John Woo's Stranglehold run a Russian crime syndicate that want to take over Hong Kong.
  • Summertime Saga: The Russian mob have recently moved into Summerville and regularly threaten and extort MC and his family because his late father owed them money. Turns out they are involved in drug and sex trafficking too. When the MC questions why they would even show up in some random Everytown, America, he's told that the minimal police presence and large coastline makes smuggling in product easier. They're also led by a Vladimir Putin expy.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines: Boris Chekov is a Russian mobster, Loan Shark, and Side Quest antagonist. However, he's also a regular human being whose organization is easily Overshadowed by Awesome when someone he's sexually extorting sends the Player Character, a powerful vampire, to kill him.
  • The Bratva is one of the street gangs in Watch_Dogs 2, depicted as stereotypical, tracksuit-wearing gopniki (to the point that even their cars have Adidas stripes running down them). They also have elements of Jewish gangsters, which puts them in conflict with the white supremacist Sons of Ragnarok.
  • During the events of WipEout Fusion, Russia's government was overthrown by the nation's mafia, including anti-gravity racing team Qirex, which would be later bought by the syndicate-owned Tigron Enterprises. They would later on wreak havoc in the F9000 and eventually lead to the downfall of AG racing because of numerous race-fixing scandals involving them blackmailing Overtel, which at the time owned the Anti-Gravity Racing Commission, into changing the rules to favor them. Their playable craft, the Bull-666, was a popular pick amongst players with its high top speed, great handling, decent acceleration and an extremely powerful Super Weapon in the form of the Nitro Rocket.


    Web Original 
  • Goncharov is about a Russian who goes to Naples and joins the Mafia there. The Russian mafia is also involved.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. There's a reason it's called "Little Odessa" with Jews, Russians, Ukrainians, Georgians, Central Asians, and other Soviet nationalities living there. Naturally, the Bratva had a substantial presence in the neighborhood during the 1970s and 80s.
    • 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.
  • Israel became a major hotspot for the Russian mafia following the mass immigration of Russian Jews during the 1990s. As Israel's financial system was notoriously underregulated and designed specifically to encourage Jewish immigration, many Russian criminals of Jewish descent took advantage to set up money laundering services in the country.
  • 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.

Alternative Title(s): Russian Mafia, Mafiya