Legacy of the Bear

Date01 January 2000
Published date01 January 2000
DOI10.1177/0032258X0007300111
Subject MatterArticle
TONY KENDALL
The first photojournalist to be aguest
of
the Lithuanian Police
Department Rapid Reaction Unit
LEGACY OF THE BEAR
Having arrived at the uncertainty of the new millennium, we can look
back upon the passing of the most turbulentcentury in history.A century
whose hallmark has been stamped by an astonishing social,political and
religious changes, most characteristically implemented through
warfare, conflict and revolution. In particular, what makes the twentieth
century unique is the speed with which these changes have occurred -
the virtual overnight capitulation of the Soviet communist system of
totalitarian rule being a classic example.
Seizing this moment, many regions of the USSR jumped headfirst
into the euphoria of a new found democratic freedom. But, if history has
taught us one poignant lesson, it is that freedom always comes with a
price tag! The Old Guard of fur hatted comrades may have fallen bythe
wayside, but amidst the flag waving and back slapping has emerged a
new malignant tumour, pointedly labelled 'The Russian Mafia' by the
media. Are these eastern criminals merely a bunch of vodka-swilling
thugs who monopolize the shadowy world of Moscow's black market
and prostitution rackets, or do they pose a very dangerous threat to
international stability as we step into the twenty-first century?
Contrary to tabloid hype referring to the 'new phenomena', the
Russian Mafia (Organizatsiya or Mafyia) has its roots firmly established
within 70 years of communist rule. To appreciate how it has evolved
into the fast moving major league player of today, it is essential to
understand its development throughout the Cold War years.
In the former USSR, the state held all the economical and social
cards of an over stretched national budget. Those of the party faithful
who towed the line wouldget by. The averagecitizen, onthe otherhand,
existed in relative poverty unless he had a discreet flare for a spot of
private enterprise. Many did... the night watchman would tum a blind
eye whilst a lorry packed with factory produce was spirited away.The
state police investigator who would mislay relevant files which might
help track the missing goods and the 'economical criminals' who had
liberated them. The factory manager who would overlook production
figures that didn't tally with out-going quotas during stock take. In an
economically bleak state, favours and pay-offs became a practical way
to get ahead of a restrictive bureaucracy.
Besides, what the state didn't know about, wasn't going hurt it.
Whether the Party cared to admit it or not, this type of illicit
networking through the black market had become a firm fixture of
January 2000 The Police Journal 73

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