Mafia Ancestors: The Vory‐V‐Zakone, 1920s–1950s

Federico Varese

in The Russian Mafia

Published in print August 2001 | ISBN: 9780198297369
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191600272 | DOI:
Mafia Ancestors: The Vory‐V‐Zakone, 1920s–1950s

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The first section of the chapter describes the main features of the original society of the vory-v-zakone – thieves-with-a-code-of-honour – the criminal fraternity that flourished in the Soviet labour camps between the 1920s and the 1950s, and re-emerged in the 1970s. The account given is based on archival data that have not been presented before, and describes the rituals and practices involved, the vory code of behaviour, vory activities outside prison, and punishment in vory courts. The second section addresses the question of the origins of the vory-v-zakone society, namely, whether it was a Soviet or pre-Revolutionary phenomenon. It is concluded that the fraternity most likely evolved from pre-Revolutionary criminal nineteenth-century arteli (guilds) of ordinary thieves.

Keywords: arteli; criminal fraternity; guilds of thieves; mafia ancestors; origin of Russian Mafia; origin of vory-v-zakone; Russian Mafia; thieves-with-a-code-of-honour; vory-v-zakone

Chapter.  8519 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Politics

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