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5 Things You Didn’t Know About The Russian Mafia

The Russian mafia has been around since the time of the Czars, but didn’t gain international infamy until after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, when different mobs vied for control of Russia and brought their clashes to the streets of America.
With the disappearance of our screenwriter haunting everyone’s thoughts, and sinister symbols showing up all over the production set, we here at VM Productions thought that we were dealing with some sort of mysterious and dark cult. But then more strange things started to happen that weren’t so mysterious. One of our cast members was assaulted, and details started to come out that Hurley had been dealing with a Russian prostitute linked to the mob.
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Now that we know the Russian Mafia is somehow tied to the disappearance of screenwriter Robert Hurley, here are 5 surprising things we DIDN’T know about the vore v zakone (thieves-in-law).
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1) They Began In Stalin’s Gulags
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Under the brutal dictatorship of Joseph Stalin, Soviet leader from 1926 – 1953, millions of people were throw into a network of Siberian labor camps called the “Gulag”. In the harsh atmosphere of prison life, groups of tough prisoners began to form together. Using an old Russian thieves code from centuries past, they called themselves vore v zakone, or thieves-in-law. To communicate their stories and toughness, they adorned themselves in tattoos. This way, one zakone could immediately size up another zakone without saying a word that could be overheard by the guards.
The Zakone’s legendary toughness and brutality carried over to new members as the decades passed. When Gorbechov granted amnesty to political prisoners in the 80’s, the Gulags were closed down and the zakones were released onto the world. With the fall of the Soviet Union many found themselves in a position to consolidate power and money, and then expanded their operations overseas to lucrative America. Enter the famous Russian mafia.
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2) There Is No Single Russian Mafia
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One of the reasons law enforcement has had such a hard time taking down the Russian mafia is because, unlike the highly-structured Italian mob, there is no central Russian mafia or leadership. The Zakone operates as a loose network of affiliated gangs, usually with a couple of head honchos each. They will often work together for a common goal, but during the 1990’s they were just as likely to war with each other. Famous Russian banya shootouts in New York, Chicago and even Sydney created the rule that all men entering a Russian sauna must be naked, so they can’t conceal weapons.
Today, even though the FBI and Interpol have taken down dozens of Russian gangs, new ones spring up to replace them almost immediately, thanks to their highly decentralized structure.
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3) They Are The Second Biggest Crime Group In The World
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After the famed Japanese Yakuza the Vore V Zakone is the second largest organized crime group in the world. They have operations spread across nearly every country, and even in prosperous first-world western democracies they have their share of informants, police and judges on their payrolls. According to a Canadian RCMP special task force report in 2011, the Russian mafia accounted for nearly 40% of all worldwide black market trade, a stunning figure in the billions of dollars!
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4) They Work With The Italian Mob
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In 2004 a special FBI investigation brought evidence that the Vore V Zakone and La Cosa Nostra had met several times and worked out mutual trade deals, assigned territories and were even involved in laundering each other’s dirty money! When Italian mob boss Pasqual Scotti was arrested in Brazil, two Russian mobsters who were dining with him were also arrested!
What does an Italian mob connection mean for our missing screenwriter? Probably nothing, but knowing that the powerful Russian mafia and the super-rich Italian mafia are in cahoots certainly doesn’t help us sleep at night.
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5) They Run The Russian State
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Although Russian President Vladimir Putin brought an end to the mob violence and carnage that plagued post-Soviet Russia, he didn’t destroy the Zakone gangs moreso than he elevated one of them to a position of prominent power in the Russian government. The Russian mafia is known to control the oil and gas industry in Russia, and has its members at the top echelons of the government bureaucracy. Elected representatives to the Russian Duma don’t get very far without approval of the mob, and journalists who get a little too curious often end up dead in mysterious car accidents or apartment explosions.
In 2008 the CIA told the State Department that Russia was the world’s first “militarized Crime-Syndicate State”. From hiding in the shadows of the Gulag to running one of the 10 most powerful countries in the world, the Zakone has really grown!
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We worry about the fate of Robert Hurley. Was he kidnapped by the Russian mafia, or did he run off to join a secret cult? Maybe the prostitute he was involved with knows something? As we learn about the Vore V Zakone and its connections to the Italian mob, the Russian government and the Soviet Gulags, we grow more concerned for the safety not only of Robert Hurley but also for everyone who has had anything to do with the Notes From The New World project.

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MORE ABOUT HURLEY:

Ngoma’s contribution (videos):

Our Screenwriter is Missing!

Our Screenwriter is Missing! – Vlog 1 by Ngoma

Lauren’s last blog:

Production Notes: Vlogs, The Missing, And The Fear

Nate Drescher

Nate spent nearly a decade travelling the world as an English teacher and travel writer, living in such exotic places as South Korea, Thailand, Russia and Ukraine. He started writing professionally in 2008, and his own travel blog, Mission To Moscow, won an award for Best Canadian Travel Blog 2010! Today Nate continues to write and contribute blogs and magazines around the world. He also owns his own social media consulting business and started his own language-services startup in 2014. You can follow him at his professional blog here: natedrescher.com

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Natasha's hand above Dost.'s picture

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