Is Russia more or less of a mafia state than it was 25 years ago?

15 November

I'd say it's probably more of a mafia state actually because it's more organised. It became a mafia state. Towards the end of the Soviet Union and certainly after its break-up, it was a free-for-all. Democracy to some people meant freedom not to pay taxes, freedom just to go and take a factory if they had the right power, or got a piece of paper signed off, or had enough money to bribe someone. That's how the oligarchs rose up. It was chaotic then because there were so many state assets to be grabbed. Many of those state assets are now in the hands of Putin's inner circle.

So, it’s a mafia state. And I would say that Putin is Mafioso number one. And because it’s so entrenched it's very difficult to see that changing anytime soon.

And if the top is run by the Mafia then the Mafia has its tentacles everywhere. So in a sense, it's like a template fitting over the whole of the country. For example, there is no independent judiciary. Judges can be bought. And most Russians know that to get anywhere, you have to pay bribes. To get a seat in the Duma you have to bribe. Most Russians would say that everyone has their price. And if you're the one who's made the money, then you've got the brains and you'll have the thugs who are going to carry out your wishes.

"Towards the end of the Soviet Union and certainly after its break-up, it was a free-for-all"

It's slightly more sophisticated now than in the early 90s. At that time you’d hire people to set up a tiny kiosk to be open 24 hours or so to sleep inside it just to make sure that no one came down to threaten you. There’s less of that now, but that’s because things are much more organised from the top. 

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