Russia: Government or Gang?

In December of 1991, The Russian Federation was founded from the remnants of the Soviet Union. Since then the government has gone through many changes, most notably transitioning from a communist society to a capitalist and, in theory, a democratic government. A gang is defined as a criminal group that claims control over a territory and gives advantages to the members of the gang. While Russia undoubtedly has a strong government, there are aspects of Russia that points to gang-like qualities such as the wealthy elite and involvement with organized crime. 

Russia has all the qualities of a strong government. Russia’s government is comprised of an executive, legislative, and judicial branch as laid out by a constitution. The executive branch is made up of a president who is democratically elected to serve a six year term and a cabinet. The executive branch is far more powerful than what is normal for this branch of government. The current president is Valdmir Putin who has bent these rules to make himself even more powerful. The legislative branch has 2 assemblies: the 166 member Federation Council and the 450 member State Duma. They share responsibility in proposing laws and approving appointments. The judicial branch is comprised of kinds of courts: general jurisdiction, arbitration, and constitutional. The highest court in the country is the Supreme Court which has judicial review powers. The Russian government also provides public services. The government provides public education, housing, welfare, pensions, healthcare, policing, and more. Russia protects its country with a strong military. Russia has all the attributes to be considered a strong government. 

The Russian government’s preference for the wealthy elite is similar to the way a gang treats its members. The Russian elite get preferred treatment from the highest levels of the government. Poor Russian workers keep getting poorer even when Russian businesses are growing. 2018 marks the fifth year the average yearly income fell. An example of this is Russian oil companies. When oil prices fell in 2014 and 2015, so did Russian wages. The oil market has since recovered, and last year the total export of oil gained 27%. The oil firms got richer, but incomes did not rise. Also, in 2018 Russian firms as a whole saw a 2.9% increase but there was no income growth. At the same time, the government has been imposing new regulations that inhibit the average citizen. For example, healthcare spending has been cut 16% despite failing health and an aging population. Education spending has also been cut 14% since 2012. These are important issues for the common citizen, and there was an especially large uproar when the retirement age was raised. This creates a situation where the Russian government is giving preference to the wealthy, and largely ignores the common people. This is similar to a gang’s function where the elite group who are “in the gang” benefit and the common people “out of the gang” lose.

The Russian government is highly involved in organized crime. The Russian government is indirectly controlling gangs. The situation is similar to Putin being a puppeteer, subtly influencing gang activity within Russia. Gangs who “go with the grain” prosper under Russian rule. This has led people to call Russia the “Mafia State”.  The gangs who are against Putin are eliminated. This leads to people thinking of the government as the “top dog” gang which silently rules over other gangs. Organized crime has also infiltrated the government. For example, in 2016 the police raided the apartment of Col Dmitry Zakharchenko, the acting head of a department within the police force’s anti-corruption division. They found $123 million dollars in cash in the apartment. The money was not his, rather part of the common fund of the gang called oboroten, or “werewolves”. This is the common name for organised crime within the police force. Putin has acknowledged the corruption, but does not take actual action, instead choosing to periodically indict scapegoats. The Russian Government has also been found using gangs as external operatives, mainly in cyber hacking. This new way of fighting has been dubbed Hybrid Warfare. This tactic has been used both in Russian and with Russian gangs in other countries. 

Russia’s government is strong, but has some qualities associated with gangs. While there is lots of condemning evidence for Russian corruption, many government officials and workers care for the well being of the country. The corrupt officials are in the minority, but they still essentially rule the country. The biggest purperator of this is president Vladimir Putin. This gives a contrast where the core government is strong, but displays characteristics of gangs. Russia has a strong government, but has gang-like qualities such as the wealthy elite and involvement with organized crime.