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The Kremlin’s mobster code

By Dina Khapaeva

18 Jul 2023 · 4 min read

informed Summary

  1. The Wagner Group's mutiny against the Russian government demonstrates that power in Russia is not as centralized as many believe, argues Dina Khapaeva. The Kremlin's control over most state functions is largely through Putin's cronies, who represent a mix of security services and organized crime.

ATLANTA – Russia has a long history of rule by criminals. Channeling French anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon’s famous dictum “property is theft,” the Bolsheviks emerged in the early twentieth century as a semi-criminal organization partly financed by the “expropriation of the expropriators” – in other words, armed robbery. Young Joseph Stalin allegedly participated in these “exes,” as the Bolsheviks called them.

The story of Alexander Orlov, one of Stalin’s spies, underscores the criminal tendencies of the Soviet regime. After presiding over the controversial – and some say illegal – transfer of the Spanish gold reserves from Madrid to Moscow in 1936, Orlov defected to the West once he became the operation’s lone survivor. Before leaving, he stole the entire operational fund of the Soviet station in Spain. Yet Stalin did not have him assassinated, as one might expect, because Orlov threatened to disclose the mission and the large network of Soviet spies.

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