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Thamm Berndt Georg - 1 luglio 1994
(12) Berndt Georg Thamm - Eastern Europe and the CIS (II)
Anything But Quiet on the Eastern Front

From Poliski Kompott to the Russian Mafia - Part 2: Community of Independent States - From the USSR to the CIS

Berndt Georg Thamm, Journalist, Founder of the German Association for Research on Drug Addiction Therapies, Berlin


After 1945 and the end of the Second World War, the world divided into two hostile camps. On the one side there was the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) set up by the democratic West in 1949, while on the other there was the Warsaw Pact, set up by the socialist/communist countries of Eastern Europe in 1955. The ensuing Cold War continued for decades until, in the late 1980s, the Soviet leader's policy of reform, restructuring and openness finally brought it to an end. As Gorbachev called a halt to the hegemonic great-power politics of the world's last major colonialist, the Iron Curtain came down and the map of Europe was altered.

The USSR until 1991

On 11 March 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev became General Secretary of the CPSU, and at its 27th Congress in 1986 he initiated economic and social restructuring (perestroika) and the elimination of restrictions on information (glasnost). The reforms certainly had an impact on the vast Soviet empire, giving rise for example to independence movements in the Soviet republics, including those in the Baltic States, which began in 1989 and soon gained an irreversible momentum. During this period of dramatic change, Gorbachev was elected State President on 15 March 1990, but the failure of his reforms in the disintegrating Soviet Union was already predictable. A year after his election as head of government, the Warsaw Pact was officially dissolved after 36 years. A conservative coup against the President on 19 August 1991 accelerated the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. By mid-December 1991, all 15 Soviet republics had declared independence. On 17 December of the same year, Gorbachev and Preside

nt Yeltsin of Russia agreed that the Soviet Union, which had been founded in 1922, should be dissolved. The next day, the majority of the former Soviet republics founded the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and on 21 December a declaration was issued in Alma Ata, the capital of Kazakhstan, formalizing their decision. Thus, after 69 years, the Soviet Union ceased to exist. Four days later, Gorbachev resigned from the presidency of the Union, which in any case no longer existed. His era (1985-91) and the new openness it brought with it had made it possible to focus on developments in the Soviet Union whose existence had previously been either denied or pictured as harmless: those which revolved around alcohol, drugs and crime.


In his first year as General Secretary, Gorbachev initiated a campaign against alcohol with the aim of combating the prevalence of alcoholism in his country. But among some sections of the public in the land of 'permanent revolution', his crusade against the vodka bottle was met with anger and mockery. A popular joke of the time went as follows: 'Do you know who Russia's three greatest rulers were? - Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great and Mikhail the Dry.' By the end of 1985, the new regulations had cut vodka sales by a quarter, and they fell by another third in the first half of 1986. The decline in sales was not wholly beneficial: it also reduced State revenue. Before the new measures were introduced, one Western observer had estimated State revenue from the monopoly on spirits at 45 billion roubles (then worth around DM 150 billion) Hans-Joachim Deckert, Kampf Gorbatschows gegen Suff und Sucht, in: Der Tagesspiegel (Berlin), 5 October 1986, p. VI (Weltspiegel). Other unofficial sources estimated t

he volume of illegally produced vodka at 1.5 billion litres, which if correct would have meant that 5 litres per capita needed to be added to the official figure. Inevitably, Gorbachev's sobriety policy resulted in supply bottlenecks. Moscow's population of nine million now had to queue at a mere 755 off-licences for their tipple. By 1988 the squeeze on drinkers in the Soviet Union was having dire consequences. The few state-run off-licences faced growing competition from illicit distillers. Illicit spirit was called 'samogon' and those who produced it, 'samogonishtiki'. The number of illicit distilleries which came to the attention of the authorities grew continuously from the beginning of Gorbachev's campaign: in 1985 it was 100 000; in 1986, 250 000; in 1987 half a million. As illicit spirits sold for black-market prices, cooperation was soon established between the Mafia-style underworld and innumerable illicit distillers. In 1988 18 million hectolitres of vodka were produced by the latter: mor

e than by the whole of the state spirit industry. Lost tax revenue was estimated at DM 60 billion. Raw materials, especially sugar, were needed for the distillation of alcohol. The 'samogon Mafia' procured it in enormous quantities. In Russia alone (the largest Soviet republic), around 360 000 tons of sugar was diverted to this use in 1987, making it necessary to ration sugar. On the Soviet Union's illicit alcohol markets, vodka not infrequently became a substitute currency, as it was trusted to maintain its value better than the rouble. In the long run, Gorbachev's campaign could not be sustained in the face of resistance from all sections of the population. Moreover, the number of registered alcoholics hardly declined. In 1989 around five million were still undergoing treatment in the USSR.

In January 1990 the shortage of vodka in the Russian city of Sverdlovsk in the Urals even caused political unrest. The opening hours of the off-licences were quietly extended. Alcohol rationing remained in force until the USSR ceased to exist, but the campaign had ended ignominiously. A few months later the Russian Government liberalized vodka prices and in May 1992 it relaxed the state monopoly on alcohol.


Of the 283 million inhabitants of the USSR, 70 million were smokers in 1989, and between them they smoked more than 400 billion cigarettes. But then tobacco became scarce, as alcohol had done previously, partly because of the embargo imposed on Lithuania by Moscow, as a result of which the biggest source of filter-tipped cigarettes in the USSR, which was in Lithuania, had to cease production, and partly because of drastic cuts in tobacco imports from the fraternal socialist republic of Bulgaria. The supply of tobacco declined so drastically that in July 1990 smokers in the industrial town of Dnjepropetrovsk in the Ukraine rioted, thereby securing delivery of a special consignment of cigarettes. A few weeks later, the protests about the tobacco shortage in the Soviet Union began to assume ever larger proportions. Tobacco riots occurred in Minsk (Belarus), where smokers brought traffic to a standstill, and there were similar disturbances in Volgograd and Sverdlovsk in the Urals. At the end of August 1990

the 'tobacco crisis' came to a head in central Moscow, where protestors demonstratively violated the traffic regulations. As with alcohol previously, so in September 1990 a temporary rationing system for cigarette tobacco was introduced in the capital. By means of this measure, combined with working of overtime at cigarette factories and drastic price rises, the Moscow authorities tried to deal with the shortage of tobacco products and the smokers' revolt. At the same time it was announced that the two largest cigarette companies in the USA, Philip Morris and RJR Nabisco, wished to supply 34 billion cigarettes to cover the shortfall in Russia up to the end of 1991. But in the course of the same year - the Soviet Union's last - it became necessary to issue rationing coupons for cigarettes in Lipetsk on the Voronezh and for tobacco in the region south of Moscow.


In August 1991, four months before the Soviet Union ceased to exist, it became public knowledge that there was a critical shortage of medicines in the country. The Communist Party newspaper Pravda reported that not only were chemists' shops in the Soviet Union empty but hospitals had run out of medicines too. Basic medicines, even those required for operations, were unavailable. This was nothing short of a declaration of bankruptcy of the Soviet Union's previously much-lauded health system. During the six years of the Gorbachev era, tobacco and alcohol shortages were caused by deliberate policy decisions, but at the same time the use of cannabis and opium products increased rapidly - drugs which ideologists had previously regarded as typifying the decadence of the capitalist West.


For decades alcoholism had been regarded as the main addiction problem, as it was by Gorbachev in 1985. Although a law on an 'intensified campaign against drug abuse' was passed on 26 April 1974, until the mid-1980s drug use was officially considered to be only a marginal problem. It was assumed to be confined to professional criminals, small groups of young people from the more affluent sections of society and of course the republics of Central Asia, where 'people traditionally indulged in drugs to a moderate extent'. The level of use there was deemed 'by no means to give cause for alarm'. Opium and cannabis were cultivated legally for the Soviet Union's pharmaceuticals industry. The traditional producing regions were the densely populated southern Ukraine, the northern Caucasus, the Astrakhan region bordering the Caspian Sea, the four Central Asian republics of the Soviet Union - Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kirghizia - the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Chelyabinsk region in the southern Ura

ls, the Altai region in Western Siberia, and also the subtropical coastal region in the Far East. Until 1986, opium was grown on 286 kolkhozes (collective farms) and sovkhozes (State farms) in ten different regions of the country, and it was hoped that by the end of the 1980s cultivation could be confined to four or five regions remote from industrial areas. It was intended that opium production should cease altogether in Kazakhstan. Cannabis was grown legally on 86 000 - 90 000 hectares; it also grew wild on between 250 000 and one million hectares, mainly in remote regions of southern Kazakhstan. The growing drugs problem in the country was partly tackled and partly ignored, although it was realized that in the Caucasian republics, for example, villages in the opium-growing area around Kuibishev were visited by 'drugs tourists' from Orenburg, Orgol, Krashnodar and even from the Baltic Republics who came in search of supplies at the beginning of each opium harvest. In much the same way as the kolkhozes

of the Kuibishevskaya region in the Caucasus, the kolkhozes in the Dnjepropetrovsk region attracted cannabis and opium users from the industrial towns of the Ukraine.

There were drugs problems in the army, too. Initial investigations into this were carried out in the late 1960s and early 1970s, although this fact was concealed until the late 1980s. They showed that 20% of all respondents, and especially those who had served in Central Asia, had become addicted to drugs while in the Red Army. Now soldiers were again about to come into contact with drugs. On 27 December 1979, the Soviet Army invaded Afghanistan. 120 000 men, including 70 000 in combat groups, were sent to help defend the communist regime in Kabul against the freedom fighters, the Mujaheddin. When Gorbachev's policy of glasnost was adopted, the Red Army had already been in Afghanistan for half a decade, and over the years its soldiers had taken to drugs in impressive numbers, while the various types of drugs they were using were also well worthy of scrutiny. In 1986 these problems were revealed to the Soviet public almost overnight. The new openness about drugs shocked Soviet citizens, who had previ

ously known little or nothing about the subject. Reports appeared in the media, and people began to talk about it. The first occasion on which this happened at an official level was in February 1986, when Soviet delegates to a United Nations conference on drugs described drugs problems in the USSR. By August 1986 the rising number of drug addicts was already being publicly debated. As early as 1984, Western observers had estimated that there were 75 000 drug users in the Soviet Union. The first official figure released in August 1986 - estimating the number of drug addicts in Moscow at 3500 - had no doubt been adjusted downwards before publication. Even so, it demonstrated that the subject of drugs was no longer taboo. Soon afterwards the newspaper Sovietskaya Rossiya for the first time reported on deaths among young drug users in the USSR. In 1986, reports came thick and fast. From Tashkent, the capital of the Soviet Republic of Uzbekistan, came reports on the trial of a number of veterans of the A

fghan war on charges of drug smuggling, which ended with their being jailed for ten years. Towards the end of June 1986, Izvestiya reported on the deployment of police helicopters to destroy illegally cultivated opium and cannabis in the Central Asian republics. Proscribed drugs were on sale on every market in Soviet Central Asia, from Ashkhabad to Samarkand. In the Caucasian republic of Georgia, drug abuse had become an enormous problem by 1986, according to the local head of the Communist Party, Mr Patishvili. The Ministry of the Interior regarded the escalating situation as a challenge. Accordingly operation 'Opium 86' was launched throughout the Soviet Union. Specially trained central and local military police patrols raided 4000 illicit laboratories where drugs were being produced, destroyed 3000 hectares of cultivated cannabis and around 100 000 hectares of wild cannabis. In January 1987 Interior Minister Alexander Vlassov reported that the operation had been completed: thousands of people, inc

luding 300 dealers, had been arrested. He also said that many authorities had yet to be convinced of the dangers posed by drug addiction. The target for the 1986 opium harvest was halved, but it proved possible to reduce the area under cultivation by less than a third. Five months later, at the world drugs conference in Vienna in June 1987, the Soviet Union's Deputy Health Minister said that officially there were 46 000 drug addicts in the USSR.

Where were drug users getting their supplies from in 1987? Virtually all came from within the Soviet Union. Some 80% was home-grown, which meant that most drugs came from the fields of State farms, being diverted from the legal cultivation of narcotics for the pharmaceuticals industry. In the Soviet Republic of Kirghizia alone, 300 officials were punished for failing to prevent the production of cannabis outside the terms of the plan. 20% of drugs came from medical stocks. Very little came from Afghanistan. Even more rarely did the Soviet customs service seize drugs from smugglers. Accordingly, the seizure of a container thought to have come from Afghanistan and the confiscation of a ton of hashish, valued at DM 60 million, concealed under a consignment of raisins, were headline news. Smuggling of drugs from Afghanistan had become established in the second half of the 1980s. In 1987, for example, Afghan hashish was shipped to Canada via the Soviet port of Murmansk. The proceeds from drugs trafficki

ng were thought to be used by the Mujaheddin. Afghanistan was to the Red Army what Vietnam had been to the US Army. In August 1988 in Geneva it was agreed that all Soviet troops should be withdrawn from Afghanistan by 15 February 1989. Once the last of them had left the 'land of the Muslim rebels', the results of the war were weighed up in accordance with the new spirit of openness. Altogether, during nine years of war, half a million soldiers had served in Afghanistan. Some 15 000 had been killed (as against an estimated one and a half million Afghans), and 36 000 had been wounded. According to a study by the private US think-tank, the Rand Corporation, published in May 1988 in Santa Monica, California, which was based on interviews with Soviet prisoners of war, deserters, Afghan 'rebels' and Soviet literature about the occupation from 1980 to 1987, more than 50% of Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan had taken drugs regularly. Other estimates put the figure as high as 70%. Returning soldiers brought wit

h them a familiarity with drugs which has been dubbed the 'Afghan syndrome', typified by features ranging from irregular use of hashish to severe dependence on opiates, and also involving smuggling by professional traffickers or members of the military. By the end of the war in Afghanistan, transit of drugs through the Soviet Union had also become established. They came from two different sources: the 'Golden Crescent' - the opium-producing areas of Pakistan, Afghanistan and India, from where drugs were transported overland to Western Europe and by sea (via ports in the Baltic) to North America - and the 'Golden Triangle'. In April 1989 the head of the Dutch drugs squad, Erik Nordholt, mentioned a new route being used by drugs smugglers, from Southeast Asia via the People's Republic of China and the USSR to Western Europe. There was another aspect to the lost Afghan war as well. The 'Afgancy', as the veterans were called, had not only become conversant with firearms and drugs during the many years of w

ar: many of them had returned home extremely frustrated and with very poor prospects for the future. Various groups of criminals recruited members from the half million frustrated Afgancy. In March 1989, a month after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, police reporter Ovcharenko said that between 1986 and 1988 (i.e. during the last three years of the war) exactly 2607 criminal groups had been identified in the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union proceeded to do something which would have been unthinkable only a few years earlier: it sought contact with the USA over drugs. In mid-October 1987 the two superpowers had already concluded a memorandum on fighting drug addiction and drug trafficking, which was intended to provide the legal basis for future cooperation between authorities. In April 1988 the head of the DEA (the authority responsible for combating drugs in the USA), Lawn, went to Moscow for talks about this cooperation. In mid-July 1988 the US State Department announced that future common mea

sures by the USA and the Soviet Union to combat drug trafficking were to be discussed. According to US estimates, the number of drug addicts in the Soviet Union was around 200 000. In mid-October 1988, the USA and the Soviet Union signed an agreement in Washington providing for cooperation in the fight against alcohol and drug abuse. Exchange programmes for members of the US federal health administration and the Soviet Academy of Medical Sciences, as well as joint symposiums and joint research projects, were agreed. At the beginning of November 1989 a first joint conference was held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and attended by around 200 experts from the Soviet Union. Soviet participants made it clear that the alcohol shortage (caused by the campaign against alcoholism launched in 1985) was encouraging people to switch to other drugs. As regards the scale of addiction in the Soviet Union, it was reported that 61 000 drug addicts and five million alcoholics were receiving treatment. In 1990, 121 000 dr

ug addicts were officially registered in the Soviet Union. However, at the same time estimates of the real total ranged from 1.2 to 1.4 or - according to other sources - as many as 1.5 to 2 million addicts. In November 1990 Moscow hosted an international conference under the auspices of the UN on combating drug trafficking, which was attended by experts from 30 countries. In September 1988 the Soviet Union had already concluded an agreement with the United Kingdom on combating drug trafficking. This was its first agreement on police cooperation with a Western country in 71 years. Three months later a similar agreement was drafted with the Federal Republic of Germany, and during the last year of the Soviet Union's existence, in May 1991, it was signed in Moscow.

Given this background, there was no beating about the bush at the drugs conference in November 1990. According to UN Under-Secretary-General Margaret Anstee, in her opening address to the conference, the country had become vulnerable to the highly lucrative business of drug trafficking and at the same time attractive to drug traffickers thanks to collaboration from sectors of the Soviet economy and constant shortages of foreign currency. The rich pickings available to the traffickers were indeed such that they undoubtedly assisted the proliferation of gangs in the last years of the disintegration of the Soviet Union. In Russia's big cities, opium was already selling on the black market for up to 70 000 roubles per kilo at the beginning of 1989. Final consumers in Moscow and Leningrad (later renamed St Petersburg) were paying 3-10 roubles per gram for hashish and 300-500 roubles per gram for morphine. Even though the drugs market was still underdeveloped in the late 1980s, organized criminals increasingl

y realized how much money they stood to make by supplying it. There were not many other areas of crime where each rouble invested was likely to yield a tenfold profit. Even in 1989/90, the annual revenue of the 'drug Mafia' was estimated at between two and four billion roubles and rising, according to Yevgeniya Albats writing in the Moscow News (No 8/90). In August 1990 the news agency TASS reported that drugs with a value equivalent to DM 14 billion per annum were trafficked in the Soviet Union. This was the first official figure to be ascribed to Vladimir Kryuchkov, head of the KGB. The Soviet Union did not survive 1991 politically, but business boomed for various groups of criminals, not least because of the rapid expansion of drug trafficking.

Organized crime

In July 1988, the existence of organized crime in the Soviet Union was publicly reported for the first time. A high-ranking police officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Gurov, had allowed himself to be interviewed by the periodical Literaturnaya Gazeta. Gurov's statements came to the attention of the West through publication in The Soviet Union Today, extracts from which were published in the Hamburg-based news magazine Der Spiegel (No 1/1989). The information published in the latter source included the following: The first signs of a Mafia had become apparent when the mechanics of the economy began to improve, in other words under Khrushchev. In the 1970s the Mafia became an influential factor in society. More and more money was pumped from the state budget into private pockets. The money gradually made its way into the underworld, where professional criminals gained access to it in unprecedented quantities. As capital accumulated, the underworld produced its own bosses, with their own retinues of b

odyguards, scouts and gangs of thugs. There was no single Mafia operating throughout the Soviet Union. Clans controlled their own territories. The heads of the clans knew one another. The clans were headed by ex-sportsmen, recidivists and inconspicuous economic officials, among others. In principle the leaders of criminal organizations were not interested in unnecessary publicity. They had tribunals to settle territorial disputes. Organized crime was developing. There was a tendency for weaker groups to be incorporated into stronger ones. There were three levels of organized crime. The lowest comprised groups which were not yet in a position to wield influence. On the second level there were similar groups, which however were already in contact with corrupt employees. The third level was that at which the most powerful gangs operated: a number of groups would amalgamate, and the strongest clan would issue orders to the others. In the West this was referred to as the network structure of the Maf

ia. Investigations had shown that criminal organizations were particularly widespread in the southern regions, including the Ukraine and Moldavia. Gurov believed that within the Ukraine the towns most affected were Kiev, Lvov, Odessa, Donetsk and Dnepropetrovsk. However, the problem was also very serious in Moscow and Leningrad. Criminal organizations had also been identified in Tambov, Pensa, Yaroslavl and Perm. Criminals currently considered it desirable to gain control over small towns. In the Moscow area for example, they had done so in Balashikha, Lubertsy, Pushkino and Orekhovo-Zuyevo. The South was the Soviet Union's equivalent to the Klondike. Criminals there were already establishing contacts with foreign 'partners' and were dealing mainly in antiques and narcotics. These contacts sometimes made use of former Soviet citizens.

Of course the existence of a criminal underworld in Russia was nothing new, and the Soviet press had reported on crime and corruption even before the era of glasnost, as for example the Central Committee's newspaper, Soviet Russia, had done in October 1984. Even so, the subject remained taboo. Until the second half of the 1980s the official line was that the Soviet Union was among the few countries which were not riddled with crime and where people did not need to walk in fear of armed robbery. The lifting of the taboo was accordingly sensational. In increasingly rapid succession, further astonishingly frank statements were issued, for example by Lieutenant-General Bogdanov, Moscow's chief of police, in July 1988. The official news agency TASS quoted his report on serious crimes of violence in the capital. At the beginning of October, to mark the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the criminal investigation department of the Interior Ministry, the government newspaper Izvestiya published some rud

imentary crime statistics. On average, it reported, the following crimes were committed each day in the Soviet Union: 2160 thefts, 24 rapes and 16 murders. At the beginning of February 1989 TASS quoted an Interior Ministry spokesman as saying that in future crime statistics, which had hitherto been secret, would be made available to the public. The next month, the party newspaper Pravda quoted Prosecutor-General Katusov as saying that crime syndicates resembling the Mafia, with godfathers and professional killers, presented a growing threat in the Soviet Union. And the leading investigator Telman Gidyan called in the newspaper Vodni Transport for the Soviet Union to join the international police organization Interpol as a full member - which it did towards the end of September 1990. As a full member, he said, the Soviet Union could monitor the foreign contacts of its domestic Mafia more effectively. Soviet crime syndicates were engaged in smuggling, drug trafficking and terrorism, he said.

In June 1989 senior police officers in Moscow announced that thousands of criminal gangs were operating in the country. The head of the Interior Ministry's intelligence service, Lieutenant-General Smirnov, blamed the decline in discipline and shortages of goods caused by the reforms. A police officer, Colonel Chebotarev, said that more than 1000 organized criminal gangs were broken up by the police every year. Many consisted of more than a hundred people, who divided up their territories and extorted protection money. They also collaborated with the international underworld. A month later, Interior Minister Vadim Bakatin called for a national crackdown on crime in the Soviet Union because it was growing at such a pace. In mid-September 1989 Soviet television's popular evening news programme Vrenya carried a hard-hitting report on the network of crime and corruption in Tashkent. By this time organized crime was already believed to have assumed such proportions that the Supreme Soviet instructed the Gov

ernment 'to mobilize all forces to combat crime'. In October of the same year, the head of the Moscow KGB, Prilukov, described in an interview with Moskovskaya Pravda how powerful criminals had become: bosses of crime syndicates were no longer satisfied merely with money and an easy life, but were attacking the very system of the State and wanted power as well. As the Soviet Union disintegrated, it must have been galling to the KGB to observe that neither it nor the military police really had any control over criminal groups. In mid-August 1990 the head of the KGB, Kryuchkov, wrote in an article in Pravda that the black economy, including drug trafficking, was growing, and that there was a link between this and the transition to a market economy in the Soviet Union. According to cautious estimates by Kryuchkov, some 150 billion roubles was circulating in the black economy. Two months later the head of the KGB went even further in an interview with the Interfax agency, saying that the crime rate in the

Soviet Union was hampering the transition to a market economy.

In the largest republic in the Soviet Union, Russia, organized crime had recently reached an all-time high, according to a statement issued to Rabochaya Tribuna in November 1990 by Russia's Deputy Interior Minister, Anatoly Anikiyev. In December 1990, a year before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, crimes were being committed on a massive scale: the turnover of the black market was 112 billion roubles - a quarter of the entire market. 170 billion roubles was accruing to the black economy through crime of every kind - one third of the State budget! And the link between the illegal circulation of money and catastrophic shortages was becoming increasingly clear. In February 1991 the government tried to adopt counter-measures. Gorbachev issued a fresh anti-Mafia decree under which a new department was to be set up at the Ministry of the Interior whose remit would be solely to fight organized crime; it was intended to be operational within a few months. But far from halting the trend, this application o

f the emergency brakes no longer had any impact at all. In September 1991 Interior Minister Viktor Barannikov reported that two million crimes had been committed in the first eight months of the year. One of the main causes of the crime wave lay in the desolate state of the economy. At this point it was estimated that more than 5000 groups/families/units (with memberships ranging from five to 100) were operating between Brest and Vladivostok, a good many of which already had branches in Europe and the USA. Some 200 syndicates had carved up the markets among themselves. Two months previously, organized-crime expert Gurov had warned that within a few years black market traders might gain control of up to 40% of the economy. TASS reported him as saying that the turnover of the black economy in 1991 was estimated at between 110 and 130 billion roubles. Over the next few years, organized crime might gain control over 30-40% of Gross National Product. However, the Soviet Union did not survive 1991. Organi

zed crime emerged from the collapse of the superpower stronger than ever in what was now a commonwealth of allied States.

The CIS since 1992

On 21 December 1991 the Presidents of the independent Republics of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine issued a declaration on cooperation between the Member States in which they referred to their efforts to build up democratic states governed by the rule of law, undertook to respect the inalienable right of self-determination, the principle of the peaceful settlement of conflicts and human rights, and to comply conscientiously with international law, and recognized the principles of territorial integrity and compliance with the objectives and principles of the agreement on the foundation of the CIS.

Less than two years later, on 24 September 1993, the Prime Ministers of nine of the 11 CIS republics concluded an agreement to form an economic union. Only Turkmenistan and Ukraine preferred to become associate rather than full members. The CIS faced many problems, as it does today, and, like the Soviet Union before it, had to cope with thriving crime in its Member States.

Organized crime

With the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the country's central Interior Ministry was closed down, as was Division Six, the department which had been built up only two years previously by the criminologist Major-General Gurov. This was tantamount to declaring a close season in the fight against organized crime in the CIS. Pravda did not mince its words: "Crime in the CIS is getting increasingly out of control ... There is no longer any machinery for coordinating counter-measures ... In some republics the security authorities are behaving in an outright separatist fashion ... Because crime is no respecter of national borders and because it is becoming more and more organized in the territory of the former Soviet Union, criminals are increasingly free to operate throughout it". At the beginning of the 1990s, the annual turnover of crime in the CIS was estimated at 200 billion roubles or more, equivalent to some 20% of the GNP for 1990 of the former Soviet Union. The Moscow economist Tatyana Koryagina es

timated that 87% of the new private enterprises were owned by barely 3% of the population. With the new era of privatization on 27 October 1993, President Yeltsin of Russia authorized private ownership of land, which had been banned in Russia since the forcible collectivization of agriculture under Stalin in the 1920s. has created unprecedented opportunities for expansion by the so-called CIS Mafia. Firms have been organized under the cloak of autonomy. Money is lent to the foreigners who found them, and they return the principal together with a share in the profits. Whereas in the days of the Soviet Union criminals included many speculators, in the CIS 'bisnismeny' (businessmen) increasingly dominate the scene, and they have made dealing in drugs an important part of their business.


On 9 October 1990, while the Supreme Soviet was still in existence, the USSR had ratified the UN Convention against illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances of 19 December 1988. But what was the drug situation? How was it assessed? Just six months after the foundation of the CIS, Valentin Roshchin, head of the Moscow anti-narcotics agency, predicted that within a few years the drug market in his country would undergo a development comparable to that which in the USA and Europe had taken decades. A report by a UN group of experts (working for the international Drug Control Programme) which was released in June 1992 confirmed this gloomy forecast, predicting that the CIS Member States Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan would become new centres for drugs. The drugs problem in the CIS had grown in every respect. Cultivation of crops for the production of drugs, such as cannabis, had increased. Towards the end of March 1993 the Russian Interior

Ministry estimated that 2500 km 2 of land was being used to grow cannabis. The number of drug abusers had increased, too. In June 1992, Valeri Nikolayev, of the International Association against Drugs Trafficking and Drug Abuse, estimated that there were 1.5 million regular users, including 80 000 who were dependent on opiates and were undergoing treatment. Roshchin was even more pessimistic, putting a figure of 5.5-7.5 million on the number of drug addicts in the CIS. Demand was such that drug trafficking was lucrative throughout the CIS. In the remote town of Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan, the going price for a tumbler of semi-manufactured marijuana was 1500 roubles. In Moscow it was 6000 roubles, and in Moldova up to 20 000 (June 1992). However, it is not only on the domestic market that narcotics produced in the CIS command a good price. Abroad too, interest is growing. In Germany in the summer of 1992, a kilo of hashish cost $5000. At the time a similar product from the CIS cost only $30 if bought dir

ectly from the producer.

The scale of drug trafficking, drug abuse and drug cultivation and production in the CIS is massive, but ever since its foundation the CIS has also been involved in international trafficking as a country of transit. Drugs from the 'Golden Crescent' (centering on Afghanistan and Pakistan) are smuggled to North America via Central Asia, Russia and the Baltic Republics. Cannabis from the border region of the People's Republic of China and Kazakhstan is sold throughout the CIS. Because of the civil war in the former Yugoslavia, the traditional Balkan route has increasingly been replaced by the 'Caucasian route'. Drugs from Turkey, the Middle East and parts of Asia are smuggled via the Caucasian Republics, Russia, Belarus or the Ukraine, and Poland, to Western Europe. Recently, use has been made of the sea route via the Baltic to Baltic and Russian ports. The problems of drugs and crime have proliferated in the CIS States, in close association with the crises in their territory: feuds between nationalities

, coups, territorial disputes and haggling over the military legacy of the Soviet Union. The CIS has become 'one large crisis area', and so many conflicts are going on there that it is virtually impossible to keep track of them all. The third part of this series looks at the problems of the individual CIS Member States, from Russia to Tajikistan.

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