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Encyclopedia > Thieves in law

Thief in law (Russian: Вор в законе) is a skilled worker, particularly a thief, within the Russian Criminal world who satisfies certain requirements of the Russian criminal tradition.


Although Russia has long had criminals and bandits operating in the vast peripheral areas of the nation, during the disorder of Russian Revolution armed gangs proliferated until they were a very significant factor in society. This became known as the "vorovskoy mir" or "thieves world". The phrase Russian Revolution can refer to the following events in the history of Russia. ...

As the Soviet Union was brought back to order, the KGB nearly destroyed the criminal underworld in the Soviet Union. However, it was in the prison camps of Stalin that a new system arose, the vory v zakone. The KGB emblem and motto: The sword and the shield For other meanings, see KGB (disambiguation). ... Iosif (usually anglicized as Joseph) Vissarionovich Stalin (Russian: Иосиф Виссарионович Сталин), original name Ioseb Jughashvili (Georgian: იოსებ ჯუღაშვილი; see Other names section) (December 21, 1879[1] – March 5, 1953) was a Bolshevik revolutionary and leader of the Soviet Union. ...

The "thieves in law" formed as a society for mutual support within the prison camps, and adopted a system of collective responsibility, and swearing a code of "complete submission to the laws of criminal life, including obligations to support the criminal ideal, and rejection of labor and political activities." The groups also organized their own courts around a code of theives honor and tradition (vory v zakone code). Acceptance into the group was often marked by extensive tatooing (see Criminal tattoo). Tattoos are used among criminals to show membership of gangs and record the wearers personal history - such as his or her skills, specialities, accomplishments and convictions. ...

After the breakup of the Soviet Union the vory assumed a leading role within the Russian criminal hierarchy (see Russian Mafia). They are given the title by other vory and in order to be accepted they must demonstrate considerable leadership skills, personal ability, intellect and charisma. Once accepted they must live according to the code. The penalty for violation of this code is often mutilation or death. The Russian Mafia, also known as the Organizatsiya, is a name given abroad to groups of organized criminals of various ethnicity which appeared from the Soviet Union after its disintegration. ...

One famous Vor V Zakone is Vladimir Podatev who was appointed a member of the commission for human rights under the President Yeltsin, in spite of three previous felony convictions for murder, assault, and rape. Vladimir Podatev is a Russian criminal from Khabarovsk frequently mentioned within literature on Organized Crime. ... Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin (b. ...


  • A. I. Gurov Professional Crime Past and Present (moscow: Iuridicheskaia Literatura. 1990.
  • Fikenauer, James O, and Waring, Elin J. Russian Mafia In America: Immigration Culture and Crime (Boston: Northeastern University Press) 1998.

  Results from FactBites:
Undue Punishment: Abuses against Prisoners in Georgia: Background (2938 words)
According to law, first-time prisoners serving sentences for less serious crimes or where culpability was based on negligence or recklessness, as well as female prisoners, serve their sentences under the general or common regime.
Soviet government attempts to combat the authority of the thieves in law in the 1940s and 1950s resulted in both the execution of a large number of thieves in law, as well as an increasing concentration of the thieves in law in the prisons.
According to scholars, this practice is determined by the laws of the thieves in law that required them to increase their collective wealth by collecting contributions (money, cigarettes, food) from inmates and others as well as by the informal prison law that required prisoners to contribute to a general fund.
Magid of Boston - Behind Barbed Wire (656 words)
The thieves, who did not have any question whether or not to be released, cooperated with the administration and entered the 'section of internal order'.
Thieves, who tried to cooperate with the administration, were called 'bitches'.
Possibly later 'thieves in law' ended up in 'court' and they were found guilty and were ordered to death at that time of violence.
  More results at FactBites »



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