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The Georgian mafia (Georgian: ქართული მაფია) is regarded as one of the biggest, powerful and influential criminal networks in Europe, which has produced the biggest number of "thieves in law" in all former USSR countries and controls and regulates most of the Russian-speaking mafia groups.[citation needed][1] They are very active in Russia and Georgia.

Georgian mafia
ქართული მაფია
Kartuli mafia
Founding locationGeorgia
TerritoryEurope, Russia and all other post-Soviet states.
EthnicityGeorgians, Armenians
Criminal activitiesArms trafficking, Assault, Bribery, Extortion, Fraud, Human trafficking, Illegal gambling, Kidnapping, Money laundering, Murder, Racketeering and, Theft.

Georgian mafia is known as best organized and most ruthless criminal group,[citation needed][2] being very "structured" and "hierarchical". At the head of such a group is a leader who rarely appears in public and, in turn, reports to a "Godfather", who operates on an international level. The power of the leader is largely dependent on his ability to subordinate independent groups of thieves under his authority. His underlings oversee the activities of smaller Georgian criminal gangs. The pyramid is cemented by the payment of tributes to the leader of each group acting in the region. This is the so-called "common fund".[3]

It has two major criminal clans:[4][5][6]

Georgia always had a disproportionately high number of crime bosses and still has a majority of the 700 or so still operating in the post-Soviet space and western Georgia (Kutaisi clan) is particularly well represented.[7]

In some of its rules or "laws", the Georgian mafia parallels the Sicilian Mafia. There are differences but many things are similar.[8]



Soviet periodEdit

The Russian criminal subculture of the thieves-in-law (Georgian: კანონიერი ქურდი, kanonieri qurdi) disproportionately included ethnic Georgians. During the 1970s Brezhnev stagnation, corrupt officials increasingly turned to the criminal underworld to source black market supplies. However, the Thieves Code explicitly forbade cooperation of any kind with the authorities, and at a 1982 summit of thieves in Tbilisi, the secret society was split in two, with Georgian thieves favouring closer collaboration with officials while this motion was opposed by Slavic 'purists'.[9]

Georgia quickly gained a reputation as one of the most corrupt but also relatively prosperous. Georgian farmers ignored the planned economy and grew much-prized citrus fruits and were protected by Georgian officials, who also ran networks of underground factories and distribution chains.[10]

Independent GeorgiaEdit

During the period leading up to Georgian independence in 1991, as tension grew between Georgians and ethnic Abkhaz several nationalist militias were formed, the two most prominent being the National Guard of Georgia led by ex-convict Tengiz Kitovani and the Mkhedrioni led by former thief-in-law Jaba Ioseliani. Due to an absence of any other means of funding, the militias engaged in protection rackets and smuggling and the weak Georgian government had no choice but to embrace them.[11]

The paramilitaries were first deployed against the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but attempts by President Zviad Gamsakhurdia to rein them in resulted in a violent coup where he was replaced by Eduard Shevardnadze, who had the backing of the militias, which continued to operate with impunity. The Mkhedrioni took advantage of their position of power to take over the gasoline business.[12] Shevardnadze finally got the excuse he needed to disband the militias in 1995 after an assassination attempt. Ioseliani was imprisoned, although released in 2000 as part of a general amnesty, dying three years later. But other, less idealistic thieves-in-law still continued to dominate day-to-day life in Georgia.

Rose RevolutionEdit

In November 2003 a popular uprising known as the Rose Revolution toppled the Shevardnadze regime and put Mikheil Saakashvili in power.[13] Saakashvili soon implemented a series of reforms aimed at tackling crime and corruption, firing and imprisoning a number of officials as well as making membership of the thieves-in-law a crime in 2005. In response to this as well as harsher prison regimes, several prison riots broke out before being heavy-handedly put down.[14] In order to avoid prosecution, Georgian gangsters fled the country, typically to Russia, Israel and Western Europe.

In RussiaEdit

Georgian organized crime has been present in Russia since the Soviet era. During the 1990s, as rival criminal gangs, corrupt law enforcement and oligarchs fought one another for supremacy over the lucrative protection rackets of the emerging private business sector in the chaotic transition to capitalism, the Georgian mafia made its presence known in Moscow. One of the most famous bosses of this period was Otari Kvantrishvili, a former sportsman turned racketeer after a conviction for rape. He would often act as a go-between for various underworld factions and something of a public face for the mafia. Prior to his assassination in 1993, Kvantrishvili spoke of his ambitions to start his own political party. His funeral was attended by many celebrities and politicians, including the singer Joseph Kobzon.[15]

In more recent years, the Georgian underworld in Russia, Georgia and elsewhere has been characterised by a violent feud between the Kutaisi and Tbilisi clans, led by Tariel Oniani and Aslan Usoyan, respectively. The conflict claimed the life of notorious Russian thief-in-law Vyacheslav Ivankov, who was assassinated while attempting to mediate in 2009, while Usoyan was himself killed by a sniper in January 2013.[16]

In popular cultureEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Knowledge For Tomorrow: A Summarized Commentary Of World History, Nature, Health, Religion, Organized Crime, And Inspiration For The Youth: Quinton Douglass Crawford p145
  2. ^ Germ Warfare: John Lonergan
  3. ^ The Scope of Activities of Georgian Organized Crime Groups Vladimir Odintsov
  4. ^ "Europol Cracks Down on 'Russian-Speaking' Mafia". Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  5. ^ "FOCUS Information Agency". FOCUS Information Agency. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  6. ^ How Italy's 'Operation Skhodka' Nailed The Georgian Mafia Mark Galeotti
  7. ^ Institute of War & Peace Reporting (29 June 2007) Georgia: New Crime Crackdown
  8. ^ Caucasian Review of International Affairs (2006) Thieves of the Law and the Rule of Law in Georgia p.52
  9. ^ Gurov, Alexander; Professionalnaya Prestupnost; (Moscow: Yuridicheskaya Literatura, 1990)
  10. ^ Louise Shelley & Erik Scott; Organized crime and corruption in Georgia; (New York: Routledge, 2007)
  11. ^ Zurcher, Christoph; The Post-Soviet Wars: Rebellion, Ethnic Conflict, and Nationhood in the Caucasus; NYU Press, 2007
  12. ^ RAYMOND BONNER Georgian Fighter Wields Guns, Money and Charm The New York Times. November 16, 1993
  13. ^ "BBC NEWS - Europe - Georgia remembers Rose Revolution". Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  14. ^ "Undue Punishment - Human Rights Watch". Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  15. ^ "A Slaying Puts Russian Underworld on Parade". 14 April 1994. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  16. ^ "European Police Georgian Gang Arrest Blitz - Business Insider". Business Insider. 27 June 2013. Retrieved 26 December 2014.

External linksEdit