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Publisher's Summary

Mark Galeotti is the go-to expert on organized crime in Russia, consulted by governments and police around the world. Now, Western listeners can explore the fascinating history of the vory v zakone, a group that has survived and thrived amid the changes brought on by Stalinism, the Cold War, the Afghan War, and the end of the Soviet experiment. 

The vory - as the Russian mafia is also known - was born early in the 20th century, largely in the Gulags and criminal camps, where they developed their unique culture. Identified by their signature tattoos, members abided by the thieves' code, a strict system that forbade all paid employment and cooperation with law enforcement and the state. Based on two decades of on-the-ground research, Galeotti's captivating study details the vory's journey to power from their early days to their adaptation to modern-day Russia's free-wheeling oligarchy and global opportunities beyond.

©2018 Mark Galeotti (P)2018 Tantor

What listeners say about The Vory

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Profile Image for Kelli Sladick
  • Kelli Sladick
  • 19-06-2018

Great

For a non-fiction book, this book keeps you engaged even with the amount of information being delivered. Also, the author jumps around in historical timelines but doesn’t loose you. The narrator is very easy to listen to, and has a clear voice that is not annoying. He is a great pick who seems to be able translate and understand the Russian language, but doesn’t overwhelm you with too many new foreign words.

The book is not politically bias so ignore the communist’s review. He/she is looking for fiction because lets remember the communist never believes communism has ever been tried.

The book however, gives historical, cultural, and contextual information which allows you to see the view from the mafia’s thought process. That’s it! Also this book does not glorify the mafia. The author is simply giving a historical account, and there is much to tell.

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  • Darwin8u
  • 01-02-2020

Not everyone who carries a knife is a cook.

"If Lenin had shot more criminals and hired fewer, we might have seen a very different Soviet Union."
- Soviet police officer, 1991, quoted in The Vory by Mark Galeotti

- Russian proverb

A nice survey and history of the Vory V Zakone "thief within the code". The best part of this Yale published and well researched book is the history of how the Russian mafia developed in parallel with the Soviet Union and Russia and changed and adapted to fit the new realities. I also enjoyed the sections that dealt with the language, rituals, and tattoos of the Vory. The book loses a bit of velocity as it tries to describe the different facets of the Russian organized crime's ecosystem (Georgian, Chechen, street vor to vor-broker). But still, these sections were necessary to understand that the Russian organized crime has multiple models of control, multiple levels of partnership, etc. It is difficult to even (from both epistemological and ontological perspective) understand exactly what controlled by organized crime means in Russia. The corruption and the cooperation of the state and businesses is so extensive that getting a firm idea of how much Russia is a mafia state seems hard to bite into.

Anyway, this is a fascinating read and helpful in understanding Modern Russia and how figures like Stalin, Brezhnev, Gorbachev, Yeltsin and Putin contributed to the current corruption in Russia. It is also useful to understanding how Putin uses organized crime to support the Russian state (and his personal power) and the current conflict with Ukraine and Russia's desire to "Make Russia Great Again." It is also, in a minor way, also helpful to a degree in understanding the relationship Trump has with Ukraine and Russia (both officially and unofficially), although not much is directly said about Trump's ties with Russian money in this book.

8 people found this helpful

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  • William Tutt
  • 22-05-2018

Insightful, Informative, & Brilliantly Written

Mark Galeotti vividly illustrates his expertise on Russian Organized Crime and Post-Soviet Politics. Galeotti’s ability to communicate and organize this subject matter into a highly enjoyable narrative is truly impressive and pleasure to read!

6 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-01-2019

Excellent

An excellent book by the most thoughtful Russia-watcher of our time. Galeotti avoids the distorting Russophobia and hyperbole that's in vogue in the Trump era.

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  • Just Curious
  • 14-09-2018

Social Studies You Aren't Supposed To Know

This is valid social studies and part of human history. The human plight and capability. Very well documented and reader-friendly. Fascinating. Wherever you are parked in the world, this culture is likely within hours of you whether you recognize it or not. You don't have to be from N.Y.C. to grow up connected to some form of it. While we sit around America worrying if we might have "post-traumatic stress disorder", "ADD", "Chemical imbalances", this nation rose up from the gulags in Siberia against impossible odds of surviving. Men, women, and children. They have become a formidable and unkillable extroverted force. Seemingly inoculated against all social barriers and suppression. Shapeshifters that have one step into a magicality born from an enforced exile into the supernatural as the only room left with oxygen. This book is a journalistic masterpiece. Thank You Mark Galeotti. Standing Ovation! A labor of love.

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  • Rob Alderman
  • 30-01-2021

Reads like a dossier

The author has a great story to convey, however; it reads more like a dossier than a historical true crime account. He also seems hopelessly optimistic that the Russian mafia will be contained and presented no evidence of that possibility.

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  • Mr Dangerous
  • 25-04-2020

Solid, not great...

While there was some good information, there was a lot that didn't go deep enough. There are better books on this subject.

Solid read by Patterson.

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  • Ward Nichols
  • 10-11-2019

A must read to understand Russia today

To understand Russia today you must understand the deep complexity of Russian history. This work presents a perspective not found in a college Poli-Sci course.

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  • Craig Klein
  • 28-10-2019

Great those in the know and those not

Great book from a lifelong student of Russia! If you’re already steeped in Russian history, there is a lot of fascinating detail to add color to your understanding of the Vory. If it’s all knew to you, this will provide great context to today’s events that is interesting to hear!

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  • Kyrre
  • 03-05-2019

A pure masterpiece

A brilliant and extensively detailed book that captures the many way crime in Russia has infected both society, business and politics. This book is about much more than merely one single crime syndicate, as Russian organized crime does not really resemble that of the Sicilian or Japanese mafia. Furthermore, I’d like to hightlight the narrator of this book, who not only has a captivating voice, but who actually pronounces Russian names and words correctly - he calls USSR’s last premier «Garbatsjof» instead of «Gorbachev», and says «Bariis» instead of «Boris» Yeltsin.

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  • edward
  • 19-06-2018

Great

Dense
But very good. Really shows how organised crime has profoundly influenced modern Russia.
An important text, if you're trying to get your head round what's going on over there.

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  • Tibor Sarkozi
  • 14-01-2021

Interesting but lacking story

I agree with some other reviews. The book is written in academical style and lacks story telling to keep you in interested. Nevertheless I would recommend if the subject is of interest.

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  • Strontium Dog
  • 23-11-2020

Deeply researched but not suited to audiobook

A deeply researched history of organised crime in Russia from Tsarist times to the post Soviet era.

Although it is well narrated, it is simply not suited to being an audio book. I wish I had read it as a regular book.

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  • citizen smith
  • 11-11-2020

not for the faint hearted, it's going deep

a truly fascinating insight in to a highly detailed underworld with a remarkable narrator too

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  • UKMatt
  • 23-04-2020

What's the story, morning Vory.

What a thumping listen. Decently narrated, the story provides us with a sweep of the history of criminality in Russia, packed with anecdotes and dubious characters from ancient times to the contemporary. 5 stars.

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  • Ronit Das
  • 05-09-2019

Fantastic history or the vory

Great narrative structure - clear illustration of the rise.of the modern vor with specific examples and cases

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  • rikki
  • 23-04-2019

more a research book than a novel

a bit hard going in places but a good over view of the history / people of the vory.

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  • Mr Jamie Whitehouse
  • 26-11-2018

Academic but entertaining

I was really looking forward to this audiobook after reading and hearing quite a lot about it.
Unfortunately I don’t think it really worked in audio form as it could have done with a glossary words due to the use of Russian.
I think more modern illustrative examples could have been shown, including about the Russian mafia in the UK.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 31-05-2018

Excellent and informative

Very thorough and well researched history of the Vory, their evolution through the decline of the Soviet era, and current modus operandi. Up to date, although for obvious reasons, the extent and details of current operations are less well detailed than previous.

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