New Film Unveils Putin's Insatiable Mafia State

On a walking tour of a provincial Russian city a few years ago, my guide pointed out a handsome apartment block. “This is where the wealthy people live,” she said. “How do people get rich here?” I asked. “Organized crime,” she replied without missing a beat. At first the local governor was unhappy at being assigned to a backwater far from Moscow. Then he realized how much money he could make by substituting the state for the local mafia.

My guide’s matter-of-fact explanation about life in her town came back to me while watching Leviathan, a beautifully filmed, finely acted new movie by Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev that is nominated for an Oscar for best foreign film. 

It tells the story of a mechanic named Kolya who resists the theft of his family home, in a prime location overlooking the sea, by Vadim, the porcine, if well-tailored, mayor driven around town by his henchmen in a sleek SUV. The film begins with a judgment being read out like a blast of water from a fire hose, denying Kolya’s effort to keep his property and awarding him paltry compensation. Dmitry, Kolya’s army buddy, now a Moscow lawyer, tries to help out, naively hoping facts will win the day.

Without spoiling the story, it’s disturbingly plausible if you’ve been following the accounts of Russian journalists and lawyers beaten and murdered, property and companies stolen, and rights groups and ordinary citizens persecuted as enemies of the state.

- The rest of this blog post can be read at Democracy Road, Ellen Bork's blog at World Affairs Jorunal

Mission Statement

The Foreign Policy Initiative seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America’s global economic competitiveness.
Read More