You’ve reviewed your childhood neighbor’s wedding photos, told your friend that, yes, his new puppy is the cutest, and drooled over your co-worker’s homemade brisket mac and cheese. But what if you want to check in with Russia’s most ruthless crime bosses? You know, just to see how they’ve been doing.
Social media’s mission to allow us to follow absolutely anyone is one step closer to completion. PrimeCrime.ru—a website that monitors and documents the activity of the highly secretive Russian mafia—has launched an account with Instagram that lets you browse, like and comment on more than 200 portraits of confirmed mobsters living in the former Soviet Republics. News reports of their crimes and convictions are documented on the main website.
Known in Russia as Vory v Zakone (or Thieves in Law), these gangsters belong to an elite underworld dating back to the gulags of the 1930s , when criminal prisoners (more often than political ones) formed a fraternity governed by its own rules and ethics that functioned in strict defiance of the authorities. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the Vory thrived on the legal chaos and ensuing black market economy, increasing their sphere of influence and pervading top political and economic circles. Today these mobsters specialize in auto theft, money-laundering schemes, drug trafficking and prostitution, as well as plenty of other crimes.
Despite Vory v Zakone’s violent history from Moscow to Brooklyn, people are fascinated with the outfit, in part because of its elaborate subculture. With its own code of conduct (thou shalt not perform cunnilingus, à la Tony Soprano’s fictional Italian-American crew), a distinct jargon and an intricate tattoo language popular in prisons, the Vory have also been popularized in Western culture (think Eastern Promises, Little Odessa and Training Day).
Instagram’s signature digital filters make the men look extra menacing. As one user aptly noted, “You’d better watch out for this guy.”
Part of staying in touch with your new online buddies in the Vory is knowing their nicknames, such as Romashkich “The Madman,” Sergey “The Wolf” Volkov, Valera “The Hottie” Sukhumsky or Chkhartishvilli “The Prince.”
Romashkich “The Madman”
The account even includes the criminals’ known whereabouts with hashtags like #Moscow, #Armenia, #Uzbekistan and #Sochi. With some, however, location hashtags are of little use because the men are on the run or in hiding. For example, Gia Kvaratskhelia, a Vor from the country of Georgia, has more than 16 years of jail time under his belt and is wanted by Interpol.
PrimeCrime spent years searching and collecting data on the Russian mafia to create this account, and avid followers submitted many of the photographs, all to help you satisfy your dark curiosity with one of the most notorious organized crime operations of all time.