Get access

No Country for Made Men: The Decline of the Mafia in Post-Soviet Georgia


  • Gavin Slade

  • The author wishes to acknowledge the guidance of Professors Ian Loader and Federico Varese at Oxford University. Versions of this article were presented at a workshop on recruitment into extra-legal organizations at Nuffield College, Oxford, December 2009, as well as a conference at St. Andrews University, Scotland, April 2010, and a public seminar at the Caucasus Research and Resource Centers, Tbilisi, Georgia, February 2011. Feedback at these events has shaped and improved the final version and I am grateful to the respective audiences. Any remaining mistakes are my own. The research for this article was conducted with the aid of a scholarship from the Economic and Social Research Council, UK, for which I am very grateful. Please direct all correspondence to Gavin Slade, Oxford University—Law, Centre for Criminology, Manor Road Oxford Oxfordshire OX1 3UL, UK; e-mail:


This article studies the decline of a long-standing mafia known as thieves-in-law in the post-Soviet republic of Georgia. In 2005 an anti-mafia campaign began which employed laws directly targeting the thieves-in-law. Within a year, all Georgia's thieves-in-law were in prison or had fled the country. This article looks at the success of the policy by investigating how Georgia's volatile socio-economic environment in the 1990s affected the resilience of the thieves-in-law to state attack. The article presents data showing that the chaos of this period impacted on the ability of thieves-in-law to coordinate activities, regulate recruitment, and protect their main collective resource—their elite criminal status. Due to this, the reputation of the thieves-in-law as a mafia drastically declined creating vulnerability. The article adds to the literature on resilience in criminal networks and the study of organized crime in the post-Soviet space.