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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



in the broad sense of the word, a synonym for organized crime in the USA. Usually, gangsterism is understood as criminal activity expressed in violence, murders, intimidation, extortion, and bribery of state officials and party functionaries for the purposes of enriching members of the syndicates of organized criminals. In the hierarchical structure of organized crime these activities are carried out predominantly by those members of the syndicate (the “soldiers” or “buttons”) who merely carry out the decisions of the bosses, pass on the instructions of the leadership to the executors, and, considering the danger, isolate the leadership from the executors. Certain forms of gangster activities give criminal groups the character of simultaneously self-governing units and industrial enterprises that extract income from criminal business. These characteristics are demonstrated by the activities of the so-called enforcers, who undertake measures to slaughter or murder those members of the criminal groups whose loyalty is in doubt or to eliminate dangerous witnesses. Also typical are the activities of the so-called corrupters, who establish contacts with officials or other influential persons whose assistance is of interest to the group. The number of participants in organized crime in the United States has been estimated, according to official data, at 5,000 persons. However, by the beginning of the 1970’s, the actual figure had reached 200,000.

Today, gangsterism is increasingly becoming a force that serves the criminal monopolies as well as the interests of “big business,” as a result of the merger of these two groups. Gangsterism is used to combat the organized workers’ movement and to evade laws that limit the administrative or judicial-police powers vis-à-vis the workers. It is also used for terroristic operations, if the use of the punitive apparatus of the state, including the police, is considered undesirable. Characteristic of the USA is the use of gangsterism not only in business but also in politics—for example, in an electoral campaign to carry out illegal operations involving the falsification of the elections (falsification of voter registration lists, substitution of ballots, and the theft of ballot boxes). In one form or another, gangsterism is also found in the other capitalist nations.


Iakovlev, A. M. Prestupnost’, kak obraz zhizni. Moscow, 1967.
Cook, F. J. The Secret Rulers: Criminal Syndicates and How They Control the U. S. Underworld. New York [1966].


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


See also Outlawry.
Black Hand,
the sobriquet for the Mafia. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 1657]
Capone, Al “Scarf
ace” (1899–1947) Chicago mobster, famous gangland bootleg king. [Am. Hist.: Flexner, 73]
Cosa Nostra
secret organization akin to the Mafia; operates in the U.S. [Am. Hist.: Misc.]
Detroit Purple Gang
gangster mob of the 1920s. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 2018]
Godfather “father
figure” to the Mafia. [Am. Lit.: The Godfather; Am. Cinema: Halliwell, 297]
Krik, Benya
tough Jewish gangster of Odessa. [Russ. Lit.: Benya Krik, the Gangster]
Little Caesar
archetypal gangster. [Am. Cinema: Griffith, 269]
criminals are so revolted by the murder of several children that they search and capture the murderer. [Ger. Cinema: Halliwell, 256]
sinister crime syndicate promotes violence to achieve goals. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 1657]
organized crime unit throughout major cities of the United States. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 2018]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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