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The brazen daylight assassination in Moscow this week of Aslan Usoyan, a leading mafia kingpin known as "Ded Khasan" (Grandpa Khasan), has turned a bright spotlight on Russia's criminal underworld amid fears that the hit could spark a broader mob war.

Usoyan was no ordinary mobster. He was one of the few remaining "vori v zakone," or "thieves in law," legendary Soviet-era gangsters who sport elaborate tattoos, use colorful slang, and follow unwritten prison codes of conduct that date back to the Gulag. The "vori" have been romanticized in Russian lore and popular songs for decades.

This week's edition of "The Power Vertical Podcast" takes an in-depth look at the Usoyan hit as well as examining the Russian underworld, its culture and mores, and its relationship to the state.

Joining me are co-hosts Kirill Kobrin of RFE/RL's Russian Service, NYU Professor Mark Galeotti, an expert on Russian organized crime and author of the blog "In Moscow's Shadows," and special guest Merhat Sharipzhanov, a correspondent for RFE/RL's Central Newsroom.

Enjoy...


Listen to or download the podcast above, or subscribe to "The Power Vertical Podcast" on iTunes.

About This Blog

The Power Vertical
The Power Vertical

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It offers Brian's personal take on emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or

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