Thieves by Law

Thieves by Law

2010, Crime  -   24 Comments
Ratings: 7.45/10 from 20 users.

Thieves by LawThieves by Law, or Ganavim Ba Hok is a documentary film charting the rise of Russian organized crime in the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union. In the film several noted crime figures are interviewed, a number of which are currently wanted by Interpol.

The term "thieves by law," which refers to the uppermost echelon of the Russian criminal world, was born in the 30s.

Some people say it might have something to do with "Chekists," or the early Soviet secret service (what later became the KGB).

At first, thieves by law followed a strict code: a thief by law had to serve time in jail, and had no right to have a family, a registered address, or belongings, surviving only by criminal means.

Directed by: Alexander Gentelev

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24 Comments / User Reviews

  1. N

    capitalism has a shelf life.

  2. Alex Moore-Minott

    I always thought it was Vory V Zakone

    1. N

      yeah, they say that in the doc too. though i know that "ganavim ba hok" is the hebrew translation

  3. professor Wirth

    It's not "thieves by law", it's "thieves IN law" both literally and in literature.

  4. StevenLJones

    Follow no laws pay no taxes and make deals people can't afford to refuse. Organized crime has the competitive advantage. The result is 2008 banking crisis where toxic debt was packaged as triple A investments and sold to the Europeans. The problem with corruption is that it isn't sustainable. It's going to bring down the house of cards. Also these people aren't capable of dealing with issues like global warming to save their butts.

  5. Juan P. Ordonez Q.

    Very interesting documentary, thanks for linking it to your site. I was quite surprised that despite the dire nature of the topic, the documentary has a few black humour gems that ought to be seen.

  6. Laura May Skillen

    Incredible, loved it!

  7. Matt Kukowski

    Hard times. Guess that is what happens after a whole country collapses. Miracle the Russians survived it. Money will drive men crazy.

  8. dmxi

    they're just copying their 'american idols'!even the children of the oligarchs are
    now pretending to be from the 'hood' & are hip-hopping the charts...weirdly enough ,quite successful! since 2oo1 there has been a social,economical,ethical & moral paradigm shift
    in the 'democratic hemisphere',which is bringing forth rotten fruit for fresh vegetables!

  9. Richard T

    very interesting doc. thanks for posting.

  10. slpsa

    You are right but for the sake of keeping it friendly, I will not point to many many instances, where the rich and powerful got there on the blood and backs of those they stole from. silkop does not seem to get it.

  11. Brandon

    disagree silkop, the us goverment is run by ridiculously corrupt ppl with strong ties to major corporations, why the **** we in iraq?!?!?!?! were in the third world and no ones saving us....

  12. 4GER van Ludyck

    A really GREAT docu!!! Many THANX, Vlatko!

  13. slpsa

    That being said, they treat their foreign guests in mining and gas/oil very well. ( hiccup...) If ya know what I mean. I spent a few weeks there once a year for several years now, the truth of it is, it is much like any other Country, if you show them the money, you get what you want, and what you need. Everyone there is on the take, show me a Country these days that does not have those people. All it takes is some scratch to buy you favors, contracts, and whatever else you feel like throwing in as part of a bargain. You would be shocked to know how much is done at the handshake level as well. There are not always supporting documents for services rendered...LOL. Russia is no different than anyone when it comes to payoffs, blackmail, favoritism, a little bent ear here and there. They are as good or better at capitalism than the people you assume are the grandfathers of it when it comes right down to it. What you cannot get with words and cash alone, produce some guns and the mood changes, fast.

    1. silkop

      Well, try to do that funny stuff in Germany and you might run into some serious trouble. In a country where top politicians are removed from office due to a public outcry about their faked PhDs, convicts have rather slight changes of landing government contracts. I also suspect that you wouldn't get very far offering outright bribes and brandishing firearms during business negotiations here. There are more discrete and socially acceptable ways of getting your point across.

      Some people confuse "capitalism" with "lawlessness", but they aren't quite the same concepts.

    2. slpsa

      Agreed on some points, but regardless, Germany has its share of profit mad criminals who cash in on contracts and other perks. To think otherwise is naive. The penalty's for such actions may be more severe than others, but that does not mean noone does it. Veiled threats are commonplace in the Corporate world of resource extraction we are talking about. We are after all, talking about Russia here, it is about one of the most corrupt places on earth. Other capitalist countries share the same behind the scenes drama as any other though, I seriously doubt that Germany is any different. Common thugs and mafia style operators do not always wear black trench coats and carry guns, they wear 2 k suits and carry briefcases and have a lawyers card. They most often work in big office towers. They do not hang out at " Frankie's Deli " and talk BS all day. They have 10 cell phones and a few beamers. You know the type. You see them everyday. Crooks and scammers of the worst kind.

    3. silkop

      I was not talking from principle, but rather about the "subtleties". It is a rather important subtlety whether you have to fear for your public image, your financial well-being or your and your family's personal safety when doing deals.

      But even in principle: let's not exaggerrate. Not all of this world's big business is based on intimidation, ruthlessness, corruption and recent or historical crime. Valid counterexamples in this glorious Internet age do exist. Also, as you noted yourself by mentioning the "handshake deals", trust plays a major role. It's a fallacy to assume that the way to riches must essentially lead through scam and crookedness.

      Actually, this fallacy is often perpetrated by scammers and crooks themselves, as a way of compensating their inadequacies on the IQ and trust front. You see this reasoning in this documentary, too ("since I am a crook, everyone does it" and "I'm less of a crook because I know bigger crooks" or even the paradoxically self-defensive "I'm a crook, but good people can trust me").

      The left-leaning part of the public is all too willing to accept the conspirative model of crooks-run world because it also provides a convenient explanation for all their own failures and a justification for envy. "I'm poor because I'm an honest person; I could be rich(er), but my moral principles keep me from engaging in the prerequisite abhorrent behavior."

      The truth is usually simpler and more brutal: you're poor because you're dumb - and I don't mean dumb in the "not a deceiving smartass" sense, as this movie's key characters would suggest. More in the you didn't do well at school, you didn't go to the right university, you didn't rub shoulders with the right people, you didn't work as much as you could have, you didn't pay attention, you didn't earn other (influential) people's trust, your brain doesn't tick quickly enough sense. Of course, some folks are blameless based on genetics and their life's circumstances. But many made the choice, often against better advice, and then formed their entire worldview around it.

      Back to the original topic, I think that penalties for breaking norms exist everywhere, but both the norms and the penalties differ from place to place. This was my main point. There is a balance of power in a country ruled by crooks (or a despot). There is also a balance of power in a "highly developed" democracy. When most people around you are crooks, you're probably a loser if you behave in an honest way. OTOH, when you are surrounded by a sizeable band of highly moral people wielding pitchforks, it is inadvisable to behave like a crook. It won't do well to transplant a model of crookedness into a non-crooked world to explain its mechanics - and vice versa.

    4. slpsa

      Good reply sir. But one thing stands out. The handshake thing is not necessarily related to trust. When you shake a mans hand and do a multimillion dollar deal and break any agreements, what i meant was those type of deals, the threat is understood and quite explicit in many cases. If you screw a Russian business man on a handshake deal, violence usually follows. In the context you mentioned though, I understand what you mean.

    5. PsychEvals4CopsPlease

      Those at the top trying to stay at the top has nothing to do with keeping all the other people at the bottom? Study more history.

    6. Nathan Daniel

      lol, you may be articulate, but you're "dumb" yourself.

  14. rljp

    About all I have to say is shocking. Blatantly proud to be ruthless. Looks like Khordokovsky was a legitimate businessman but was seen as a threat to Putin because if he was like these guys he would be where they are. Not investing a cent in Russia after watching this.

    1. silkop

      Based on the stories told in this doc there are no "legitimate businessmen" in Russia, particularly not in the gas/oil industry. It seems safe to assume both Khodorkovsky and his enemies have or had deals with criminals.

  15. dmxi

    after their experiences in their homeland,russian emmigrants that get
    incarcerated in western countries for commited crimes,enjoy the state sanctioned holidays as a wellness trip !i'm quite aware,of how racist this sounds,but i shared my time with quite a few & i'm only quoting my ex-fellow

  16. neville_ryan

    These guys are scary.They'd kill you just because they can.