In terms of historical origins, the Russian mafia and the Sicilian mafia are two completely different phenomena.
In Sicily, in the near future, a master's program will be created in the direction of "Psychology of the Mafia", which will study various aspects of the personalities of mafiosi and their social and other relations with each other and with the outside world. An expert on organized crime of the mafia type, the author of numerous books about mafia structures in Italy, an expert on the role of women in everyday life of Cosa Nostra, professor legal sociology of the Italian University of Palermo Alessandra Dino.
Why suddenly psychology?
- I want to place the accents right away. I disagree with my fellow psychologists, who sometimes claim that mafiosi have a special personality type. This is dangerous, because in such a context, the perception of the mafia personality as a "deviation" from the norm begins, and the mafiosi themselves as sick. Mafiosi do not suffer from special pathologies that explain their belonging to the clan. And there is no scientific evidence to prove otherwise. Moreover, many of the characteristics inherent in mafiosi are inherent in other people as well. For example, nepotism or the role of clan - the important role of kinship relationships, which go ahead of any other social or human relationship, can be found not only outside Palermo, but also outside Italy. Internal totalitarianism inherent in Cosa Nostra, a code of honor, male chauvinism are characteristic of other groups as well.
It is very difficult to single out one feature that Cosa Nostra would have and no other criminal organization would have. These traits are characteristic of certain social groups, and the mafia only elevated them to the rank of official rules, but they did not invent them. So I reject this interpretation of the concept of "mafia psychology". In no case should the mafia be taken out of the "normal world". I am convinced that mafiosi are completely normal people, and the mafia should be approached exclusively as a phenomenon of a criminal nature. This organization was created for the personal enrichment of its members and for political control over the territory, which is the source of this enrichment. In order to become part of such an organization, you do not need to have a certain type of personality, but you need to share common goals, as well as the rules inherent in this organization.
At the same time, if we talk about mafia culture, about the system of rules that are created by the mafia for survival and which become part of the life of its members, become their own rules, then here we can really find serious differences from ordinary people. However, I emphasize once again that first there is joining the structure, which requires the adoption of certain rules that will be in effect 24 hours a day. This is not just a set of rules, this is an approach to life, a special interpretation of what is happening around, this is a special way of building relationships. It determines where feelings play in life, the opposite sex, friends, religion, etc. However, I believe that this is more a cultural dimension than a psychological one. Otherwise, it is very difficult to explain how a killer and a head of state or a doctor belong to the same organization. I spoke with many people who entered Cosa Nostra, and they were all very different.
That is, it is not worth comparing mafiosi with psychopaths, although both of them do not feel any remorse about the murders they have committed, or with religious fanatics who commit certain actions in the name of a great goal?
- No. Religion for mafiosi is not a belief system, it is a traditional element of society, within which they find an excuse for what they do. They do not act for the sake of God, not in the name of God, but use faith in order to wash away the dirt from their affairs, to calm their consciences. Mafiosi are engaged in drug trafficking, illegal sale of weapons, traffic in toxic waste, and, as you understand, religion has nothing to do with these occupations.
Regarding the issue of pathology, of course, mafiosi are not psychopaths. However, I would like to note that in the process of studying the behavior of the mafiosi, we encountered certain reactions that are difficult for a normal person to understand. I will give an example of a conversation with one former mafioso who told me that when he was a hitman, he went to church and prayed calmly, but when he decided to start cooperating with the authorities, he could no longer pray because he felt like a traitor. Another mafioso told me that he had killed more than thirty people, and when I asked him if he felt guilty about this, he told me no, because he was not paid for the murders, he killed because he believed that it is right that these people did not deserve the right to live. Another told me about his uncle, who calmly killed people like cattle, and then went to the graves of the people he killed and prayed for their peace. Another mafioso, answering the investigator's question about how he felt while killing people, asked him to imagine that a war had started between Italy and Yugoslavia, and the investigator was sent to the front. The mafiosi asked who a law enforcement officer would consider himself in this case - a hero or a criminal? And after that, he said that the mafia at that moment was at war with the Italian state, which means that he is a hero and should not have remorse. How can you explain this line of thought?
As a sociologist, I believe that the explanation is the so-called "techniques of neutralization or rationalization", or in other words, a way to give a normal explanation for abnormal behavior, which is adopted by all mafiosi. If you, being a normal person, do not have an explanation for the abnormal actions that you have committed, you will go crazy. And here the mafia has been very successful in introducing psychological and sociological mechanisms to help manage this burden. We have a whole group of people who do the same inhuman deeds and justify each other.
An interesting fact is that mafiosi living in the wild never go to sessions with a psychotherapist. Wives and children go to the therapist - those people who did not make the decision to become part of the mafia, did not make the decision to accept the rules of the mafia as their own, and to whom these decisions were imposed. These people live in conditions of the most difficult internal struggle, because they cannot find excuses for what they see and know. Until they also find a way to neutralize reality, find an explanation. So, talking with the wife of a mafioso who was involved in the murder of Judge Falcone, I asked her what she experienced when everyone learned that her husband was a hitman. She told me that she hadn’t experienced anything, because even if her husband was a killer, he always treated her well, was affectionate and didn’t do anything bad to her. Wives deny reality, lie not in order to avoid public shame, but in order not to go crazy. Because it is very difficult to find an explanation for how you could live with a murderer, give him children, take care of him, love him. This behavior is the result of many years of internal suffering and contradiction. These women know everything, they are the ones who hide weapons, wash the blood from clothes, but on the one hand, they pretend that they do not understand what is happening and are trying to find an excuse for their husbands' behavior.
Could you compare the Russian mafia and the Sicilian one?
- From the point of view of historical origin, the Russian mafia and the Sicilian mafia are two completely different phenomena. The main role here is played by the connection with the territory. The Russian mafia is more like the American mafia, it is a mafia enterprise, a mafia company that does business on a large scale. Here, the main role is played by the scale of revenue, and not control over a particular territory and the population that lives on it. The Russian mafia is called the mafia because it uses mafia methods, but it does not have a cultural and historical tradition that would make it look like Cosa Nostra. Rituals, family ties, territory, religion do not have the same meaning for the Russian mafia as they do here in Sicily. The Russian mafia will not go to the kiosk at the bus stop and demand a monthly tribute from it in exchange for patronage. For Russian mafiosi, this is nonsense, a waste of time. The Russian mafia is transnational in nature.
Unlike Cosa Nostra, which is a source of identity for its members, the Russian mafia has weaker ties within, which means it is easier to get out of it than from the Sicilian mafia. The Sicilian mafiosi who left Cosa Nostra are experiencing a severe identity crisis, they do not know who they are without it, and I know this from personal conversations. As a result, many come back.
I believe that in the Russian case this is not the case, and leaving the criminal group is much easier from a psychological point of view. Of course, the threat to life always remains, but there is no identity crisis. The Russian mafia is united by the ultimate goal of enrichment, while there is a much deeper relationship within the traditional mafia. Another feature of the Russian mafia is ostentatiousness, flaunting wealth, acquiring restaurants, etc., which is simply unthinkable in Sicily. All are trying, on the contrary, to hide the loot. This is again due to the fact that the Sicilian and Calabrian mafias are also trying to gain political power, and therefore, it is necessary to mask illegal activities.
Photo: brian.ch flickr.com/zomgitsbrian
Interviewed by Yulia Netesova rosbalt.ru