In an absorbing but not really shocking (despite its subtitle) account, investigative journalist Vaksberg (The Prosecutor, p. 39), reveals the ""Soviet mafia""--the criminal network that, with the connivance of high-level Communist party and Soviet officials, has corrupted Soviet society, plundered its economy, and perpetrated crimes against individuals. While Vaksberg repeatedly uses the term ""mafia"" to describe Soviet organized crime, he points out that there is an important difference between the Soviet mob and its Sicilian counterpart. The Soviet mafia, unlike other organized crime, apparently operates with the full acquiescence of high state and party officials and uses the institutions of the state to advance its criminal purposes and to squelch opposition. Vaksberg's description of the pervasive corruption of the Brezhnev years is unsurprising, but he does argue intriguingly that perestroika and the decline of the central Soviet state have, in some of the union republics, only lifted what little restraint existed over the Soviet mafia. He describes, for instance, how Geidar Alley, who under Brezhnev was the corrupt KGB boss of the Azerbaijan republic, has transformed himself to become a powerful politician once again during the Gorbachev era. Vaksberg also contends that the legendary shortages of goods in Soviet stores and the well-known economic deprivations of Soviet life result largely from the activities of large cartels that siphon goods from the market for illegal profiteering. Persuasively, Vaksberg attributes much of Soviet global strategy in recent years to the economic imperatives of the Soviet mafia, and demonstrates how Communist rhetoric and ideology have masked the self-serving corruption of the Soviet elite. Despite the sensational style, Vaksberg's account offers few major surprises. Nonetheless, he presents an engrossing examination of a phenomenon that may lie at the heart of the failure of Soviet Communism.