Back when we were preparing to move to Russia in 1995, the U.S. State Department's travel warnings caught my eye. They compared Russia's environment then as "similar to 1920's Chicago." They weren't referring to a land of Model A Fords and Packards, but of Capone-style hooliganism.
According to this Washington Post article, the warning has only become even more apropo. Even if you've no connection to Russia, check it out, it's an interesting (and troubling) read. I've got friends who, back in the mid-90's, were having to pay "protection" to keep their kiosks from being burned down (yes, this happens there). And, in fact, the mayor of the city we lived in was openly a member of the Russian mafia–that's why some people I know voted for him. They thought he'd "get things done."
What a world.