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Title: Mafia  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: 2006 in organized crime, Sicily, Bernardo Provenzano, Roberto Calvi, Salvatore Cuffaro
Collection: Organized Crime
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


A mafia (pronounced in

  • Albanese, Jay S., Dilip K. Das & Arvind Verma, (eds.) (2003). Organized Crime. World Perspectives, Prentice-Hall, ISBN 9780130481993
  • Dickie, John (2007). Cosa Nostra: A History of the Sicilian Mafia. Hodder.  
  • Dainotto, Roberto.M (2015). The Mafia: A Cultural History. Princeton University Press. p. 239.  
  • Gambetta, Diego (1993). The Sicilian Mafia: The Business of Private Protection. Princeton University Press.  
  • Gambetta, Diego (2009). Codes of the Underworld. Princeton University Press.  
  • Glenny, Misha (2008). McMafia. Princeton University Press.  
  • Hess, Henner (1998). Mafia & Mafiosi: Origin, Power, and Myth, London: Hurst & Co Publishers, ISBN 1-85065-500-6
  • Mosca, Gaetano (2014). "What is Mafia." M&J, 2014. Translation of the book "Cosa è la Mafia," Giornale degli Economisti, Luglio 1901, pp. 236–62. ISBN 979-11-85666-00-6
  • Paoli, Letizia (2003). Mafia Brotherhoods: Organized Crime, Italian Style, Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-515724-9
  • Seindal, René (1998). Mafia: money and politics in Sicily, 1950-1997, Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, ISBN 87-7289-455-5
  • Servadio, Gaia (1976), Mafioso. A history of the Mafia from its origins to the present day, London: Secker & Warburg ISBN 0-436-44700-2


  1. ^ Gambetta 2009
  2. ^ This etymology is based on the books Mafioso by Gaia Servadio; The Sicilian Mafia by Diego Gambetta; and Cosa Nostra by John Dickie (see Books below).
  3. ^ a b Gambetta, The Sicilian Mafia. pp. 259-261.
  4. ^ Henner Hess (1998). Mafia & Mafiosi: Origin, Power and Myth. NYU Press. pp. 1–2.  
  5. ^ John Follain (8 Jun 2009). The Last Godfathers. Hachette UK.  
  6. ^ Henner Hess (1998). Mafia & Mafiosi: Origin, Power and Myth. NYU Press. p. 1.  
  7. ^ Gambetta, The Sicilian Mafia, p. 136.
  8. ^ Lupo, The History of the Mafia, p. 3.
  9. ^ Lupo, History of the Mafia, pp. 1–2
  10. ^ Diego Gambetta (1993). The Sicilian Mafia: The Business of Private Protection
  11. ^ Glenny 2008
  12. ^ Seindal, Mafia: money and politics in Sicily, p. 20
  13. ^ Art. 416-bis, codice penale - Associazione di tipo mafioso
  14. ^ Wang, Peng (2013). "The rise of the Red Mafia in China: a case study of organised crime and corruption in Chongqing". Trends in Organized Crime 16 (1): 49–73.  


Other countries

Other Italian criminal organizations include:


Mafia-proper can refer to either:


Article 416-bis of the Italian Penal Code defines a Mafia-type association (associazone di tipo Mafioso) as one where "those belonging to the association exploit the potential for intimidation which their membership gives them, and the compliance and omertà which membership entails and which lead to the committing of crimes, the direct or indirect assumption of management or control of financial activities, concessions, permissions, enterprises and public services for the purpose of deriving profit or wrongful advantages for themselves or others."[12][13]

Mafia-type organizations under Italian law

With the [Russian] state in collapse and the security forces overwhelmed and unable to police contract law, [...] cooperating with the criminal culture was the only option. [...] most businessmen had to find themselves a reliable krysha under the leadership of an effective vor.
— excerpt from McMafia by Misha Glenny.[11]

For instance, in Russia after the collapse of Communism, the state security system had all but collapsed, forcing businessmen to hire criminal gangs to enforce their contracts and protect their properties from thieves. These gangs are popularly called "the Russian Mafia" by foreigners, but they prefer to use the term krysha.

Scholars such as Diego Gambetta[10] and Leopoldo Franchetti have characterized the Sicilian Mafia as a "cartel of private protection firms", whose primary business is protection racketeering: they use their fearsome reputation for violence to deter people from swindling, robbing, or competing with those who pay them for protection. For many businessmen in Sicily, they provide an essential service when they cannot rely on the police and judiciary to enforce their contracts and protect their properties from thieves (this is often because they are engaged in black market deals). Scholars have observed that many other societies around the world have criminal organizations of their own that provide essentially the same protection service through similar methods.

Mafias as private protection firms

While there was a time when people were reluctant to pronounce the word "Mafia" ... nowadays people have gone so far in the opposite direction that it has become an overused term ... I am no longer willing to accept the habit of speaking of the Mafia in descriptive and all-inclusive terms that make it possible to stack up phenomena that are indeed related to the field of organized crime but that have little or nothing in common with the Mafia.[9]
— Giovanni Falcone, 1990

A formal definition of "mafia" can be hard to come by. The term was never officially used by Sicilian mafiosi, who prefer to refer to their organization as "Cosa Nostra". Nevertheless, it is typically by comparison to the Sicilian Mafia that other criminal groups earn the label. The expansion of the term has not been welcomed by all scholars. Giovanni Falcone, an anti-Mafia judge murdered by the Sicilian Mafia in 1992, objected to the conflation of the term "Mafia" with organized crime in general:


The public's association of the word with the criminal secret society was perhaps inspired by the 1863 play "I mafiusi di la Vicaria" ("The Mafiosi of the Vicaria") by Giuseppe Rizzotto and Gaetano Mosca. The words Mafia and mafiusi are never mentioned in the play; they were probably put in the title to add a local flair. The play is about a Palermo prison gang with traits similar to the Mafia: a boss, an initiation ritual, and talk of "umirtà" (omertà or code of silence) and "pizzu" (a codeword for extortion money).[7] The play had great success throughout Italy. Soon after, the use of the term "mafia" began appearing in the Italian state's early reports on the phenomenon. The word made its first official appearance in 1865 in a report by the prefect of Palermo, Filippo Antonio Gualterio.[8]

  • maha = quarry, cave;[3] especially the mafie caves in the region of Marsala, which acted as hiding places for persecuted Muslims and later served other types of refugees.[4]
  • mahyas (مهياص) = aggressive boasting, bragging
  • marfud (مرفوض) = rejected
  • mu'afa = safety, protection[3]
  • Ma'àfir = the name of an Arab tribe[5] that ruled Palermo.[6]

Sicily was once an Islamic emirate, therefore "mafia" might have Arabic roots. Possible Arabic roots of the word include:

The word "mafia" originated in Sicily, though its origins are uncertain. The Sicilian adjective mafiusu (in Italian: mafioso), roughly translated, means "swagger," but can also be translated as "boldness, bravado". In reference to a man, mafiusu in 19th century Sicily was ambiguous, signifying a bully, arrogant but also fearless, enterprising, and proud, according to scholar Diego Gambetta.[2] In reference to a woman, however, the feminine-form adjective "mafiusa" means beautiful and attractive.



  • Etymology 1
  • Definitions 2
    • Mafias as private protection firms 2.1
    • Mafia-type organizations under Italian law 2.2
  • International 3
    • Italy 3.1
    • Other countries 3.2
  • References 4
    • Sources 4.1

When used alone and without any qualifier, "Mafia" typically refers to either the Sicilian Mafia or the Italian-American Mafia.

The term was originally applied to the yakuza.

. fraud, and loan sharking, drug-trafficking, gambling Secondary activities may be practiced such as [1]

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