Formation of mafia in Russia was quite an inevitable process in the Russian business environment at the beginning of 90s. After the Soviet collapse, redistribution of the private property among people was extremely chaotic and criminal.
Russian Mafia first appeared as gangs that would run a racket and try to control businessmen by violence, fear and threats. For example: a couple of hulks would come to a shopkeeper and offer him their “protection”. If the shopkeeper doesn't accept it he would have a lot of trouble: some day he would be beaten up by guys in masks and his shop would be burned down or blown up. If he accepts the offer, he would have to pay 10% of his income to the persistent “guards”. To prevent business owners from concealing their income, Mafia would incorporate their own people into the business. At first it affected private business owners, but as the mafia grew it spread its wings over governmental enterprises and even businesses run by foreigners. The companies formed after the Soviet collapse really needed protection from gangsters, competitors and even the government. This provided good grounds for the Russian Mafia. Almost all large-scale enterprises and banks in Russia are now under the influence of a supporting criminal gang.
This situation with mafia and corruption creates a very negative and unfavorable image of the Russian business world abroad. The main reason for this is that both the government and common people do not consider protection of private enterprise such an important goal. A businessman in Russia is not considered to be a hard-working, smart and enterprising person as in the Western World, but rather a fat and immoral bourgeois who doesn't deserve respect and sympathy. Even thought the situation is really improving recently, this remnant of Soviet mentality and socialism is still very strong in the Russian society right now. It changed the Russian business environment dramatically after the Soviet collapse, and even now this mentality makes Russian entrepreneurial activity so different from businesses in most European countries and the U.S.A.