Federico Varese

Taught Courses Director (2019-20), Professor of Criminology, Director of EXLEGI

College: Nuffield

Research Areas: Crime.

Member of

Member of Research Streams

  • Research methods
  • Crime, violence and governance

Email: Federico Varese

Tel.: 01865 281150

Website: Personal Website

Federico Varese is a Professor of Criminology at the University of Oxford and a Senior Research Fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford. He has written on the Russian mafia, Soviet criminal history, migration of mafia groups, Somali piracy, the dynamics of altruistic behaviour, and the application of Social Network Analysis to criminology. He is currently working on organized crime in the UK and transnational crime.

He is the author of two monographs - The Russian Mafia (OUP, 2001) and Mafias on the Move (PUP, 2011); these two books have been translated in Italian, Polish and Danish.  He has also edited the four-volume collection Organised Crime (Routledge, 2010).  He has published papers in journals such as The British Journal of Criminology, Law and Society Review, Archives Européenes de Sociologie, Political Studies, Cahiers du Monde Russe, Rationality & Society, European Sociological Review, and Trends in Organized Crime, among others. He contributes to The Times Literary Supplement and, in Italy, to the daily La Repubblica. His work has been featured in The Economist, The BBC News & World Service, ABC, The Guardian, The New York Times, The Monkeycage Blog and Freakonomics blog, among others. Mafias on the Move was the Recipient of The International Association for the Study of Organized Crime 2012 Outstanding Publication Award. The Russian Mafia was The Co-Recipient, ED A. HEWETT BOOK PRIZE awarded by The American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies.

His new book, Mafia Life has been published in the UK by Profile in 2017 (paperback UK edition 2018). It has also appeared in Finland (Atena, 2017), Denmark (Xander Uitgevers B.V., 2017), Italy (Einaudi, 2017), Spain and Latin America (Malpaso Ediciones, 2018), USA (Oxford University Press, 2018), Germany (Verlag C.H. Beck, 2018), Brazil (2018), Portugal (2018) and Poland (Rebis 2019), and it has been optioned for TV. Mafia Life has been reviewed widely.

Professor Varese holds degrees from Bologna University, Cambridge University and Oxford University. He was a Prize Research Fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford, and a visiting professor at Yale University, City University of Hong Kong and Milan University. He is currently on the editorial Board of The British Journal of Criminology and has been Editor of the journal Global Crime.

John le Carré has written: "Federico Varese is two writers rolled into one: a fearless fact-hunter who goes after his quarry with the zeal of a thoroughbred journalist, and a dedicated academic who examines and analyzes his catch with relentless detachment. Throw in a robust understanding of the impact of contemporary history on the behavior of a globalized criminal underworld and you have both a compelling read and an impeccable work of reference."

Research interests: Organized crime; the application of social network analysis to the study of criminal groups; migration and mafias; theories of action.


Mafia Life: Love, Death and Money at the Heart of Organised Crime
Varese, F. (2017)
(Profile Books).

Mafias on the Move: How Organized Crime Conquers New Territories
Varese, F. (2011)
(Princeton University Press).

Reviewed in:The Financial Times (John Lloyd); Business Week; Freakonomics blog; Wall Street Journal; La Repubblica (Roberto Saviano);The Financial Times Magazine (Tim Harford); Times of India;London Review of Books (Misha Glenny); La Stampa; L'espresso; Times Literary Supplement; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung; Dag og Tid [Norway]; Sole 24 Ore; Il Riformista; Gazeta C [Macedonia]; Public Choice; Narcomafie; Gazzetta di Parma; La Nuova Ferrara; Zoomsud.it; Quaderni di Sociologica; American Journal of Sociology (Mike Levi); Rassegna Italiana di Sociologia; British Journal of Criminology; European Sociological review; Choice; Birikim Dergis [Turkey]; Thriller Magazine; Belfagor

Italian translation:
Le Mafie in Movimento: Come il crimine organizzato conquista nuovi territori
Varese, F. (2011)
(Turin: Einaudi 2011).

Organized Crime
(series: Critical Concepts in Criminology), 4 vols

The Russian Mafia. Private Protection in a New Market Economy
Varese, F. (2001)
(Oxford University Press)
Paperback edition, 2005

Dutch translation:
De Russische Mafia
Varese, F. (2004)
Amsterdam : Meulenhoff, paperback, 320 pp, 2004.

Polish translation:
Mafia rosyjska
Varese, F. (2009)
Prywatna ochrona w nowej gospodarce rynkowej, paperback, 368 pp., 2009.

Articles in Refereed Journals

Mafias-for-hire and democratic protest: the Triad attacks against the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong in comparative perspective
Varese, F. and R. Wong (2016)
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology

Exploitation in Human Trafficking and Smuggling
Campana, P. and F. Varese (2015)
European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research


State-building, Informal Governance and Organized Crime: the case of Somali Piracy
Shortland, A., and F. Varese (2015)
Political Studies

The Protector’s Choice: an Application of Protection Theory to Somali Piracy
Shortland, A., and F. Varese (2014)
British Journal of Criminology, 54(5): 741-764. Featured in: The Economist, the BBC, Washington Post, New York Times

Cooperation in criminal organizations: Kinship and violence as credible commitments
Campana, P. and F. Varese (2013)
Rationality and Society, 25(3): 263-289. Featured in: http://themonkeycage.org; http://www.freakonomics.com/


The Structure and the Content of Criminal Connections: The Russian Mafia in Italy.
Varese, F. (2012)
Eur Sociol Rev (2012) doi: 10.1093/esr/jcs067
First published online: July 11, 2012, European Sociological Review.

How Mafias Take Advantage of Globalization. The Russian Mafia in Italy.
Varese, F. (2011)
British Journal of Criminology. doi: 10.1093/bjc/azr077

Mafia movements: a framework for understanding the mobility of mafia groups
Varese, F. (2011)
Global Crime 12(3) pp 218 -231

Listening to the wire: criteria and techniques for the quantitative analysis of phone intercepts.
Paolo Campana and Federico Varese. 2011
rends in Organized Crime, 14(2)

The Secret History of Japanese Cinema: The Yakuza Movies
Varese, F. (2006)
Global Crime 7:1.

How Mafias Migrate
Varese, F. (2006)
Law and Society Review. 40:2, pp. 411-444.

La mafia russa in Italia
Varese, F. (2005)
Limes. Rivista Italiana di Geopolitica, 12(1), pp. 229-239.

Resolute Heroes: the Rescue of Jews during the Nazi Occupation of Europe
Varese, F. with Yaish, M. (2005)
Archives Européennes de Sociologie, pp. 153-168.

Struktura mafioznykh gruppirovok
Varese, F. (2004)
Panorama Issledovanij Politiki Prikam'ya 2, pp 157-167

Payment, Protection and Punishment: the Role of Information and Reputation in the Mafia
Varese, F. with Smith, A. (2001)
Rationality and Society, pp. 387-431.

The Importance of Being Asked. The Rescue of Jews in Nazi Europe.
Varese, F. with Yaish, M. (2000)
Rationality and Society, pp. pp. 307-324.

The Society of the Vory-v-Zakone, 1930s-1950s
Varese, F. (1998)
Cahiers du Monde Russe, 1998, pp. 515-538. Reprinted in M. Galeotti (ed.), Russian and Post-Soviet Organized Crime (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate), 2002, pp. 7-30

Is Sicily the future of Russia? Private protection and the rise of the Russian Mafia
Varese, F. (1994)
Archives Européennes de Sociologie, 1994, pp. 224-258. Reprinted in Archives Européennes de Sociologie, 40th Anniversary Issue, 42:1 (2001), pp. 186-220 and in M. Galeotti (ed.), Russian and Post-Soviet Organized Crime(Aldershot, UK: Ashgate), 2002, pp. 173-207

Articles in Journals

Theories of mafia emergence and transplantation.
Varese, F. (2013)
Juvenile Crime and Delinquency, 32:1, pp. 26-34 [In Chinese]

Il dinamismo distruttivo. La mafia al Nord.
Varese, F. (2013)
Narcomafie, Febbraio [In Italian]

Dalla Russia all’Italia.
Varese, F. (2012)
Lo Straniero, 142, pp. 87-90. [In Italian]

I riots di Londra tra mistificazioni e analisi empirica.
Varese, F. (2012),
Lo Straniero 140, pp. 40-46 [In Italian]

Quante Mafie
Veronesi, P. (2011)
Intervista a Federico Varese Lo Straniero, 137, pp. 50-60. [in Italian]

Dove non c'e' governo c'e' mafia. Intervista a Federico Varese.
Narcomafie, Luglio/Augosto, pp. 19-21 [In Italian]

The Sopranos? No, the Shepherds
Varese, F. (2006)
The Times (London), April 14, p.25.

L’omicidio di Anna Politkovskaja nella Russia di Putin’Lo Straniero, November (English Version)
Varese, F. 2006

Pretty Babies
Varese, F. 2005
Times Literary Supplement, March 8, p. 23.

Has Fascism returned to Italy?
Varese, F. 2005
Italian Politics & Society, 60 (Spring), pp. 87-90.

Messages from the Mafia
Varese , F. (2005)
London Review of Books, January 6, 31-32. Expanded and translated in Italian as:‘Berlusconi Visto dagli Inglesi (e dalla Luna)’, Lo Straniero, 57 (2005), pp. 20-27. Reprented in Il Dialogo, April 2005.

Great Mobility
Varese, F. (2004)
Times Literary Supplement, July 2, pp. 6-7. Translated in Italian as: ‘La mafia oltre il folklore’, Lo Straniero 59 (2005), pp. 36-41.

Russia e America al paragone.
Varese, F. (2003)
Lo Straniero, 32, pp. 93-102.

There is no place like Home. How the mafia finds it difficult to expand from its geographical base
Varese F. (2001)
Times Literary Supplement, February 23, pp. 3-4. (See also, F.V., ‘Letter: The Mafia in Sicily', TLS, April 20, p. 19.).

Translated in Italian as:
Casa Dolce Casa. La Mafia tra localizzazione ed espansione
Lettera Internazionale, March 2002, pp. 50-52.

Translated in Rumanian as:
Mafii de-acasa si mafii de export
Lettre Internationale-Edi?ia român?, Spring 2003, pp. 116-117

Articles in Books

Underground Banking and Corruption, in S. Rose-Ackerman and P. Lagunes (eds.)
Varese, F. (2015)
Greed, Corruption, and the Modern State: Essays in Political Economy, Elgar, pp. 336-35

La cooperazione nelle organizzazioni criminali: il ruolo della violenza e della parantela’, in Marco Santoro (ed.)
Campana, P. and F. Varese (2015)
Riconoscere le mafia: Cosa sono, come funzionano, come si muovono. Bologna: Il Mulino, pp. 199-220.

Protection and Extortion, in L. Paoli (ed.)
Varese, F. (2014)
Handbook of Organized Crime, Oxford University Press, pp. 343-358.
Italian translation, ‘Protezione ed estorsione’, Kainos. Rivista di filosofia, vol 14, 2013, pp. 47-68.

La marijuana liberata,
Varese, F. (2014)
Treccani. Il Libro dell’anno 2014, Rome: Enciclopedia Italiana, pp. 367-369.

La mafia russa,
Varese, F. (2013)
Dizionario di mafia e di antimafia, EGA Editore, 2013.

What is Organized Crime?
Varese, F. (2010)
Introduction to F.V. (ed.),Organized Crime (series: Critical Concepts in Criminology), 4 volls. Routledge, pp. 1-35.

Mafia Transplantation, in J. Kornai, B. Rothstein, and S. Rose-Ackerman (eds.)
Varese, F. (2004)
Creating Social Trust: Problems of Post-Socialist Transition. New York : Palgrave-Macmillian, pp. 148-166.

Varieties of Protectors, in A. Amin and N.J.Thrift (eds.)
Varese, F. (2004)
The Blackwell Cultural Economy Reader, Oxford : Blackwell Publishing, pp. 145-163.

'Clientelism', 'Corruption', 'Mafia', 'Principal-Agent Problem', 'State Capture', in I. McLean (ed.)
Varese, F. (2003)
Oxford Dictionary of Politics, 2nd ed. Oxford-New York: Oxford University Press.

Pervasive Corruption, in A Ledeneva and M Kurkchiyan (eds.)
Varese, F. (2000)
Economic Crime in Russia, pp. 99-111.


Réponse au rapport La mobilité des groupes criminels. Une réflexion à la lumière de recherches effectuées récemment sur les mouvements transnationaux de la mafia.
Varese, F. 2010.
Préparé pour la Division de la recherche et de la coordination nationale sur le crime organisé, Secteur de la police et de l’application de la loi, Sécurité publique Canada. Rapport no 19, 2010, Sa Majesté la Reine du chef du Canada, 2010 ISBN No : 978-1-100-97024-0.

Selected Reviews

Strictly Business
Varese F. (2008)
Times Literary Supplement, 22.II, p. 27.

The Economics of the Camorra. Review Article
Varese, F. 2006
Global Crime 7:2, pp. 268-273.

Contacts, Opportunities and Criminal Enterprise (2005)
by Carlo Morselli, British Journal of Criminology, 46: 6
Varese, F. 2006

L’udienza e’ aperta (2006) by Vincenzo Marra, Narcomafie, October.
Varese, F. 2006

Russian Organized Crime: The New Threat (1997), edited by P. Williams, Times Literary Supplement, November 7, p. 22
Varese, F. 1997

Selected Policy Papers

The local dimension of cybercrime: Report from a trip to Râmnicu Vâlcea (Romania)’, presented at the BKA 8th Research Conference on Organised Crime, 7 - 8 October 2015, Mainz, Germany and printed in: Ursula Töttel, Gergana Bulanova-Hristova and Gerhad Flach (eds).
Varese, F. (2016)
Research Conferences on Organized Crime at the Bundeskriminalamt in Germany, vol. III, 2010-2015, BKA Publisher, 2015, pp. 163-172.

The Cost of Non-Europe in the area of Organised Crime and Corruption in Europe
Varese, F. (2016)
European parliament, March

The Mafia in Emilia Romagna
Varese, F. (2014)
Regione Emilia Romagna, Italy.