Russia’s criminal world has been bereaved of its top gangster, 75-year-old Tbilisi-born Aslan Usoyan, known to friends and enemies alike as Grandpa Hassan. First among equals in the Soviet-born and ex-Soviet-wide system of criminals, Grandpa Hassan died a soldier’s death, shot by a sniper bullet in central Moscow, on January 16.
The Russian news agency Interfax reported symbolically that the killer fired from the roof of the apartment of the late Soviet poet Sergei Mikhalkov, who penned the lyrics of the Soviet Union's anthem.
A career criminal, Usoyan was born to a Yezidi Kurdish family in Georgia's capital, Tbilisi, once the main exporter of mafia bosses. In his teen years, he began his ascent through the Soviet mafia hierarchy known as the thieves-in-law.
His authority soon outgrew Georgia, but Grandpa Hassan kept on climbing the career ladder.
As perhaps no other institution did in Soviet times, thieves-in-law embraced the spirit of multiculturalism with Georgians, Russians, Armenians and others all participating, coexisting and fighting one another.
That code held true for Grandpa Hassan well into old age. Russian media reported that in 2008 he clashed with the competing clan of Tarieli Oniani (also Georgian) at a mafia summit, where plans for appropriating the funds for Sochi's 2014 Winter Olympics were supposedly discussed.
Proud of his ethnic roots, Grandpa Hassan was also known for affirmative action policies to promote the Kurdish minority through the criminal ranks.
He is survived by many fellow mafia bosses in Russia and outside its borders. His criminal remains may be buried near the Moscow grave of another assassinated criminal mafia boss, Yaponchik ("Little Japanese man").
Or perhaps in Tbilisi or in another Moscow cemetery, Moskovsky Komsomolets reported. In the latter case, noted one cemetery worker, look for the grave-digging to take place "most likely at night."