"Every wretch on these diseased streets, from the prostitute to the petty thief, is merely a puppet. The master resides in the darkness above. He may not be visible to us, yet he hangs under our noses like the miasma of decay."
A Vozhd (Вождь - Russian: Chieftain) is a type of professional criminal in Mechanocratic Russia who enjoys elite status at the top of the Russian underworld's chain of command.
The Vozhdi are, for all intents and purposes, the evolution of the Vory v Zakone (Thieves in Law), in that they direct almost every illicit industry in the entire nation - with some also having foreign influence. However, where the Vory were open and brutally uncompromising about their criminal lifestyles, the vozhdi must operate within the framework of a totalitarian regime. As a result, vozhdi use a variety of strategies and devious tricks to keep themselves hidden from the prying eyes of the Ministry of Internal Affairs while conducting their illegal activities. For example, the Banshees - five female vozhdi who once dominated the gambling industry in Yalta - used lavish sex parties as a means to launder huge sums of money from their own otherwise-legitimate businesses (it not being uncommon for high-class women to demand exorbitant cash payments from the attendants of such orgies).
The most common method for a Vozhd to acquire wealth is to invest in a business, and then use the revenue acquired from that to buy control of a street gang. They then use the influence of one of these gangs to wipe out the local competition, thus monopolising their business and raking in the profits. From there they proceed to expand into more illicit operations, gradually building up their own wealth to exceptional levels and continuing to invest to their heart's content - or until they get caught by the authorities.
As mentioned, the Vozhdi typically originate from the wealthy upper-classes - again as opposed to the Vory, who arose from Soviet prison culture - and use technically-legitimate business to acquire their extraordinary wealth. This can make them exceedingly difficult to hunt down, this especially being the case with the most powerful Vozhdi who often have seats in the Mecharussian Senate (thus making them effectively untouchable).
- Szymon Rakowski, a Zapadoslav expatriate who commands the Balaklava syndicate. He is a member of the Nightfall Society, granting him access to the organisation's immense wealth of resources and a degree of power that overshadows even several national leaders.
- Tatiana Chernova, a lieutenant of Rakowski and former Banshee who assumed command of Yalta's gambling sector from her four associates.