I happen to know that this was Stiglitz's position at the time. He may, formally, and at different times (and on different platforms) have altered his views (something that he was prone to. as he once told me: I achieved everything I have by staying within the middle ground) but that was what he stressed on more than one occasion.
My understanding of the comparative growth has more to do with lower levels of industrialisation in China (by the early 1970s), higher industrialisation in Russia (by the late 1980s), and the transfer of state enterprises to private capitalists, most of whom were opportunists and or insiders. As for mafia activities, they existed for decades before Nizhny Novgorod
There are other comparisons, that are more or less similar.