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The secret of this amazing endurance of Russian society and its considerable stability lies in the high degree of autonomy of everyday economic existence of the majority of the population. Russians have developed the ability to function independently from the actions and decisions of the government. This is reflected in the many jokes they tell about their situation. One of them is about a telephone conversation between Yeltsin and U.S. President Bill Clinton. They are discussing the way their peoples live. 

Yeltsin asks:

—Bill, what is your minimal subsistence level?
—$1,000 per month.
—And the average wage?
—$2,000.
—Bill, and what do they do with the rest of the money?
Why should I care?

 Clinton asks Yeltsin:

—Boris, and what is your subsistence minimum?
—1,000 roubles.
—And the average wage?
—500 roubles.
—Boris, but where do they get the rest of the money from?
Why should I care?

The authorities themselves seem to recognize the reality of the informal economy, so important for the well-being of the population. It is described with the help of such attributes as “shadow,” “underground,” “gray,” and “black.” However, all these terms are inaccurate because they usually imply illegal activity. A “survival” economy helps millions of people to get by without necessarily turning them into criminals and breaking the law.

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Coping with Transition

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