Of course, one
should not idealize the informal economy. Everyday life in Russia is
tough and insecure; the continual struggle for survival generates
tensions and vexations. The important thing to note is that this is
not a negligible phenomenon or something that has appeared only
recently. The Soviet economic system would not have been able to
function without the lubricant of the informal economy.
Soviet system, excessive centralization, bureaucratic blunders, and
difficulties involving distribution and exchange in a climate of
universal deficit could only be overcome by an intricate web of
personalized relations. The operation of major industrial and
agricultural trusts was maintained by a vast network of supply
agents, who resolved bottlenecks in the flow of goods with the help
of barter and bribes.
the peasants’ small private allotments significantly augmented their
meager income, which they earned on collective farms. In towns
personal contacts helped overcome perennial shortages of goods and
services and generated intricate networks of exchange benefits.
People lived in a complex web of connections based on friendship,
kinship, or simply good neighborly relations.
Russia saw a massive expansion of new forms of informal relations
caused by the rapid decline of the official economy. Contrary to the
expectations of Russian reformers, the state’s withdrawal from the
economy did not result in a wholesale appearance of capitalist
economic forms. When the state socialist economy declined and the
capitalist economy failed to replace it, the “survival” economy
revived to provide self-protection to the masses.
represents one part of the shadow economy, the other being crime
syndicates organized along capitalist principles. The two parts can
sometimes overlap, but it would be erroneous to equate the two. For
the “new Russians,” the retreat of the state from its dominant
position signified the accumulation of property in their hands by
legal or illegal means and rapid self-enrichment. For most Russians,
however, it meant falling back on the self-reliant family economy as
a vital means of survival.