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During the Soviet era, blat—the use of personal networks for obtaining goods and services in short supply and for circumventing formal procedures—was necessary to compensate for the inefficiencies of socialism. The collapse of the Soviet Union produced a new generation of informal practices. In How Russia Really Works, Alena V. Ledeneva explores practices in politics, business, media, and the legal sphere in Russia in the 1990s—from the hiring of firms to create negative publicity about one's competitors, to inventing novel schemes of tax evasion and engaging in "alternative" techniques of contract and law enforcement.
Ledeneva discovers ingenuity, wit, and vigor in these activities and argues that they simultaneously support and subvert formal institutions. They enable corporations, the media, politicians, and businessmen to operate in the post-Soviet labyrinth of legal and practical constraints but consistently undermine the spirit, if not the letter, of the law. The "know-how" Ledeneva describes in this book continues to operate today and is crucial to understanding contemporary Russia.
"Alena V. Ledeneva has not only observed Russia's transition at first hand but is also a resourceful researcher. Her first book, The Russian Economy of Favours,dealt with usages which arose in the later Soviet period, particularly blat—payments made in favours between friends and associates. Since then she has broadened her focus and developed her tools. In How Russia Really Works she manages to prise open the cover over the secret world a little more to peer at the scurrying life beneath."—Philip Longworth, Times Literary Supplement, May 11, 2007
"How Russia Really Works covers a fascinating topic—a cultural analysis of the transformation of economic activity in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet state. Alena V. Ledeneva focuses specifically on the nature and implications of informal practices. This book is important and innovative, providing a unique ethnographic perspective on rarely visible informal economic activity and dispelling a number of commonly held stereotypes about corruption and illegality."—Alexei Yurchak, University of California, Berkeley
1. Why Are Informal Practices Still Prevalent in Russia?
2. Chernyi Piar: Manipulative Campaigning and the Workings of Russian Democracy
3. Kompromat: The Use of Compromising Information in Informal Politics
4. Krugovaia Poruka: Sustaining the Ties of Joint Responsibility
5. Tenevoi Barter: Shadow Barter, Barter Chains, and Nonmonetary Markets
6. Dvoinaia Bukhgalteriia: Double Accountancy and Financial Scheming
7. Post-Soviet Tolkachi: Alternative Enforcement and the Use of Law
Appendix 1. Pravda versus Istina
Appendix 2. Profile of the Leading National Media Outlets in the 1990s
Appendix 3. "Bound by One Chain" by Nautilus Pompilus
Appendix 4. List of Legal Documents Related to Barter Transactions in the Russian Federation, 1990-1997
Appendix 5. List of Respondents
Appendix 6. List of Questions