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Russian Blat - what is it?

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Blat (favors) is one of the pillars of the Russian way of life much like hearttoheart kitchen therapy sessions. It is akin to nepotism, only with blat, no blood ties are necessary for one party to bestow favors upon another.

In Russian, blat (Russian: блат) is a form of corruption, which is a system of informal agreements, exchanges of services, connections, Party contacts, or black market deals to achieve results or get ahead.

A similar term, "protektsiya", literally means protection, but with more incline to patronage. Similarly, there is a semantically close term, "krysha", which is derived from a criminal environment and literally means "a roof".

In the USSR, blat was widespread because of the permanent shortage of consumer goods and services. This was due to the price of consumer goods being dictated by the state rather than set by the free market. The networks of blat would make it easier for the general public to gain access to muchcoveted goods and services. Unlike normal official privileges (depending on whether one is a party official, member of the intelligentsia, factory worker or toiling peasant (Russian: трудящийся крестьянин)) that would be provided to an eligible group, among which are "commodities like dachas and housing in a ministerial apartment block and were in extremely short supply, being in an eligible group was not enough to secure the prize. To get privileges, one would need contacts with somebody higher up (like a patron)"


Usually, it is implied that a favor is being granted in exchange for another favor – not necessarily immediately.

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