Post-communist informa networking: blat in the South Caucasus

Aliyev, H. (2013) Post-communist informa networking: blat in the South Caucasus. Demokratizatsiya, 21(1), pp. 89-111.

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This article provides an empirical analysis of the South Caucasus’ post-communist blat – a system of informal inter-personal networks operating on principles emphasizing reciprocal exchanges of favors. An intricate web of blat networks emerged in the Soviet Union as a result of the communist takeover of the public sphere, which in conjunction with the chronic shortage of goods and commodities gave birth to an immense shadow economy in which favors were a key currency. This study argues that blat in the contemporary South Caucasus, far from being a vestige of the communist past, occupies a significant part in political, economic and social life of the region. While there is little doubt that the contemporary informal networking is a legacy of the Soviet era, the blat-culture in the South Caucasus has evolved since the end of Soviet rule from commodities to services. In contrast to blat networking in Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union, blat in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia is deeply entangled in the kinship and clan politics that pervade the region’s elitist and hierarchical structures. As this study concludes, although blat-based informal networking generates social capital and provides its participants with material and social benefits, it presents a serious challenge for efforts aimed at building democracy and invigorating civil society in the South Caucasus.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Aliyev, Dr Huseyn
Authors: Aliyev, H.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Central and East European Studies
Journal Name:Demokratizatsiya
Publisher:Heldref Publications
ISSN (Online):1940-4603

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