Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the extent to which the practice of using personal networks to obtain goods and services or to circumvent formal procedures, known as blat in the Soviet era, persists in post‐Soviet societies and whether its character has altered. Design/methodology/approach – To do this, the prevalence and nature of blat in the education sector in the city of Mykolayiv in Ukraine is analysed using 200 face‐to‐face structured interviews with a spatially stratified sample of Mykolayiv residents and 30 follow‐up semi‐structured in‐depth interviews. Findings – The finding is that blat is widely used to gain places in kindergarten, schools and universities. However, unlike Soviet era blat which took the form of non‐monetised friendly help in the market‐oriented society of post‐Soviet Ukraine, both possessing control over access to assets such as education, as well as possessing personal connections to those with control over access to these assets, is increasingly viewed as a commodity to be bought and sold, and illicit informal monetary payments are now commonplace. The result is that nepotism, cronyism, bribery and corruption hinder meritocratic processes. Research limitations/implications – This paper examines the prevalence and nature of blat in just one sector in one post‐Soviet country. An analysis across a wider range of sectors in various post‐Soviet societies is now required to develop a more context‐bound and nuanced understanding of blat in post‐Soviet societies. Originality/value – This is the first in‐depth empirical evaluation of the prevalence and nature of blat in contemporary post‐Soviet societies.
International Journal of Social Economics – Emerald Publishing
Published: Sep 2, 2014
Keywords: Education; Corruption; Ukraine; Informal economy; Crime