Underground Entrepreneurs and the Soviet Shadow Economy under Late Socialism, 1950s-1980s


ACLS Fellowship Program




This project contends that the Soviet shadow economy is a subject that is ripe for social-historical study on its own terms, from the inside, on the basis of new archival and interview material. Supported by fresh material from Russian archives and newly discovered interviews, this book project delves into the social and cultural history of Soviet black markets and their criminalized, if often ingenious, entrepreneurs. It aims to advance three promising fields: everyday life under mature Soviet socialism; the vibrant history of crime and law in this period; and the interplay of ideology, entrepreneurial activities, and the hyper-centralized command economy. The project connects the shadow economy to three major questions: the social dynamics of entrepreneurial activity under an authoritarian socialist regime; the complexity of informal ethnic networks in a modern multinational empire; and the peculiar politics of anticorruption in an increasingly corrupt party-state.