Contribution to the Gardening-Conference 2000: "Perspectives of Small-Scale Farming in urban and rural areas
- about the social and ecological necessity of gardens and informal agriculture" from 21. - 25. July 2000 in Berlin
Infos: Work group "Small-scale farming and Gardens in urban and rural Areas", C/O Free University of Berlin, Institute of Sociology, Elisabeth Meyer-Renschhausen, Bülowstra. 74, D-10783 Berlin, Tel.:+49 (0)30 -261 22 87 ,


Prof. Dr. Teodor Shanin

Informal economy in rural and urban Russia

The economy of contemporary Russia carries a major paradox.  Statistics and journalist anecdotes show an extraordinary decline of productive capacities, lack of reinvestment, financial chaos, salaries and pensions unpaid or heavily delayed and so on.  Economic decline links to growing polarisation between the Moscow nouveau riche and the thin layer of their equivalent within Russia’s provinces and the majority of the population.  Yet, there are no signs of hunger (and that is something practically impossible to hide), while basic services work: cities are cleaned, teachers teach, police direct traffic, officers command troops.  Shops selling daily necessities, schools and theatres are full and do brisk business.  All of which does not make sense unless we add into the picture, some fundamental elements, which usually escape analysis.

The paradox seems to find its explanation, mostly when we switch attention from state economics, as well as that of Big Business, to the third fundamental focus of economic activities, referred to usually as “informal economies” and which, for reasons we shall explain, should be defined rather as expolary economies.  Such a cognitive switch of focus of attention makes the “paradoxicality” of it decline to manageable proportions.

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Stand: 20.9.2002