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Article
Publication date: 1 April 2014

Olga Onoshchenko and Colin C. Williams

This paper aims to evaluate the use of personal connections to circumvent formal procedures, known as blat in the Soviet era, in post-Soviet societies by studying its role…

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Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to evaluate the use of personal connections to circumvent formal procedures, known as blat in the Soviet era, in post-Soviet societies by studying its role in graduate employment recruitment.

Design/methodology/approach

To do this, the extent to which and how blat is used by graduates to find a job in the city of Mykolayiv in Ukraine is analysed through 85 face-to-face structured interviews with those who in the past seven years have sought employment after graduating from university.

Findings

The finding is that blat is widely used by graduates to find a job. However, contrary to the existing literature which suggests that blat has become commodified in post-Soviet market societies with monetary payment being requested by and given to personal connections “pulling strings”, no evidence is found that this is the case. Instead, this remains a non-monetised form of friendly help by and for close social relations, akin to the Soviet era, and is viewed in a positive or neutral manner by participants even though its consequences can be to circumvent meritocratic formal recruitment procedures and foster nepotism and cronyism.

Research limitations/implications

This study of blat is limited to analysing graduate recruitment in one city in Ukraine. Broader empirical research on the contemporary role of blat in this and other spheres in post-Soviet societies and beyond is now required so as to develop a more nuanced context-bound understanding of both the positive and negative facets of this social practice in contemporary societies.

Originality/value

This study reveals that blat is commonly used to find graduate jobs and is widely viewed as a socially acceptable practice, despite hindering meritocratic recruitment procedures.

Details

Employee Relations, vol. 36 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0142-5455

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 2 September 2014

Colin C. Williams and Olga Onoshchenko

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…

Abstract

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.

Details

International Journal of Social Economics, vol. 41 no. 9
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0306-8293

Keywords

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