USSR: Capitalism

I was surprised when Randy Black spoke of a businessman in the USSR- He explains:Yes, this man owned and operated several private businesses in the USSR in the late 1980s. By the end of 1988, more than one million Soviets were employed in private enterprises. By the end of 1989, the number had increased to five million.
The man I spoke to owned and operated several food stores, a truck-for-hire business and a restaurant during that period.
On a personal note, when I lived in Omsk throughout 1993, I witnessed such shenanigans as bribes - payoffs to police and government officials regarding the operation of several private enterprises including a food store chain owned and operated by one of my regular tennis partners. Think of it this way: You run a food store in the center of a city. It is near the end of the month and the weekend approaches. The local Russian health inspector needs money to pay for his son’s English language tutor for another month and a couple of kilos of lamb with which to make shash-leek’ (shishkabob) for the party at his dacha this weekend. What’s a needy health inspector, who earns no more than $25 per month, to do? It’s simple. He takes his thermometer into the food store, places it into the food storage case, a moment later he tells the owner that the food is being stored at an unsafe temperature and the store will be closed for seven days as a penalty. Unless…..….the owner is willing to pay a penalty of U.S.$50 on the spot along with three or four kilos of lamb. No receipts. No questions. No store closing. And they conduct this business over a few shots of vodka in the store’s office, shake hands and part company until the next visit.

RH: What did the law of the USSR say? The law concerning the employment of others varied from Communist country to country.  When I was in East Germany, the maximum number of employees permitted was five.

Ronald Hilton 2005


last updated: June 8, 2005