Thirty kilos of pork: Cultural brokers, corruption, and the "bribe trail" in the postwar stalinist soviet union

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Relying on recently opened Soviet justice and party archives, this article explores contested notions of "the bribe" and official corruption in the Late Stalinist USSR (1945-1953). The article highlights the efforts of the rationalizing and modernizing Soviet state to impose its vision of a perfectly professional civil service onto traditional structures that often valued personal relationships between petitioners and officials. While tracing the interaction of gifts, the law, and social practices along "bribe trails," the research examines the important role of what I call "cultural brokers." Acting as intermediaries between cultures, or between institutional and traditional arrangements, these cultural brokers moved between one set of norms and practices that dominated on the Soviet periphery, and a very different set in the Imperial center of Moscow. The article examines intermediaries who represented non-Russian clients in the courts of Moscow, focusing on the case of the Soviet republic of Georgia. Cultural brokers bridged the chasm among multiple legal cultures. Because of the multinational character of the empire, there was a great deal of demand for cultural brokers in many spheres of social and economic life. In highlighting participants' initiative the research challenges stereotypes of a paralyzed Soviet society during Stalinism, just as it questions popular caricatures of the prototypically corrupt Soviet bureaucrat.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbersht030
Pages (from-to)931-952
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Social History
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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