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Regulating the Trade: International Peddling in Post-Soviet Russia

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image of The Soviet and Post-Soviet Review

The economic, social, and political reforms of the former Soviet Union gave rise to a flourishing international peddling trade variously termed “shuttle trading,” “a suitcase trade,” or at times “trading tourism.” Small at first in the later 1980s, by the mid-1990s the shuttle trade expanded to include millions of people and came to constitute the backbone of Russian consumer trade. Initially the government was willing to “look the other way” or even support the shuttle trade as a way to provide for the collapsing consumer market in Russia. Yet the government drastically underestimated the vast number of people that the trade would attract and subsequently the scale and longevity of the trade. By 1993 and then progressively into the 1990s, the government aimed to bring this highly problematic aspect of the emerging market under its control, both by the means of regulating private businesses and creating a more business-conducive environment and by improving border control in order to make the borders “hard”. Thus this article analyzes the shuttle trade to demonstrate the ways in which decision makers, by accumulating raw data about the scale of the trade, border crossing, and the trade's social consequences, utilized these statistics in creating regulatory measures that simultaneously attempted to shape both the border control and customs regulations and the emerging free market space of the post-Soviet Russia.


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