Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Barry J. Lyons


My dissertation project focuses on how the post-Yeltsin (2000 onwards) market economy actually works and how people define, identify and engage within this newly structured market economy. In order to understand this phenomenon my ethnographic study focuses on business in Russia from two perspectives. First, it discusses how Russian enterprises operate in Russia with the socially embedded informal economic practices inherited from the Soviet system, including trust, personal networks, patron-client relationships, system avoidance, bribery, and corruption. Second, it examines how foreign firms operate under these existing economic conditions in Russia while simultaneously still following FTC regulations and international law. Keeping in mind that the informal economic practices used in Russia are survival strategies which allow Russians to survive in extreme situations, to navigate through the web of the complex bureaucratic rules, and to be able to conduct business with contradictory laws; my research focuses on informal behaviors as a method for entrepreneurs ability to manipulate the formal rules and to be creative under these restraints in their pursuit of economic gains. Further, my project challenges the Western concept of economics belonging either in the `legal' or `illegal' spheres since the Russian market economy is not based on Western models of economic exchange.

During my recent fieldwork in St. Petersburg, Russia (2010-2011) I used a variety of different methods to obtain this information; observation at a business organization, attendance at business lectures and seminars, interviews with Russian entrepreneurs, Russian business lawyers, foreign directors of multinational corporations, foreign trade diplomats and foreign lawyers, and data from popular culture and media (jokes, music, movies); to understand the complexity of informal practices in business and its relationship to the broader Russian economy. Through this focus, my dissertation attempts to understand how governmental rules and laws, create informal economic practices. In more conceptual terms, my research project seeks to understand how the market economy is not a product of market forces, but of historically embedded practices that continue and transform within a society.