When the State is Shirking: Informal Solutions for Social Services Provision in Altai Villages
The article contributes to the discussion on the informal economic activity in post-socialist countries. Quite often this activity is related to state regulation. We provide evidence from rural Russia suggesting that state shirking also can give rise to informal economic relations. Empirical data from Altai Krai show that informal transfers from farms to rural municipalities are used to provide rural social sector. Despite the collapse of socialist agricultural system, when rural communities existed under patronage of collective farms, substantial part of the privately owned post-Soviet farms still donate to rural municipalities and population. The article is based on the fieldwork conducted in Altai Krai in 2013 when qualitative data (informal interviews, group discussions, observations) were collected by the author and his colleagues. Gift-giving relations between agricultural producers and municipalities could be described as “natural” bottom-up pattern. We perceive these Soviet-style gift-giving relations as the way to mitigate the weaknesses both of the Russian state rural policy as well as market self-regulation mechanism. Despite it could slow down economic performance of farms, it is the way to prevent rural degradation and depopulation.