Crooked Mirror: The Evolution of Illegal Alcohol Markets in Russia since the Late Socialist Period
Illegal markets involving illicit products and transactions have been largely ignored by the scholars, despite their significance in various economies. There is a lack of conceptual categorization and scarcity of reliable data. The study examines the structure and evolution of heterogeneous illegal markets in Russia with a special emphasis on markets of homemade alcohol, counterfeit alcohol, and illegally manufactured alcohol. A variety of statistical sources and survey data is used to demonstrate that the compositions of these markets have come through four different stages since late socialism, depending on the constellation of political, legislative and economic factors. At each stage, some of these markets prevail, whereas others remain undeveloped. Overall, illegal alcohol markets tend to grow in periods of exogenous political or economic shocks and shrink in periods of economic growth. Changes in the structure of illegal markets are backed by a continuous requalification of products, organizations and transactions contesting the boundaries between legality and illegality. Some illegal activities retain their legitimacy due to the ignorance or tolerance of enforcement agencies and final consumers. Boundaries between legitimate and illegitimate activities are blurred and move slowly.