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Blat (Russian Wp→: блат, blat) is a term which appeared in the Soviet Union to denote the use of informal agreements, exchanges of services, connections, Party contacts, or black market deals to achieve results or get ahead. The system of blat led to formation of social networks similar to Good ol' boy network Wp→s in the United States, Old boy network Wp→s in the United Kingdom and the former British Empire, or Guanxi in China. Accordingly, blatnoy means a man who obtains a job or gets into a university using connections Wp→, or sometimes bribes. In the Soviet republics, without resort to blat it was difficult to gain a post or enroll in some prestigious majors in universities.
According to Max Vasmer Wp→, the origin of the word blat is the Yiddish Wp→ blatt, meaning a "blank note" or a "list". However, according to both Vasmer and N. M. Shansky, blat may also have entered into Russian as the Polish Wp→ loanword Wp→ blat, a noun signifying "someone who provides an umbrella" or a "cover". The word became part of Imperial Russian criminal slang in the early 20th century, where it signified relatively minor criminal activity such as petty theft.
Blatnoy originally meant "one possessing the correct paperwork", which, in the corrupt officialdom of Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union indicated that the blatnoy was well connected. The word blatnoy came to indicate career criminals because they had a blatnoy or special status in the Russian criminal underworld. The use of the word to indicate association with the criminal underworld (e.g. "blatnoy language"/Fenya Wp→, "blatnoy behavior", "blatnoy outlook") is a relatively recent development and is technically incorrect, though it is increasingly prevalent. 
In the world of Russian prisons blatnoi or blatnoy (Cyrillic: блатной) (plural: blatnyie) is one of the criminal castes and is considered the highest one of four, others being muzhyk Wp→, kozel Wp→, and petukh Wp→. Blatnyie were professional criminals and did not call themselves blatnoi, instead they used words such as arestant (arrested), bratva (brother[hood]), bosyak (barefoot), zhulik (hooligan), putyovy (traveller), and others. Words such as zhygan and people were once used but became archaic.
A life in prison is a stage requirement for every respected criminal. Doing a crime does not necessarily get a criminal accepted in the criminal underworld. Any relations with authorities even coincidental, particularly political affiliation (such as political parties, organizations), closes the door for a person to the "blatnoi" (criminal) world. Beside his/her "blank resume" the candidate to blatnoi must adhere to the "correct understandings" (ponyatiy) which may change with time.
The word was primarily used to describe business relationships, when people exchanged favors. Because in the Soviet Union, the Gosplan wasn't able to calculate efficient or even feasible plans, enterprises often had to rely on people with connections, who could then use blat to help fulfill the quotas. Eventually most enterprises came to have a dedicated supply specialist - a tolkach (literally pusher) - to perform this task.
Blat continues to play a central role in the South Caucasus in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia though personal networks, cultivation of which are vital to accomplishing practical tasks; Corruption playing a strong role retarding the development of democratic institutions.
- Social capital
- Blatnaya pesnya - "criminals' song", Russian musical genre influenced by the criminal underworld
- It has been suggested that this article, or section, needs more and better references
- Ledeneva, Alena V. (1998). Russia's Economy of Favors: Blat, Networking and Informal Exchange. Cambridge Russian, Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies. Cambridge University Press Wp→. p. 1. .
- Ledeneva, Alena V. (1998). Russia's Economy of Favors: Blat, Networking and Informal Exchange. Cambridge Russian, Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies. Cambridge University Press Wp→. p. 52. .
- Yang, Mayfair Mei-Hui (January 1989). The Gift Economy and State Power in China. Cambridge University Press Wp→. pp. 47–48. "In blat, there is a 'personal basis for expecting a proposal to be listened to,' while bribery is conceived of as a relationship linked only by material interest and characterized direct and immediate payment. In the Chinese cultural discourse, there is on the one hand often a fine line between the art of guanxi and bribery (xinghui).".
- Ledeneva, Alena V. (1998). Russia's Economy of Favors: Blat, Networking and Informal Exchange. Cambridge Russian, Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies. Cambridge University Press Wp→. p. 12. .
- Ledeneva, Alena V. (1998). Russia's Economy of Favors: Blat, Networking and Informal Exchange. Cambridge Russian, Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies. Cambridge University Press Wp→. p. 25. .
- "Post-Communist Informal Networking: Blat in the South Caucasus" article by Huseyn Aliyev in Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization, Volume 21, Number 1 / Winter 2013 February 07, 2013
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