An Evaluation of the Persistence of Blat in Post-Soviet Societies: a Case Study of Ukraine’s Health Services Sector

Colin C Williams, Olga Onoshchenko


The use of personal connections to gain preferential access to goods and services and circumvent formal procedures exists in all countries to varying degrees. In this paper, the aim is to evaluate critically the continuing widespread positive depiction of this practice as a form of friendly help. Studying the health services sector in the city of Mykolayiv in Ukraine, this practice known as blat, widely used in Soviet societies to gain access to goods and services, is shown to persist in post-Soviet market societies but to have transformed. Those possessing connections and access to health services now increasingly view such access-assets as commodities to sell rather than provide them as non-monetised friendly favours. The outcome is a call for blat to be re-theorised more negatively as an exemplar of the darker side of social capital, and for a policy shift from doing nothing to seeking its eradication.


social capital; blat; guanxi; wasta; corruption; nepotism; cronyism; informal economy; health services; Ukraine

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