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- June 1, 2008: Vol. 2, Number 6

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Building Blocks

by Richard Fleming

How well you got on in the former Soviet Union — in terms of all the things that matter most to people in life: job, career, Communist Party membership, education, housing, holidays — depended largely on how well connected you were, on who you knew, what the Russians term using the vliyaniye,literally influence, that you could muster. And how you used it.

The now-discredited communist system, with its command economy and five-year plans, was simple. The people were the state and the state was the people. The state was the basis of the archetypal cradle-to-the-grave existence. The state owned and the state provided. It provided jobs and, because there was always full employment and nil inflation, non-jobs. It provided medical care and, because it needed to keep the workforce at work, healthy and productive, the medical care was of a high standard and free.

The state provided education and, because it needed highly trained engineers, technician

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