Show Less
Restricted access

Through the Back Door

The Black Market in Poland 1944–1989


Jerzy Kochanowski

This book analyzes the history of the black market in Poland before the 1940s and the development of black-market phenomena in post-war Poland. The author evaluates the interrelation between black-market phenomena and historical and geographical conditions. At first, the black market stabilized the system by making it more flexible and creating a margin of freedom, albeit in the short term. In the long run, the informal economic activities of the people ran counter to and undermined the official ideology of the state. The author concludes that in post-war Poland, owing to a singular coincidence of historical, political, economic and social factors, the second economy had its own unique character and an endemic presence that loomed large in the Soviet Bloc.

Show Summary Details
Restricted access

Closing Remarks: Through the Back Door – or the Front?


In all the Soviet Bloc countries, a similar mechanism had been at work: political revolution, imposed from above and often coming from abroad, had abolished the free market and replaced it with a hand-steered, centrally planned economy, resulting in intrinsic consequences: shortages, followed by spontaneous social strategies devised to alleviate them. Even the most restrictive communist regimes such as North Korea, Cuba, and Romania in the 1980s were incapable of eradicating completely the capitalist mindset.1266 The communist black markets displayed distinctive, sometimes unique characteristics that depended on the scale of shortages, historical experience (including the degree of lawlessness), social structure, political and national determinants, and the size of the country. The larger the state and the more diverse economically, geographically, socially, and ethnically, the more distinct were the internal commercial flows. This was the case in China1267 and in the Soviet Union, where the most important internal commerce routes were circumscribed by the meridians. The European North was in charge of industrial products and contacts with the world, while the Asian South supplied Soviet Union markets with fruit and moreover had a vast surplus of manpower and more liberal Party personnel, who turned a blind eye to the illicit economic initiatives of its citizens.1268

However, in countries where the “desertification” effect of communism was apparent, from the River Elbe to Vladivostok and from Tirana to Murmansk, the basic social strategies were very similar. Residents of port cities effectively proved that the sea could fill their pockets....

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.