Poem-Explanation

Blat-not

"Euphemisms for blat were widespread, but the word 'blat' itself was hard to find. It first appeared in Krokodil in 1933 in the poem Blat-not written by the poet Lebedev-Kumach. The pun 'blat-note' referred to 'blatknot' , a note-pad for blat contracts.  The Russian version of the poem contains 'blat' only in the title, elsewhere the word is implied by the usage of 'blatnot'. The poem represents blat as a powerful way of approaching any problem:"


The note-pad is used and rather old
The writing on its spine has faded from gold,
But while its pages are frayed and it has aged
Its power has grown undiminished like a maturing sage.



"The efficiency of the note-pad depends on how old and used it is.
The more contacts, telephones, addresses accumulated in it, the more
value it has:"

There was a day the note-pad was new,
A day where there was little it could do
It is today that it is loved,
Kept safely like a dove.
It is no ordinary book
At which we merely look
There to leave it idle as a pond
The note-pad exists to function, it is a paper wand.



"Blat is not presented in the poem as a calculated exchange between
people, but as a romanticized practice of mutual favours, care and
 help, implying special techniques and being ruled by unwritten coded:"

Its every page is document
A useful testament
In that it combines necessary calculations
With romantic tales and wild exaltations.
It's covered by the rows numeric,
Of flats and addresses telephonic
Where every figure represents
Unwritten codes a secret presence.



"The magic of blat consists in the power of connections which facilitate almost anything.
There is no direct indication in the poem as what sources are used for such magic.
Blat simply acts as a magic wand providing luxurious holidays, fashionable music,

train tickets and foodstuffs without any difficulty.:"

You want a picnic party?
For celebration day?
You ring Nik.Nik. and he will find
The necessary way.




"The poem also refers to the indirect return of favours, and gives a
hint at the distribution system which under pints such transactions:"

Sometimes it's a more demanding task
to tie the codes up,
then only fantasy applied
can give you the result:
Obtain fabric (through Peter)
And send it to Abram,
Who will return the favour
That's wanted by the Dame.
You try to manage all the calls,
To contact them in turn,
and winter turns into spring
of a distribution system.



"The character of the favours granted by blat implies are involvement of a specific group: urban, refined in its demands and having access to a telephone. The Jewish name Abram, the bourgeois term 'Dame', as opposed to the gender neutral 'comrade', and the nomenclature sounding of Nik.Nik. (Nikolai Kinolaevich) conveys the idea of blat as something alien to the mass of the people involved with the building socialism.  Blat was also embedded in intimate relations which resulted in mutual help, help which could prove crucial in conditions of scarcity."


The poem and its explanation for each stanza were taken from Alena Ledeneva's Russia's Economy of Favours, Networking, And Informal
Exchange,
New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998, 66-67.


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