"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
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.
of the note-pad
depends on how old and used it is.
addresses accumulated in it, the more
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.
presented in the poem as a
calculated exchange between
practice of mutual favours, care and
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.
blat consists in the power of connections
which facilitate almost anything.
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,
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.
refers to the
indirect return of favours, and gives a
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.
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
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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