Skip to main content



The use of personal influence to obtain something of value.

Blat, common slang in Soviet times, comes from an older Russian expression, blatnoy zhargon, "thieves' talk", which accompanied misdemeanors. For example, an industrial tolkach ("pusher" or expediter) might use blat to obtain a necessary part or material without a planned allocation order (naryad ). This could be better than waiting for essential supplies through formal channels, because the monthly and yearly plans had deadlines for fulfillment. One way of accommodating a friendly pusher would be to declare perfectly good output "rejects," which could be legally sold without an allocation order. Use of blat would be more likely if the receiving enterprise were producing a lowpriority consumer good. A citizen might also employ blat to secure a larger apartment in a favorable location.

Generally speaking, use of blat implied a reciprocal obligation in the future, but it could involve a gift of a bottle of vodka or small bribe. Blat usually functioned between friends or relations; one hesitated to deal with complete strangers because these transactions were illegal and penalties could be severe. With taut planning, when goods and apartments were always short, a popular folk saying was "Blat is higher than Stalin!" Such informal arrangements were vital to offset the many gaps of Soviet planning and to allow managers to fulfill their plans and citizens to survive and live with some comfort. In many cases, then, blat may be said to have been functional for the totalitarian order, even if somewhat illicit. On the other hand, it also detracted from the competitive advantage the system's directors wished to give to important production, which was subject to stringent control.

See also: black market


Berliner, Joseph. (1957). Factory and Manager in the USSR. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Martin C. Spechler

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Blat." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . 22 Jan. 2019 <>.

"Blat." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . (January 22, 2019).

"Blat." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . Retrieved January 22, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.