Fartsovka

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Fartsovka (Russian: Фарцовка, IPA: [fɐrˈt͡sofkə]) is a slang term for an illegal business occupation peculiar to the second economy of the Soviet Union: acquiring consumer goods and currency from foreigners. A person of this occupation was called a fartsovshchik (Russian: фарцовщик, IPA: [fɐrˈt͡sofɕːɪk]).[1]

The driving forces of this business were high desirability of goods with foreign label in the Soviet Union and the anomalous disparity between the official exchange rate of currency compared to the black market one. Both factors were rooted in the scarcity of foreign goods and currency in the Soviet Union, which made ownership of any foreign things a matter of prestige, especially among the stilyagi subculture.[1]

Started from petty trading, it quickly grew into a lucrative multimillion business, as witnessed by the Rokotov–Faibishenko case.[1]

Fartsovka went into decline with perestroika: the opening of the borders of the Soviet Union have led to the growth of "shuttle trading", followed by regular international business, which effectively eliminated the shortage of foreign goods, and the primary occupation of a fartsovshchik was illegal trading of foreign currency, still active in the post-Soviet states.

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References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Ilya Zemtsov, Encyclopedia of Soviet Life, 2002, ISBN 1412822564, p. 123