This introductory chapter establishes the book’s area of interest as the culture of bribery, corruption, and black markets that took root in the Soviet Union during the important years between World War II and Stalin’s death in 1953. This study will challenge the view that there was a sharp break between the Stalin era and the “stagnation” era of Brezhnev and his immediate successors (1964–1985), which has commonly been thought of as brazenly venal, with its graft, abetted by political sclerosis and bureaucratization at all levels. Those who seek to understand the roots of the corruption that infected the Soviet Union during the Brezhnev years should look earlier, to the postwar Stalin period.
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