Retailing in Russia and Eastern Europe

Authored by: Marjorie L. Hilton

The Routledge Companion to the History of Retailing

Print publication date:  November  2018
Online publication date:  November  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138675087
eBook ISBN: 9781315560854
Adobe ISBN:


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The conventional narrative of the emergence of a modern retail industry and culture of consumption, which posits capitalism as the necessary linchpin, ignores the long and rich history of buying, selling and consuming in Russia and Eastern Europe, as well as the rest of the non-Western world. In the last couple of decades, scholars of the region have constructed a narrative which demonstrates that, despite frequent ideological shifts, systems of buying, selling and consuming became a means of establishing power structures, enacting socio-economic transformation, and signifying social and gender norms, cultural practices and the meaning of “modern”. In short, the development of the retail industry in Russia and Eastern Europe largely mirrored trends that unfolded in Western Europe and North America, at least prior to World War I. Scholars of the communist era depict the state’s reinvention of the retail economy as a means of promoting socialism, engendering material progress and fostering unity, even though promises of a higher standard of living ultimately frustrated consumers’ expectations. Their findings, moreover, illuminate the complexities of ‘lived socialism’ and demonstrate the mutual influence of policymakers and citizen-consumers.

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