Soviet culture of consumption sounds paradoxical to those who associate culture with civilized manners and consumption with abundance of goods and service. What many people from the Soviet Union (or, formally, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or USSR) and other socialist countries remember are shortages, long waiting lines, and crude service personnel in the shops and restaurants. They can, however, also cherish the memories of such services and such consumer goods that they cannot afford any longer under the new conditions of the market economy. These two seemingly contradictory experiences had one and the same cause. The Soviet economy was a centrally planned economy. Therefore, the great majority of consumer goods were not sold to the customers for their market prices. Prices were ...

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