At the BAM We Had Everything! Consumption Good Supplies for Workers of the All-Union Komsomol Сonstruction Project

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The paper analyzes trade and supply services for the Baikal-Amur Mainline Railway (BAM) builders during the years 1974-1989. It describes the distribution system of goods, the forms of consumer behavior as well as consumption practices among participants of the project. The sources used for this study include office documents and statistics of the Soviet Ministry for Transport Construction, of building companies and municipalities, as well as of party and public organizations, next to oral testimonies given by former BAM construction workers that the author recorded during fieldwork. The author analyzes the establishment of trade enterprises and their technical equipment. Important is that the BAM trade network was created in a short time, and was meant to be temporary. During the whole period the system was plagued by a shortage of retail and warehouse facilities, and by insufficient support. At the same time, a special supply regime was in place to attract labor to BAM, and also to contribute to the subsistence of the population in the new development areas. While personal testimonies described trade services exclusively as privileged, the documentary evidence shows that the supply system faced difficulties similar to problems in “ordinary” Soviet trade. As a privilege regime came in combination with systemic malfunctions in the trade industry, specific practices were developed for the distribution and consumption of goods. Many of these practices were continued by local residents in the post-Soviet period.

About the authors

Nikolai S. Baikalov

Banzarov Buryat State University

Author for correspondence.

Associate Professor of the Department of Buryatia History

24a, Smolina St., Ulan-Ude, 670000, Russia


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