On the persistence of bazaars in the newly capitalist world: reflections from Odessa

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Abel Polese
Aleksandr Prigarin


Abstract: This paper presents the case of bazaars in Odessa, a major Ukrainian port on the Black Sea where some of the most important regional bazaars are found, to engage with the current debates on informal or diverse economies. Our aim is to show that the survival of the bazaar, and the niche it has been earning in post-1991 Odessa, is not only due to its low prices but also to their capacity to provide different demand-driven goods and to respond to cultural and spiritual needs (by giving a sense of continuity to tradition and culture) as well as offering socialisation and networking opportunities.  Our case studies are drawn from what we deem the two most representative bazaars in Odessa. 7-oj Km, located seven kilometers outside the city and Privoz, located in the city centre, both of which have seen the volume of their activities increase despite increasing competition of Western-style supermarkets after 1991. The article is informed by several focus groups and informal interviews integrated by participant observation and framed in a historical analysis of bazaars, and their evolution, in the city of Odessa. We conclude that bazaars, as institution and as space, are likely to continue playing a central role in the life of Odessans for some time despite stiff competition from other, possibly more comfortable and low-price, alternatives.

Keywords: Bazaar, Informal Economy, Informality, Odessa, Postsocialism, Ukraine


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