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In contrast to trade unions, associations of entrepreneurs are an example of entirely new formations in the structure of Russian civil society. They had not existed before the perestroika. The active consolidation of Russia’s business class, both at the territorial and industry branch levels, began from 1980s.  

Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs

The most influential organization of this type is the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs. Initially it united only the directors of major state enterprises. Gradually its influence expanded. In 2000 its ranks were augmented by the representatives the country’s most powerful financial and industrial groups. This made it the most important mouthpiece of the interests of the economic establishment.

Alongside the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, other associations of big, middle and small business have sprung up. Some have been set up according to the type of business or branch of the economy they operate in (e.g., the Association of Russian Bankers, the Congress of Stock-exchanges, the National Advertising Association, etc.), and others are regional associations of entrepreneurs (e.g., the Volga Union of Business Circles, the Moscow Association of Entrepreneurs, etc.).

The population’s economic interests are defended also by such organizations as associations of pensioners, the disabled, consumers, war veterans, and deceived shareholders. (In the early 1990s, when the annual inflation rate surged to hundreds of percent, the banks had few incentives to invest in the real sector of the economy. Using loopholes in the legislation many banking structures set up lucrative pyramid schemes attracting the population’s savings by promising unheard-of annual interest rates of 2,000 and even 3,000 percent. Having collected large sums of money, such banks and their owners had a tendency to vanish in thin air.) These organizations are not particularly powerful but their influence is growing.

Illegal or semi-illegal mafia type structures are also involved in economic activity. These structures serve not just purely criminal business, such as drug trafficking, prostitution, gambling, etc. They also take on some of the functions that in stable societies are performed by state law-enforcement agencies, such as protecting businesses from criminal racket, “sorting out” defaulters who refuse to pay, etc. A good example of such structures is powerful security arms of big private companies. These shadow structures are not properly part of civil society but are a side effect of its development in the conditions of social and economic crisis.

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