The former Soviet state openly and directly manipulated patterns of economic development and the allocation of social resources in order to influence individual-level demographic decision making. In perhaps the most notable example, the state, through an internal passport system and limits on central city registration, attempted to regulate patterns of population movement and urban growth. In this paper I shall show that while the operation of the passport and propiska system was quite similar to market-based signals in terms of individual perceptions of costs and benefits, the non-migration functions of the passport and “propiska,” or registration system, operated in an anti-market fashion. By preventing migrants from integrating themselves into distributional networks in restricted cities, the passport and propiska system generated a situation in which potential migrants either acquired propiskas through semi-legal avenues, denied themselves access to distributional networks or elected not to migrate.
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