Transition in practice

Political discourse and market patterns in Vilnius, Lithuania

Pernille Larsen
Paper presented at the conference "Postkommunismens Antropologi", 12-14 April 1996, Institute of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen. To be published by Odense University, in Bryld, M. and Kulavig, E. (eds.) 1997

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To start trading at Gariunai was a tragedy for me. I used to work in the theatre - I would never go and buy anything in Gariunai. Still people in artistic circles are of the opinion that Gariunai represents something... I don't know, it immediately stamps a person - only people of a certain kind would trade there. But my friend, who used to work in the theatre with me, was bolder. She started first. She was on maternity leave, and afterwards she didn't come back to the theatre, but went on selling things at Gariunai. She suggested that I join her. The first day I had five sweaters in a bag and I kept one of them in my hand while walking around in Gariunai. I kept looking around anxiously, afraid of bumping into someone I knew. (Stase, market trader)

Gariunai market in Lithuania is one of the huge consumer markets that have grown out of 'the transition' in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe providing the 'new poor' with various cheap consumer products. Here you can buy shoes and clothes, kitchen equipment, toys and much else, usually imported from Turkey, China, the United Arabic Emirates or Poland by market traders themselves. Gariunai is the largest wholesale market in the Baltic region. An estimated 15,000 traders make a living from the market, and at present buyers come from Latvia, Belarussia and Ukraine as well as from other towns in Lithuania. The market was established in 1990, and until a few years ago, customers would come from as far as Sibiria and the Asian republics. Lately, visa restrictions between the former Soviet republics have put an end to much of this 'inter-republic' travel. However, the market still thrives, although profits are decreasing.

But to trade at Gariunai is, as Stase's story indicates, a morally questionable activity and the market itself is regarded by Lithuanian society in general as being marginal, criminal and uncivilized. The market's transnational and 'ethnic' dimensions furthermore seem to establish it as a non-Lithuanian cultural space. Traders are often too ashamed to talk about their activities. When asked about their motives they state rather pragmatically: 'You've got to live somehow.' But why is market trade such a terrible form of activity, and why is the market regarded as less pure than other forms of business? Can this marginalization be viewed as purely a remnant of socialist ideas of trade, or is it a product of an emerging new moral economy? Finally, who are the people trading in this market and how do they cope with their dubious position, balancing on the edge of society?

In a wider perspective, the present chapter is an attempt to come to terms with 'the transition' from Communism to 'post-Communism' in the former Soviet Union. In doing so I shall draw upon previous anthropological and Soviet studies as well as on my own fieldwork among market traders in Vilnius in 1994 and 1995. The point I want to pursue is the contrast, or perhaps schism, between 'the transition' as represented through the various academic and political debates and 'transition' seen as everyday practice, especially that which is underprivileged and often silent within the political debates. I am particularly interested in strategies or 'tactics' which on the surface seem rather passive and dominated by other more powerful social and cultural fields, but which actually are more persistent and more innovative than they might seem at first glance (Michel de Certeau 1990). By analysing a particular market in Lithuania as such an underprivileged 'space' I believe it will be possible to examine critically some of our ideas and assumptions concerning what 'the Soviet transition' is all about.

The academic and political discourses on 'the transition' are dominated by a set of 'gate-keeping concepts' (Appadurai 1986). I shall begin by discussing the use of such concepts and the way they colour our understanding of contemporary post-Communist society by looking at three areas: the idea of Soviet society as rigidly separated into public and private social spaces; the idea of transition as leading to a Western-type market; and finally discussions of 'nationalism' and 'national identity', especially important within Baltic studies, where nation building and the establishment of new ethnic minorities have formed key issues within the political as well as academic debate.

Remnants of 'soviet studies' in 'transition studies'
Understanding 'real Socialism': 'public' versus 'private'

The distinct separation of society into two spheres of activity, one 'public' and one 'private', and furthermore the control of 'public' over 'private' activities, have often been suggested as principal characteristics of Soviet society and Soviet-type systems. As the Soviet system expected everybody to be committed to the well-being of the State, Soviet ideology gives priority to the individual's public role and duties over any form of private activity or interest. However, as an ironic result of the obvious widespread manipulation and control of cultural production and mistrust of the state, a large 'underground space' was created in which everybody was busy living their own lives, as well as establishing their own truths and norms (Bartusevicius 1993). Although viewpoints have varied as to the extent of public control over individual and private lives, the duality as a structuring principle in Soviet-type societies has prevailed. Especially within the anthropology of socialism this has been central (e.g. Shlapentokh 1988, Kenedi 1982, Bartusevicius 1993, Sampson 1987, Mars and Altman 1983). Furthermore, it seems that most anthropologists have been more preoccupied with private 'underground' practices than with public discourse. (see for example Wedel 1986 and 1992 or Kenedi 1982). These studies have recently been criticized - and I think rightly - for presenting the ideology of socialism as an empty shell, in comparison with widespread private and anti-socialist activities, as well as for failing to investigate how and when people managed to shift between the various spaces. (Sampson 1991). More importantly, however, they highlight the problematic assumption that private activities are more 'real' and closer to the 'truth' of socialism than the 'faked' public discourse. Such a viewpoint maintains that the public face of socialism was a mere act of ritualism for most people, and that the socialist discourse as such never penetrated into people's private lives and habitus. In this case, the analytical distinction thus reflects an ideological position. Life in Soviet-style societies seems rather to have been characterized (as most other societies) by the ability to deal with ambivalence between communal and individual morality. Instead of the problematic epistemological position of a priori viewing the public/private dichotomy as an explanatory framework I shall suggest along with Chris Hann (1994), Steven Sampson (1991), that we need to scrutinize various and shifting contexts of private and public social spaces very carefully. The techniques of dealing with moral ambivalence in particular need to be examined in order to understand the 'politics' of 'public' and 'private' activities.

When moving on to 'transition studies' there seems to be an assumption that a successful transition will result in a specific form of change in the relationship between 'public' and 'private' social spaces and the establishment of a more Western-style balance between public discourse and private practice. As Verdery expresses it:

...because Marxism-Leninism will no longer be enforcing transformations of consciousness, consciousness will come to be formed less through discourse and more through practices... (Verdery 1991: 434)

But such a substitution of public discourse by private practice need not necessarily be an outcome of 'the transition'. On the contrary, the ambivalence of public and private conduct continues to be important, although the borders between their contexts are getting blurred and new fields of ambivalence are being created in relation to the establishment of new 'public', 'semi-public' and 'private' spaces.

The myth of the Western market

'Is the bazaar a market?' The question is raised in a discussion concerning the (mis)understanding of and political/ethical problems involved in the Western economic 'assistance' to Eastern Europe and Russia (Gerner & Hedlund 1994). Not surprisingly, the answer to the question is negative, and Gerner and Hedlund use the development of a wild bazaar economy in Russia as an example of how Western economic experts and politicians have failed to give their Eastern European counterparts adequate assistance. Gerner and Hedlund are therefore on the whole highly critical of what they conceive as an unrealistic project of transforming the former Soviet union into an ideal model of late American capitalist society, their main argument being that modern versions of the neo-classical economic paradigm completely ignore the historical foundation of the economy in the West. They maintain that the whole project of rapid systemic transformation in Eastern Europe was totally unrealistic from the outset. There is no single ready-made version of Western society, and even if there were, it would be unrealistic to assume that it could be easily transferrable to a radically different socio-cultural context.

However, it is not only within the Western economic discourse of the market that the cultural and historical context is ideologically coloured. If we turn to local political discussions in various post-Communist countries in Europe the attitudes are the same, though for different reasons. As soon as Communism as an ideological superstructure and administrative/legal system is suspended, the 'return to Europe' is considered to be an automatic and much desired outcome. In both cases 'the transition' is assumed to lead to a development away from post-Communist states towards modern, Western-style societies. In addition, there is a general assumption (which is empirically unaccounted for) that 'the market' will automatically lead to increased prosperity in Eastern Europe. Thus the development of a Western-style market is also assumed to include a Western living standard.

When looking at the empirical example of market trade in Lithuania, such developments are far from reality. But instead of regarding such practices as a sort of market failure or intermediate step on the asumed road towards a 'real' market (as Gerner and Hedlund implicitly do in their critique of the bazaar), I suggest such practices simply exemplify a different kind of economic development and that they do indeed illuminate the local practice model (Gudeman 1992).

New Baltic battlefields

The Baltic countries are heavily influenced by the rhetoric of 'returning to Europe', which plays an important part in the national rhetoric of transition all over Eastern Europe. An obsession with European civilization and a claim to be developing towards the West have been noted by Holy in respect of Czechoslovakia (1992), suggested by Sievert Nielsen (1995) as applicable to Russia and believed by Buchowski (1993) to be specific for Poland.

The West on their part have shown a considerable amount of interest in the Baltic states. This interest is reflected in political initiatives as well as in cultural studies. The Baltic states have been regarded as the 'motor' in dismantling the former Soviet Union, and as all three countries do have quite large minority populations, nationalism and ethnic minorities quickly became key issues. Even when taking into account the importance that revived national symbols play in the political life of the Baltic states, there is a striking degree of preoccupation with public rituals and political rhetoric within the field of Baltic studies. Nation-building is discussed with relation to the present use of past symbols and there is little discussion of individual interpretations of such symbols. Åke Norborg, for example, has written about the continuous but shifting importance of song festivals in establishing political legitimacy in Lithuania before, during and after Soviet rule, and Pål Kolstø demonstrates how national symbols from the interwar period have undergone a tremendous revival and emotional coding in all three Baltic states (Norborg unpublished manuscript, Kolstø 1995). Although these analyses are highly interesting and give insight into formal political/ritual changes from Sovietism to nationalism, the preoccupation with the national political level seems to divert attention from other more unarticulated social spaces, especially those considered to be unimportant or perhaps antagonistic to national-political goals.

To a large extent the same formalism seems to characterize the field of national minorities, where researchers' interest by and large has followed political and 'primordial' definitions of ethnicity (see for example Andersen 1995, Krag 1992, Nørgaard (ed.) 1994, Raun 1994). Such analyses run the risk of reproducing politically and ideologically 'frozen' ethnic categories and in the case of the Baltic states might reinforce potential ethnic conflicts. In addition to such studies of national ethnic politics we need to examine what is going on beneath the national political level and investigate how various parts of a population deal with ethnic relations in their daily lives as well as how and when such categories change.

Finally, the main obstacles in nation-building today need not lie in the existence of large minority groups (as is often claimed in national political discourse) but in trying to establish a cultural homogeneous national state in an age of globalization:

Estonia is restoring herself as a nation-state. Although it is quite possible that the mission of nation-states has been exhausted, at least in Western Europe (as some theorists argue), Estonia cannot jump from the sub-national (sub-state) level to a transnational one. It is obvious that Estonians cannot by-pass the national level without endangering their ethnic identity (Ruutsoo 1993: 95).

This passage quoted from Ruutsoo indicates the tension between the political goals and actual situation in the Baltic states. Although there are obvious political reasons for underestimating the 'globalized' aspects of newly independent states, we need not do so analytically. Within Western Europe, studies of national identity and ethnic minorities increasingly focus on transnational integration, symbolic ethnicity, manipulation of ethnic symbols and trans-ethnicity (see for example Gans 1979, Roosen 1989, Larsen 1994). Such concepts might shed new light on emerging social identities in Eastern Europe as well.
I have so far indicated some of the problems involved in the use of 'Soviet and post-Soviet' gate-keeping concepts. The main critical point is that they transfer existing political categories to an analytical level. In this way they might block an understanding of the socio-cultural and political processes that are taking place in 'real transition'. A practice approach, however, sheds new light on our discussion.

Gariunai: a symbolically 'marked' market

Although the Gariunai market is huge and provides tens of thousands of people with a daily income, the market has, along with other non-food markets in Lithuania, a very bad reputation. Criticism is levelled at various aspects: the market is uncivilized and dominated by racketeers and thieves; traders just stand there, they don't do real work; incomes are not declared, thus trade is black; the market is considered non-Lithuanian, and especially dominated by Poles and Russians; it is outdoor and often dirty (one's shoes get dirty), and finally goods are of poor quality and traders often cheat. Furthermore, a continuous impoverishment of the market has recently taken place; profits are diminishing, while at the same time new groups of the population are entering the market, often forced by increasing (though largely hidden) unemployment in Lithuania. Many teachers, technicians and even a few artists (many of them women) have lately begun trading. This development has further influenced the status of the market. But although all the points of criticism of the market hold elements of truth, the process of marginalization, symbolically as well as economically seems to be more complex and in addition highly political; there is indeed more to it than dirty shoes.

The 'privat' going 'public'

Rasa's story:

I started my business long ago, about 1984. I was knitting at home and then selling. The government called it speculation. People didn't call it that. Later I started to sew. There were a lot of fashionable things from Poland at that time, so I would put 'made in Poland' labels in the clothes. Later on the government would allow us to trade, and I got a licence for producing and selling. I started to sell my things in the Kalvariu market. The first time it was terrible. I remember finding a very small chair to sit on, so that it would be difficult to see me behind the table. I found it so embarrassing. At that time a woman in the market was called turgaus boba (Lithuanian for 'market bitch'). It wasn't very respectable, but we needed the money... I would go to the market every morning at 7 o'clock except on Mondays. I would get sewing materials from Moscow and then sell from the tables at Kalvariu.

Later, when I found out that there were also doctors and teachers in the market, it became easier for me.

In 1989-1990 I was trading in Kalvariu and in Eisiskes... mostly with dresses and skirts for women.

Later, when the market moved to Gariunai in 1990, I was sewing at home and trading at Gariunai. We didn't have a car, so my mother would drive me to the market with my big bags.

After some time I wanted to try to find an easier way of making money. It was too hard, I was trading during the day...sleeping a little bit after I returned and then in the evening and night I would sew for the next day. I thought that going to Turkey and bringing goods back would be an easier way. I was very nervous the first time, but I made friends in the plane. Later I started selling leather jackets. All leather jackets at Gariunai come from Turkey, even those which have 'made in Germany' or 'made in Italy' labels sewn in. (Rasa, former market trader)

As the market only came into being in 1990, it can be viewed as a very visible sign of political and economic change as well as a result of the opening of the former firmly closed Soviet borders. When Gariunai was first established, Lithuania was still a part of the Soviet Union. The market developed as a consequence of the opening of the Polish borders in 1989 and the possibility of getting goods from Poland into Lithuania. Thus the people in the market were mainly Polish traders and Russian customers, although some locals also participated. Polish traders imported goods from Turkey or Thailand and sold them in Gariunai, where they were available to the Soviet Union as a whole.

Picturing Gariunai entirely as a novelty, however, would be misleading, since many traders have experiences from past (illegal) forms of underground production and trading, and the association between trade and 'speculation' is still significant. Thus when asked about the history of the market, traders usually explained that the market began as talkucke, an 'illegal place for speculation'. Gradually it established itself as a part of Kalvariu, the main food market in Vilnius. After some time the trade was moved outside the centre of the city, at first near the airport and then finally to Gariunai, which is situated on the main road to Kaunas about 10 km from the centre of Vilnius. This development reveals not only how the market was first established as a place, but also during the process was removed from the centre of the city and re-established far outside it.

Apart from illustrating physically the marginal position that the Gariunai market occupies in Lituanian society, the very establishment of Gariunai as a place seem to have further stigmatized market activity. Rasa, quoted above, is not only ashamed, but refuses to be seen, as she hides behind her goods in the market. The forced publicity of traders in the market (for one has to be visible in order to sell anything at all), demands new tactics, and most traders struggle to remain socially invisible as such. Quite a large number have a formal public job from which they earn practically nothing, but which provides them with a front to cover the role of market trader. Others, for example traders from provincial towns, drive hundreds of kilometres each day to Gariunai in order not to be seen trading in their home town. By establishing Gariunai as a place, speculation, traditionally carried out secretly, all of a sudden not only became legalized in a (partially) publically owned market, but also visible by occupying a public social space. This involves revealing activities which, although widespread in Soviet society as well, by and large remained hidden until the market was established as a physical place.

But although 'unwanted publicity' is an important point in understanding the marginalization of Gariunai, the market is not easily defined as an entirely public space. In fact it seems difficult to place Gariunai within either a 'public' or a 'private' social field. The social space that it represents might more adequately be characterized as layers of public, semi-public, semi-private and private spaces. There is an official administrator, who is supposed to sell the trading places and keep some order in the whole area. In reality he has little power. For example, he doesn't control the selling of trading-places in the market. A would-be trader needs to have personal connections in order to find someone - usually in one of the various racketeer groups - who exercises the real control over a given part of the market in order to buy a trading-place. Thus private networks are a sine qua non for being in the market, and in order to get information about prices, goods and available trading-places, traders are dependent on close personal contacts. By far the commonest way to start trading would be to go with somebody else the first time and be advised as to what to buy and from whom. Viewed from the ground level, the market is thus a mixture of public and private structures. In this light Gariunai therefore appears as an altering of public and private space; borders between the various social spaces are being reproduced in quite a blurred sort of way.

The uncivilized market

Gariunai market clashes in several ways with the idea of transition as a more or less autonomous development of a Western-style market. As mentioned above, there are racketeer or semi-legal power structures in the market. As one trader put it:

At Gariunai there are different groups of racketeers, and they ask a lot of money. I know 'the Boas', 'the Sportsmen' 'the Blacks', 'the Grey-haired', 'the Greens' and 'the Elephants' (I myself pay 'the Blacks')...' (Vytenis, market trader).

As everybody knows about racketeers, their authority is seldom questioned. Actually the racketeers have gradually consolidated their authority to the extent that in order to occupy a place, traders need to buy a sort of licence from them. Traders then pay their 'tributes' three months in advance. The racketeers have established themselves as the real rulers of the market, and have further institutionalized their power by buying up parts of the market such as several areas for private parking, and monopolizing certain (illegal) forms of trade. Their activities and influence can be viewed as an example of 'the transition' being more violent and less automatic, than hitherto assumed.

But not only the market is characterized by power struggles and alternative forms of privatization. In general, Lithuanian economy can be regarded as a highly contested field. The very marginalization of Gariunai can be regarded as a sign of this contestation, for other more influential 'mafias' struggle to monopolize important economc niches within the national economy. As Algis, a rather successful market trader explains it:

We can't do business outside Gariunai. If I wanted to buy a shop in Vilnius... It is easy to find premises - no problem. But it's difficult to open a shop because, for example, if I wanted to open a shop in Vokieciu Street and wanted to start trading in jeans, traders, or people from, for example, Londvil, who are also trading in jeans, simply wouldn't let me do so. It's because of corruption... big corruption. They have friends in the economic police or in the Fire Brigade...They would find a reason to close my shop. I would have big problems - they would come and check my business. Of course I would like to open a shop, because the prices in town are much better, but I can't handle this kind of business. (Algis, market trader)

As Lithuanian legislation is complicated and often contradictory, it is always possible to detect some violation of the law. Newcomers without connections will be unable to bribe or negotiate their way out again. Seen in this light economic practices in Gariunai do not seem to be fundamentally different and more criminal than that of more 'established' businesses outside the market. The Gariunai market would appear to be, not blacker, but rather a different shade of black compared with more prestigious businesses down town.

The social marginalization of the market seem to cover an economic struggle presently taking place and forming part of the 'real economic transition'.

Finally, as Rasa's story indicates, apart from the Western labels in Turkish and Asian clothes and a widespread practice of using US dollars as currency, there is nothing Western about the market - something which might further devaluate its status as it contradicts the idea of a 'return to Europe' as a common national goal. Traders are oriented towards Asia and to some extent Poland, and their ideas of trade as well as their networks are influenced by this Asian orientation.

The contrast between national identity and local reality

Within the national discourse, e.g. that of national newspapers or prevalent in national political debates, the market is often not considered as part of the national Lithuanian project of 'transition'. The fact that most traders, although regarding themselves as Lithuanians and having Lithuanian citizenship, are highly critical of the Lithuanian state and administration and furthermore constantly move in and out of the country does not seem to make the relationship any the less strained. A main point of discussion within the political rhetoric, therefore, seems to be the non-Lithuanian dimension of the market.
At present, although Poles (and Russians) are now almost absent from the market, traders stressed their business strategies as 'Polish-style trading' and recognized the influence that Poles had had on this form of trade.

It is a pure Polish variant to take advantage of the differences in price level in various countries. The Poles would make prices equal in all the countries they went to. First the Poles went to Lithuania, then Lithuanians went to Poland, and then Belarussians went to Lithuania (Algis E. market trader).

Interestingly, local traders generally state that Polish trade has now become more civilized, often assuming that Lithuanian trading practices will follow the same line of development. Polish traders are generally regarded as more specialized and richer, and Poles are furthermore said to have developed trading networks further to the East, for example with Taiwan, Korea and Indonesia. But apart from this, the close Polish contact has heavily involved local Lithuanian Poles in the market trade. Thus about a third of market traders are local Poles, a third local Russians and a third Lithunanians. Many traders furthermore suggested to me that Lithuanians in general have started later, especially than the Poles. But although the political rhetoric concerning Gariunai focuses on the non-Lithuanian aspect of the market, this is seldom seen as being in any way problematic by traders, Lithuanians, or non-Lithuanians alike. On the contrary, most informants would deliberately downplay the ethnic differences in the market and term everybody 'locals'. Thus the statement 'he is a Pole' indicates that he is from Poland, and would never be said about a 'Lithuanian Pole'. Many Lithuanians who have been trading with Poland seem to have learned to speak Polish quite well. Discussions with traders furthermore revealed several cases where ethnic distinctions made no sense. Quite a few traders were unwilling to categorize themselves within any one ethnic group at all, but claimed to be 'locals'. Many of these were the children of mixed Polish/Russian marriages. When asked about their native language, they often said Russian, although one or even both parents were Poles. In general many local Poles, having attended Russian schools, often speak Polish as well as Lithuanian poorly.

This makes no difference to their abilities to trade since the market language is mainly Russian. Russian appears to be a necessary means of communication with customers from former Soviet Republics, including the other Baltic states. Furthermore, the use of Russian helps to 'depoliticize' ethnic relations in the market, as it known by everybody in the market.

Apart from the obvious necessity of knowing Russian, the ability to deal with pluralism and communicate inter-ethnically is an important resource in the market. Traders deal with Russian, Baltic and other non-Lithuanian customers, and are also obliged to deal with Turkish, Chinese or Polish suppliers. In fact the central human resource in the market was considered to be the ability to 'communicate'. Significantly, although language competences represent an important economical factor, they are not recognized as such by traders. In this way, part of the trans-ethnic competences remain unarticulated.

Conceptualizing 'the transition'

I have suggested that we need to transcend some of the 'gate-keeping concepts' prevalent in the political and academic field of transition in order to understand contemporary post-Soviet society. By using the Gariunai market as an example, and examining market practices as well as the national discourse on market trade, I have discussed some of the social and cultural processes that are at present taking place in Lithuania.

The Gariunai market and its traders are regarded by the general public as being marginal - and the marginalization is constantly being reproduced: economically, socially and morally. By focusing on trading practices, however, it becomes clear that many of these practices are not confined to the market, but are widespread in the rest of Lithuanian society as well. Thus the market, in terms of a specific set of practices and a certain economic style, appears more marginal than it really is. In fact I suggest that one reason for the continous marginalization of the market is precisely because it reveals practices that are also prevalent, though hidden, elsewhere. In this sense one could argue that Gariunai is private practice that has surfaced and become public, a form of behaviour that is stigmatized because of being conducted in the wrong (public) place. Actually, the visibility of trade and trading practices is often put forward by critics as an argument against it. Statements such as: 'it looks dirty', 'they stand in the open air', etc., all have something to do with revealing what should remain hidden. It is difficult, however, to regard the market as being altogether public. Although officially recognized as a trading-place, much of what takes place in Gariunai is completely concealed from visitors, and semi-legal power structures in the market make it inaccessible to outsiders. All in all, though distinctions between public and private conduct do prevail the establishment of new public, private and semi-public spaces has made the dichotomy altogether blurred.

Thus the market cannot be interpreted entirely as 'underground economy' becoming public and visible. It needs to be understood by looking at the role it plays in the restructuring of contemporary society. The marginalization of the market highlights the establishment of new social and economic spaces and the power struggle that this implies. Furthermore, the market can be viewed as a sign of the opening of borders, but also of the impoverishment which seems to be inherent in 'the transition' as well. I suggest that the market can be viewed as what Hylland Eriksen has termed a 'cultural crossroad... where (cultural) streams meet, mingle, contrast, influence each other and produce new reactions' (Hylland Eriksen 1994: 6, my translation). Customers come from all over the Baltic region, traders go abroad to Poland and Asia to buy their wares, and as they furthermore often sell them through privately owned shops or indoor markets in Vilnius, the Gariunai market is certainly not the 'island' it might seem to be. But the kind of globalization it represents is of a different nature from what is usually indicated by the term (e.g. Hannerz 1987; 1990) as the West is almost entirely absent from the scene (although, from time to time it may be hiding backstage). Places like Gariunai might be difficult to come to terms with for Lithuanians and Westerners alike, because they are visible signs of a very different kind of 'transition' from what was expected and accepted. But they are significant, precisely because they contradict the ideology of 'the transition' in several ways. They challenge academic and political discourse on the transition by questioning the political project of a homogenous nation state, the creation of a Western-style market and the possibility of achieving a Western living standard. On the contrary, the use of the Russian language, the prevalence of multi-ethnicity and traders' trans-ethnic and Asian orientation give it a distinct flavour of a sort of globalized Sovietism, and indeed there seems to be very little 'Western' about it at all.

The national political discourse involves the creation of a national community understood as bound and reasonably homogenous cultural space. In Lithuania, as well as in the other Baltic states, the political project has furthermore been almost entirely historically founded. Present nationalist identity is based on a historical tradition, solely referring to the interwar period as well as earlier Lithuanian history. The national political project has been to establish a feeling of cultural continuity by disregarding the last 50 years of Sovietism. In the political rhetoric of transition, concepts such as 'remnants of socialism' and 'post-Sovietism' have a definitely negative ring to them. Instead, the national idea has been projected as a copy of an ideal type of Western society based on selected periods of Lithuanian history. This is, I suggest, what Gariunai contradicts.

A study of the market practice questions the political as well as academic assumptions of nation states as bound entities and also the assumed process of Westernization. Frequent statements by traders such as 'we are all locals', suggest furthermore that ethnic relations, when regarded as practice, also look different from the dominant ideology. Cultural resources for trans-ethnic communication are important in the multi-ethnic market. This ability to deal with, and at times disregard, ethnic differences seems at least partly to originate from the Soviet period. The Russian language is one such resource, although the ability to communicate in Russian is apparently taken so much for granted that none of the traders regarded this as a resource at all. Finally, a form of globalization can be said to take place, as traders move around in the world and establish new networks. They inevitably take part in the creation of what is generally termed trans-national or global spaces (Appadurai 1990).

This is not strange at all, as various sociologists and anthropologists alike have turned to concepts like 'globalization', 'diaspora', 'creolization' and 'deterritorialization' in order to come to terms with the modern or postmodern reality. (Featherstone and Appadurai 1990, Hannerz 1992) It would therefore seem more peculiar if the 'opening' of Eastern parts of Europe and the former Soviet Union were not to result in processes of this very same kind. Empirically, there seems to be little difference, and I maintain that 'the transition' in the form of actual opening of borders, new global relationships and general internationalization does imply globalization, although Western influence is less than presumed. The actual orientation towards the former Soviet Union and Asia also seems to be connected with the fact that 'the opening of borders' has so far taken place in this direction, yet (as traders express it) 'the wall has been rebuilt towards the West'. The development of the market (including, to my knowledge broader areas of society) does not point towards Westernization. By focusing on practice when developing an adequate analytical framework for conceptualizing 'the transition' in Eastern Europe and former Soviet Union - however it may turn out - we are forced to be aware of such signs of globalization and modernization.


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