Informality currencies: a tale of Misha, his brigada and informal practices among Uzbek labour migrants in Russia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This article explores the role of informality among Uzbek construction workers in Russia. We start from a relationship that is based on economic reward and common interests and go on to explore the non-economic components of this relationship. Economically, the workers entrust their supervisor and agree to work for him for a given amount of money. However, this decision is also embedded in a non-economic dimension. All workers, and their master, come from the same village so that an additional layer of social obligations are involved. First, workers are able to receive a treatment that goes beyond economic relations, with favours or more mild attitudes when needed. Second, they are also able to put pressure on the line manager through their families in case things do not work out the way they expected.

We use the case study to propose the existence of a non-monetary currency (or even currencies) that complement formal currencies. Money, its symbolism and the power attached to it still play a major role in the relationships and dependencies analysed here. These points help us in suggesting that relations encompass a wide range of transactions and rituals that go beyond mere economic interest and that cannot be neglected when understanding informality.


External organisations
  • Tallinn University
  • Dublin City University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Law and Society


  • informality, alternative currencies, migration, shadow economy, Law and Society
Original languageEnglish
Article number1261215
Pages (from-to)191-206
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Contemporary Central and Eastern Europe
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Dec 12
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

informality; alternative currencies; migration; shadow economy; law and society

Related research output

Rustam Urinboyev, 2018 Jul 25, Eurasia on the Move. Interdisciplinary Approaches to a Dynamic Migration Region. Laruelle, M. & Schenk, C. (eds.). The George Washington University, Central Asia Program, p. 27-41 15 p.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter

Rustam Urinboyev, 2017 Nov 5, Constructing the Uzbek State: Narratives of Post-Soviet Years. Laruelle, M. (ed.). Lanham: Lexington Books, p. 119 148 p. (Contemporary Central Asia: Societies, Politics, and Cultures).

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter

Rustam Urinboyev, 2017 Oct 10, Post-socialist Informalities Power, Agency and the Construction of Extra-legalities from Bosnia to China. Polese, A., Lela, R., Kovács, B. & Morris, J. (eds.). London: Routledge

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter

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Related activities

Urinboyev, R. (Interviewee)
2018 Aug 2

Activity: OtherMedia participation

Urinboyev, R. (Contributor)
2017 Jun 72017 Jun 10

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference

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