Limitchiki: On the Legal Status of Migrant Workers in Large Soviet Cities

in The Soviet and Post-Soviet Review
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Abstract

The phenomenon of the limitchiki provides support for the proposition that the Soviet system cannot be understood solely on the basis of published sources. More is needed to identify and comprehend the institutions and procedures that operate in the Soviet Union. The word limitchiki, which I first learned about in Moscow in 1982, is frequently used with some degree of emotion-either contempt or sympathy-indicating that the limitchiki have already become a social problem. Indeed, to many Muscovites, it is an issue of considerable concern. In the West, few people are familiar with the term limitchiki. Even several prominent non-Soviet scholars specializing in Soviet affairs admitted to never having heard the word. The only treatment of limitchiki I have come across is by Victor Zaslavsky, a recent emigré from the Soviet Union who offers a short sociological introduction into the subject.5 Limitchiki is a term for migrant workers in large Soviet cities. Derived from the English word "limit," it refers to workers and employees hired from out-of-town areas by enterprises in large cities. Each enterprise is allotted a limited number of workers by the government for each given plan period.

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