Presented at the 18th Annual Conference of the Global Awareness Society International - May 2009
Business operation in the former Soviet Union is not oriented toward the creation of wealth, but rather
toward the seizure of wealth for consumption. Prestige, power, and social obligation motivate enterprise
management, rather than the pursuit of the creation of economic value (profit). The sudden appearance
of biznesmeni in the former Soviet Central Asia since 1991 was probably the first sign that market
valuation was trying to legitimize itself in the pseudo-vacuum of state controls. Business meant one thing:
engaging in exchange for profit, an activity the Soviet state had spent seventy years trying to stamp out.
This irony certainly was not lost on the general public, who naturally viewed the biznesmeni with a
jaundiced eye, as people changing ideologies overnight for personal gain. Management of business
operations, on a daily basis—both for short and long-term goals—is a Western idea, foreign to Soviet
Central Asia; so are the concepts of individual ownership and privatization of state assets.
Conceptually, therefore, the value of privatization is to the public akin to that of seizure of wealth, and as
described above, with the same negative attitude. People jokingly refer to privatizatsiya as
prikhvatizatsiya, or “grabbing” of assets by former state ministerial higher-ups, using their proximity and
control in the bureaucratic chain to convert state factories, otdelenie, and coffers into profit-oriented self-
interests. Such suspicious and cynical views from the former Soviet Central Asian citizenry reflect a
general discomfort, and in some cases alienation, toward the value of individual ownership. This could
very well be traced to the cultural attitude toward privacy, shaped by socialist values of having a society
completely in the public domain.
With the burdens of the past, the present Central Asia is still driven by “Kiosk Mentality.” That is, “grab, as
you go,” whatever you can find on the way. Concepts of value, price, supply and demand interactions,
and how market economy functions are not part of management education; the ideas of entrepreneurship
and wealth creation are mostly absent in Central Asian countries. However, since 1991, former Soviet
Central Asian countries have experienced the influences of Western economic values in a variety of
ways: individual ownership, business education, and privatization of state assets. However, the old ways
and mindsets persist today in this region.
Addressing the issues of wealth creation in poor and less developed countries began only after World
War II. Studies after studies show that poor countries should seek opportunities through openness,
promoting FDI, and engaging in the modernization and globalizations of their businesses. There is also a