One of the abiding puzzles of Russian life is how to reconcile an unprecedented decline in the economy, year in, year out, with the continual survival of its populations and the absence of social disturbances. Although all figures are disputed, calculations suggest that between 1990 and 1997 the gross domestic product (GDP) and industrial output fell by some 40 percent, and capital investment fell by 75 percent. According to official figures, in 1997, 20.8 percent of the population was living in poverty. Yet at the same time we find neither massive starvation nor strikes and food riots, neither the destruction of society nor its explosion.