The book is an outcome of a research project on pawnshops in Saint Petersburg, which took place in 1999/2000 in cooperation with the Center of Independent Social Research. It relates to the function of pawnshops in the life strategies of low-income households. The research investigated different topics with various methods: a reconstruction of the history of Russian pawnshops based on secondary materials and government reports; a description of the current pawnshop landscape in Saint Petersburg based upon secondary material and own information; a questionnaire of 100 pawnshop customers focusing on demographic data of the respondents and their households, the living conditions, the income situation, the importance of pawnshops in their life strategies, the use of credit, alternative sources of credit, defaults, and the like; five pre-structured deep interviews of pawnshop customers who already had lombard experience in Soviet times to work out differences and similarities, as well as the psychological component of pawning; open pre-structured interviews with pawnshop directors on their companies' business, their target group and the pawnshop market; and finally a profile of one successful private firm in the market and the biography of its chairman. In addition to an institutional analysis the book aims at a description of the milieu of pawnshop customers, which is shaped by an ongoing crisis of the Russian economy and society.
Heiko Schrader is an economist and sociologist. His present position is Professor for Sociology at the University of Magdeburg and Visiting Professor for Social Anthropology at the State University of Saint Petersburg. He published extensively on development sociology and social anthropology.