This paper provides new insights into the dynamics of global value chains driven by Russian retailers in a variety of food and clothing chains that source from central Asia. It does so by examining the relationship between central Asian suppliers and their Russian buyers. The paper points to ongoing changes in the ways Russian retailers source supply―caused largely by changes in retail structure and increased retail competition within Russia. Based on fieldwork in central Asia, the paper examines how these changes are perceived by the suppliers, who are increasingly experiencing a transfer of risk onto themselves, as well as rising expectations regarding the provision of services and their financial capacity. Finally, the paper shows how the Russian buyers’ expectations of their suppliers in central Asia regarding standardization seem to revolve primarily around public safety and hygiene standards, while pressures relating to so-called social standards seem to remain totally absent.