How Peasants Adapt: Large Farms and Farm Managers

  • Stephen K. Wegren


Of the three main food producers in Russia—large farms, private farms, and households—it is clear that large farms were most affected by state urban bias and the elements thereof. During the 1990s, large farms experienced significant and prolonged reductions in gross output, their contribution to the gross domestic product declined, farm debt increased, and the number of unprofitable farms skyrocketed.1 Given the unfavorable macroeconomic and political environment in which large farms operated during much of the 1990s, it would be very easy to conclude that there was little adaptation in the Russian countryside. Indeed, some Western analysts have concluded that this is exactly the case, arguing that Russia has experienced “false transformations” or pro forma institutional change.2 Unfortunately, with few exceptions, the issue of rural change has not been explored systematically. One reason for this oversight is the relative difficulty of conducting research in rural areas. Unlike urban areas, rural areas are quite primitive, they are difficult to get to, logistics are complicated, and permission from sel’sovets (rural administrations) to work in villages can be problematic. Thus, at best, we are often left without a comprehensive, coherent picture of rural reality.


Farm Manager Large Farm Land Reform Land Market Soviet Period 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 2.
    Maria Amelina, “False Transformations: From Stalin’s Peasants to Yeltsin’s Collective Farmers,” Paper presented at Workshop on Rural Russia, Woodrow Wilson Center, Kennan Institute, Washington, DC, May 4–6, 1999;Google Scholar
  2. and Carol Scott Leonard, “Rational Resistance to Land Privatization: The Response of Rural Producers to Agrarian Reforms in Pre- and Post-Soviet Russia,” Post-Soviet Geography and Economics, vol. 41, no. 8 (November–December 2000), pp. 605–20.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    On public urban support for privatization, see Lynn D. Nelson, Lilia V. Babaeva, and Rufat O. Babaev, “Perspectives on Entrepreneurship and Privatization in Russia: Policy and Public Opinion,” Slavic Review, vol. 51, no. 2 (Summer 1992), pp. 271–86;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Arthur H. Miller, Vicki L. Hesli, and William M. Reisinger, “Reassessing Mass Support for Political and Economic Change in the Former Soviet Union,” American Political Science Review, vol. 88, no. 2 (June 1994), pp. 399–411;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. and Matthew Wyman, Public Opinion in Postcommunist Russia (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997), chap. 7.Google Scholar
  6. Works that argue that privatization has little support include Jerry F. Hough, “The Russian Election of 1993: Public Attitudes Toward Economic Reform and Democratization,” Post-Soviet Affairs, vol. 10, no. 1 (1994), pp. 1–37;Google Scholar
  7. Jerry F. Hough, Evelyn Davidheiser, and Susan Goodrich Lehmann, The 1996 Russian Presidential Election (Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 1996);Google Scholar
  8. and Joan Debardeleben, “Attitudes Towards Privatization in Russia,” Europe-Asia Studies, vol. 51, no. 3 (1999), pp. 447–65. This list is representative and not exhaustive.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 4.
    See e.g., Stephen K. Wegren, “Yeltsin’s Decree on Land Relations: Implications for Agrarian Reform,” Post-Soviet Geography, vol. 35, no. 3 (March 1994), pp. 166–78;Google Scholar
  10. Stephen K. Wegren, Agriculture and the State in Soviet and Post-Soviet Russia (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998), chaps. 3 and 5;Google Scholar
  11. Karen Brooks, et al., Agricultural Reform in Russia: A View from the Farm Level, World Bank Discussion Paper no. 327 (Washington, DC: The World Bank, 1994), chap. 2;Google Scholar
  12. and Zvi Lerman and Karen Brooks, “Russia’s Legal Framework for Land Reform and Farm Restructuring,” Problems of Post-Communism, vol. 43, no. 6 (November–December 1996), pp. 48–58.Google Scholar
  13. 5.
    See Marie Lavigne, The Economics of Transition: From Socialist Economy to Market Economy, 2nd ed. (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999), chap. 8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 6.
    Morris Bornstein, “Russia’s Mass Privatization Program,” Communist Economies and Economic Transformation, vol. 6, no. 4 (1994), pp. 419–57;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. and Aslund Anders, How Russia Became a Market Economy (Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 1995), chap. 7.Google Scholar
  16. 7.
    Jerry F. Hough, The Logic of Economic Reform in Russia (Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 2001), pp. 68, 92.Google Scholar
  17. 10.
    Calculated from Rossiiskii statisticheskii ezhegodnik (Moscow: Goskomstat, 2000), p. 372. “Technical crops” include flax, sugar beets, soy, and sunflowers.Google Scholar
  18. 11.
    See Stephen K. Wegren, Russia’s Food Policies and Globalization (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2005), chap. 1.Google Scholar
  19. 14.
    The decree was entitled “On Urgent Measures for the Implementation of Land Reform in the RSFSR,” Rossiiskiia gazeta, December 31, 1991, p. 3. For a description of the process for land distribution, see Stephen K. Wegren, “Political Institutions and Agrarian Reform in Russia,” in Don Van Atta, ed., The ‘Farmer Threat’: The Political Economy of Agrarian Reform in Post-Soviet Russia (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993), p. 125.Google Scholar
  20. 29.
    Resolution 874 from July 27, 1994, “On Reorganization of Agricultural Enterprises Based on the Experience of Nizhniy Novgorod Province,” in International Finance Corporation, Land Privatization and Farm Reorganization in Russia: Annexes (Washington, DC: IFC, 1995), pp. 43–56.Google Scholar
  21. 30.
    For more on this institutional type of change, see Valeri V. Patsiorkovski, “Rural Household Behavior, 1991–2001,” in David J. O’Brien and Stephen K. Wegren, eds., Rural Reform in Post-Soviet Russia (Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press/Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002), chap. 5.Google Scholar
  22. 33.
    Susan J. Linz and Gary Krueger, “Russia’s Managers in Transition: Pilferers or Paladins? Post-Soviet Geography and Economics, vol. 37, no. 7 (September 1996), pp. 397–425;Google Scholar
  23. and Susan J. Linz, “Red Executives in Russia’s Transition Economy,” Post-Soviet Geography and Economics, vol. 37, no. 10 (December 1996), pp. 633–51.Google Scholar
  24. 34.
    Linda J. Cook and Vladimir E. Gimpelson, “Exit and Voice in Russian Managers’ Privatization Strategies,” Communist Economics and Economic Transformation, vol. 7, no. 4 (December 1995), pp. 465–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 35.
    See Gavin Kitching, “The Development of Agrarian Capitalism in Russia 1991–97: Some Observations from Fieldwork,” The Journal of Peasant Studies, vol. 25, no. 2 (April 1998), pp. 11–13.Google Scholar
  26. 37.
    Roy L. Prosterman, “Russian Agrarian Reform: A Status Report from the Field,” Communist Economies and Economic Transformation, vol. 7, no. 2 (June 1995), p. 185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 38.
    Andrew Barnes, “What’s the Difference? Industrial Privatization and Agricultural Land Reform in Russia, 1990–1996,” Europe-Asia Studies, vol. 50, no. 5 (1998), p. 853.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 42.
    See Cynthia S. Kaplan, The Party and Agricultural Crisis Management in the USSR (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987).Google Scholar
  29. 43.
    See International Finance Corporation (IFC), Monitoring Russian Reorganized Farms: An Integrated Analysis of Economic and Social Change in Nizhny Novgorod, Oryol, and Other Oblasts, Results of 1997 Studies (unpublished document, 1998).Google Scholar
  30. 44.
    For an excellent insight from personal experience into how farms operated, see Andrei Amalrik, Involuntary Journey to Siberia (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970), esp. chaps. 12–15.Google Scholar
  31. 45.
    Peter Rutland, The Politics of Economic Stagnation in the Soviet Union: The Role of Local Party Organs in Economic Management (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), p. 144.Google Scholar
  32. 46.
    See Karl-Eugen Wadekin, “Agriculture,” in Martin McCauley, ed., The Soviet Union Under Gorbachev (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987), chap. 6.Google Scholar
  33. 47.
    See Max Spoor and Oane Visser, “Restructuring Postponed? Large Russian Farm Enterprises ‘Coping with the Market,’” The Journal of Peasant Studies, vol. 31, nos. 3–4 (April–July 2004), pp. 515–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 54.
    Toshihiko Kawagoe, “Deregulation and Protectionism in Japanese Agriculture,” in Juro Terahishi and Yutaka Kosai, eds., The Japanese Experience of Economic Reforms (London: St. Martin’s Press, 1993), pp. 371–72.Google Scholar
  35. 55.
    S. Seshaiah, Land Reform and Social Change in a Japanese Village (Bangalore: Shiny Publications, 1980) pp. 104–05.Google Scholar
  36. 57.
    Sidney Klein, The Pattern of Land Tenure Reform in East Asia After World War II (New York: Bookman Associates 1958), p. 36.Google Scholar
  37. 58.
    R. P. Dore, Land Reform in Japan (London: Oxford University Press, 1959), p. 198.Google Scholar
  38. 65.
    Maria Amelina, “Rural Interactions in the Post-Soviet Era,” in L. Alexander Norsworthy, ed., Russian Views of the Transition in the Rural Sector: Structures, Policy Outcomes, and Adaptive Responses (Washington, DC: The World Bank, 2000), p. 21.Google Scholar
  39. 66.
    Starting in 1993, large farms still had to sell certain percentages of output to federal and regional “food funds” at state-defined prices, but these deliveries were no longer termed “obligatory” and the quantity was reduced from previous levels. Nonetheless, it was clear that large farms were required to sign “contracts” for the delivery of food, so in essence contracts replaced state orders. See Stephen K. Wegren, “From Farm to Table: The Food System in Post-Communist Russia,” Communist Economies and Economic Transformation, vol. 8, no. 2 (1996), pp. 149–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 70.
    See V. D. Smirnov, Fermerstvo v Rossii—chto eto takoe (Novosibirsk: Russian Academy of Sciences, 2003), p. 39.Google Scholar
  41. 74.
    See S. D. Valentei, ed., Problemy sel’skokhoziaistvennogo kredita (Moscow: Russian Academy of Science, Institute of Economics, 1998), pp. 52–62.Google Scholar
  42. 75.
    For an analysis of survival strategies of large farms, see David Epstein and Peter Tillack, “How Russian Agricultural Enterprises are Surviving,” Eastern European Economics, vol. 37, no. 5 (September–October 1999), pp. 52–91.Google Scholar
  43. 79.
    Interestingly, surveys in some parts of Russia have shown that financially stronger farms are more likely to try to protect farm workers and the weakest farms have shed the most labor. V. Ia. Uzun, ed., Sotsial’no-ekonomicheskii analiz rezul’tatov reorganizatsii sel’skokhoziaistvennykh predpriiatii (Moscow: Entsiklopediia rossiiskii dereven,’ 1999), pp. 61, 65;Google Scholar
  44. and Zemfira I. Kalugina, “Survival Strategies of Enterprises and Families in the Contemporary Russian Countryside,” Paper presented at Workshop on Rural Russia, Woodrow Wilson Center, Kennan Institute, Washington, DC, May 4–6, 1999. This finding was supported by findings in other regions as well.Google Scholar
  45. See Stephen K. Wegren, “Socioeconomic Transformation in Russia: Where is the Rural Elite?” Europe-Asia Studies, vol. 52, no. 2 (2000), pp. 237–71;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. and V. Ia. Uzun, “Privatization of Land and Farm Restructuring: Ideas, Mechanisms, Results, Problems,” in Farm Profztability, Sustainability and Restructuring in Russia (Moscow: Institute for Economy in Transition Analytical Center, 1999), pp. 42–46. Such “paternal” protective behaviors have been observed in industry as well.Google Scholar
  47. 86.
    Cited in Stephen K. Wegren, “New Perspectives on Spatial Patterns of Agrarian Reform: A Comparison of Two Russian Oblasts,” Post-Soviet Geography, vol. 35, no. 8 (October 1994), p. 464.Google Scholar
  48. 93.
    On this point there is little disagreement among analysts. See Stephen K. Wegren, “Change in Russian Agrarian Reform, 1992–1998: The Case of Kostroma Oblast,” in Kurt Engleman, ed., Agricultural Development in Central Asia, Russia, and the Middle East (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2001); Kitching, “The Development of Agrarian Capitalism in Russia 1991–97: Some Observations from Fieldwork”; Epstein and Tillack, “How Russian Agricultural Enterprises are Surviving”; and Sedik, Foster, and Liefert, “Economic Reforms and Agriculture, 1992–95.”Google Scholar
  49. 99.
    See Grigory Ioffe and Tatyana Nefedova, “Russian Agriculture and Food Processing: Vertical Cooperation and Spatial Dynamics,” Europe-Asia Studies, vol. 53, no. 3 (2001), pp. 389–418. For more on processors searching for partnerships with farms in Novosibirsk, see also Sel’skaia zhizn’, December 21–27, 2000, p. 3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. 101.
    The methodology and scope of the survey is described in Stephen K. Wegren, David J. O’Brien, and Valeri V. Patsiorkovski, “Winners and Losers in Russian Agrarian Reform,” The Journal of Peasant Studies, vol. 30, no. 1 (October 2002), pp. 1–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. 105.
    See R. V. Ryvkina and L. Ia. Kosals, eds., Sotsial’nye posledstviia rynochnykh reform v Rossii (Moscow: Institute for Socio-Economic Studies of the Population, 1997), p. 229.Google Scholar
  52. 106.
    The literature on this point is already vast, for examples see Richard Rose and Ellen Carnaghan, “Generational Effects on Attitudes to Communist Regimes: A Comparative Analysis,” Post-Soviet Afairs, vol. 11, no. 1 (1995), pp. 28–56;Google Scholar
  53. Timothy J. Colton, Transitional Citizens: Voters and What Influences Them in the New Russia (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000);Google Scholar
  54. and Yitzhak M. Brudny, “Continuity or Change in Russia Electoral Patterns? The December 1999–March 2000 Election Cycle,” in Archie Brown, ed., Contemporary Russian Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 154–78.Google Scholar
  55. 110.
    V. Ia. Uzun, ed., Reformirovanie sel’skokhoziaistvennykh predpriiatii: sotsial’noekonomicheskii analiz (1994–1997 gg.) (Moscow: Znak, 1998), p. 107.Google Scholar
  56. 115.
    See IFC, Land Privatization and Farm Reorganization in Russia (Washington, DC: IFC, 1995), in particular pp. 34–42.Google Scholar
  57. 133.
    N. M. Rimashevskaia, ed., Rossiia 1997: sotsial’no-demograficheskaia situatsiia (Moscow: Institute of Socio-economic Problems of the Population, 1998), pp. 232–33.Google Scholar
  58. 140.
    There may be an age bias in the sample, as the data also show that 16 percent of farm managers’ income on non-reorganized farms comes from pensions, which would in part also explain the higher percentage from private plots. Only 4% of farm managers’ income comes from pensions on reorganized farms according to the sample. See V. Ia. Uzun, ed., Sotsial’noekonomicheskie posledstviia privatizatsii zemli i reorganizatsii sel’skokhoziaistvennykh predpriiatii (1994–1996 gg.). (Moscow: Entsiklopediia rossiiskii dereven, 1997), p. 84.Google Scholar
  59. 146.
    It is interesting to note that when the Land Code was finally adopted in 2001, it left out provisions on the rural land market because disagreement continued. In 2002, a different law regulated rural land sales, and Russia did not end up with a free (unrestricted) land market. For an analysis of the 2002 law, see Stephen K. Wegren, “Observations on Russia’s New Agricultural Land Legislation,” Eurasian Geography and Economics, vol. 43, no. 8 (December 2002). pp. 651–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. 148.
    Stephen K. Wegren, “Why Rural Russians Participate in the Land Market: Socio-economic factors,” Post-CommunistEconomies, vol. 15, no. 4 (December 2003), pp. 483–501.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Stephen K. Wegren 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen K. Wegren

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations