In this issue, OZ is addressing the land reform
issues. What is the reform about? How should
today’s national agricultural policy be shaped?
Who will take title to the land? How are the future
title-holders going to use the land? Does Russia
need to invest in domestic farming, or must it
switch to importing all of its food? How is the federal
policy towards the rural land distribution and
cultivation being developed? What does the latest
agronomical research offer to agricultural producers?
What are the ways to balance the disproportion
between urban boom and rural deterioration?
These and other issues are examined by specialists
on the “agrarian question.”

The modernization process and moving from
a traditional to “rational” form of society demand
new forms of legitimization of land ownership. In
an overview of eight projects of solving the socalled
agrarian question in Russia from the 18th
century to the modern legislation, Andrey
Medushevsky points to the necessity of creating in
Russian society a new common-law consensus on
land use and property reform, a conscious effort
undertaken by society in order to legitimize the
reform. This effort could eventually lead to solving
the agrarian question as a whole, and would at
least minimize its damaging impact on the life of
the nation.

There are two historically known ways of
dividing feudal land property: the Athenian and
the Macedonian one. It is not the question of
being “radical” or “conservative” but rather just
or unjust that defines the subsequent course of
historical development. Speaking on agricultural
reform, Qin Hui aims to discern real political and
economic processes behind both leftist and liberal

The social class of Russian peasants is
becoming extinct. Ilya Shteinberg illustrates the
process resulting from the developing Russian
capitalism by poll figures gathered in the last
decade. According to Shteinberg, the class as
a bearer of certain moral characteristics is going
to finally disappear in the nearest future. It will be
replaced by new-type agricultural businessmen of
different caliber, individual farmers, and independent
agricultural producers united in cooperatives
and associations.

Characteristics of farming in the Russian
Federation vary to a great extent across its vast territory
according to the changing geographical
conditions. One of the most important factors
that influence performance of individual and collective
agricultural enterprises is their location
near OR far from large cities. Tatiana Nefedova in
an overview of the current state of the Russian
agriculture raises an issue of the lack of urban centers
and population on the Russian territory necessary
for the progress of the farming business.

By the end of the Yeltsin era, moderate readings
of both liberal and conservative approaches to
the “agrarian question” had drawn together and
comprised a broad centrist outlook. Olesya
Kirchik notes that the evolving political accord
should not prevent politicians from continuing
the debate, especially in the absence of a real consensus
in society.

The project of bringing public kolkhoz land
into private ownership developed by researchers
of the All-Russia Institute of Agrarian Problems
and Information that became a cornerstone of the
agrarian reform of the 1990s was aimed at boosting
the rural economy. Galina Rodionova gives an
account of the motives and agendas of reform participants,
and describes actual reform outcomes.
Adoption by an agricultural enterprise one of the
either the development or surviving reform strategies
depended on the availability of required
resources at the enterprise.

Based on a comparative study performed in
Kharkiv and Voronezh regions, Jessica AllinaPisano analyzes current agricultural reform outcomes.
Different paces of reform and strategies
have lead to similar results, the author states.
Grave material hurdles engendered by the macroeconomic
reforming impacted land distribution.
They put local administrators that appeared to be
less democratic than their late-Soviet institutional
predecessors in control of the situation.
However useful this power concentration was in a
sense of ensuring national food security, social
stability, and continuity of a limited set of services,
it failed to accomplish initial reform goals
which supposed moving means of production into
workers’ ownership. The actual reform created
a basis for evolving either into latifundia or vertically
integrated structures typical for the United
States that are subsidized by government and
labored by a politically weak immigrant workforce.

Viktor Danilov interprets the attempts to
reform the agricultural sector of the Russian
economy made by the Gorbachev and Yeltsin
administrations from the shestidesiatniki, or people
of the 1960s, viewpoint. The attempts, by
Danilov, were undecided and vain, and the main reasons for failure were the halfhearted disavowal
of Stalinist methods of agricultural management
and neglect of the Lenin’s concept of “civilized
agricultural cooperatives” as a cornerstone of

Alexandra Veselova gives an account of the
Imperial Free Economic Society (Volnoe
Ekonomicheskoe Obshchestvo) that was created
in 1765 and gradually acquired political influence.
The Society played an eminent role in the
development of agricultural science and theoretical
economics in Russia. However, it ultimately
failed to accomplish its mission – “to find and
determine a practical way of farming and rural
household management in the Russian landlord
agricultural estates, by which both the landlord
and each of his peasants would yearly improve
their economy and increase their income, according
to the varying local advantages and conditions
mostly typical for Russia.”

Natalya Proskuryakova scrutinizes legislation,
the course of land use reorganization, and activities
of the Peasant Land Bank in 1906–1914. She
concludes that, despite considerable costs
unavoidable in a transformation of similar scale,
the Stolypin reform initiated radical change in the
life of the Russian country. It created a basis for
overcoming an extensive crisis that thwarted the
country’s rural economy.

How successful was Stolypin’s land use transformation
project? To make an assessment, one
would need to answer, among others, the question,
how did Russian peasantry react to the
reform. Based on archival research, Judith Pallot
argues that by modifying the reform policies the
peasants manifested their opposition to the official
agrarian policy. Pallot argues against simplistic
interpretations of the peasants’ resistance.

Orthodox Marxism generated by the first
generation of Marx’s followers and adopted in the
Erfurt program of the German Social Democratic
Party did not contain special theses on peasantry
or free farmers, who were viewed an obsolete
social class to be replaced by the evolving classes
of the capitalist society. Teodore Shanin exposes a
set of fundamentally different proposals of solving
the agrarian and peasant question originated by
Vladimir Lenin. His projects assumed measures
ranging from the quest for totalitarian collectivization
to professing agricultural cooperatives
a cornerstone of socialism. His views were largely
influenced by such great social, economic, and
political events of the time as the revolution
of 1905, Stolypin’s reform, Russian Civil war, and
the New Economic Policy.

Alexander Nikulin overviews work of Russian
rural sociologist, Deputy Minister of Agriculture
in the Kerensky government Alexander Chayanov
killed in a 1937 purge. According to Chayanov, the
social economic world around us is a perpetually
transforming variety of economic models.
Chayanov who had thoroughly studied pros and
cons of agricultural models all around the world,
formulated ways of optimal agricultural output
combined with balancing interests of farmers,
capitalist market forces, and the state. His ideas
nourished foreign agricultural policies and were
used as a basis of what is known as “agroecology.”
However, these ideas have ever been thoroughly
neglected by Russian policy-makers.

How is Russia’s joining the World Trade
Organization going to affect Russian farming?
Elmira Krylatykh overviews the history and basic
principles of WTO, including rules of managing
international agricultural production, and analyzes
the talks on Russia’s joining the organization
which started in 1993. Krylatykh argues that persons
responsible for carrying on the negotiations
must assert Russian national interests more boldly
and consistently.

The Agrarian Party of Russia is one of the
country’s most long-living political parties.
Viewed in the beginning as an assembly of rural
Soviet-type functionaries who would do everything
to prolong the existing rural status quo, APR
in no more than a decade proved to be quite
a viable structure. Alexey Makarkin lists APR’s
political trump cards.

Natalya Shagaida examines developments in
the agricultural land market in Russia. She views
the pre-reform and current situation on the market,
principles of bringing public land into the private
ownership, repartition of public property
during the reform, agricultural land turnover, and
restrictions imposed on it.

During the last decade, government officials
have been comforting themselves and the
society by statistical figures asserting that
national agricultural production is well and
profitable. Pointing to inconsistencies of official
statistics, Georgii Khanin and Dmitrii Fomin
assess the real situation in the food production
sector which is on the brink of an imminent collapse.
The great bulk of the Russian agricultural
income is being used by food manufacturers and
dealers whose profits are steeple high. The
authors point to a possible macroeconomic
solution of the problem.

The paper by Vasily Uzun and the following
discussion are about the tendencies of development
of large agricultural enterprises in Russia.
Uzun examines, how effective the enterprises are,
how their evolution is influenced by the federal
and regional agricultural policies, and how the
large businesses interact with family farms. Uzun
researches the expediency and perspectives of the
concentration of capital, production facilities,
and material resources in the hands of agricultural
mega-producers and creating agricultural

Bringing public land into private property in
the country differs radically from that in the urban
area. Valery and Olga Vinogradsky consider interactions
between new (private) and traditional
(communal) structures. Strangely, the new land
use legislation usually does not take these circumstances
into account, which hinders the growth of
the small agricultural enterprises and impacts
adversely on the national economy. The article is
illustrated with extensive interviews with farmers
of Saratov region conducted in the fall 2003.

Liubov’ Ovchintseva studies the reasons and
traits of Russian rural poverty. She notes that it is
not merely poverty from the point of view of
income but also from the point of view of access to
the basic elements of social security, which prevents
the people from using opportunities. One of
the phenomena analyzed is illegal employment.
Ovchintseva explains why the “black market” of
hired agricultural labor is so sustainable in the
Russian conditions, and how it pays both to
employers and agricultural laborers. She concludes
with the list of measures that will alleviate
the situation of country dwellers.

Olga Fadeeva describes the situation in the
West Siberian rural labor market as a vicious circle:
economic hardships have eroded the structure
and quality of local labor, which in its turn results
in a deeper crisis. Only a state sponsored special
policy aimed at supporting country youth and
stimulating its self-organization could help to
overcome the crisis.

Land where the gradually curtailed militaryindustrial
institutions were previously allocated is
currently being brought into private ownership.
Vladimir Kagansky and Boris Rodoman point to
the fact that the land constitutes a well-preserved
natural environment with an ecology-friendly
transport and industrial infrastructure. Besides, it
also has a system of border patrol set up by the
military. All this makes the land the only natural
resource of global importance still preserved in
Russia. The state has to oppose private ownership
of the land by “ecologizing” and converting it into
natural reserves.

It is urban rather than rural land that is of
interest for businessmen, and the issue of the price
that business owners will have to pay for purchasing
or leasing the land on which their respective
enterprises are located has been a major controversy
in today’s Russian economy. If prices are as
extortionist as regional and Moscow municipal
authorities claim they have to be, the majority of
businesses will be devastated and the country will
have to say goodbye to the prospective economic
growth, let alone the hope of doubling the GNP,
Alexander Gudkov warns.

During the time of socialism, Russian urban
house building used to be sponsored by the state.
Now agents of private economy freely choose
location for their homes and businesses. Land and
real estate, including urban housing, are being
denationalized. Now when the urban housing
stock is degrading, engineering municipal infrastructure
is nearly destroyed, and urban construction
cannot cover the needs of the nation, preservation
of socialist town planning could lead the
country to the catastrophe. Today we have
a unique opportunity to alter our approach to the
urban development. Alexander Krivov proposes
a national strategy of solving the housing problem.

Andrey Moroz tracks traditional ceremonies,
beliefs and mythical notions of land still preserved
by the modern peasantry. The main conclusion is
that the folk conception of the land is being altered.
Moroz’s research is based on the case studies conducted
in one of the regions of the Russian North.

On the verge of the 19th and 20th centuries,
Russian researchers asserted the existence of the
cult of personified Mother-land among the
Russian peasantry. Alexander Panchenko is skeptical
about the theory: according to him, it was
merely an influence of the Romanticist folklore
studies. According to Panchenko, the popular
belief has neither Russian nor especially Slavic

Characteristics of farming in the Russian
Federation vary to a great extent across its vast territory
according to the changing geographical
conditions. One of the most important factors
that influence performance of individual and collective
agricultural enterprises is their location
near or far from large cities. Tatiana Nefedova in
an overview of the current state of the Russian
agriculture raises an issue of the lack of urban centers
and population on the Russian territory necessary
for the progress of the farming business.

Continuing the earlier discussion of Islamrelated
issues, we publish an excerpt from Ismail
Bey Gasprinskii’s work first published in 1906, and
an article by David Hovhannesian on the emerging
of the Islamic value system.

Konstantin Poleshchuk’s essay depicting
everyday life of a rural area in the Omsk region is
prefaced by a historical reference. The scenes of
ruin and degradation of the Russian country are
quite distressing. Speaking of an episode of
a scotched local mutiny of 1998, Poleshchuk
argues that to follow the adventurer who attempted
to stir up the rebellion, was only possible to
people driven to blank despair.

An image of the Russian country estate could
be the most romantic and attractive popular image
of the old days. It has incarnated in works of literature,
painting, theatre, and cinematography.
Sadly, the harmony of the image did not conform
much to the reality, Alena Solntseva argues. Many
Russian landowners who viewed country living as
a harmonious escape from the vanity of city life did
not have sufficient education and experience to successfully manage their property. Solntseva confronts
the dream world of Russian landed gentry
with the their actual battles with estate management
while telling a story of estates of Alexander
Pushkin, Leo Tolstoy, and Alexander Ostrovsky.

St Petersburg’s 300th anniversary, both as
a historical date and an important event in current
Russian life, gave rise to numerous reflections on
the city’s history: on the St Pete’s-related mythology,
on the special “St Petersburg discourse” in
literature and in everyday life, on the role of the
city in Russian history, and on the political, social,
and cultural aspects of the anniversary celebration.
OZ introduces two viewpoints on these issues.

Adrian Selin regards another side of the ratio
between the social myth and historical reality in
St Petersburg-related discourse. Primary sources
from history give us a chance to correct the usual
image of the “Window into Europe” that supposedly
had been opened by Peter the Great in the
deserted Finnish swamps. Actually, churches, villages,
and even cities had existed in the Neva delta
before Peter founded the city.

In a fashion defying official ideology,
Konstantin Bogdanov tracks formation of a folklore
myth of conformity of St Pete’s pathogenic
geographical location and climate to spiritual and
physical frailty of the city dwellers. The myth goes
back to one of the first medical descriptions of the
metropolis made by a traveling Swiss physician
that prompted the tradition of literary “physiological
sketches” of the city.