Revue d’études comparatives Est-Ouest

Main Theme: Rural Areas and Markets in Postcommunist Europe

Issue editors: Caroline Dufy & Ronan Hervouet

Adjusting the Representation of Farmers in Economic Policies

The invention of “small-scale capitalistic agriculture” in Romania

Antoine Roger

European funding received under the programs of rural development have a major political impact in Romania, as they help to shape the legitimate form of agriculture. They are used as a support for new representative claims. At the same time, they feed conflicts within national administration. Firstly, several professional organisations claim to stand up for a « small-scale capitalist agriculture », located between small plots dedicated to consumption on the farm and huge operators who export a large amount of their crops. They use the concept of « semi-subsistence » as a means to make a clear distinction between farms that deserve support and those that are doomed to disappear. Statistical tools and rhetorical devices used to make a selection are not sufficient to bring out new economic practices. But they give a sense of purpose to self-appointed spokespersons. Second, several Divisions compete against each over within the Romanian Department of Agriculture and Rural development. As they struggle to delineate their respective scope for action, some of them call upon professional organisations that claim to support « small-scale capitalist agriculture ». High-ranking officials who look for such reinforcements attempt to legitimate their position, arguing that they are backed by a strong external mobilisation. The analysis is based on a systematic examination of appropriate trade journals and on semi-structured interviews with leaders of professional organisations and heads of administrative Divisions.

Key words:

farm policies; rural development; representation of rural interests; public administrations; Romania

Food Security and the Market

The representation of farmers in Russia, 1990-2010

Caroline Dufy & Svetlana Barsukova

Food security, a concept legitimated since the 1990s by the aid programs of international organizations, such as the FAO, World Bank and OECD, is now subject to a strong trend toward “renationalization”, which varies depending on the international context and domestic concerns. Fieldwork has shed light on three registers of discourse for referring to food security in Russia since the end of the USSR. The original one was voiced during food shortages or at times of risks of famine and malnutrition in the Russia of the 1990s. Validated by the president’s office, it argued for keeping the doors of trade open as wide as possible to food imports and opposed attempts to subsidize a national agriculture. The second, heard during the first decade of the new century in the context of membership in the WTO, switched perspectives by promoting farming and a negotiated integration into international trade. The third has prevailed in the context of the financial meltdown and the downturn in trade with Western countries. This discourse on developing a national agriculture advocates closing the doors to international trade. These registers of discourse have had quite real effects on productive structures and, during each period, realigned political forces in the country and the social consensus.

Key words:

agriculture, farmers, food security, wheat, reform, Russia.

Market Socialism and Government of Rural Areas in Belarus

Ronan Hervouet, Alexandre Kurilo & Ioulia Shukan

The “market socialism” advocated in Belarus under Alexander Lukashenko since 1994 implies a top-down government of rural areas. Analyzed in relation to four dimensions that form a system, this form of government is based on the productivist paradigm of huge state-subsidized farms. This “government of the countryside” entails strictly controlling people: administrative pressure on the heads of kolkhozes, disciplinary measures for workers. These coercive methods are related to policies in pursuit of modernization, in particular through “agritowns”. During the Dožinki farm festival, rural areas become a showcase for the state and a stage for lauding “market socialism” in agriculture. State interventionism in the economy, disciplinary measures, material improvements and political rituals of legitimation form a system of government for orienting and controlling from the top rural development in Belarus.

Key words:

market socialism, “government of the countryside”, “agritowns”, rural areas, state economic interventionism, modernization, political rituals, paternalism, Belarus.

Changing the Agricultural Labor Market

Segmentation of the production system and gender inequality in rural Ukraine

Pierre Deffontaines

This study of postcommunist rural areas in Ukraine analyzes labor relations in agriculture and sheds light on the division of labor between men and women in local job markets. Large-scale, mechanized farms hire skilled workers, mostly men, whereas small farms need seasonal, manual labor and recruit mostly women. This structure of the job market is explained by reforms for privatizing the land and the operation of the local administrations in charge of labor relations.

Key words:

social inequalities, gender, job market, rural areas, Ukraine.

The Parliamentary History of the Private Ownership of Farmland in Russia

Politicizing a sensitive issue

Olessia Kirtchik

Unlike the privatization of industry, which encountered no serious opposition after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, private ownership of the land immediately became an issue of contention between the “reform government” and the lobby of ex-Soviet agribusiness in Russia. For the first time in the post-Soviet parliament’s history, political forces collided during the passage of the farmland laws. The political context of these land reforms is described along with the various arguments voiced in parliamentary debates during the 1990s by political parties, farmer organizations and civil servants. The laws on agricultural property were finally adopted in the early 2000s owing to a depoliticization of issues related to the land and farming.

Key words:

agricultural privatization, land reform, parliamentary debates, Russia.

Land Ownership in Belarus

Between hybridization and legal ambiguities

Hugo Flavier

Given the issuing in July 2014 of four presidential decrees abolishing the kolkhozes by the end of 2016, it is worthwhile reviewing the trend in land ownership under Belarusian law since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Belarus has followed an original path; it has, much more than Russia, preserved the USSR’s legal legacy. While claiming to be a market economy, it has maintained major restrictions on private property rights over the land. The combination, under the law, of a market orientation with the Soviet legal tradition is in line with the proclaimed determination to modernize the country and develop private property while contributing to the nation’s economic development. In fact, this claim by government authorities stems from two rhetorical sources: modernity (since property rights are formally recognized) and progress (since property rights are established for the purpose of a state-run economic development).

Key words:

Belarus, property rights, land rights, kolkhozes, agricultural land, environment, ecology, economic dirigism, productivism.

Legal Insecurity and Land Ownership in Postcommunist Europe


Oana Andreea Macovei

Rural areas in Romania are being redesigned at the pace of the difficult process for establishing private ownership of the land. Not yet having come to an end, this far-reaching process has an unexplored legal dimension related to the methods used. Legislative measures related to landed property are so unclear and unforeseeable that they give rise to uncertainty, which can be measured by the increase in practices on the borderline of legality. Legal insecurity has thus become emblematic of the postcommunist transition in Romania.

Key words:

decollectivization, reverse tenancy, legal insecurity, real estate market, landed property, Romania.


Le Paradigme Systémique Revisité

Clarification et additions A la lumière des expériences des pays post-socialistes

János Kornai

Le terme de paradigme a été introduit en philosophie des sciences par Thomas Kuhn – il l’employait pour définir l’approche particulière que suit un courant de recherche pour étudier son objet. Les chercheurs qui se réfèrent à un même paradigme cherchent à répondre à des questions identiques, et ont recours à des méthodes et des concepts similaires. Dans un article publié en 2000, l’auteur du présent essai avait introduit le terme de paradigme systémique ; celui-ci porte sur les systèmes qui fonctionnent dans une société. La première partie compare les systèmes socialiste et capitaliste, décrit leurs principales caractéristiques, et déduit que le système capitaliste a été établi dans les anciens pays socialistes, à l’exception de la Corée du Nord et de Cuba. La seconde partie analyse les variétés de capitalisme à l’aide d’une typologie qui classe les formes dominantes de la politique et de l’État. Trois types nettement différents sont identifiés : la démocratie, l’autocratie et la dictature. Huntington avait étudié la « troisième vague » de démocratisation. Cette étude conclut que la troisième vague s’est asséchée : dans le groupe des 47 pays post-socialistes, un dixième de la population seulement vit en démocratie, tandis que l’autocratie et la dictature l’emportent dans tous les autres pays. La troisième partie de cet essai applique ce schéma conceptuel à la Hongrie, où existe le capitalisme et où la forme politico-gouvernementale dominante est l’autocratie – l’on trouve ici d’importantes caractéristiques communes à d’autres pays capitalistes ou à d’autres autocraties. Cette conclusion est compatible avec l’observation qu’il existe certaines caractéristiques, moins fondamentales, particulières à la Hongrie – des « Hungarica » – et qui diffèrent des caractéristiques de tous les autres pays.

Mots clés : autocracie, démocratie, système capitaliste, système socialiste, transition post-socialiste, Hongrie.

Democratization and Political Professionalization in Romania

Formal rules and informal practices

Alexandra Alina Iancu

The turnover of elites and negotiations on the new criteria for public office-holding are decisive factors in changing a political system. In postcommunist countries, the principles of elite recruitment are still, long after the break in 1989, disputed. Focusing on ministerial cabinets in Romania, this article draws attention to the tension between the classic indicators used to analyze political careers (suggesting a gradual professionalization) and the continuity in the pattern of operating politically through semiprivate networks. It is difficult to assess whether the changes observed in the elites correspond to a professionalization or, on the contrary, an oligarchization.

Key words:

professionalization, political elites, ministers, informal practices, Romania.