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Rational Resistance to Land Privatisation in Russia: Modelling the Behaviour of Rural Producers in Response to Agrarian Reforms, 1861-2000


  • Carol Scott Leonard


This paper argues that rural opposition to land reform in transition Russia is a consequence of individually rational decisions by members of former state and collective farms about whether to support further land reform, or preserve the status quo, collective farming. Evidence from survey data shows that despite the government`s efforts to promote a land market and independent farming in the 1990s, preferences in 1996 still favoured the largely unreformed status quo. The observed retention of collective farming is so widespread as to block both the development of a land market and restructuring. The visible consequence of stalemated reform has been persistent agricultural output decline and widespread bankruptcy of large farm entities, without any significant rise of independent farming. This paper formalises a dynamic argument for rational opposition to land reform, given the existence of uncertainty about the costs that individual cultivators will incur. It turns out that the consequences of initial decisions could have decisive impact on rejection of reform later on. The paper discusses further, the relevance of the historical parallel during the post-Emancipation and Stolypin eras when peasant communes resisted enclosures and restructuring of rights to land. Opposition, seemingly irrational, recurred and lasted throughout the reform era. It can be seen that opposition to reform at that time, too, was individually rational, given incomplete property rights reform; the state also bears responsible in contemporary and historical times for policies that tended to help preserve the status-quo. The state failed to improve the unclear property rights which dampened reform incentives early on in the reform process both historically and in the rural transition environment.

Suggested Citation

  • Carol Scott Leonard, 2000. "Rational Resistance to Land Privatisation in Russia: Modelling the Behaviour of Rural Producers in Response to Agrarian Reforms, 1861-2000," Economics Series Working Papers 13, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:oxf:wpaper:13

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. László Csontos & János Kornai & István György Tóth, 1998. "Tax awareness and reform of the welfare state: Hungarian survey results," The Economics of Transition, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, vol. 6(2), pages 287-312, November.
    2. Paul David, 1997. "Path Dependence and the Quest for Historical Economics: One More chorus of Ballad of QWERTY," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _020, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    3. Peter Oppenheimer & Brigitte Granville, 2001. "Russia’s Post-Communist Economy," World Economics, World Economics, 1 Ivory Square, Plantation Wharf, London, United Kingdom, SW11 3UE, vol. 2(1), pages 149-168, January.
    4. David, Paul A. & Rothwell, Geoffrey S., 1996. "Standardization, diversity and learning: Strategies for the coevolution of technology and industrial capacity," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 14(2), pages 181-201.
    5. Paul A. David, 1997. "Path Dependence and the Quest for Historical Economics: One More chorus of Ballad of QWERTY," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _020, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
    6. Robert M. Townsend, 1995. "Consumption Insurance: An Evaluation of Risk-Bearing Systems in Low-Income Economies," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 83-102, Summer.
    7. Kornai, Janos, 1992. "The Socialist System: The Political Economy of Communism," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198287766.
    8. Kahan, Arcadius, 1989. "Russian Economic History," University of Chicago Press Economics Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 1, number 9780226422435.
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    More about this item


    Russian land reform; economic history; status-quo preference in uncertainty; development; property rights;

    JEL classification:

    • N44 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Europe: 1913-
    • N54 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - Europe: 1913-
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • D7 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making


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