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The Post-Soviet Potemkin Village
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  • 2 tables
  • Page extent: 246 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.53 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 333.3/147
  • Dewey version: 22
  • LC Classification: HD1333.R9 A45 2008
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Land reform--Russia (Federation)
    • Land reform--Ukraine
    • Right of property--Russia (Federation)
    • Right of property--Ukraine

Library of Congress Record

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 (ISBN-13: 9780521879385)

Manufactured on demand: supplied direct from the printer

$113.00 (C)

In the 1990s, as the Soviet Empire lay in ruins, the Russian and Ukrainian governments undertook a project to dismantle the collective farm system that was created under Stalin and in the process privatize an expanse of farmland larger than Australia. Ordinary people were supposed to benefit from the reform, but local government leaders quietly rebelled against it. The end result was the dispossession of millions of rural people. This is the first book to explain why and how this happened through the perspective of a firsthand observer in the Black Earth region.


Introduction: land reform in post-communist Europe; 1. Things fall apart; 2. Keeping the collectives; 3. The social origins of private farmers; 4. A return to regulation; 5. The politics of payment; 6. The facade; Conclusion: rural proletarians in the Potemkin village.

Prize Winner

Winner, 2009 Davis Center Book Prize in Political and Social Studies, American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies


"This is an empirically rich study of land privatization in post-Soviet Ukraine and Russia that puts to rest some of the most fundamental assumptions underlining both theories and assessments of the political economy of post-communist transitions--for example, that privatization reduces the role of the state in the economy and that privatization transfers real property rights, benefits a broad stratum of the population, and boosts economic efficiency. Privatization did not redistribute land or power, partly because laws are paper tigers; local social and power structures reproduce themselves; and economic productivity requires capital and connections."
Valerie Bunce, Cornell University

"In this profound analysis of superficial property rights, Jessica Allina-Pisano transforms our understanding of post-communist economic development and the primacy of informal practices over formal institutions."
Anna Grzymala-Busse, University of Michigan

"Not only is Jessica Allina-Pisano’s book a fascinating journey of nine years providing us with insight into informal politics and economy in the post-Soviet countryside—it is an essential addition to the growing field of research examining the role of informal practices in shaping the post-communist world. This is the book you must read if you want to understand how land privatization has really worked in Russia and Ukraine."
Alena Ledeneva, University College London

"Allina-Pisano treats questions of capital importance not only for post-Soviet economies but for economic change world-wide: Why does property restitution not always produce more efficient and productive agriculture? How does privatization generate proletarianization, not prosperity? How did a program aimed at getting the state out of economic life instead intensify a state presence? This fascinating work will contribute significantly to debate on these urgent matters and should be widely read by scholars and policy-makers alike."
Katherine Verdery, The Graduate Center, City University of New York

"In this outstanding political ethnography, Jessica Allina-Pisano penetrates beneath the surface of rural life in post-Soviet Russia and Ukraine to show how local officials and farm directors utilized shifting property-rights regimes to assert their control over land. In the process, she brilliantly reveals why social relations in the post-Soviet countryside have come to resemble precisely what reformers had sought to overturn."
Mark R. Beissinger, Princeton University

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