Agrarian reform and transition: what can we learn from 'the east'?
The Journal of Peasant Studies , Volume 39 - Issue 1 p. 175- 194
During the past two decades agrarian ('land and farm') reforms have been widespread in the transition economies of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA), following earlier ones in Asia (China and Vietnam). However, independent family farms did not become the predominant sector in most of Eastern Europe. A new dual (or bi-modal) agrarian structure emerged, consisting of large farm enterprises (with much less social functions than they had before), and very small peasant farms or subsidiary plots. The paper compares five case studies, looking at agrarian actors, property rights, state influence, and rural poverty. These are Russia, Armenia, Moldova and Uzbekistan in the EECCA region, and China's Xinjiang province in Asia. The paper concludes that state influence is still substantial, property rights regimes are quite diverse and rural poverty remains medium to high. State-led agrarian reform, in particular where a redistributive (or restitution-based) land reform was implemented led in some cases to land-based wealth redistribution, but policies and institutions were lacking to support the individual farm sector. More often the outcome was a rapid transfer of land in the hands of corporate farm enterprises, reversing the initial process of 're-peasantization'. It seems that the old 'Soviet dream' of mega-farm enterprises in the 'transition to capitalism' has regained prominence, with huge agro-holdings 'calling the shots', providing an insecure future for agricultural workers, peasants and farmers.