East European Communities: The Struggle for Balance in Turbulent Times

By David A. Kideckel | Go to book overview
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6
A Polish Village
in the Process of Transformation
Towards a Market Economy

Andrej Halasiewicz, Andzrej Kaleta, and Dennis Vnenchak


Introduction

Before analyzing selected social processes in rural Poland that began in 1989 with the destruction of real socialism in central and eastern Europe we must indicate that at the beginning of this historical change, Polish villages were in quite a different situation from elsewhere in the former Soviet bloc countries. Unlike in Russia, Lithuania, Hungary or East Germany, Polish villages were dominated by individual, private farms and these three million or so family farms produced a majority of food for the Polish market (see Smigielska, this volume). Attempts to collectivize Polish villages in 1956 had failed, and from that time the economic, social, and cultural conditions of the Polish village were dominated by a reasonably stable private sector.

Still, despite the fact that about 75% of all arable land belonged to family farms, all infrastructure belonged to the state. Until 1970, compulsory deliveries of agricultural products were in effect, which meant that each Polish farmer had to sell a given amount of grain, milk, or meat to state-owned trade companies for the price established by the state, and prices were usually set very low. After compulsory deliveries were abolished in 1970, Polish farmers certainly did not gain any privileged economic or social position in the state, but they functioned in a relatively stable environment allowing them to sell all their products. However, this relatively good situation changed with the January 1990 economic

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