Continuity and Change in Rural Russia: A Geographical Perspective

Continuity and Change in Rural Russia: A Geographical Perspective

Continuity and Change in Rural Russia: A Geographical Perspective

Continuity and Change in Rural Russia: A Geographical Perspective

Synopsis

Contrary to the viewpoint of many Western scholars, the authors of this penetrating analysis argue that private farming is not a viable option in Russia's future. Instead, a convergence of Soviet-style subsidiary farming with traditional and reorganized collective farms is the most plausible path of evolution in most rural areas. Grigory Ioffe and Tatyana Nefedova arrive at this conclusion by a careful examination of ongoing reform efforts in Russian agriculture against the backdrop of European and Russian agrarian history and rural spatial development since the late nineteenth century. The comparisons at the national level are then filled in with consideration of a number of Russian provinces ( oblasti) and regions ( raiony). Their research reveals the substantial negative impact of rural depopulation on the Russian agrarian economy. Seventy original maps richly complement and support the narrative.

Excerpt

Occasionally, a Russian writer heads a preface as this one is headed, in the hope, no doubt, of getting it read.

--G. T. Robinson

To get a feel for the real significance of events in Russia, both recent and remote, has ever been a mind-boggling task for a Westerner. First because, as G. T. Robinson put it in 1932, "living along from year to year in a world of warm breakfasts and trains-on-time, it is easy to believe that history has no place, nowadays." While in America warm breakfasts have given way to cereal and juice, and trains have retreated against the onslaught of planes and cars, Russia is now in the warm breakfast era and following some of the West's own history. However, it is doing so in a very serpentine and often confusing way. Secondly, the average American is not much interested in foreign countries, and since it ceased to be the West's principal military foe, Russia is no longer the exception to the rule. Perhaps to justify their ongoing invasion of Russia since Gorbachev's perestroika, Western media are prone to hyperbolize even small and inconsequential developments in Russia, reporting them as stunning successes or, more often than not, stunning failures. Therefore, to media watchers in America Russia appears intermittently as a place where either nothing is happening at all or something outright fateful is going on. Thirdly, even when cleansed of hyperbole, news from Russia is difficult to penetrate since it often appears in a symbolic guise designed by Russians themselves for domestic consumption, so that foreigners, even those with PhDs in Russian studies, often associate those figures of speech with similar phraseology of Western vintage and so fail to understand Russia on its own terms.

This last shortcoming has been one of American sovietology's most vivid birthmarks. One of our undergraduates unwittingly provided a suggestive parody of it. in reference to a lecture comment that in West Europe roots of democracy are much deeper than in Russia, the student enriched her essay with the following statement: "Russia is pretty much different from Europe. Whereas Europe is democratic, Russia is republican." Though not as entertaining, many assessments of things Russian we have read or heard since coming to the us echo that student's remark. To be sure, there have . . .

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