It is a major task to demonstrate how large forces play out in ways that reorganize society, economy, and human settlement over an important part of the earth, but The End of Peasantry? succeeds in excellent fashion. This is a terrific book, and I highly recommend it.
The End of Peasantry? examines the dramatic recent decline of agriculture in post-Soviet Russia. Historically, Russian farmers have encountered difficulties relating to the sheer abundance of land, the vast distances between population centers, and harsh environmental conditions. More recently, the drastic depopulation of rural spaces, decreases in sown acreage, and overall inefficiency of land usage have resulted in the disruption and spatial fragmentation of the countryside. For many decades, rural migration has been a selective process, resulting in the most enterprising and self-motivated people leaving the rural periphery. The new agricultural operators representing nascent but aggressive Russian agribusiness have difficulty co-opting traditional rural communities afflicted by profound social dysfunction. The contrast between agriculture in proximity to large cities and in their hinterlands is as sharp as ever, and some vacant niches are increasingly occupied by ethnically non-Russian migrants. All of these conditions existed to some degree in pre-Soviet times, but they have been exacerbated since Russia took steps toward a market economy. Understudied and often underestimated in the West, the crisis facing Russian agriculture has profound implications for the political and economic stability of Russia. The authors see hope in the significant increase in land use intensity on vastly diminished farmland. The lessons gathered from this thoroughly researched study are far-reaching and relevant to the disciplines of Slavic and European studies, agriculture, political science, economics, and human geography.
"The End of Peasantry? is a truly outstanding contribution to our understanding of the changes in contemporary Russian agriculture. The startling transformation taking place in the rural landscape is brilliantly revealed by the authors: land abandonment, the rise of agribusiness and household farming operations, rural out-migration, village abandonment, and much more. If there is one book on the topic that one must read, this is it."
Ioffe, Nefedova, and Zaslavsky successfully address a number of questions regarding the impacts and dynamics of the social and economic 'transition' underway in Russia as manifested in the countryside. The End of Peasantry? adds to a deeper historical, cultural, and environmental understanding of the Russian rural landscape that has often been lost on scholars who have attempted to interpret Russian rural/agricultural change simply in terms of modern Western social science theories. This work is superbly written, rigorous, extremely well researched, current, insightful, and much needed.
This comprehensive and well-written study of the 'revenge of geography' in post-Soviet Russia will be excellent for researchers, scholars, and students of agrarian studies, European history, and socialist reforms. Highly recommended.