Working Paper 51

Interdependence in Rural Russia: the postsocialist mixed feudal economy

Liesl L. Gambold Miller

Abteilung ‚Resilienz und Transformation in Eurasien’

Jahr der Veröffentlichung


Working Paper 51

The concept of 'feudalism' has been, for better or for worse, bound to an economic and social system that many argue has not existed since most western European serfs made the transition to free peasant status in the 1300s. Russia, however, poses a challenge to this structure. It is not until the late 15th and into the 16th century that serfdom finally emerged in Russia. This distinctly Russian style of feudalism laid the foundation for the agricultural systems found in Russia even today. This paper examines village life in post-Soviet Russia and elaborates on what appear to be clear connections to feudal systems. The decollectivisation of farming has resulted not in a growing market-driven independent farming trend, but instead a reworking of the collective organisation resulting in a distinct symbiotic, but unequal, agricultural situation. Relationships among the villagers, between the villagers and the farm director, and between the director and local authorities all contain strands that are best understood as feudal in nature. The privatisation of property, intended to destroy any vestiges of feudalism in rural Russia, has not encouraged an increase in economic productivity in the rural areas. The question remains, what will it take to free the serfs in 21st century Russia?

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