Working Paper 27

Collectivization, Privatization, Dispossession: Changing Property Relations in an East German Village, 1945-2000

John Eidson

Department ‘Resilience and Transformation in Eurasia’

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Working Paper 27

In this paper, a village in the Southern Region of Leipzig in Northwest Saxony serves as the point of departure in a review of three aspects of changing property relations in rural East Germany, especially in the second half of the twentieth century: the collectivization of agricultural production in the German Democratic Republic; the privatization of the ownership and usufruct of agricultural land after German unification in 1990; and the forced sale of land due to the industrial policies of a series of political systems. The paper takes a middle path between generalizing about developments that were relevant for all of East Germany and describing examples of these developments under the particular local and regional conditions of the field site. Relying upon ethnographic materials has the advantage of showing how actors have responded to agricultural policies and how they have affected the way in which these policies have been realized. At the same time, the specificity of these materials raises questions about the representativeness of the case study. It is argued that it is more useful to assess the regional variation in changing rural property relations - especially with reference to the structure of property relations prior to collectivization and to the degree of industrial development in urban centers and their agricultural hinterlands - than to attempt to reduce them to a non-existent average. In conclusion, the paper is situated in the context of a larger project on variables and invariables in the development of rural property relations and agricultural production in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

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