Working Paper 34

Out of the Collective Frying Pan? Ideals and practicalities in the reformulation and restitution of political and property rights in post-Soviet Rural Estonia

Ray Abrahams

Department ‘Resilience and Transformation in Eurasia’

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Working Paper 34

Following the liberalisation and ultimate collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s, new governments in many of its constituent and satellite states varyingly attempted to return to something like the pre-Soviet status quo. Multi-party constitutions were resuscitated and, in rural areas, the system of collective and state farms was abandoned. In Estonia, which was incorporated into the Soviet Union in the course and aftermath of the Second World War, a parliamentary democracy and Presidency were re-established, definitions of citizenship and accompanying political rights were articulated, and the rights of citizens to previously held property were affirmed. The regeneration of agriculture through family farming on privately owned farms was officially encouraged, despite misgivings in some quarters.
The paper discusses several aspects of this process, and pays particular attention to discrepancies between ideal and reality in agrarian reform, and to the disjunction between the re-enfranchisement of the rural population and increasing evidence of their exclusion from the new economic prosperity enjoyed by some of their urban counterparts.

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