Working Paper 70

Towards a Model of Comparing Transitional Forms in Russian Reindeer Herding

Yulian Konstantinov

Department ‘Resilience and Transformation in Eurasia’

Year of publication

Number of pages

Working Paper 70

The state-chosen reform model relevant to Russian reindeer herding is characterized by a policy of allowing the preservation of Soviet organizational forms (i.e. kolkhoz, sovkhoz, etc.), alongside a recommendation for creating cooperative structures (TOO , SKhPK , etc.), as well as introducing clan-communities (obshchini) for the numerically small peoples of the Far North, Siberia, and the Far East. As a result a great multitude of organizational forms have appeared in a formerly unitary terrain, dominated by varieties of the state farm. A gap seems to exist in the literature as to a general model for the analysis of this diversity of cases marked by a dynamic reformulation in search of more effective adaptive strategies. Here a suggestion for a model will be proposed. It is based on the premise that the paths of specific development are determined by how the former state property is being transferred to new forms of ownership. Two extreme points can be postulated as ideal types: residual adherence to a state farm-like structure (“para-sovkhoz”) at the one end of a hypothetical gradient vs. full private ownership at the other. The case of reindeer herding in the Russian European North (Murmansk Region, Kola Peninsula) is of a para-sovkhoz slowly moving towards some form of informal redistribution of extant collective property. The driving mechanism behind the process operates by using the residual para-sovkhoz for promoting informal private entrepreneurship (“crypto-entrepreneurship”, Konstantinov 2002). A given regional case can be analysed in terms of correspondence or relative distancing from a para-sovkhoz (sovkhoist) state towards a private one. The issues of intra- and inter-herding team (brigade) hierarchical order, use of para-sovkhoz infrastructure and the problematic around private (personal) deer, are seen as central, ethnographically observable variables for determining relative positions in this comparative model.

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