Land Reform and Rural Development in the Former Soviet Union

January, 2003 to September, 2005
OSI International Policy Fellowships Program
Research Area: 

Together with the International Policy Fellowship, CPS was involved with two projects examining the impact of land privatisation on rural development in Kazakhstan and Ukraine. With the Open Society Forum in Mongolia, we have also been involved in a series of research projects examining the impact of land privatisation in both urban and rural Mongolia.

Compared with central and eastern Europe, there are of course massive differences in climate, landsize, and demography in Mongolia and the fSU. Arguably, the farming structures were far more embedded than in CEE and the transition question of whether to restore land to previous owners was far less of an issue. In most cases, this would have entailed recreating land patterns of over 70 years previous and, in any case, in many parts of the fSU there was by no means a clear tradition of widespread private property ownership.

As a result, the property reforms introduced in the 1990s appeared much more gradual and cautious than in CEE. There was far less of a rush to privatise and although many of the state and collective farms were granted greater autonomy, there appeared more continuities than changes. Gradually though, this has changed and governments and agricultural enterprises, for different reasons became increasingly interested in extending the scope of private land ownership in rural areas. Initially, there were a great number of mass voucher schemes, whereby the majority of the rural population, whether or not they were actually engaged in agriculture, were given shares in the semi-privatised state and collective farms. These vouchers entitled them to a payment usually made in the form of crops.