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Post-Soviet Transformation in World Society. Local Government and Economic Communication in Rural Russia

Dissertation project of Evelyn Moser

The dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 marked the beginning of a profound and broad transformation process. In rural communities, where the agricultural collective enterprises of the Soviet regime function(ed) as all-embracing organizations and de facto absorbed the municipal administrations, in particular the privatization process and the introduction of the local self-government represented significant irritations for the rural daily life and its structures. Whereas the reforms and the structural changes in the context of the privatization of the agricultural sector were given a (relatively) great deal of attention in the field of transformation research, we hitherto see a research gap in reference to the introduction of local self-government.


The research project (finished) starts at this point. Taking the perspective of differentiation theory and the theory of world society, it asks for structures and practices that evolve in the dual context of agricultural privatization and the introduction of local self-government in post-Soviet rural Russia. Thereby, the focus is on two central and complementary reforms at the interface between the so-called political and economic transformation. Empirically, the project is based on ethnographical field research in two rural communities in the region of Perm (Russian Federation).


Three central insights are to be emphasized:


1.       A theoretical reconstruction of the Soviet organization society foregrounds (full-) inclusion/exclusion and hierarchy/market as main distinctions of socialist social programs as well as the penetration of society with organizational structures – party and mass organizations (the kolkhozes among others). Following this logic the Soviet village can thus be described as a niche within which deviant forms of communication emerge and could reproduce themselves.

2.       Political decentralization and the introduction of local self-government can be described as (i) a process of the internal differentiation of the political system by introducing a relatively autonomous administrative level in the center of the political system, (ii) as a process of organization formation on this level and (iii) as a process of the constitution of a local public and specific forms of public inclusion.

3.       Analyzing processes of change in the context of the introduction of local self-government and the privatization of kolkhozes in post-Soviet rural communities, three key patterns can be identified: firstly, the shift of hierarchies of inclusion and the increasing presence of global contexts of reference in rural communication; the kolkhoz membership as the decisive form of inclusion gradually makes way for the addressability in global functional systems. Secondly, the local mayors emerge as a fixpoint of a strongly integration-bound local policy, which establishes itself as a distinct communication context; large farms remain indispensable in respect of local infrastructure, although they no longer appear as super-relevant environments but as cooperation partners of the municipal administration. Thirdly, it becomes apparent how the organizations involved – municipal administrations and large farms – by means of certain configurations of formal, informal and illegal structures follow global transformation imperatives and, at the same time, absorb local expectations.  


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