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Academic Freedom. The Global Challenge
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Green Barons, Force-of-Circumstance Entrepreneurs, Impotent Mayors
Rural Change in the Early Years of Post-Socialist Capitalist Democracy


Nigel Swain, School of History, University of Liverpool

An exemplary study in comparative contemporary history, this monograph looks at rural change in six countries: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. In the 1990s most of these nations experienced a fourth radical restructuring of agricultural relations in the twentieth century, and all went through the dramatic transition from communism to capitalism.

The author analyzes attempts to activate democracy on a local level and recreate farming structures and non-agricultural businesses based on private ownership and private enterprise. He describes the emergence of a new business class that seeks to dominate local government structures; the recuperation of former communist farming entities by former managers; and the transformation of peasants into rural citizens, who nevertheless remain the underdogs.

Swain exposes common features as well as specific divergences between the six countries; he portrays the winners, losers and engineers of transformations. He situates his themes in a wider context that will appeal to a broad range of social scientists and historians.


List of Tables and Maps Preface Introduction 1. Politics, Policies and Legal Measures The National Politics of Early Post-Socialism Privatisation and Restitution Policies Co-operative Restructuring Creating a Local Democratic Politics The Research Moment 2. Common General Findings The Restructuring of Agriculture The Non-Farm Economy Local Government Rural Communities and Civil Society 3. Bulgaria Contested Co-operative Liquidation Local Authorities—Coping with Post-Socialist Recession The Destruction of Socialist Mountain Communities—Blagun and Chala The Non-Farm Economy—New Businesses and a Cushion for Local Employment Bulgarian Specificities in Summary 4. Czech Republic Agricultural Transformations—Uncontested, Scandalous and Acrimonious Contested Transformation in Agriculture and Protracted Non-Farm Privatisation—Městysov Non-Farm Transformations—Protracted and Serendipitous Independent But at a Loss—Contrasting Village Development Strategies Contrasts in Optimism and Envy—Bárov and Chůzovany Czech Specificities in Summary 5. Hungary Agricultural Transformation—Bankruptcy, Subterfuge and Paths to Private Farming The Non-Farm Economy Local Government and Local Development Policy Hungarian Specificities in Summary 6. Poland Agricultural Transformation—State Farm Privatisations and Specialists Local Authorities and Regime Change The Non-Farm Economy The Peculiarities of a Non-EU Border Community—Sedno Polish Specificities in Summary 7. Romania Agricultural Transformation The Non-Farm Economy—Modest Developments Extreme Impotence at the Local Level Romanian Specificities in Summary 8. Slovakia Agricultural Transformation—Variations on the Theme of Continuity The Non-Farm Economy Local Authority Ventures and Accommodations to Central Power Slovak Specificities in Summary Conclusion Bibliography

"Nigel Swain’s contemporary comparative history, comparing six Central and Eastern European countries in statu nascendi of their transformation in the early-mid 1990s is one of the best works on the historical turning point of the region. A masterful work. A deep research-digging in the neglected area of agriculture and rural communities. The readers find highly interesting case studies that help understanding the entire history of post-communism
in the region. A must read."—Ivan T. Berend, University of California Los Angeles

412 pages
978-615-5225-70-3 cloth $70.00 / €65.00 / £60.00

"After twenty years of extensive research and publications on diff erent aspects of rural change in postsocialist eastern Europe, Nigel Swain is unquestionably a leading scholar in this field. With his Green Barons, Force-of-Circumstance Entrepreneurs, Impotent Mayors, a volume on rural change in east central and southeastern Europe from 1989 until the mid-1990s, he offers a synthesis of his knowledge. This is to be treated as overwhelmingly good news...
'Green barons' and 'force-of-circumstance entrepreneurs' aptly describe the two most common careers in rural postsocialist eastern Europe. In a broader historical perspective, the postsocialist pattern of landholding was unique in that many owned land but few had the human, social, or cultural resources to embark on farming it privately and commercializing the products." - Slavic Review

"Nigel Swain’s insightful book provides the best comprehensive discussion available of a woefully neglected subject: the transformation of agricultural communities in post-Communist Europe during the 1990s. The book is based on sociological research conducted in fifty-four villages (nine in each of six countries) between 1993 and 1996. Swain wisely notes that because of the unique moment in which the research took place, the collected evidence quickly acquired exceptional historical value, and the resulting
book is appropriately interdisciplinary. Its author is a historian trained in the social sciences, and the book will appeal to anthropologists, economists, and sociologists interested in rural communities and agriculture, as well as to historians and political scientists interested in local government and times of transition.
Swain succeeds admirably at illustrating the range of experience in the rural communities of post-Communist Europe during the unique historical moment of the 1990s. With reference to fifty-four colorful, real-life examples, he explains how the consequences of policies and courses of action could frequently be at odds with original intents, resulting in the paradoxical yet ubiquitous sense that, while everything changed after 1989 in central and eastern Europe,much remained the same." - Journal of Modern History

"Nigel Swain's book combines contemporary historical analysis and comparative sociology in a remarkable effort to provide a complex tool for understanding the processes of transforming former communist societies into capitalist ones. The whole book is built on an analytical pattern which allows the reader to distinguish between various dimensions of the transformation process, including changes in agricultural and non-farming sectors as well as the construction of the new local authorities.
The book offers answers to important questions such as why the existence of a secondary economic sector in Hungary assured the needed resources for entrepreneurship. How important was the fact that in Poland state farm workers were landless? Why are contemporary farms from the Czech Republic larger than in other former communist countries?
The book draws an exceptionally detailed image of rural changes in the early postcommunist
period and presents a variety of economic, social and political aspects of these processes. It is based on an enormous amount of work and the comparative nature of the book makes it mandatory reading for scholars interested in rural changes in Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans." - Europe-Asia Studies

"Neben Autoren wie Constantin Iordachi, Gerald Creed und Katherine Verdery befasst auch Nigel Swain sich seit Längerem mit gerade diesen vermeintlich nicht marktfähigen, transformationsbremsenden Bereichen, die in Ländern wie Polen und Rumänien indes demographisch, gesellschaftlich und volkswirtschaftlich nach wie vor bedeutsam sind. Interessant ist, dass in diesem Forschungsfeld die Wende 1989/1991 nur wenige personelle Diskontinuitäten nach sich gezogen hat.
Die interessanten Ergebnisse nicht nur bezüglich der großen Unterschiede von Ort zu Ort, sondern vor allem bezüglich der divergierenden nationalen Ausgangslagen rechtfertigen die methodische Herangehensweise durchaus. - CEEOL Central and Eastern European Online Library