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Peasantry at the turn of the era: analysis of social organization of modern Russian village during the economic transformation

Priority areas of development: sociology
Department: Center for Study of Social Organization of a Firm

Object of the research: rural population of the Penza region.

to conduct complex analysis of the social organization of the rural settlements in the Penza region in the context of economic transformations in the Penza region and to provide a comparative analysis of the Penza and Belgorod regions (using the results of the study in 2013 in the Belgorod region).

Empirical base of the study:
Two massive quantitative studies were carried out: 1) the study of the socio-economic conditions of rural households (450 households surveyed in 6 in rural settlements of the Penza region); 2) analysis of the values and attitudes of the contemporary rural working-age population (surveyed more than 900 respondents in 10 rural settlements of the Penza region).

Results of the project:
This study leads to the general conclusion that the trend of social development of the contemporary rural territories of the Penza region is rather contradictory: undoubtedly positive aspects are symbiotically combined with deeply rooted unsolved problems hindering the effective development of rural areas and stimulating negative processes.

  1. The main driving force behind the transformation of the social structure of the Russian village was the replacement of the Soviet period ineffective production by agricultural enterprises of private ownership (regional and federal agricultural holdings, partnerships and other organizations).
  2. The most striking feature of the new social structure is a sharp decline in the share of the rural dwellers employed in agricultural organizations. The survey showed that the employees of such organizations now make up only 30% of the working population. Unfortunately, the sharp drop in the number of employees in agricultural enterprises is not compensated by the growth of individual agricultural entrepreneurship (farming).
  3. Migration of young people to reside permanently in the major cities is proceeding actively. The study showed that up to 80-90% of the rural youth - today live in cities.
  4. There are two main forms of contemporary labor migration from the rural areas: with separation from the family and without. In more than 40% of the working-age families, at least, one host, or both (the latter is rare) work in the city.
  5. Rural households have, generally, good living conditions and the state of the housing stock is at a rather high level of quality. 97% of rural households have running water, central heating - 88%, a toilet in the house - 74%, bath or shower in the house - 77%, Internet in the house - 45%, a fixed or portable computer - 49%.
  6. The main factor that ensures a sufficiently high level of welfare of the inhabitants of the villages of the Penza region is the salary received by the villagers in different organizations in the rural areas and in the city. The reduction in the activity of selling products of subsidiary plots is stronger in the Penza region than in the Belgorod region.
  7. As a result of profound social and economic changes, the rural dwellers were involved in completely new social institutions: those who work in rural areas, have entered into an employment relationship with the enterprise based on private ownership; those who work in the city, are faced with industrial and market environment and the urban lifestyle. All this has led to significant results in overcoming the negative social practices such as stealing from work, drinking at work and at home.
  8. We also revealed the key characteristics of the values, life priorities and ethical principles of contemporary rural dwellers. We found that the social and moral consciousness of the rural population of the Penza region is slowly but surely growing which helps overcome the elements of social dependency, paternalism. Achievement-orientations and personal responsibility are rather widespread.
  9. The study, however, revealed large dissatisfaction with the arrangement of their villages, transport accessibility, quality of roads and pavements (especially inside the villages), the light level. The  attitudes towards work of schools and kindergartens are rather positive but, much lower satisfaction is found regarding medical care and opportunities for cultural activities and sport. On most of these parameters, in particular, on arrangement of the villages, their electrification and roads residents of the Penza region provide a more critical assessment than was fpind in the study in the Belgorod region in 2013.
  10. In general, a comparison of the data obtained in the study of villages in the Penza region in 2014, with similar data on the research in the Belgorod region in 2013, reveals a sizeable match results on the key moments of the analysis of rural society. This concerns, first, the social structure in which sharply reduced the number of employees of agricultural organizations. Second, the weak development of individual entrepreneurship. Third, the major difficulties in the development of of private farming. Fourth, trends in the welfare of rural households. Fifth, overcoming the negative social practices.

Recommendations for the implementation of the research results:
Given the high diversity of forms of organization of agricultural production in the studied rural territories and their different results in terms of impact on the rural society, it is advisable to develop the more modern forms: first of all, modern agricultural holdings and professional private farming. If the development of modern agricultural holdings requires significant investments, important forms of support for private farming may be less costly measures such as the organization of the overall marketing system.

Scope of the implementation of the results:
The results can be applied in the development of measures aimed at accelerating socio-economic development of the Penza region (and other regions of Russia) in general, as well as some areas of the agricultural sector. Of particular importance is the fact that in this study we identified opinions of rural residents about what measures of support for the development of private farming are considered most effective.


Efendiev A., Sorokin P. S. Still path-dependency? Understanding transformations in the rural life in Russian Belgorod region in 2000-2013 in the context of modern agroholdings’ development // Communist and Post-Communist Studies. 2015. 
Сорокин П. С. Благосостояние сельских жителей Белгородской области в 2000–2013 гг. в условиях экономических преобразований: динамика изменения и основные проблемы по результатам качественного исследования, in: XV апрельская международная научная конференция по проблемам развития экономики и общества: в 4-х книгах. Москва : Издательский дом НИУ ВШЭ, 2015. С. 159-167. 
Эфендиев А. Г., Сорокин П. С. Крестьянство Белгородской области в 2000–2013 гг.: комплексный анализ развития хозяйственной деятельности и социальной организации сельской жизни, in: XV апрельская международная научная конференция по проблемам развития экономики и общества: в 4-х книгах. Москва : Издательский дом НИУ ВШЭ, 2015. С. 168-177.