Cooperative tradition in Russia: a revival of agricultural service cooperatives?
Agricultural cooperatives in Russia have had an uneven evolution: from their initial form of service cooperatives based on classical principles of cooperation in the decades before 1929, they evolved to predominantly production cooperatives during the Soviet era and then back to service cooperatives with the rapid decline in the number and share of production cooperatives after 1992. The number of agricultural cooperatives providing product marketing, input supply, machinery and farm credit services matches the number of production cooperatives as of 2016 but formal membership in service cooperatives is minuscule. Yet, the potential membership in agricultural service cooperatives is conservatively estimated at between 3.8 and 7.5 million rural households, or between 29% and 56% of the rural households in 2017. These numbers represent the pool of small agricultural producers in Russia that are most likely to benefit from cooperation in farm services. More optimistic estimates put the potential number of cooperators at over 90% of all rural households. Examination of possible policy measures for the development of service cooperatives has led to a disturbing conclusion that cooperatives flourish in regions that provide ample budgetary support. No tendencies for significant bottom-up development of cooperatives are observed.