Beyond the Revolution in Russia. Narratives - Spaces - Concepts
This article aims to explore the microfoundations of political support under a nondemocratic regime by investigating the impact of a natural disaster on attitudes toward the government. The research exploits the enormous wildfires that occurred in rural Russia during the summer of 2010 as a natural experiment. The authors test the effects of fires with a survey of almost eight hundred respondents in seventy randomly selected villages. The study finds that in the burned villages there is higher support for the government at all levels. Most counterintuitively, the rise of support for authorities cannot be fully explained by the generous governmental aid. The authors interpret the results by the demonstration effect of the government's performance.
The article contributes to the discussion on the informal economic activity in post-socialist countries. Quite often this activity is related to state regulation. We provide evidence from rural Russia suggesting that state shirking also can give rise to informal economic relations. Empirical data from Altai Krai show that informal transfers from farms to rural municipalities are used to provide rural social sector. Despite the collapse of socialist agricultural system, when rural communities existed under patronage of collective farms, substantial part of the privately owned post-Soviet farms still donate to rural municipalities and population. The article is based on the fieldwork conducted in Altai Krai in 2013 when qualitative data (informal interviews, group discussions, observations) were collected by the author and his colleagues. Gift-giving relations between agricultural producers and municipalities could be described as “natural” bottom-up pattern. We perceive these Soviet-style gift-giving relations as the way to mitigate the weaknesses both of the Russian state rural policy as well as market self-regulation mechanism. Despite it could slow down economic performance of farms, it is the way to prevent rural degradation and depopulation.
In the present paper, we analyze the key consequences of economic transformations in the rural territories in Belgorod region (Russia) which took place in the beginning of the XXIst century. We focus on the complex study of the changes in the rural life and on the way they perceived by the local population. The paper bases on the results of the two studies conducted in the same 15 villages of Belgorod region utilizing the same methodology. We reveal both positive and negative consequences of the economic transformations for the life of the rural population. The activities of large vertically integrated agricultural enterprises, so called “agroholdings” (launched in the last 10-12 years), contributed to the rapid growth of economic well-being but also caused several serious problems. The local population perceives agroholdings as aggressive intruders reconstructing traditional way of rural life by transforming local enterprises and enhancing unemployment and social inequality. Agroholdings are also seen as major obstacles for successful development of private farming in the region.