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Working paper

Transformations In The Rural Life In Russian Belgorod Region In 2000-2013 Through “Modernization” Theoretical Perspective: Increasing Material Well-Being, Growing Individualism And Persisting Pessimism

In the present paper we analyze transformations in the life of rural population in the Belgorod region, Russia, in the period 2000-2013 in the context of active development of large vertically integrated enterprises – agroholdings. These transformations are seen through the prism of “modernization” concept: agroholdings promote advanced agricultural technologies, professional management and modern organization of labor and thus may be considered as an important factor stimulating rural modernization in Belgorod region. The traditional understanding of “modernization” in sociology implies a progressive transition from a “pre-modern” or “traditional” to a “modern” society which means changes in many areas such as: occupational structure (including the development of entrepreneurship), material well-being (growth of living condition resulting from efficient economy), and increase in rationality and individualism. However, literature shows that the adaptation to modernization processes might be painful for the local communities and for the society in general. Hence, reflecting on both, modernization theoretical framework and literature on Russian rural development, in our analysis of transformations in Belgorod region we focus on the following aspects: firstly, material well-being and living conditions of rural population; secondly, individualism and attitudes towards achievement and economic success; thirdly, the attractiveness of private farming. Finally, we look at the general perception by the rural population of their future (from the point of view of optimism/pessimism). The research is based on the two empirical studies, conducted in the years 2000 and 2013 which utilized similar methodology in the similar 15 villages of the Belgorod region. Possibly, the most interesting empirical finding is that despite rapid growth of material well-being of the rural population, the pessimistic expectations are no less widespread in 2013 than in 2000. This illustrates the complex nature of the transformations of the rural life in Belgorod region.