Agrarian transition in the former Soviet Union Central Asia: stagnation and progress

Research output: Working paperAcademic


This paper reviews the post-1991 process of transformation of the agrarian sectors in the five Central Asian States (CAS) of the former Soviet Union (FSU), Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. A detailed assessment is presented of the agrarian transition in the CAS, after more than half a decade of reforms and structural transformation the current state of transition in these largely rural parts of the FSU. In most of the CAS the transition is seen as 'slow' or 'gradual', in particular in Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, while Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan are considered to have progressed more rapidly.
The paper uses a comparative method to show that agrarian transformation in the FSU are extremely complex and often contradictory processes, in which various interrelated factors - apart from agrarian reform policies- play a crucial role: (1) initial conditions, such as the role of agricultural in the national economy and its structural features; (ii) the dynamic interplay between macro-economic adjustment policies and sectoral development. The paper challenges the mainstream position which claims that between the pace and extent of privatization and market liberalization in transitional economies, and their speed of recovery, exists a simple positive causal relationship, as is put forward quite forcefully in the most recent World Development Report (1996).
The agricultural sector reforms are reviewed, with special attention to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, showing that in spite of the slow land privatization and the formation of only an incipient private family farm sector, a wide variety of farm-types and production arrangements is appearing, which points to a dynamic and diverse development, also in case a country scores low on a 'reform index'. The paper concludes that in these transitional processes no simple recipes nor ideal outcomes exist, but mainly complex dynamics and unexpected, and sometimes unintended results of adjustment policies. Micro and macro-efficiencies in agricultural production are changing, but much will depend on the formation of an accessible and competitive market environment in which these new (often family-run) farm units can operate. Institutional reforms and transformations in this respect have until now been quite insufficient in all five CAS.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationDen Haag
PublisherInternational Institute of Social Studies (ISS)
Number of pages32
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1997

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SeriesISS working papers. General series


  • ISS Working Paper-General Series


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