This interview with Gennady Stepanovich Lisichkin was taken on February 1, 1999 for the book Press in Society (1959-2000). Estimates of Journalists and Sociologists. Documents. We believe that the biography of this famous scholar and publicist, which is closely related to the development of agriculture in the USSR in the 1950-1970s, will be interesting to the readers of the Russian Peasant Studies. In 1953, after graduating from the MGIMO University and working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Gennady Stepanovich voluntarily went to Kazakhstan and was the head of the collective farm for three years. Later he worked at the USSR Embassy in Yugoslavia, as an editor of the department in the Izvestia and as an economic observer in the Pravda. He was an involuntary initiator of the public discussion on the economic challenges of agricultural production in the central press in the 1960s (a selection of documents from the Russian State Archive of Contemporary History was published in the section “Beyond the Economic Discussion in the Press”).
In the interview, the Russian geographer A.I. Alekseev considers those facts of his biography that determined his career in geography, key research projects and publications, and also discusses methodology and theory of geography. The interview focuses on rural geography and regions in which Alekseev conducted his studies —from the Non-Black-Earth region and Kuban to the Far East and Altai. Alekseev paid special attention to the Soviet history of rural geography, theory and practice of decision-making in the Soviet agrarian transformations, rural-urban migrations, rural settlement and the ethnic factor in rural geography. He also considered teaching of geography in secondary and higher school, the quality of geography textbooks and the change of generations in geography. The interview combines discussion of geographical theories with life stories of geographers who participated in the field rural research of Alekseev. The interview concludes with the issue of the relationship between quantitative and qualitative approaches in rural studies (‘complex research’) and with the aphorisms of classics of social-economic geography on the features of studying and understanding the rural development.
In his interview, the French researcher Alexis Berelowitch considers his Russian family roots and the desire to combine French and Russian cultures in his life through different types of cooperation in the Russian and French historical-sociological projects. He first visited Russia as a teenager in a Moscow pioneer camp in the late 1950s, then he worked as a young volunteer teacher of French at the Minsk State Pedagogical Institute of Foreign Languages in the late 1960s, and after that he chose the key topic of his research—the development of the nationalist trend among village-writers in the Soviet Union. Since perestroika Berelowitch has participated in Russian-French scientific projects of sociologists who studied the transformations of public opinion under the collapse of the USSR, and in Russian-French scientific projects of historians who studied the early Soviet period of the agrarian history of the 1920s—1930s. Alexis Berelowitch made a great contribution to the development of cultural and scientific relations between France and Russia as a cultural attaché of the French Embassy in the mid-1990s and as a director of the French Scientific Center in Moscow (2002-2006). The interview pays special attention to his personal memories of such remarkable researchers of the Russian peasantry as Basile Kerblay, Moshe Levin, Viktor Danilov and Teodor Shanin.
In the autobiographical interview, Sergio Schneider, a leading Brazilian sociologist in the field of sociology of rural development and professor at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, reconstructs his scientific career and considers dramatic changes in the life of rural and urban communities of Brazil in the late 20th—early 21st century. In particular, the interview focuses on the development of rural sociology in Brazil, its institutionalization, and research interests of those Brazilian social scientists that determined the development of rural sociology and were the teachers of Sergio Schneider. The development of rural sociology in Brazil is presented as influenced by the German, French, American and English historical-sociological traditions of the study of the agrarian question and interaction of the city and the village. The interview emphasizes the significance of A.V. Chayanov’s intellectual heritage for the worldview of Sergio Schneider and Brazilian rural sociology in general. Sergio Schneider stresses the importance of his personal activist position that has always helped him in the search for interaction between politics and science. In conclusion, he raises the question of the development of comparative Brazil-Russian-Chinese rural-urban studies, in which he currently participates.
In his interview to the Russian Peasant Studies, Sergei Kiselev, the Head of the Department of Agricultural Economics of the Lomonosov Moscow State University, refers to the facts of his biography to provide an extensive overview of the evolution of some important approaches in the Russian and foreign agrarian economic science and politics in the late 20th—early 21st centuries. The interview focuses on the agrarian and economic policy of the perestroika, the creation of the Agrarian Institute headed by the Academician A.A. Nikonov, the interaction of the state regulation of agriculture with emerging market-economy institutions and relations. One of the topics of the interview is the long-term accession of Russia to the WTO as connected with negotiations on various areas of the economy and especially on agriculture, in which Kiselev took part. The interview also describes the studies of foreign agrarian economies, especially of the USA, which were conducted by meetings of Kiselev with American farmers, scientists and businessmen. When describing the current development of the Russian agriculture Kiselev stresses that Russia has reached a plateau of economic indicators, and to increase them the country needs a substantial increase in agricultural labor productivity, which depends not only on the successes of the national economy as a whole, but also on the quality of agricultural science and education, and the most important factor of their successful improvement is culture in the most extensive and deep meaning of the word.
In her interview, Tatiana Nefedova, a Chief Researcher at the Institute of Geography of the Russian Academy of Sciences, tells about her research interests that had formed already in childhood and brought her to the geographical faculty of the Moscow State University, and about her further professional development. As a true geographer, the author traveled a lot all over Russia and the world, participated in different interdisciplinary geographical projects, and at first they were not agricultural. Nevertheless, T.G. Nefedova made a significant scientific contribution to the study and development of rural post-Soviet Russia. At the same time her cross-cultural comparative studies of rural Russia and other countries of the world—Europe and Asia—are no less important. In her interview, she also focuses on various methods to study the spatial development, on the perception and reflections on the poly-scale nature of space, on the diversity of regionality as the most important factor of rural development, and on the ratio of quantitative and qualitative research methods. One of the special topics of the interview is the relationship of the scientist and the authorities. Should a scientist seek power and strive to in fluence the state decision-making with his findings despite the threat of turning from a scientist into a politician or an official? In conclusion, new plans and projects of geographical studies of rural Russia are discussed, for instance, the study of such a combination of factors of social development as the long-inhabited territories, social capital, social mobility, agglomerations, summer residents, and cultural heritage.
In his biographical interview for the Russian Peasant Studies, Vasily Yakimovich Uzun remembers the milestones of his life from the hungry peasant childhood in the Gagauz village to the mature agrarian scientist working in one of the leading Russian research institutions, and considers issues of efficient interaction of theory and practice, economics and politics in ensuring the sustainability of rural-urban development and norms of social justice. In his memoirs, the scientist reconstructs events of his rural war and post-war childhood related to school years and peasant and collective-farm labor, years of studies at the agricultural institute and work as an agronomist on a collective farm, decision to start a scientific career and study economic-mathematical methods of agricultural management that were actual in the 1960–1970s. Then V.V. Uzun focuses on the political and economic events of the 1980s with their dramatic attempts in the period of both stagnation and perestroika to develop a system of comprehensive measures for the effective agrarian reform of the Soviet economy. The interview provides a detailed review of the post-Soviet period of the Russian rural development, in particular of the Nizhny Novgorod experiments on the market reform of large collective farms. The scientific analysis of political-economic issues of rural development is accompanied by characteristic personal examples and anecdotes from the life of Vasily Yakimovich Uzun.
In the interview to the Russian Peasant Studies, the Governor of the Belgorod Region, Doctor of Economics, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences Yevgeny Savchenko refers to his life trajectory to consider the history and the present state of the agrarian and social policy in Russia and the Belgorod Region. The interview focuses on the role of the state in developing a responsible agrarian policy that establishes the rules under the market economy and regulates economic and social interaction of large and small forms of agricultural production, the social development of the village, innovative trends in agriculture, and takes care of environmental challenges, problems of local self-government, and training of personnel for agriculture. The governor emphasized the significance of agroholdings in agriculture and in the Russian society in general, identifies possible directions of agroholdings participation in the development of rural areas. In the Belgorod rural programs, particular attention is paid to restoring soil fertility, environmental development of the “Green Capital” project, and barriers to the spread of bioenergy and alternative energy. The governor notes that despite the catastrophic trials in the life of the Russian peasantry in the 20th century, which determined the loss of peasant mentality, in contemporary Russia there is still a need for preservation and development of the culture of rural communities and territories that seamlessly combine rural traditions and innovations, for example, in the form of ancestral estates and homeowners’ associations. In the conclusion, the interview stresses that by the will of fate rural Russia often had to be a pioneer.
In the interview to the Russian Journal of Peasant Studies, Elmira Nikolaevna Krylatykh, an academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences, a famous researcher of the agrofood sphere in Russia and Europe, an author of more than 250 scientific works, a professor that supervised more than 30 doctoral and PhD theses, considers the milestones of her life and scientific career, and defines the key thematic and institutional transformations of the Soviet and post-Soviet agrarian science. Thus, she describes the Soviet scientific approaches to the study of agrarian economy that determined the strong points in the research of the All-Union Institute of Agricultural Economics, in which E.N. Krylatykh studied the costs of the collective farms production. The interview also focuses on the development of economic and mathematical modeling of agrarian economy in the All-Union Research Institute of Cybernetics of the USSR Ministry of Agriculture, in which E.N. Krylatykh wrote and defended her doctoral thesis “Agricultural production planning based on the system of economic and mathematical models”. E.N. Krylatykh makes interesting estimates of scientific developments and their authors when considers the features of organization and development of science at the Faculty of Economics of the Moscow State University, the Agrarian Institute of the Lenin’s All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences and the Academy of National Economy that later turned into the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration. Throughout the interview, E.N. Krylatykh emphasizes the significance of random circumstances that determine the fate of the scientist.
The journal “Russian Peasant Studies” starts a new section “An interview with a researcher” to discuss with the leading Russian and foreign scientists the interdisciplinary problems of the history and the current issues of peasant studies and agrarian science. The first interview was conducted by Alexander Nikulin, the editor of the journal, with the Russian historian Alexander Gordon, the head of the East and South-East Asia section of the INION RAS. He made a significant contribution to the development of Russian peasant studies and their integration in the world historical and cultural tradition. The interview questions consider the relationship of agrarian science and peasant studies, the role of regional factors in the development of peasant studies in France, the Middle and Far East, Southeast Asia and Russia, the contribution of Russian and foreign scientists, writers and intellectuals to the institutionalization of peasant studies, and the current strategies in their development. However, the interview rather focuses on the scientific biography of Alexander Gordon—a researcher and a historian who emphasized the importance of the commune in peasant culture and of the peasant identity as a land owner and a hard worker.