In the interview, the famous agricultural economist Zvi Lerman tells about his family roots and trajectories of his biographical path connected with the Far and Middle East. Despite the relatively late start of agrarian research, Zvi Lerman quickly conducted a great number of both empirical and theoretical rural studies of the development and transformation of production cooperatives — from Israeli kibbutzim to Soviet collective farms. For several decades since the 1990s, Zvi Lerman has participated as an expert-economist in the international research projects on post-socialist and post-Soviet agrarian reforms. He considered the features of the study and implementation of agrarian reforms in most post-Soviet republics — Russia, Ukraine and Moldova, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan. Zvi Lerman also considered the peculiarities of agrarian reforms in such countries of Eastern Europe as Hungary, Slovenia and Albania. He believes that the conviction of many scientists and politicians in the exceptional importance and progressiveness of large agricultural enterprises leads to an imbalance in the rural development policy and damages the sustainable rural development by underestimating the potential of small family farms. Zvi Lerman also mentions the paradoxes of limitations in the development of small family units.
The interview presents the history of the rural development and agrarian reforms in Russia in the 20th — 21st centuries as based on the facts from the biography of the Academician V.N. Khlystun. The article focuses on the features of educational and scientific institutions associated with the countryside in the USSR and in post-Soviet Russia, in particular on the history and present state of the Academician’s alma mater — the State University of Land Use Planning. One of the main issues in the interview is the reforms of the Russian agrarian system, which are considered primarily on the basis of Khlystun’s rich management experience in the 1990s — as the Chairman of the RSFSR State Committee on Land Reform, Russian Minister of Agriculture, Deputy Chairman of the Russian Government, and as a key manager of large financial organizations and analytical structures in the agrarian-industrial complex. In his memoirs, Khlystun describes and analyzes successes and failures of various legislative, economic and political measures of agrarian reforms at the federal and regional levels, and makes some personal assessments of the behavior and competencies of some representatives of the state, political and scientific elites of Russia. He repeatedly emphasizes that rural life is a special social sphere that requires complex and balanced measures for its transformations, i.e., considering various agrarian characteristics of such a vast country as Russia. Khlystun argues that the key to successful rural reforms is a combination of leaders’ broad professional horizons with the ability to give priority to the common national good instead of private interests.
The interview with the DSc (History), Professor V. V. Kondrashin presents the milestones of his biography in the historical context of the Russian science and politics in the 20th—21st century. This biographical reflection includes the events of childhood that awakened his interest in history, the difficulties in the academic career of a young man of the people, the historian’s survival under the social crisis of the 1990s. An important part of the interview is formed by Kondrashin’s memories of his teachers in school and university—V. V. Danilov and V. V. Kabanov, M. Levin and T. Shanin. Another significant part of the interview focuses on the most important issues of Kondrashin and his colleagues’ historical research, mainly the history of the Russian and Soviet countryside under revolutions and reforms of the 20th century (peasant wars, NEP, collectivization, World War II and the late Soviet period of agrarian history). The interview was not limited to the Russian historical context—Kondrashin mentions international scientific projects such as the study of the 1932-1933 famine in the USSR, and of the survival and development of the Soviet Union in the interaction with its close and distant neighboring countries. Kondrashin describes the cooperation of Russian scientists with their colleagues from Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Eastern Europe, France, England, USA, Japan and Australia. A special part of the interview presents his reflections on the ‘historian and power’ issue. Due to his active social position, Kondrashin was engaged in various social-political activities, including his work as a Senator of the Federation Council. The interview ends with a discussion of his scientific plans for the year of his sixtieth anniversary.
In the biographical interview, N.I. Shagaida, DSc (Economics), Head of the Center for Agro-Food Policy of the RANEPA, considers the historical roots of the development of the Soviet agrarian system on the examples of her life experience and her family generations involved in agricultural activities in different regions of the former USSR. The interview focuses on her reflections on the peculiarities of agrarian university and academic organizations and on the role of outstanding scientists as determining the results of research teams and the horizons of agrarian sciences. The article presents the milestones in N.I. Shagaida’s scientific research as coinciding with the key stages in restructuring and reforming the Soviet and post-Soviet agrarian system, especially with the social-economic experiments and transformations under the reform of the Soviet collective-farm and state-farm system in the Nizhny Novgorod Region and other regions of the Russian Federation in the 1990s, and with the creation of rural development institutions in Lodeynopolsky district of the Leningrad Region. N.I. Shagaida emphasizes that for the successful and sustainable agrarian transformations, science and government have to work systematically in pilot regional projects in order to take into account opinions, requests and estimates of the rural population and local rural leaders in the development and adaptation of the daily innovations under the necessary agrarian changes. Thus, the interview questions the strategic goals of the state in the regulation of land relations, food security, agricultural production and the Russian rural development in general.
In this interview, Boris Doktorov, a Russian sociologist living in America, a researcher of intellectual biographies and methods of social sciences in the 20th–21st centuries, together with the Editor-in-Chief of the Russian Peasant Studies and Head of the Chayanov Research Center of the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences, Alexander Nikulin, talks about the outstanding British sociologist Teodor Shanin, whose scientific legacy is closely related to the development of an interdisciplinary social science—peasant studies, and who conducted a number of fundamental historical-sociological and economic-sociological studies of rural Russia. The interview considers the basic concepts and milestones in the development of peasant studies as a branch of the historical-sociological knowledge in Russia, analyzes Shanin’s estimates of various aspects of the Russian social-humanitarian thought as related to the study of the peasantry and to the recommendations on alternatives for the development and transformation of peasant worlds, which were suggested by agrarian populists and Marxists, G.V. Plekhanov and V.I. Lenin, A.V. Chayanov and I.V. Stalin. The interview considers the impact of literature and art on descriptions and explanations of the role of the peasantry through the intellectual interests of Teodor Shanin; focuses on his joint activities with his closest colleagues in the study of rural Russia—the outstanding agrarian scientists V.P. Danilov and T.I. Zaslavskaya. Throughout the interview, Shanin’s worldview and moral-ethical principles in the search for humanistic alternatives for the Russian and global rural development are discussed.
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.