This article presents an overview and summary of some issues discussed in my Doctoral dissertation: Continuity or Not? Family Farming and Agricultural Transformations in 20th Century Estonia, Umeå, 2004. A main departure – both for the dissertation and this article – is the long-term and comparative approach, which is seen as necessary for understanding the directions taken in the agricultural transformation in Estonia after 1991. The analysis of the development since restitution and de-collectivisation were introduced is based on the impact of long-term institutional and structural changes. These changes are here seen as outcomes of three profound economic, political and legal shifts since the first independence in 1918, which together have had an impact on Estonia’s 20th century development and not least the agricultural transformation process since 1991.
The neo-institutional approach applied suits the analysis of the agricultural transformation processes and specifically changes appearing in terms of property rights. From this we can see that in spite of the absence of formal property rights in the Soviet Union, there was space for manoeuvring within the planned economic system by use rights, which implies institutional change. On the one hand, the private plots were not meant to be more than a transition solution, yet, they became institutionalised and prepared farmers for a shift towards private farming at the end of the 1980s. On the other hand, the private plots rested on a symbiotic relationship with the planned economic system. Thus, when market economic relations were to decide the future, the smallest farms of less than 10 ha had to turn toward pure subsistence production. It was after 2001 that a change was within reach due to the forthcoming membership in the European Union, which gave a better market outlook.
2005. no 9, 69-94 p.