Yerevan State University
ISSN (печатный вариант): 2073-0071
Republic of Armenia, declaration of independence, history, agrarian reforms, market economy, agriculture, privatization of land, poverty, unemployment
The study of agrarian reforms of the third Republic of Armenia has important scientific and social value. From the viewpoint of the modern Armenian history the major significance is given to the peculiarities of the transition period in the agriculture, the need for agrarian reforms, privatization of land, cattle head, agricultural equipment, and the new illumination of their results. The article makes attempts to present the directions of agrarian policy implemented by the regimes, which made the reforms in 1991-2000, their shortcomings and advantages.
Initiated in the 1990s agrarian reforms have a special place in the modern history of the Armenian people as they have deeply affected Armenia’s social and political, economic life and on the moral and psychological character of the population likewise. Because of the declaration of independence and transition to the market relations in the 1990s almost all former Soviet republics had serious problems. The Republic of Armenia was not an exception. Like different fields of statehood, the agrarian sector had many shortcomings and failures. In the Armenian history the 1990s was the period of hope and despair, expectations and reforms, state-building and development, quest of own ways, as well as complex and contradictory stage of disappointments for Armenians. It is not accidental that many issues of the mentioned period have always been in the researchers’ limelight. These include agrarian reforms that were the basis for radical changes in the economy. Along with some positive results reforms led to negative effects: poverty, unemployment, social polarization, emigration, etc [5, 45]. There is no doubt that agriculture is considered to be one of the most important branches of economy, which directly affects the essential social and economic functions and requirements. The social and economic extensive fundamental changes, certain hardships agrarian transformation, which took place in 1990s in post-Soviet countries, especially in Armenia. Non-uniformity of the consequences are the basis for the comprehensive studies of processes. Nowadays in Armenia many issues of Armenian history are to be explained from a new and fresh perspective. In the 90s these problems were not either researched or presented in accordance with social imperatives. Such problems are the issues connected with the agrarian reforms and the process of privatization. The implementation of agrarian reforms started in Armenia in 1991. These reforms were aimed at the destruction of planned economy and formation of market relations [3, 40]. The process was a quick and decisive on agriculture. The collective farms and soviet economies were dissolved as well as their own lands and facilities were privatized within one or two years. Instead, they were privatized by emerging farms. The emergence of land ownership caused new problems for the authorities of newly independent republic. The coverage of the policy adopted by government toward the new forms of property is quite urgent. The second half of the 1980s was crucial period for the Soviet Union. Actually, M. Gorbachev's reforms, which aimed to democratize society as well as release from former shortcomings and drawbacks, was in vain. The goal of reconstruction policy was to establish a clear relationship between the land’s owner and exploiter in agricultural reforms. The relation between landowner and disposer would be based on equivalent commodity exchange which stemmed from commodity and money relations. Actually, neither this nor many provisions of reconstruction were fulfilled, and for that reason the crisis of agrarian system was enhanced. The difficult situation of agrarian system of economy aggravated because of devastating earthquake in Spitak in December, 1988. The immensity of human losses, huge destructions caused a great damage to Armenia’s economy including agrarian and industrial complex, industrial and social infrastructures of the countriside. New and extremely complex social and economic problems arose in the farming system and development of countriside. Armenia's economy was considered to be an integral part of economic complex of Soviet Union. It means that the Soviet Armenia and all soviet republics have passed through the same way of the formation and development of federal state economic complex and have the same history. That's why after the collapse of the Soviet Union former republics faced difficult and crucial times. Gaining independence put forward the need to choose a new economic model that could lead the country to global economic integration. After the declaration of independence, when the basis of economic reforms was formed, the government had to solve the issue of organizing market infrastructures and of providing a proper environment taking into account the principles of global and regional integration. The natural conditions of agricultural development of Armenia are not encouraging in the sense that without state support this field will stagnate. In this regard it should be noted that the Republic of Armenia is a country without a sea outlet. The country is divided into two main watersheds: in the south-west the river of Aras and in the north-west the River Kura [2, 13]. In lowlands, for example in Ararat valley, plenteous lands dominate, while in upland areas and steep slopes there dominate shallow lands. There are 9 agricultural zones in the republic. Around 40% of the total area of the Republic of Armenia is unsuitable for agriculture. Agricultural lands need fundamental systems for irrigation. Nowadays about the half of arable lands are irrigated. Agrarian reforms were conditioned by former of economic model, they became an objective necessity and the main issue of agrarian policy. In this regard, the privatization of land, livestock and agricultural machinery carried out in 1991 met people's expectations that aimed at reviving private farm class thereby bringing agriculture out of the agrarian crisis. The privatization process in the agrarian system started in the conditions of transitional economy therefore its features were in sight in all the areas of transformation that occurred in agrarian system. The Republic of Armenia was the first in the former USSR that implemented the privatization of land, moreover it started during the Soviet times, the year before the official dissolution. All this happened with the adoption and the use of “The Law of privatization” (1990, October), “The Law of Agricultural and Collective economies” and Land Code of the Republic of Armenia (1991, January) [1, 80-106]. The privatization of land was implemented in 1991 with following principles: 1. Based on the number of existent families and the land resources of the countriside, the land was allocated to the permanent residents. As a result of privatization every rural family in Armenia received 1,5 hectares of agricultural area on average, including 1, 1 hectares of arable land. 2. The allocation of lands was fulfilled according to the lot principle paying attention to the number of family members. If desired, a few families could unite to get a land plot in the same field. This could make the organization of joint activities easier. 3. The peasant received the land plot at the price compensated by 70% of the so-called cadastral pure income which was counted according to the types of lands (irrigated, waterless, orchard, etc.). 4. The new legislation allows free privatization of land by the owner including alienation, sale, succession, giving or taking on lease, other legal transactions that were previously banned [4, 98]. And here I would like to speak about serious drawbacks and shortcomings in the process of land privatization. - The privatization of land in our country did not take place with the farmers’ demand but with the decisions of higher bodies of government. Moreover it was carried out in the same way without taking into account different features of geographical zones. - Because of clumsy, floppy behavior of some leaders, inexcusable responsibility and sluggishness of local bodies in the process of privatization, hence after the privatization tens of thousands of hectares of arable lands remained without exploitation with scant lands. - Another drawback was the land granulation. Taking into account the fact that each agricultural economy gets three allotments on average, actually nowadays agricultural activity is carried out on more than 1 million small plots. It was impossible to organize efficient production with such small and fragmented plots. The animal husbandry and the breeding had an important role in the sector of agriculture but during the privatization and reforms this sector also faced a significant decline like other major agricultural sectors. Because of the absence of necessary control of privatization of public assets, the livestock was reduced significantly in the Republic during those years. During ten years of transformations (1991-2000) the number of cattle decreased by 31 %. Refugees, especially in border regions, were deprived of agricultural and livestock privatization. Along side with the privatization of land and livestock, the industrial and technical structure of village, agricultural machinery, agricultural buildings were privatized. In general, the results of agrarian reforms carried out in the Republic of Armenia in 1991-2000 are highly controversial but their study allows to make certain conclusions: 1. After the declaration of independence radical agrarian reforms were held in the Republic of Armenia. The fundamental reconstruction of industrial relations and structures in the country predicted the nature of the process of entire agrarian system based on new principles of organization of rural communities. 2. The privatization process, which is considered to be an important sector of agrarian reforms, was launched by land privatization. Former authorities conducted the land privatization without serious preparations, registration and evaluation by dissolving even the economies that used to be highly effective. It is not accidental that after the land privatization tens of thousands of hectares of land remained desolate. The impact of land privatization was positive only in the sense that it contributed to the defeat of mass poverty in rural areas. 3. During this period, the livestock and machinery sectors were used mostly by non agrarians. 4. Deprived of animals, opportunities to use agricultural machinery, fertilizers and pesticides, the farmer was left alone with his small plot of land relying on ineffective handmade. After allocation of the land to farmers the state considered the problem to be completed. 5. Agrarian reforms promoted the survival of the Republic of Armenia that was in war and economic blockade. In the early 1990s some of unemployed industrial workers started working in the field of agriculture. During the years of land privatization the number of workers in agriculture field increased by 200.000 (two hundred thousand) reaching 280.000 (two hundred eighty thousand) in 1990-2000. Describing the current state of the agrarian sector in the Republic of Armenia it can be stated that there are real opportunities for sustainable development in recent years. Agrarian sector of economy remains quite vulnerable. It is mainly due to the relative scarcity of land, the scarcity of water, small-scale farms and soil disintegration formed after the land privatization, the under development of industrial, market and social infrastructures as well as the disparity of market economy conditions.
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