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Soviet Union

Structure of Rural Society

Rural society reflected the predominance of agriculture as the major employer and the CPSU as the sole political organization. In 1989 the village community was controlled by an economic institution, the farm (collective or state), and an administrative one, the village soviet (sel'sovet). These organizations employed the elite of rural society, at the very top of which were the "heads" (golovki), who were either party members or party appointees. Golovki included the party secretary for the raion (see Glossary), the chairman of the collective farm or state farm (in the 1980s most were university-trained specialists, but a few were those who had learned on the job), the chairman of the sel'sovet, and the secretaries of the party cells in the state farm or collective farm. Men occupied most of the top positions on collective farms.

The rural nonpolitical elite consisted of agronomists, veterinary surgeons, engineers, and schoolteachers. Their lifestyle resembled that of urban dwellers. Among this group, rural society held schoolteachers in high esteem, in part because they played a role in selecting which of their students could continue their studies and thus have increased opportunity for upward social mobility. For rural women, regional teacher-training colleges offered the best chance to rise in the social hierarchy. Despite the relatively high esteem in which they were held, teachers were poorly paid and, in general, were forced to maintain private garden plots to support themselves.

An emerging group in the rural social structure consisted of agricultural machinery specialists. This group included truck drivers or other heavy machinery drivers and mechanics who had completed their secondary education and whose income was higher than many white-collar workers.

Workers who remained in the countryside had fewer avenues for upward mobility than did urban dwellers. Tractor drivers, for example, were more upwardly mobile than most rural laborers. Managers and white-collar workers employed in rural regions were generally brought in from urban areas.

Data as of May 1989