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It is now fifteen years ago that the Berlin Wall fell, the start of a vast set of changes throughout the countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Reforms in the Communist world had started earlier further east: first in China in the late 1970s and in Vietnam in the mid 1980s. The changes affected society in a multitude of ways. They affected the way the political and economic system operated but also the social organization of society, the psychology of the people living in the countries, and the culture of day-to-day life. In this essay I focus on how these changes affected the rural economy and the agricultural and food sector. I will discuss developments and performances of the countries during transition, the causes behind them, and the policy lessons they imply. My analysis relies heavily on work I have done with various co-authors on these issues and I refer to these publications for details on some of the issues and arguments which I will forward here somewhat too brief to do justice to their complexity. For more detailed arguments and analyses I refer in particular to Rozelle and Swinnen (2004) and Macours and Swinnen (2000, 2002).


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