Institutional change in the forest sector : the Russian experience

Change log
Ulybina, Olga 

This dissertation explores patterns of institutional change in the Russian forest sector and examines the process of nascency and development of both formal and informal institutions. It argues that development of the Russian forest sector has been pathdependent and significantly influenced by informal institutions, which the recent reform carried out by the state also failed to transform. Using the case study of the forest sector, the dissertation (1) identifies major drivers of post-Soviet institutional change, and (2) compares different patterns of agency particularly state forest reform and non-state ‘private modernisation’ projects). The thesis explores opportunities for institutional path-creation in the Russian forest sector and concludes that the major drivers of change in today’s Russian forest sector are: i) local ecological agency, and ii) the changing global (political, economic, ideological) environment. It is argued that roots of the problems of the recent forest reform lie in the lack of agency within (mostly federal) state structures and local communities.

The dissertation argues that although non-state forms of governance (such as certification and model forests) have proved to be more powerful and effective than state initiatives in overcoming ‘path-dependent’ institutional embeddedness, their ultimate results are severely limited by and highly dependent on evolution of state agencies and more generally on the nature of relationships between state authorities and society.

At the conceptual level, the research adopts the institutional (NIE) framework and combines it with classical sociological literature (on the problem of structure vs agency), as well as with a historical perspective (path-dependence vs path-creation). Moreover, it emphasizes the importance of ecological dimension of analysis for understanding societal change.

As for its policy relevance, the research challenges the recently popular and overly optimistic view on the role of civil society and non-state governance in institutional modernisation. It encourages policy makers to study national history and to build upon existing initiatives taking into account the path-dependent environment and informal institutional embeddedness of implemented projects.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge