This paper discusses the concept of personal property as an ideological construct of Soviet power in its agricultural application. The case in point is the collectivized reindeer husbandry of the Russian Far North. I argue that personal property, as it developed in Soviet agricultural history, was a critical, informally employed tool in the creation of an existentially secure, paternalistic reality, represented by the Soviet farm (sovkhoz). "Sovkhoism" is introduced as a cover term for the practices and general worldview symbolized by the sovkhoz. A methodological claim I make is that reindeer husbandry provides the best possible example of how sovkhoism was engendered and developed. The paper also looks at post-Soviet reinterpretations of sovkhoism and makes predictions for its future. I conclude that the study of personal property and the worldview of sovkhoism calls attention to the role of mixed property categories and, further, the blurring of categorial distinctions in general. The blurring of the line between private and public (collective) property in the case discussed, with its lasting attractiveness for powered and disempowered actors alike, provides a hitherto ignored explanation for the popularity of Soviet and Soviet-like regimes.


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pp. 7-24
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