dairy collectives, legislation, collectivization, decollectivization, agricultural production, milkmaids, gender dynamics, dairy maids

Document Type



In response to the limitations of socialism and capitalism in meeting basic needs, this article explores the alternative version of modernity offered in post-Soviet Ukraine and its agriculture. Tracing a century of fundamental transformations through the story of milk, it finds a history that troubles universalized framings of indigeneity and colonialism. This article argues that under socialism milk became a product of collectivized effort and a reservoir of household resilience; and then, with post-Soviet disintegration of some forms of collective life and emergence of others, that milk has come to delineate spheres of both collective action and individual striving. This research finds in Ukrainian farming communities a tale of two privatizations, one concentrating wealth and the other, distributing it in more equalizing ways. In the dispersed structure that results, much Ukrainian milk production avoids some of the more environmentally harmful forms for which the contemporary milk economy is famous elsewhere. This study reveals the pragmatic play of gender dynamics within legal disputes and social transformation. Though now enmeshed in global economic networks and policy agendas, milk has remained the ground of specific social networks; this article shows the resilience of intimate relationships between dairy cows and their keepers and the political strength, untapped nationally but salient locally, of dairy maids.