On the basis of respective fieldwork in Ukraine (Nagorna, in the extreme south-west of the country) and Azerbaijan (Tezekend, in the country’s north-western periphery), the authors analyse differences in the implementation of land reform in these two countries since the end of the Soviet period. Reforms in the Azerbaijani case seem to have been the more radical of the two, more fully eliminating traces of the soviet agricultural infrastructure and replacing it with a more informal network of production and marketing based on kinship and friendship. In Ukraine, reforms present a less dramatic break with the past. Yet in both instances, cooperation among people engaged on agricultural production remains paramount, and in this sense continuity with the Soviet past is evident in both countries. The cases discussed show how informally organised social networks can take the place of the vanishing institutions of the socialist state. When the state provides an infrastructure that enables the continued cooperative working on the land, as in Ukraine, the local community will use it. When it does not, as in Azerbaijan, the response in a ‘retreat’ to the household.