Socio-economic and institutional changes may accelerate land-use and land-cover change. Our goal was to explore the determinants of agricultural land abandonment within one agro-climatic and economic region of post-Soviet European Russia during the first decade of transition from a state-command to market-driven economy (between 1990 and 2000). We integrated maps of abandoned agricultural land derived from 30 m resolution Landsat TM/ETM+ images, environmental and socioeconomic variables and estimated logistic regressions. Results showed that post-Soviet agricultural land abandonment was significantly associated with lower average grain yields in the late 1980s, higher distance from the populated places, areas with low population densities, for isolated agricultural areas within the forest matrix and near the forest edges. Hierarchical partitioning showed that average grain yields in the late 1980s contributed the most in explaining the variability of agricultural land abandonment, followed by location characteristics of the land. While the spatial patterns correspond to the classic micro-economic theories of von Thünen and Ricardo, it was largely the macro-scale driving forces that fostered agricultural abandonment. In the light of continuum depopulation process in the studied region of European Russia, we expect continuing agricultural abandonment after the year 2000.