Our goal was to understand the underlying drivers and spatial determinants of agricultural land abandonment following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent transition from state-command to market-driven economies from 1990 to 2000. We brought an example of agricultural land-use change in one agro-climatic zone stretching across Lithuania, Belarus, and Russia. Here, we provide an overview of the agricultural changes for the studied countries. We estimated the rates and patterns of agricultural land abandonment based on Landsat TM/ETM+ satellite images and linked these data with institutional changes regarding land use. Using spatially explicit logistic regressions, we assessed spatial determinants of agricultural land abandonment. The highest rates of land abandonment from 1990 to 2000 were observed in Russia (31 %), followed by Lithuania (19 %), and Belarus (13 %), and the differences in land abandonment rates reflected the contrasting strategies for transitioning toward a market economy. The spatial patterns of agricultural land abandonment across Lithuania and Russia corresponded to the land rent theory of von Thünen , as sites with low crop yields that were distant from markets had higher rates of abandonment. However, this was not the case for Belarus, where the institutional environment regarding agricultural land use differed from neighboring Lithuania and Russia.