New farmers


For the first time in modern Russian history, land has been appropriated from owners who did not make use of it and sold at public auction. This poses a threat to common land speculation - the purchase of agricultural land with its category changed to urban development.

The Arbitrazhniy Court of the Novosibirsk region has ruled that two land plots of an aggregated area of 50 hectares are to be appropriated. In their press release the local land authorities say that the land ‘has not been used for a number of years and is overgrown with weeds.’

A similar incident occurred in the Perm region earlier this week. The Ministry of Agriculture announced that it has started confiscating land that was not being used for its stated purpose and said that two owners have already renounced their ownership voluntarily.

During the land reform of the 1990s, 115 million hectares of agricultural land, formerly owned by state collective farms, were privatised without compensation or at a nominal price. This revolutionary measure, however, did not boost individual farming as was hoped, but triggered massive land speculation.

Entrepreneurs bought land at a bargain price and then, through murky dealings with local authorities, re-registered it as ‘urban land’. As a result, the price went up several times.

As Russian law stands, land is divided into several categories, thereby restricting the owner’s right to use the land as prescribed. Agricultural land, for instance, must be used for farming. Building houses or other objects is not permitted.

The law allows the seizure of land from an owner if the land has not been used for 3 years. So far, however, the authorities have not exercised this right. The period of leniency seems to be over.

On January 21, the State Duma adopted in the first hearing amendments to the Civil and Land Codes simplifying the procedure of taking land from unscrupulous owners and reducing the period during which the land can stay fallow to two years.

Ironically enough, it seems that those who have bought agricultural land in Russia must now become farmers or else sell their land to people who can settle the matter with local land authorities.


February 12, 2010
photo: Alexandr Ozerov -