Case a snowball effect on the rise of

Case Study 3: Russia and the Soviet Union

Background:

            The ease of travel around the globe
and the development of communication had a snowball effect on the rise of
global interest for land resources particularly in Soviet Union due to the fertile
land of this country and the disputes among land investors, peasants and
government. Even though the social movements in former countries of Soviet
Union are considered the weakest ones globally.
Due to increasing land and agricultural conflicts, aggregate actions of rural
dwellers started emerging in Soviet Union. These
rising social movements are getting more and more power claiming to take role
in different land related issues. The preparation for land reforms started
in 1990, a year before the dissolution of the
Soviet Union. Russia adopted the right of private ownership of agricultural
land through an amendment at the same time it prohibited the buying and selling of privately owned land for ten
years. Land reforms started in 1992, with the goal of transferring 10% of state
owned cultivable land to local authorities for distribution among individuals
willing to establish private farms. The reforms could not be implemented
perfectly due to local authorities’ lack of interest, leading to distribution
of only 1% of the state-owned farmlands.

Land Reforms:

Russia had faced several measures, intended to affect the distribution
of land ownership, in the last 100 and so years. From purely communistic steps
of abolition of private ownerships to steps intending to privatize public land.
For the sake of our research in this paper we shall not discuss the steps taken
during the communist regime of Soviet Union and only consider the land reforms
that took place before its formation and after its dispersion.

Land
Reform of 1906:

Measures were
begun by the Russian government to allow peasants to own land individually. Its
aim was to encourage hard-working peasants to acquire their own land,
consequently creating a class of rich, conservative, small farmers that would
be making a firm and strong influence in the countryside and would support the
autocracy. After the government freed the serfs in 1861 it gave land to each
peasant household, but the land was collectively owned by the village locals.
The locals traditionally divided the land into strips, which were distributed
among the households for cultivation. By the end of 1916 no more than 20
percent of the peasant households had title to their land, although fewer had
received consolidated plots. The reform did not change the peasantry into the
wall of support that the autocracy needed and during 1917 peasants everywhere
took part in the revolutions, seizing properties belonging to the Stolypin
farmers.

Land Reform of 1922:

Following the
end of the Russian Civil War in 1921, the first Soviet Land Code was adopted in
1922. It controlled land use and stayed in force until the early 1990s. The
first Soviet Land Code affirmed the nationalization of land and stopped private
ownership of land, minerals under the soil, water, and forests. The Land Code
forbade the purchase, sale, bequeathing, or mortgaging of land. It did allow
land leasing from the state until 1928. Starting in 1928, legal changes were
introduced that eroded the liberties contained in the 1922 Land Code.
Restrictions on land leasing laid the basis for the collectivization of
agricultural land starting in 1929. Family farms, which were based on leased
land, were aggregated into large state and collective farms based on state
ownership of land. Restrictions on land leasing remained in force until the
late 1980s. The prohibition on private land ownership did not mean, however,
that Soviet citizens were starved of land use. Rural and urban households were
able to use small land plots, which were used for the growing of food for
family consumption and to supplement family income.

Land Reform of 1991:

After the collapse of Soviet Union
in 1990, Russia started its land reform in 1991 In the Soviet era practically
all agricultural land was respectively and collectively state owned. Russia
started this program with the goal
of transferring 10% of state owned cultivable land to local authorities for
distribution among individuals willing to establish private farms. The reforms
could not be implemented perfectly due to local authorities’ lack of interest,
leading to distribution of only 1% of the state-owned.
Next stage in land reform started in 1993, with first Russian President Boris
Yeltsin’s proclamation of privatization of state owned and other farm lands
known Kolkhozes’ and Sovkhozes’. Employees of the state-owned farm lands became
shareholders of the reorganized farm enterprises. Just a few shareholders
withdrew their shares and established private family farms, most of them rented
out their shares to the reorganized farm enterprises. Since the early 2000s
more and more land shareholders are selling their shares to farm managers and
to outside investors or leasing them out which is compared in the figures
below.

     
           
 As a result, the rural dwellers become
landless workers on their former land. Consequently, every employee received
asset shares and land shares for free. However, the land shares did not include
real, individual ownership of land plots; they were just paper certificates
that substantiated rights to unspecified land plots on the territory of former
state or collective farms. To turn the land shares into demarcated private land
plots, peasants had to start a complex process of registration.

Land Reform of 2001:

President Vladimir Putin’s in his first
term introduced a new Land Code (2001) which adopted that modifications of
property rights for land permitting the sale of urban and commercial land
across the country to both Russian citizens and foreign investors, with the exception
of agricultural land. In 2003 the law ‘On Agricultural Land Transactions’ came
into force. Prior to that time, land tenure rights in Russia were not clearly
guaranteed despite provisions in the Constitution and the Civil Code. Although
Russia’s adoption of the 2001 Land Code ended a decade-long debate in
parliament over allowing private land sales in general, it left open the most
controversial issue, the sale of agricultural land. However, while the new Land
Code is not a comprehensive reference source for all land-related issues, it
nevertheless made a huge advancement in creating an infrastructure for land transactions.

Impact:

Before
the collapse of Soviet Union a central idea of communist ideology was
opposition to private ownership of land. Guided by their ideological beliefs,
the new regime during 1917 that seized power from the Provisional Government issued
a decree on land that abolished private ownership and introduced the nationalization.
The October decree was followed by land legislation in January 1918 that
forbade the renting or exchange of land. With the collapse of Soviet Union,
this idea of private ownership of land began to rise as the new Russian
government sharply curtailed investment in the agriculture sector but the local
authorities were not interested in this process so in 1991 measures were taken
by Russian government to allow peasants to own land individually even though 10
percent of the land was proposed to be transferred only 1 percent was given to
the peasants. As a result of these reforms a stage was set for land grabbing.
Large scale land acquisitions or ‘land grabbing’ with acquisitions of
agricultural land in particular accounting for very large amounts of land
seemed to rise.
Real depiction of land reforms started right after President Vladimir Putin’s
first term as he introduced a new land code in 2001 which enabled the sale of
agricultural land. Russian and foreign investors became interested in buying
agricultural land, which meant that they started to buy land shares, leading to
the rapid growth of large agricultural holdings. The number of private family
farms in Russia that was expected to increase with the years thereafter.
According to the All-Russian Agricultural Census conducted in 2006, private
farmers own about 30 million hectares or 13 percent of agricultural land in
Russia. All other land is basically controlled by large farm enterprises, the
successors of the collective and state farms, and increasingly by agricultural holdings,
both domestic and foreign. The privatization process itself provided the
trigger for the first land market transactions in Russia. The former collective
and state farms, now reorganized as corporate farms of various types, were
formally left without any land for farming. They had to turn back to the newly
created shareowners and lease their land shares or alternatively entice them to
invest their land shares in the equity capital of the corporate farms