The Russian president has proposed expanding a state program of free land handover to foreign citizens with ancestors born on Russian territory, noting that successful candidates should have a desire to work and create strong families.
“It is necessary to expand the opportunities presented by this program to our compatriots who arrive in the Far East from foreign countries,” Vladimir Putin said as he opened the session of the State Council Presidium in Vladivostok on Wednesday.
An evening fog and fire smoke over Petropavlovsk Kamchatsky. © Alexandr Piragis Tens of thousands of Russians claim free land in Far East
“Compatriots living abroad” is an expression used by the Russian mass media to describe people of Russian culture and – usually – ethnicity, many of whom stayed in the ex-Soviet republics after the USSR collapsed in 1992. Russian law allows for a simplified naturalization and some other benefits for this group of people, which includes descendants of those born within the present-day borders of Russia.
Putin also emphasized that those who arrive from abroad to settle in Russia usually come with a desire to work and create strong families, which made them good candidates for getting free land plots and being entitled to additional support from the state.
The president also urged regional authorities in the Russian Far East to analyze the mistakes committed at the primary stages of implementation of the handout program and make all necessary adjustments to facilitate the process.
“The government and regional authorities need to render financial help to them [settlers who participated in the free land handover program], help them to create regional infrastructure. I also propose to give larger plots of land to those who are successfully working and have already registered the one-hectare plots as their property,” Putin told the State Council members.
In May 2016 Russia introduced a law introducing the free handover of land in the Far Eastern regions to those who want to build homes or start businesses in agriculture or tourism. The sponsors of the bill have said that they hope to attract more people to the Far East Federal District, to slow or stop the outward migration of locals and to boost the socio-economic development of the territory.
The actual start of the program fell on February 1, 2017.
The law provides for the free handover of 1 hectare (about 2.5 acres) of land to anyone who applies for the program. However, foreign citizens will only be allowed to utilize the land, not own it outright. Registration of full property rights is only possible after the naturalization of potential owners. The land can be used for any lawful purpose, though the new owners cannot rent, sell, or give it away for five years, after which they can obtain full property rights under condition that they manage to develop the land plot in some way.
In early 2017 the governor of the Far Eastern region of Kamchatka, Vladimir Ilyukhin, told reporters that over 48,000 people had submitted applications for taking part in the program. “The geography is wide: Moscow, Moscow Region, Lipetsk region, Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, practically all of central Russia wants land in Kamchatka. It makes me happy. Those who want land here will get it,” he said.
About 28 percent of Russians interested in the program say they want to use the land to build a home. About 17 percent want to use the land for agriculture or raising cattle. Another seven percent say they will use the land to build hotels and develop local tourism.
According to the official land register, Russia currently has about 198 million hectares of agricultural land, of which at least 28 million is state-owned and unused.