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Come and get it! Free land soon up for grabs to every resident in Far East

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18 February 2015


One of the most sparsely population regions in the world, the Russian Far East still has about six million residents, although they are scattered across an enormous land mass. Picture: Okhota i Rybalka

Ambitious plans to give each resident of the Russian Far East one hectare of land for free have been given the backing of President Vladimir Putin.

The idea was floated by Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Trutnev in a bid to help stimulate the economy of the sparsely populated region and entice more people to move across the country.

A total of 614 million hectares of land are currently owned by the state and would effectively be up for grabs in the Far East under the scheme. It could be used for agricultural purposes, for hunting, or as a base for a timber plant or any other business.

Mr Trutnev, who is also the Russian president’s envoy in the Far Eastern Federal District, believes the region has a positive future with the population growing, and less people leaving to move west to other parts of the country.

Free land

Map of the Russian Far East with the key cities. Picture: The Siberian Times

Now he hopes the plan could entice more entrepreneurship by citizens and act as an incentive to help non-residents migrate to the area.

The Deputy Prime Minister said: 'We want to propose creating a mechanism of allocating one hectare of land for free to each resident of the Far East and every person wishing to come to the Far East.

'This land could be used for agribusiness, business, forestry and hunting.'

The idea has many similarities to the way many rural and unoccupied parts of the United States was populated and urbanised in the 19th century.

In 1889, for instance, an estimated 50,000 people lined up to claim their own small share of two million acres available for settlers free of charge in Oklahoma.

It also mirrors the Stolypin agrarian reforms of the early 20th century that saw vast swathes of vacant land in Siberia given to peasants from the overpopulated regions of Russia.

Free land

Free land

'This land could be used for agribusiness, business, forestry and hunting.' Pictures: geogeo, Arsenyev.net

Under Mr Trutnev's proposals, each resident in the Russian Far East, or each individual willing to move to the area, would be given one hectare – approximately 2.5 acres - of land free of charge.

Giving his broad backing to the scheme, Mr Putin said: 'This is a good idea, and it was already implemented in the Russian history, in Siberia.'

He added that since the modern conditions of agriculture and the modern economy were slightly different today than it was in 1906 it was first 'necessary to study this issue carefully and examine all details'.

One of the most sparsely population regions in the world, the Russian Far East still has about six million residents, although they are scattered across an enormous land mass.

Almost three-quarters of the people live in urban areas including cities such as Vladivostok and Yakutsk.

However, the Far East's population has grown by 1,100 people over the past 12 months, while the number of people leaving has decreased from 27,000 to 20,000.

Mr Trutnev said this was positive news and insisted it was 'just the beginning of the trend'. He added: 'This is why we want to propose that you should consider this measure, which could intensify the trend of the population’s inflow into the Far East.'

Free land

 'Out of every hundred people that moved to Siberia, 30 people were coming back out.' Picture: Dmitry Dkphoto

However, the plans were criticised by independent political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin, who said the Far East is suffering from a 'chronic demographic catastrophe'.

Speaking on TV Rain in Moscow on Monday night, he said: 'I think this will end up nowhere as there will be no fools going there for the sake of a hectare of land. The only thing is that it might possibly hold people that were going to leave the Far East. 

'If you were to compare it to Stolypin, the difference is that Stolypin was giving a big plot of land as the person wanted to take 30 or 50 hectares, along with a favourable tax regime for foreseeable future. 

'It worked even though it also had problems, because out of every hundred people that moved to Siberia, 30 people were coming back out. Now I can be confident that people won’t be going there; so we have the main question on how to stop people leaving.' 

He added: 'There is nothing much you can do to a hectare of land anyway. Yes you can feed your family, but there is no way you can start a serious business on a plot of land this small.'

During their meeting Mr Trutnev and Mr Putin also discussed the establishment of priority development areas in the Far East, and the creation of the free port in Vladivostok.

Comments (1)

After reading this article what comes to mind is the vastness and resource richness of Russian land mass. There are not many countries that can boast such huge tracts of land that are still unoccupied in this millennium. Then there is the weather limitations. This area though opened up for grabs is only suitable to people used to cold climate. Surprisingly am amazed at how industrious they tend to be in temperatures that are hard to grasp especially for one that lives in the tropics like myself.
16/03/2015 23:42

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