The Russian state parliament will pass a bill on April 12, 2016, which will offer free one hectare (about 2.5 acres) of land in that country’s Far Eastern Federal District to both Russians and non-Russian nationals wishing to settle the region.
Originally, the scheme was limited to Russian nationals only, but the new version of the bill has extended this right to carefully-screened non-Russians as well.
Far East Federal District
According to a report in the RT news service, the plots of land will be handed over to Russians and foreigners who want to build homes or start businesses in agriculture or tourism in the region.
The Russian lower house Committee for Real Estate and Construction recommended that the State Duma approve the bill in the second reading in a session next week. The parliament already approved the draft in the first reading on December 18, 2015.
According to the 2010 Census, the Far Eastern Federal District has a population of 6,293,129. The population has been in decline ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union, dropping by 14 percent in the last fifteen years.
The Russian government—aware that unless the European element of the population is rapidly increased, the region will quickly become majority Chinese—has been actively working on repopulation plans since 2010.
Initially the plan was to attract Russians from those former Soviet Union states which had become independent following the breakup of the USSR. This program met with limited success, and then the program was opened up to resettle refugees and illegal immigrants from the Ukraine.
As a result, what are called “ethnic Russians” and Ukrainians make up the majority of the population. In Russian parlance, “ethnic Russian” means European.
However, the new bill to be passed next week contains a clause allowing foreign citizens to apply for land as well. Foreign nationals will be allowed to use the land on lease from the state for a period of five years.
After five years, the foreign nationals will be able to apply for naturalization as Russian citizens, and then acquire full property rights to the land they have been working.
The explanations attached to the bill state that the government expects the free land handover to attract more people to the Far East Federal District, to slow or stop the outward migration of locals, and to boost the socioeconomic development of the territory.
A view of the town of Nevelsk on Russia’s Sakhalin Island.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has also ordered the development of a special web service that will allow interested applicants to obtain all the necessary papers confirming their property rights remotely and with a minimum of red tape.
Russian president Vladimir Putin personally endorsed the idea when it was first mooted in 2015 by Deputy Prime Minister and presidential envoy to the Far East Federal District, Yuri Trutnev, who said that such a step would “strengthen the tendency of people’s migration to the Far East.”
Trutnev said at the time that Putin called the idea right in principle and noted that similar programs had been successfully implemented in Siberia. Putin urged all responsible officials to be precise and cautious when detailing the conditions for land ownership.
Trutnev’s initial suggestion was to “create a mechanism for the free allocation of a 1 hectare (2.5 acres) plot of land to every resident of the Far East and to anyone who is willing to come and live in the region so that they could start a private business in farming, forestry, game hunting, or some other enterprise.”
The Far East Federal District is a huge territory, uniting nine federal regions with a total area of over 6 million square kilometers. Included in the Far East are the gold-rich Magadan Region and the diamond-mining Sakha-Yakutiya republic, as well as important seaports and salmon-rich rivers. The district borders China by land and Japan and Alaska by sea.