Since 1990 Landesa has helped the countries of the former Soviet Union (FSU) dismantle collective farms, replace them with family farms, and give former collective farm workers secure and marketable land rights.

Current programs include:

1. Legal aid to rural land owners

Russian land law began to evolve in the early 1990s. At that time, individuals from collective farmers were given ownership rights. This included the right to lease their farm assets once they left the collective. However, it soon became clear to Landesa that the procedures required for obtaining land or other assets from the collective farm would be daunting. Those interested in leaving their collective and exercising their right to assets needed legal advice to navigate the system.

To make such legal advice accessible in at least some Russian regions, and to test and further develop this idea for broader replication, Landesa founded a legal aid center in Vladimir Province in 1996.

The center:

  • provides information to rural citizens about their land rights by publishing articles in local newspapers, making presentations on provincial radio, and distributing brochures and booklets;
  • provides free legal assistance, ranging from individual consultations to direct representation in negotiations and court proceedings; and
  • assists local government bodies in properly interpreting and applying legislation affecting land and economic rights of rural landowners.

In the first quarter of 2011, the center has:

  • opened 55 new cases, representing 420 people;
  • published three articles published in 56 newspapers in the region; and
  • held 15 seminars, which focused on issues based requests from 166 attendees.

2. Improving land law and policy to support private ownership of farmland

World experience shows that farming systems in which land is privately owned, freely traded, and usable as collateral are the most productive and efficient, and deliver the resulting economic benefits to a wide circle of people. By contrast, the Soviet system of huge collective and state farms, under which land was state-owned and centrally controlled, was grossly inefficient and unproductive. No fact illustrates this point better than the inability of the Soviet Union to produce enough food to feed its people in the 1970s and 1980s, despite its ample base of farmland.

For more than a decade, Landesa has helped develop and advise on laws supporting private ownership of farmland and a land market. These efforts have been carried out in conjunction with leading Russian lawyers, rural policy specialists, and government policy-makers.

Past programs include:

Legal aid for asset-based rural development in Russia and the FSU.

As a recipient of a year 2000 World Bank Development Marketplace Grant, Landesa supported and worked with rural legal aid centers in two provinces of Russia (staffed by Russian lawyers) to help farmers and other rural land owners understand, protect, and utilize their property rights to improve their lives. This legal aid initiative helped individual clients, engaged in public education activities in neighboring provinces, and culminated in the creation and support of an additional legal aid program in Moldova. All of the legal aid centers continue to operate today through support from Landesa and other private donors. April 2000 to March 2001.

The status of agrarian reform and agricultural productivity in the Russian Far East on the eve of 2000.

In conjunction with the National Bureau of Asian Research, Landesa conducted field research and wrote a paper on agrarian reform in the Russian Far East. The findings were presented at conferences in Khabarovsk and Washington D.C. The paper was published in a report on “Security Implications of Economic and Political Developments in the Russian Far East,” funded by Carnegie Corporation. October 1999 to May 2000.

Policy and legal advice on land privatization and land market development in Russia.

Funded by USAID.

Landesa’s Moscow office, now closed, provided broad and comprehensive consultant services on policy, legal, and administrative issues of land reform, farm restructuring, land registration, and land market creation in the Russian Federation. August 1997 to February 1999.

Policy advice on Russian Federation land privatization: A follow-up assistance program.

Harvard Institute for International Development and USAID.

Landesa provided consultant services on policy, legal, and administrative issues of land reform, farm restructuring, land registration, and land market creation in the Russian Federation. This project included the services of an Landesa attorney resident in Moscow.

Russian Federation regional agricultural development project.

Funded by the World Bank.

Landesa provided consultant services on pre-appraisal mission for an agricultural project in the Russian Federation. June 1995 to January 1996.

Land ownership project by the Russian Institute of State and Law.

Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE).

Consultant on the Land Ownership and the Law project by the Russian Institute of State and Law, in the Russian Federation. March 1995 to March 1996.