Duma speaker Gennady Seleznev has described 1997 as the year that parliament taught the government that, "in the future, not a single reform can be adopted without the Duma." (ORT, December 25) Relations between the president and the opposition-dominated parliament, which were close to a breaking point in October and November, had grown positively cordial by year’s end. On December 26, Yeltsin made an important gesture when he chaired a long-awaited roundtable with parliamentary leaders to discuss land reform. President and parliament had been at loggerheads for months over a controversial land code that would outlaw the sale of agricultural land.
The land issue has plagued Russia for centuries, and the December 26 roundtable did not resolve it. However, agreement was reached to create a joint working group of presidential and parliamentary representatives and to give it three months in which to hammer out a compromise. Yeltsin, who called the roundtable "a new form of reaching democratic decisions," conceded to parliament’s demands that Russia’s land market be kept under strict state control, that foreigners not be allowed to buy land (though they may take out long-term leases), and that the re-sale or change of use of an agricultural plot be banned for a certain period after purchase. Yeltsin did not, however, abandon his determination to establish the principle that agricultural land may be bought and sold. Russia still lacks the basic institutions for regulating a land market, such as a land register and legislation on mortgages.
Ruble Gets New Nominal Value.