Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 229

Duma speaker Gennady Seleznev indicated last weekend that if, as is expected, President Yeltsin refuses at Thursday’s roundtable to sign the federal land code into law, the opposition will call on the president to agree to a moratorium of five to ten years on the sale of agricultural land. (Itar-Tass, December 6) Meanwhile, some of Russia’s most powerful regions have decided to move ahead under their own steam. The leaders of 13 Russian regions, including key members of the "Great Volga" economic association, met in Kazan yesterday to discuss land reform at the regional level. The meeting took its inspiration from Saratov Oblast, where a ground-breaking regional law legalizing the free sale of agricultural land was adopted on November 12. Saratov governor Dmitry Ayatskov told the meeting that the new law was already attracting investment to his region.

Opening the meeting, President Mintimer Shaimiev of Tatarstan said that the failure of the federal authorities to move ahead with land reform and to create "real owners" of the land was holding up economic reform across the board. He suggested that a way could be found of circumventing the present impasse between the president and parliament by shelving the disputed land code and instead adopting "general principles" of federal land law. Shaimiev’s suggestion was echoed by Ilya Yuzhanov, head of the Russian State Committee on Land Resources, who proposed the adoption of framework legislation on a federal basis. The idea is that, once such a framework is in place, individual regions will be able to move ahead with their own legislation taking account of regional specificities. The proposal was endorsed by the representatives of the thirteen regions taking part, which included Chuvashia, Perm, Orenburg, Nizhny Novgorod, and Samara Oblasts, and Stavropol Krai. (Itar-Tass, RTR, December 8)

The conference’s decision underlines once again the increasing autonomy of Russia’s regions. Motivated by the desire to attract investment and faced with an impasse at the federal level, they are adopting legislation to suit their own needs. That, at least, applies to many regions. A congress of Russian Socialists that met in Moscow yesterday condemned the idea of a free land market. The congress was warmly endorsed by Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov, whose city government has grown rich by keeping land tightly under the control of the municipality.

Will the Ruble Hold?