The lower house of the Russian parliament April 10 adopted in the first reading a law on land ownership specifically designed to frustrate the decree on the same subject issued March 7 by President Yeltsin. Yeltsin’s decree confirmed the right of peasant farmers to leave state and collective farms and to sell, mortgage, or lease their plots of land to the highest bidder. The Duma bill was drafted by the Agrarian Party, which represents the interests of state and collective farm managers who oppose the introduction of a land market on the grounds that it will promote the emergence of big landed properties and speculative dealing. (Interfax, Itar-Tass, April 10) Russia still has 26,000 state and collective farms which control 90 percent of farm land, and their managers, who also control the food processing industry, want to maintain their power. (Financial Times, April 11)
The problem is that, while the Russian constitution sanctions private ownership, it says nothing about buying and selling land. It is this loophole that both Yeltsin’s decree and the Agrarians’ bill seek, each in its own way, to plug. The bill was supported by Communist and Liberal Democratic deputies; voting against were deputies from "Russia is Our Home," Yabloko, and Russia’s Democratic Choice, who said the bill would perpetuate "semi-serfdom" and contradict the constitution and Russia’s new Civil Code.
Russia to Increase Cooperation with Iran.