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Oligarchs, megafarms and land reserves: understanding land grabbing in Russia  [2012]

Visser, Oane Mamonova, Natalia Spoor, Max

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This paper seeks to unravel the political economy of large-scale land acquisitions in post-Soviet Russia. Russia falls neither in the normal category of ‘investor’ countries, nor in the category of ‘target’ countries. Russia has large ‘land reserves’, since in the 1990s much fertile land was abandoned. We analyse how particular Russia is with regards to the common argument in favour of land acquisitions, namely that land is available, unused or even unpopulated. With rapid economic growth, capital of Russian oligarchs in search of new frontiers, and the 2002 land code allowing land sales, land began to attract investment. Land grabbing expands at a rapid pace and in some cases, it results in dispossession and little or no compensation. This paper describes different land acquisitions strategies and argues that the share-based land rights distribution during the 1990s did not provide security of land tenure to rural dwellers. Emerging rural social movements try to form countervailing powers but with limited success. Rich land owners easily escape the implementation of new laws on controlling underutilized land, while there is a danger that they enable eviction with legal measures of rural dwellers. In this sense Russia appears to be a ‘normal’ case in the land grab debate.

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Journal of peasant studies

ISSN : 1743-9361