Decree on Land

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Upon seizing power from the Provisional Government in October 1917, the Bolsheviks immediately issued two decrees. The first decree served to withdraw Russia from World War I. The second decree issued by the new Bolshevik regime was entitled "On Land." The decree abolished property rights of landlords and provided for the confiscation of estates with no compensation. More generally, the Decree on Land abolished private ownership of land and introduced the nationalization of land. Under the terms of the decree, about 150 million hectares of arable land, pasture land, and forest land were confiscated and distributed to 25 million communal households. The October 1917 land decree was followed by legislation in January 1918 that forbade the selling, renting, or mortgaging of land. Nationalized land became the possession of "all the people" and could be used only by those who cultivated it. Although all land was nationalized, individuals or families could obtain allotments of land for small-scale agricultural activities, assuming that they themselves used the land and did not employ hired labor. These land plots included collective garden plots, private plots, and dacha plots, the size of which was restricted by local norms.

The prohibition on leasing land remained until March 1990, when a USSR law on land came into effect. Legal restrictions on private ownership of land remained in effect until December 1990 when a law was passed in the RSFSR that permitted the ownership of land, subject to certain constraints.

See also: bolshevism; october revolution


Danilov, Viktor. P. (1988). Rural Russia Under the New Regime. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Keep, John L. H. (1976). The Russian Revolution: A Study in Mass Mobilization. New York: Norton.

Medvedev, Zhores A. (1987). Soviet Agriculture. New York: Norton.

Volin, Lazar. (1970). A Century of Russian Agriculture: From Alexander II to Khrushchev. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Stephen K. Wegren