Friday, June 4, 2021

Kremlin Battles an Age-Old Russian Problem: Abandonment of Used Up Land

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 2 – Much of Russia’s expansion happened because those who worked the land abandoned it after it had become infertile and moved on to other land where they repeated exactly the same process rather than remaining in one place and trying to make the land fertile again.

            That centuries’ old pattern has continued in post-Soviet times and been exacerbated by the flight of many rural Russians not just from land that no longer is productive but also to the cities leaving large swaths of the country completely unpopulated. Even worse, this approach has spread to neighboring non-Russian countries.

            Over the last several years, Anna Kryazheva, a Rhythm of Eurasia journalist says, the Russian government has begun to focus on this issue and to plan for the return to productive use of millions of hectares of abandoned land over the next decade (

            That may seem surprising given how large Russia is, she says. But she points out that many areas do not have enough people to work the land and so the problem of abandoned and unused land is a serious one. Putin has raised it, and the Russian State Council has discussed it (

            At present, the Russian government had simplified laws so as to make it easier to recover abandoned land and announced plans to return to use some 12 million hectares of agricultural space over the next nine years. If this plan is carried out, experts say, it will not only ensure enough food for Russians but double earnings from the export of food to 45 billion US dollars.

            Whether this limited step to promote intensive rather than extensive economic processes will in fact work remains to be seen. Russia and Russians would certainly benefit, but both will have to overcome a deeply embedded attitude that when land wears out, there is always more elsewhere, and that it is easier to abandon the first and move to the latter.

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