Murmansk region offers free land plots to stop depopulation

The program, which began in Russia's Far East, offers a free hectare of Arctic land to applicants. Murmansk has made more land available than any other region.

By Polina Leganger Bronder, The Independent Barents Observer - August 19, 2021
A nature reserve on the southern shores of the Kola Peninsula. (Thomas Nilsen / The Independent Barents Observer)

Since August 1, more than 731,000 hectares of the Murmansk region’s territory has been up for grabs for applicants under the Far Eastern Hectare program.

The process of the first land allotment in the region has just been completed. Because of the Far Eastern Hectare scheme, the first certificate for an Arctic hectare of land has been granted to Sofia Agashkova, Khibiny News reports.

Sofia and her family have already planned to use her new land to create a botanical garden consisting of plants adapted to the climatic conditions of the Arctic. They are planning to work alongside the Polar-Alpine Botanical Garden-Institute to fulfill their goals.

The program was established as a federal law in 2016 and permits up to 1 hectare (slightly less than 2.5 acres) of land to be granted to Russian citizens and foreign nationals as long as they have lived in Russia for over 5 years. Since the law was passed, more than 90,000 people have received land allotments, according to news agency TASS.

[A draft law would offer Russians free plots of Arctic land]

The program, which previously was only available in the Far East of the country, has now also been applied to the Arctic regions of Russia. In June of this year, the State Duma had adopted a government bill which extended the Far Eastern Hectare program to the Arctic zone, other northern areas as well as Siberia.

The Far Eastern Hectare program was officially launched in Murmansk on August 1 with applications currently rolling. Within the first six months of the program’s establishment, only locals will be able to apply for a land plot. At a later stage, all Russian residents will be encouraged to apply too.

The Murmansk region is offering up the most territory to the program.

Deputy Governor Olga Kuznetsova told TASS that together with Karelia, the Murmansk region has contributed with over 5 percent of their total land, while all other regions have “allocated no more than 1 percent of their territories” to the program.

The Murmansk region’s property official, Viktoria Minkina, said the area granted to the program has been selected with two main land types “the forests (630,000 hectares), and the areas for any legal businesses (110,000 hectares).”

Two ministries in the region will be in charge of which applicants obtain what land. The Ministry of Natural Resources, Ecology and Fishery will distribute the forest plots, meanwhile the Ministry of Property Relations will distribute all other plots.

Furthermore, authorities claim that processing times for application will be a maximum 45 days, meaning that it will only take about a month and a half for applicants to potentially have their feet planted on their newly owned land.

However, the program requires some commitment from the applicants’ side too; they must follow a three-step timetable. Within the first year of using their new land, applicants must decide on how they will use the plot. After three years of acquiring the land, they should officially announce how they will use the plot. Finally, by the end of the five years, the applicants need to formalize their ownership or a long-term rent agreement.