NEP Land Decree

Law on Land Tenure and Use. May 22, 1922


Original Source: Sistematicheskoe sobranie zakonov RSFSR (Moscow: Iurid. izd-vo NKIU RSFSR, 1922), Text 426.

Division I

In order to create a sound, stable and adaptable…”toil-use” of land, necessary for the restoration and development of agriculture, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee, on the basis of the resolution on the land question (paragraph 6) of the IX All-Russian Congress of Soviets for changing and supplementing existing legislation, resolves to approve the following basic law on “toil” land tenure.

1. From the time of promulgation of the present decree, every land community has the right to maintain the existing form of land tenure or, upon the decision. of the majority of its full-rights members (those who have reached 18 years of age, without distinction as to sex), to select any type of land-tenure.

2. The type of land-tenure in the agricultural community can be: (a) communal (with equalized reallotment of land between households); (b) divisional (with the right of the household to land of immutable size in the form of overlapping plots, scattered strips, or individual farm plots; (c) associated (with common rights of land usage with members of the land community, forming an agricultural commune, artel, or association with joint exploitation of the land; and (d) mixed (with different methods of land utilization on various household lands).

3. The right of free selection of types of land-tenure extends not only to the collective farms, organized on peasants’ allotted and purchased lands, but also to the lands of former owners, if they were distributed among the population in toil usage on the basis of the decisions of land offices or soviet congresses. Members of such collectives, leaving the collectives with land, are obliged to return, in proportion to the land they are withdrawing from the collective, their share of the governmental pecuniary or material loan received by the collective.

Note. All other land under immediate State control will be governed by separate legislation.

4. At the time of re-allotting and apportioning in the community, any number of households, as well as separate households, have the right to leave the land community, without its consent, and demand an apportionment of land, due them after the apportionment is carried out, in one place. Any form of land tenure can be established on these allotted lands.

5. In cases when a full re-allotting does not take place, leaving the land without the consent of the land community is permitted if this is demanded by 1/5 or more of the remaining households and more than 50 households in land communities having more than 250 households.

Apportionments are permitted by any number of households and at any time on vacant and naturally isolated plots if such apportionments are not offered in the general re-allotment of land.

6. At every apportioning the land community first of all establishes the allotment unit (according to consumers, working power, or mixed) and the amount of land to be allotted from the community and then calculates the amount of land due each allotment unit. In addition, the allotment unit must be one and the same for all appendages of landed property (arable land, meadow, etc. ) and must be the same for those leaving the land community with land as well as for those who remain in it.

Note. The use of house-and-garden plots and buildings will be determined by special legislation.

7. All land allotments should be carried out with the observance of the greatest mutual convenience of land-tenure for those remaining in the land community as well as those who are leaving the land community.

8. After the land community has passed from one type of land-tenure to another, with the execution of the allotting in conformity with the present decree, further allotments calling for a general reallotment of land are permitted only with the permission of the land community and with the observance of the conditions indicated in the decree of 30 April 1920 of the Council of People’s Commissars regarding the re-distribution of land. (Collection of Laws, 1920, no. 35, page 170.)

9. The Provincial Executive Committee has the right upon the suggestion of the Provincial Land Organization and with the approval of the People’s Commissariat of Agriculture, to issue compulsory decrees regarding the establishment of allotment units throughout the province or its separate regions, applicable to local conditions and systems of the households. Prior to the promulgation of the decrees, the allotment unit for the allotment of lands is set by the land community itself upon the decision of the majority of its full-rights members…

11. The following order is established for all changes in systems of land-tenure, carried out on the basis of the present decree, and equalizing allotment of land from the community or of a general reallotment:

a) all questions are considered first of all by the general meeting of all the members of the given land community;

b) in the absence of disputes or grievances, the decision of the general meeting comes into force after it is registered with the district land board which is obliged to examine such matters within a month from the date of their receipt;

c) in cases where disputes arise, the dissatisfied party has the right to appeal the decision of the land community in accordance with the regulations established for the examination of disputes over land; only after complete examination and settlement of the dispute can the appropriate registration take place;

d) in cases provided for in Article 5 dealing with households leaving the land community, the registration is examined and put into effect in conformity with sub-paragraphs (b) and (c) of the present article.

Division II

Rights of the Toiling-User of the Land

12. None of the toiling tenants can be deprived of land except in cases directly provided for by law, and the sizes, boundaries, and sites of their plots can be changed only under agrarian laws on redistribution, and by land re-allotment in those communities where a communal form of land tenure exists.

13. Right to the land, granted to a toil tenant, ceases in cases: (a) of voluntary renunciation of land by all the members of the household; (b) of complete cessation of independent farming by the household; (c) of escheatment of the household; (d) of definite migration of the household to another place with discontinuance of independent farming at the old place; (e) of deprivation of the right to land by the courts for offenses indicated by law; (f) of land taken in a manner prescribed for by governmental or public purposes (road construction, mining of valuable deposits, and the like).

14. In case individual members of the household leave for military service, are called by mobilization, or are elected to a soviet or public office, the portion of land due them will be preserved by the community for the full length of service of its departed members. If a member leaves for outside work, the portion of land due the departed member is preserved by the household to which he belongs for a period of 2 crop rotations, reckoned from the time of departure, and upon return to the household after the expiration of that period, he is provided with land from the land reserve if such a reserve is available. In the absence of such a reserve, the land shall be allotted to him on an equal basis with other members of the community at the next land redistribution.

15. If the land of the toil-tenant is taken over for governmental or public purposes (Article 13), in a manner prescribed by law, then in place of the land taken over the toil-tenant is allotted land in another place, with compensation for losses suffered by the tenant.

16. If the tenant without a valid reason leaves the land without economic exploitation, or leases it in violation of the law (Division III), then he can be temporarily, for a period of not more than one year, deprived of the right of using that land by the regulations established for the examination of disputed land affairs.

17. Upon the cessation of land-tenure, the free portions of land go to the local land reserve and, in the first instance, are earmarked for the satisfaction of the land needs of a household deprived of land use.

18. The purchase, sale or conditional sale, bequest, and also mortgaging of land is forbidden, and agreements completed in violation of the prohibitions are held invalid; persons guilty of their completion will be deprived of land found in their use in addition to punishment under criminal order.

Division III

About Toil-Leasing of Land

19. Toiling households, temporarily weakened, owing to natural calamities… or either a shortage or death of man-power… are permitted to lease all or part of the land in exchange for payment in money, products, or other forms of remuneration and with the observance of conditions indicated in the following articles.

20. A lease is permitted for a period not exceeding the time for conducting one crop rotation on the leased plot, and in the absence of normal crop rotation, for a period of not more than 3 years. 11

21. In exceptional cases the limitation of the lease can be lengthened with the permission of the Volost Executive Committee, but not for a period beyond two crop rotations, and in the absence of normal crop rotations, for a period of not more than six years. If, at the expiration of this period, the lessee is not in a position to conduct independent farming on the leased land, then the land goes into the local reserve fund to meet the land needs of other members of the given commune.

22. Only toil- leasing (Article 19) is permitted: no one can receive under a lease more land than can be cultivated for certain by the labor-strength of the lessee’s household.

23. The lease enters into force after it is registered with the local Volost Executive Committee if the land leased is more than 3/4 of all the lessee’s land, and with the local village Soviet if the land leased is below that quantity.

24. The lease can be concluded in written as well as oral forms…

25. The lease becomes void if the lessee’s household completely discontinues independent farming due to the migration of the household or changes its occupations.

26. After concluding the lease, the tenant pledges to carry on farming on the leased land as an efficient and prudent farmer and has no right to sublet the land to other persons. In addition, the tenant pays the levies, taxes, and duties due on the leased land during the course of the lease.

27. The lease can be terminated prematurely in the event of violation of the conditions of the lease or non-fulfillment of those conditions…

28. Upon the termination of the lease, the leased land with all improvements carried out by the tenant… return to the lessee. Any improvements unused by the tenant are subject to mutual accounting under the terms of the lease or by a supplementary contract or understanding.

Division IV

About Auxiliary Hired Labor in Toiling-Land-Tenure Households

29. Auxiliary hired labor in toiling agricultural households is permitted in those cases when the household cannot fulfill its necessary agricultural tasks in good time due to the condition of its own laboring force or inventory..

30. In localities where there is a shortage of arable land, the use of hired labor is completely permitted for households temporarily weakened … only for the time of their shortage of power; for other households, hired labor is permitted only for individual seasons when the condition of the household laboring force does not allow the household to cope with its separate tasks (haymaking, harvesting, etc.). In the localities where large areas of land are found, and also on farms organized in. new places, in the process of settling down or migrating, hired labor is permitted on a scale necessary for rapid cultivation and maximum utilization of the household area.

31. Hired labor conforms with the conditions specified in laws and regulations regarding the protection and standardization of labor.

Division X

About strengthening toil-tenure

32. For the rapid construction and stabilization of toil-tenure, volost, village, and other agricultural organizations must make available for toil land tenure all lands now found in their actual possession and legally allotted to them by… land organs or by soviet congresses (volost, district, or provincial) for the purpose of distributing the land for toil use…

33. For the same purpose, further equalization of land between separate volosts and villages is absolutely forbidden…

34. The land organs will carry an obligatory agrarian-exploitation tasks only in the following cases: (a) organizing land funds for the distribution and re-distribution of free and excess land and (b) elimination of significant inter-volost or inter-village overlapping of agricultural lands…

Division VI

Final Decisions

36. The People’s Commissariat of Agriculture has the right to issue instructions and decrees for guidance and application of the present law.

37. The present law applies to the R. S. F. S. R., autonomous, allies, and the Soviet Republic united with her by treaty. Modifications of it, called for by particular local conditions, are effected through the Federal Committee on Land Affairs attached to the Presidium of The All-Russian Central Executive Committee…

Chairman of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee Kalinin

Source: J. Meisel and E. S. Kozera, eds., Materials for the Study of the Soviet System (Ann Arbor: G. Wahr Pub. Co., 1953), pp. 133-138.

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