Decree on Organization of Volost Land Committees

Written: November 3/16, 1917
First Published: Izvestiia, No. 215, November 16, 1917, p. 4; Sobranie Uzakonenii i Rasporiazhenii Rabochego i Krestianskogo Pravitelstva, 1917, No. 2, pp. 23-25.
Source: James Bunyan and H.H. Fisher, The Bolshevik revolution, 1917-1918: Documents and materials, Stanford University Press; London: H. Milford, Oxford University Press, 1934, pp. 333-334.
Translated: Emanuel Aronsberg
Transcription/Markup: Zdravko Saveski
Online Version: 2017

1. To bring about a speedy transfer of the land .... to the people these present regulations, regarding the functioning of the volost land committees, as approved by the All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers', Soldiers', and Peasants' Deputies of July 6, 1917, shall be enforced until such a time as the Constituent Assembly makes final rulings on all details of the land reform.

2. The present law will become effective by telegraph. It is understood that the term volost refers to every territorial unit equal in size to that of a volost .....

3. The formation of land committees in every volost is compulsory. In those places where the law of small zemstvo units is not yet in force, the land committees will be organized as self-governing bodies on the principle of direct, equal, and secret universal suffrage. In those places where the zemstvo units are already functioning .... the land committee will be organized in connection with the zemstvo .....

4. Where volost zemstvos are not in existence the number of members of the land committee will be determined by the inhabitants themselves. Where zemstvos do exist the local population has the right to include in the land committee representatives from different villages, in addition to members provided by law .....

5. All expenses in connection with the organization and administration of the land committees will be borne by the state.

6. Arbitration boards will be organized within the volost land committees to settle all disputed questions .....

7. The volost land committees are charged with the rapid and definitive liquidation of all vestiges of serfdom preserved in the village. They must abolish all forms of bondage, such as menial service, payments in kind, etc.

8. In order that there may be more rational management of the land fund, the land committee will collect all documentary data concerning the amount of land within the boundaries of the volost .... showing how much there is of each kind--meadow, forest, pasture, and arable land, etc.

9. The volost land committee will make a survey of the forests within the boundaries of the volost and lay down, with the assistance of the state forester, plans for felling.

The volost land committee will give priority to supplying the national needs in fuel and building material .... in accordance with the orders received from a special fuel commission .....

17. The volost land committee will fix the area of land to be cultivated, distributing it between the different villages and hamlets. It will see to it that the land is properly cultivated .... and equitably distributed among the farmers.

18. The volost land committee will fix the rentals for fields, meadows, and pastures, determining the methods by which such rentals are to be collected.....

20. The volost land committee will take complete charge of carrying through the land reform within its locality. It will determine to what extent the available land fund is capable of satisfying local needs, what branches of agriculture stand in greatest need of additional land, what order is to be observed in distributing the land among those having little or no land, newcomers, etc.

21. The volost land committee will take charge of the scientifically cultivated farms and, in agreement with the uezd and gubernia land committees, will fix the area of land to be allowed to them ...... It will establish those branches of rural economy that are dictated by the necessities of the state and society as a whole (breeding stations, dairies, sugar-beet plantations, vineyards, etc.).

22. The volost land committee will fix the laboring wage for day and contract workers, .... and will supervise the carrying out of the terms of employment.....

24. The activities of the volost land committees should be co-ordinated with those of the uezd and the gubernia land committees. All disagreements between different volosts as well as volost land committees should be settled by the uezd land committee.[1]

In the name of the Russian Republic,


The People's Commissar of Agriculture


[1] This decree was supplemented on December 26, 1917, by a new decree transforming the land committees into a land parliament elected by universal secret and direct suffrage, and empowering the gubernia congresses of these committees "to discuss and supplement the legislative acts of the central government, adapting them to local conditions." (Sbornik dekretov i postanovlenii po narodnomu khoziaistvu. 25 oktiabria 1917 g.-25 oktiabria 1918 g., Moscow, 1918, pp. 465-70.)