Central Executive Committee
The Fundamental Law of Land Socialization

Written: February 19, 1918
First Published: Sobranie Uzakonenii i Rasporiazhenii Rabochego i Krestianskogo Pravitelstva, 1918, No. 25, pp. 327-35.
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. 673-678.
Translated: Emanuel Aronsberg
Transcription/Markup: Zdravko Saveski
Online Version: marxists.org 2017

Part I. General Provisions

Article 1. All private ownership of land, minerals, waters, forests, and natural resources within the boundaries of the Russian Federated Soviet Republic is abolished forever.

Article 2. Henceforth all the land is handed over without compensation (open or secret) to the toiling masses for their use.

Article 3. With the exceptions indicated in this decree the right to the use of the land belongs to him who cultivates it with his own labor.

Article 4. The right to the use of the land cannot be limited on account of sex, religion, nationality, or citizenship.

Article 5. All minerals, forests, water, and other natural resources[1] (depending on their importance) are placed at the disposition of the uezd, gubernia, regional, or federal Soviets to be controlled by them. The methods of utilizing and managing the above resources will be determined by special decree.

Article 6. All privately owned live stock, agricultural implements, and buildings of estates that are worked by hired labor shall be taken over by the land departments of the uezd, gubernia, regional, and federal Soviets without compensation.

Article 7. All buildings referred to in Article 6 and others that are of economic value, together with the agricultural enterprises attached [to these buildings], pass without compensation to the uezd, gubernia, regional, and federal Soviets.

Article 8. All persons unable to work and who are deprived of the means of livelihood in consequence of this decree may, on presenting a certificate from the local courts and land departments of the Soviet Government, receive a pension (as long as they live or until they are of age) equivalent to that of a soldier. This will obtain until a general decree is promulgated concerning the insurance of citizens unable to work.

Article 9. The distribution of agricultural land among the toilers is in the hands of the land departments of the village, volost, uezd, gubernia, regional, and federal Soviets.

Article 10. The administration of the land reserve in each republic is in the hands of the main land departments [of the republics] and the federal Soviet.

Article 11. In addition to effecting an equitable distribution of the agricultural land among the toiling agricultural population and a more efficient utilization of the national resources, the local and federal land departments have also the following duties: (a) to create conditions favorable to the development of the productive forces of the country by increasing the productivity of the soil, to develop scientific farming, and to raise the general level of agricultural knowledge among the land toilers; (b) to create a reserve of agricultural land; (c) to develop agricultural enterprises such as horticulture, apiculture, market-gardening, stock raising, dairying, etc.; (d) to hasten in certain areas the transition from a less productive to a more productive system of land cultivation by effecting a better distribution of the agricultural population; (e) to encourage the collective system of agriculture at the expense of individual farming, the former being more economical and leading to socialistic economy.

Article 12. The distribution of land among the toilers should be made on an equal basis and in accordance with the ability to work it; local standards and traditions should also be taken into consideration. Care should be exercised that no one should have more than he can work or less than he needs for a comfortable existence.

Article 13. The basic right to the use of agricultural land is individual labor. The organs of the Soviet Government may, in addition, make use of a portion of the land reserve (formerly belonging to monasteries, the state, udel,[2] the cabinet,[3] and pomeshchiks) for .... model farms and experiment stations. In such cases hired labor may be employed under the general regulations of labor control.

Article 14. All citizens engaged in agriculture are to be insured at the expense of the state against loss of life, old age, sickness, accident, and disability.

Article 15. All incapacitated agriculturalists and members of their families who are unable to work are to be taken care of by the Soviet Government.

Article 16. Every farm is to be insured against fire, live-stock epidemics, poor crops, drought, hail, and other such misfortunes through Soviet mutual insurance arrangements.

Article 17. Surplus income derived from the natural fertility of the soil or from nearness to market is to be turned over to the organs of the Soviet Government, which will use it for the good of society.

Article 18. The Soviet Government has a monopoly of the trade in agricultural machinery and seeds.

Article 19. The grain trade, both foreign and domestic, is to be a state monopoly.

Part II. Who Has the Right to Use the Land?

Article 20. Within the limits of the Russian Federated Soviet Republic, separate plots of the land's surface may be used for public and private needs on the following bases:

A. For educational and cultural purposes: (1) The state in the person of the Soviet organs of government (federal, regional, gubernia, uezd, volost, and village). (2) Public organizations (with the authorization and under the control of the Soviet Government).

B. For agricultural purposes: (3) Agricultural communes. (4) Agricultural partnerships. (5) Village associations. (6) Separate families and individuals.

C. For building purposes: (7) Organs of the Soviet Government. (8) Public organizations, families, and individuals (if the construction is not undertaken with the object of making profit). (9) Commercial, industrial, and transportation enterprises (with the special authorization and under the control of the Soviet Government).

D. For transportation purposes (building roads): (10) Organs of the Soviet Government (federal, regional, gubernia, uezd, volost, and village, depending on the importance of the road in question).

Part III. Order in Which the Land is Apportioned

Article 21. Land is given in the first place to those who wish to cultivate it not for personal profit but for the benefit of the community.

Article 22. For those who engage in agriculture for their own benefit the following order of apportioning the land will be observed:

In the first place, the land will be given to local agriculturists who have little or no land, and to hired farm laborers. The land is to be distributed in equal shares.

In the second place, it will be given to newcomers, i.e., agriculturists who arrive at a given locality after the publication of this law. In the third place, it will be given to non-agricultural elements in the order in which they are registered by the land department of the local Soviets.

Note: In making the allotments of land, preference will be given to agricultural associations over individual farmers.

[Article 23 deals with the allotment of garden land; 24 with land going under buildings.]

Part IV. The Consumption-Labor Standard[4]

Article 25. The area of land allotted to individual farms to furnish the means of subsistence must not exceed the limits of the consumption-labor standard, which is to be calculated on the basis of the following instructions:

Instructions for Determining the Consumption-Labor Standard

1. Agricultural Russia is to be divided into as many zones as there are different systems of land cultivation (farm-fallow system, three-field system, eight-field system, many-field system, rotation of crops, etc.) in practice at the present time.

2. Each zone is to have its own standard, which, however, may vary in accordance with conditions of climate, natural fertility of the soil, and marketing facilities.

3. In order to determine the standard for each zone, an All-Russian agricultural census will be taken in the near future.

Note: Immediately after putting this law into force the land will be surveyed and topographic maps made.

4. [The distribution of land will take place gradually.]

5. In determining the consumption-labor standard for a given zone the average farm of the least thickly populated uezd will be taken as a basis. . . . . The uezd in question must be characterized by such a relation between the different branches of agriculture as is judged by the local population to be most normal, i.e., most favorable for carrying on the type of agriculture dominant in the given zone.

6. In determining the average peasant farm as it exists today, only those lands will be taken into consideration which the peasants actually cultivated prior to 1917, that is to say, the lands bought and rented by peasant societies and individuals.

7. Forests, minerals, and waters are not to be included in this calculation.

8. Neither will there be taken into account those privately owned lands which were under capitalistic cultivation or those which up to now belonged to the state, private banks, monasteries, udel, or pomeshchiks (cabinet and church); these lands will constitute a land reserve out of which allotments will be made to peasants who have no land or whose shares fall below the existing consumption-labor standard.

[Points nine to thirteen set forth rules for the calculation of the total amount of land available for distribution.]

14. In taking the population census the number of workers and the number of consumers [literally "bread-eaters"] will be calculated separately. The whole population is to be classified in respect to age as follows:

Having No Capacity to Work
Girls .......... to 12 years of age
Boys .......... to 12 years of age
Men .......... from 60 years of age
Women .......... from 50 years of age

Capable of Work
Age Worker Units
Men 18-60 ........ 1.0
Women 18-50 ........ 0.8
Boys 12-16 ........ 0.5
Girls 12-16 ........ 0.5
Boys 16-18 ........ 0.75
Girls 16-18 ........ 0.6

Note: These figures may be changed in accordance with climatic conditions and local customs by decision of the appropriate organs of the Soviet Government.

15. The amount of land per worker unit may be determined by dividing the number of desiatins by the number of worker units.

16. The number of dependents to be provided for by one worker unit may be obtained by dividing the number of non-workers by the number of "worker units."

17. It is further necessary to make an estimate of the number of cattle which can be fed on a desiatin and by one working unit.

18. In order to determine the average size of a farm in a uezd, which may be taken as typical for a given zone, the average fertility and quality of a desiatin must be ascertained. This average will be found by dividing the total crop .... by the number of types of soil.

19. The average thus found will be taken as the point of departure in determining the consumption-labor standard in accordance with which the equalization of all farms is to take place.

Note: In case the above average proves insufficient for a satisfactory standard of living it may be increased out of the land reserve.

20. The amount of land .... required for additional allotments by those whose shares fall below the normal average may be determined by multiplying the amount of land which goes to one "worker unit" in a particular uezd by the total number of worker units of that zone and subtracting from the result the number of desiatins in actual possession of the peasants.

21. Then the land reserve fund .... should be compared with the amount of land required for additional allotments in order to ascertain whether migration can take place within the zone in question. . . . . In case this is impossible [it is necessary to find out] how many families will have to move to another zone.

[The rest of the land law, which contains altogether some fifty-two articles, makes provision for cases of possible shortage of land resulting from overpopulation and unequal distribution of the available land fund. Regulations as to the emigration of farmers indicate such points as the selection of those who are to migrate and state provision for all expenses connected with the emigration, and aid to the new settlers.]


President of the Central Executive Committee


Members of the Presidium


President of the Sovnarkom


People's Commissar of Agriculture


[1] Literally, the "live forces of nature."

[2] Lands used for the support of members of the Imperial family except the immediate family of the Emperor.

[3] Lands belonging to the Tsar.

[4] The corresponding Russian expression, which played an important part in the discussions of the period, is rather difficult to render into appropriate English. Russian economists were in search of what they called potrebitelno-trudovaia norma, literally, consuming-labor standard, and signifying an amount of land for a single farm such as would provide an adequate standard of living for the cultivator operating it without hired labor. See Glavnyi Zemelnyi Komitet [Proceedings of the Central Land Committee], Vol. 2, Normy zemelnago obezpecheniia, Petrograd, 1919.