A total of 442 hectares of public land in the northern territories was provided to about 450 Russians under a program to offer land for free in the Far East launched in 2016 by the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin, interviews with Russian authorities have revealed.
Plots of land have been provided to Russians to develop accommodations for tourism, as well as to construct their own housing. It has become apparent that the Putin administration is steadily proceeding with the “Russianization” of the northern territories.
Under the system, a plot of land is lent out to applicants, who are given ownership of the land five years later as long as the land has been effectively used. About 17,000 Russians were living in the northern territories as of 2016, and the number of landowners there is expected to increase because of the program.
According to Russian authorities, as of December last year, a total of 420 hectares on two islands ? Kunashiri and Shikotan ? had been lent out to 427 people, while a total of 22 hectares on Etorofu island had been given to 27 people. The Habomai group of islets are not on the list because no civilians other than the Russian border guards and their families live there.
The most common use of the land is accommodations and other “tourism- or leisure-related” purposes, which accounted for 27 percent, followed by “construction of one’s home” at 25 percent, “holiday home” at 21 percent and “agriculture” at 15 percent. The result showed that a certain number of Russians are trying to use the northern territories for settlement.
Russia is expanding its military presence. At the end of last year, the Russian Defense Ministry built four housing complexes with a total of 188 units for soldiers and their families on Kunashiri and Etorofu islands, and the Russian military has frequently conducted live-fire exercises.
Some observers believe there is a possibility that the land subject to the program used to be owned by former islanders who were forced to leave the islands due to Russia’s occupation.
Takushoku University Prof. Kenro Nagoshi, who is familiar with the state of the northern territories, said, “Negotiations over the handover of the northern territories will likely become complicated if Russians’ private land has expanded.”
Under the program, up to one hectare of free land in the Russian Far East is lent out to Russians, with the aim of encouraging people to settle in the area, which is suffering a delay in development and a population drain. About 130,000 people have applied, and about 50,000 have been accepted to use the land.
© 2019 the Asia News Network (Hamburg, Germany)
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