Russians get chance to own land


MOSCOW -- The Russian Parliament has approved a resolution allowing private ownership of land for the first time in 70 years.

The vote was seen as a blow to the reform policy of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who earlier declared his opposition to the idea. Gorbachev had favored grants to peasants under 100-year leases.

After the vote, the Russian president, Boris N. Yeltsin, said his republic, the largest and richest in the Soviet Union, would not sign a new national union treaty until Moscow acknowledged the republic's rights over its enormous natural wealth, including gold, oil and timber.

Under terms of the land reform resolution passed yesterday, private ownership in Russia would be curtailed by a number of restrictions, including an initial 10-year period during which land could not be resold. Despite those limits, the land reform resolution remains one of the most forthright challenges to Gorbachev's leadership and programs, and its provisions constitute a rejection of decades of fundamental Soviet policy.

Yeltsin, Gorbachev's main rival, made no effort to hide the implications during a news conference last night. "Land is power," he told journalists. The all-union Parliament has yet to discuss land reform.

The plan bears the imprint of Russia's collectivist past and socialist fiscal system. Under it, once the 10-year limit is reached, land could be resold but only back to the local government. Moreover, a farmer would retain the right to sell only 30 percent of his produce at free-market prices. The rest would go to the state in various forms of taxation.

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