land tenure

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land tenure:

see tenuretenure,
in law, manner in which property in land is held. The nature of tenure has long been of great importance, both in law and in the broader economic and political context.
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, in law.
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land tenure

the rights involved in holding land whether this involves ownership, renting or communal forms. The most common forms in contemporary industrial societies are freehold, involving ownership, and leasehold, involving some form of renting.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Land Tenure


the use of land in a manner established by custom or law.

The system of land tenure and its types and forms takes shape and changes in the process of historical development of and shifts in productive relations. The development of the social division of labor (the emergence of farming and livestock-raising tribes) and the related transition to settled life gradually led to a division of the land, at first among clans, tribes, and communes and later among individual families. This led to the formation of more stable forms of land tenure. In the rural (territorial) commune arable land, although remaining communal property, was periodically redistributed among members of the commune in such a way that each farmer cultivated by himself the fields assigned to his use. In slave-owning society the primary land users were, above all, the slave-owners themselves, who used the forced labor of slaves on their latifundia. In addition to this form there also existed the small-scale land tenure by free peasants, based on the free private ownership of plots of land.

Under feudalism there were four principal forms of land tenure. The first was land tenure by the feudal lord, based on various forms of hierarchical feudal land ownership and on the dependent position of the workers themselves, the serfs or feudally bound peasants. The second form was the tenure of allotted land by serfs who were attached to land not belonging to them and who therefore bore various obligations to the feudal lord for its use; this form secured the economic basis of the class rule of the feudal lords (gentry landowners) and, within certain limits, created conditions for the development of small-scale peasant farming. The third form was land tenure by peasants who enjoyed personal freedom but had to pay a quitrent (monetary or in kind) to the feudal lords or fulfil personal obligations. The fourth was land tenure by free peasants, based on their free, alodial ownership. Such a free peasant, however, was a rare phenomenon under feudalism.

Under capitalism the system of land tenure is based on the right of private land ownership (by capitalists or small working peasants) or on a land rental agreement. Various forms of rental relationships are becoming increasingly prevalent in agriculture.

Under socialism the system of land tenure is based on public socialist ownership of the means of production and on the socialist economic system.

In the USSR the forms of land tenure have changed in the different phases of the development of the Soviet state. Industrialization of the country and collectivization of agriculture have led to the overwhelming prevalence of the socialist system of land tenure. This encompasses the following social forms: land tenure by state enterprises, organizations, and institutions to whom the land is given for the development of agriculture, industry, transportation, and sociocultural and other economic needs; land tenure by kolkhozes and interkolkhoz and other cooperative enterprises and organizations; and land tenure by public organizations, such as trade unions and sport societies. Land is granted to individual citizens for individual home construction, for individual and collective gardening and orchard farming, and for personal subsidiary plots. The Constitution of the USSR also permits land tenure by self-employed peasants for small-scale private farming without hired labor.

The principal users of agricultural land are the sovkhozes and kolkhozes. In the USSR land is granted for indeterminate or temporary use free of charge. Land is granted to kolkhozes for use in perpetuity without charge. The size of plots granted to citizens is regulated by legislation. Indeterminate periods of land tenure ensure stability, which is an essential condition for using land in the most correct, rational manner. Temporary land tenure is permitted for short terms (up to three years) or long terms (from three to 10 years); a longer period can be established for certain types of land tenure but may not be more than 25 years. It is provided that the right to use land will cease in certain cases: where the law on nationalization of land is violated, where the period for which the plot of land was granted has expired, where a person moves to another place, or where the land is taken for state or public needs. If land is taken for state or public needs or if land is temporarily occupied, the land user is compensated for the resulting losses, including the value of the buildings, structures, planted fields, and perennial plantings taken with the land; expenditures on the plot of land that were not exploited by the land user; and expenditures necessary to develop a new plot. In addition to such losses, the enterprises, organizations, and institutions to whom agricultural land is allocated are also obligated to compensate for losses of agricultural production. The size of such losses, the method of determining them, and the use of capital to compensate for them are determined by the Council of Ministers of the USSR. Irrigated and drained lands, arable land, and plots of land occupied by perennial fruit plantings and vineyards may be used for nonagricultural needs only in exceptional cases and only with the approval of the councils of ministers of the Union republics.

While granting agricultural enterprises and other land users extensive rights, Soviet legislation also imposes substantial obligations on them. The Model Kolkhoz Regulations of 1969 obligate a kolkhoz to make fullest and most correct use of the land assigned to it, to improve it continuously, to raise its fertility, to bring unused lands into agricultural production, to carry out measures to irrigate and drain lands and combat soil erosion, and to prevent the squandering of kolkhoz lands. The Fundamental Principles of Land Legislation of the USSR and the Union republics (1968) envision legal guarantees of land preservation and improvement of its fertility. Thus, measures providing for material incentives for land users and accountability for violation of land legislation (damage to agricultural and other lands, their contamination with industrial wastes) can be established.

The development of socialist agricultural relations in the other socialist countries is characterized by the collectivization of land tenure and the development of various forms of public land tenure while still preserving private land ownership. Agricultural cooperatives preserve individual land tenure by members in the form of auxiliary garden farms with the guidelines established by the regulations of these cooperatives.

In the countries that have taken up or are taking up the path of noncapitalist development, such as Algeria, Egypt, Syria, Burma, and Guinea, in addition to individual land tenure by peasants based on small private ownership or rental of land, there has been some development of public forms of land tenure. These have arisen as a result of the establishment of a state sector in agriculture and as the result of various forms of productive cooperation by peasants. The establishment of public forms of land tenure in these countries is a complex, difficult, and prolonged process.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.