Land Law

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Land Law


in the USSR, the branch of Soviet socialist law that regulates land relations with the aim of ensuring the economically rational and efficient use of land, the protection of the rights of socialist organizations and citizens in their capacity as land users, and the strengthening of legality in land relations. The basis of land law is the abolition of private land ownership and the transformation of land into national property.

As a body of legal norms and institutions, Soviet land law is divided into a general and a special part. The general part deals with the right of state ownership of land, the state management of the land fund, the right of land use, and the protection of the legal treatment of land as an object of property and use. The special part deals with the legal treatment of the various categories of land: agricultural land, land for population centers, industry, transport, health resorts, national preserves, and other nonagricultural purposes, state forests, state waters, and state reserve land.

The main sources of land law are the constitutions of the USSR and of the Union republics, the Basic Principles of Land Legislation of the USSR and the Union Republics of 1968, and the land codes of the Union republics. Land relations are also regulated by other legislative acts of the USSR and of the Union republics. In the USSR and the Union republics special legislation governs the relations concerning mines, forests, and waters.

The establishment in the USSR of the exclusive right of the state to own land means that nobody except the state can own land; the land is allocated to socialist organizations and citizens only for use. Since state ownership of land constitutes the basis of land relations in the USSR, all other rights to land are derivative and depend on the state ownership of land. The sale and purchase of land, as well as mortgages, wills, gifts, leases, arbitrary exchanges of land, and other transactions either directly or indirectly violating the state right of land ownership are invalid.

The state management of land funds is one of the forms in which the state exercises its right of land ownership. State management includes the planning of land use, its allocation to land users, the withdrawal of land for state or public needs, the organization of land (land-use measures and the planning of layouts), the conducting of the state land survey, the supervision of land use, and the settlement of land disputes.

In the USSR the dominant forms of land use are public; individual forms of land use have been preserved only as a result of certain socioeconomic conditions, and as these conditions are overcome, individual land utilization will lose its significance. Land is allocated free of charge to socialist organizations and citizens for strictly defined purposes, and the use of land for the purpose of deriving nonlabor income is prohibited. The rights of land users can be limited by law in the interest of the state, as well as in the interest of other land users.

Soviet land law gives special attention to the protection of land as the principal means of agricultural production. Criminal or administrative proceedings are instituted against persons guilty of violating land legislation.

The Soviet experience in the socialist reorganization of land relations has also been adopted—taking into account specific historical conditions—by foreign socialist countries. Democratic land reforms, the nationalization of a large part of the land (in the Mongolian People’s Republic, of all the land), and the large-scale development of public forms of land use resulted in the formation of a special body of legal norms regulating land relations in these countries in the interest of building socialism. The regulation of land relations by law in other socialist countries has a specific character. For example, the right to ownership of land in these countries exists in several forms (state ownership, ownership by agricultural production cooperatives, and ownership by private persons), and state management and the right of land use (as a body of distinct rights and obligations) extend to all categories of land irrespective of the form of ownership. The question of whether the respective body of norms governing land relations represents a special branch of law—land law—is resolved differently in each country. The jurisprudence of several socialist countries (for example, the German Democratic Republic, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia) holds land law to be an independent branch of law. Irrespective of the existing differences, the common goal of land legislation in other socialist countries is the socialization of all land according to socialist principles, which represents the most important element of the socialist economic system.

In bourgeois states, land is one of the objects of private ownership; it is transferred by private individuals, and, therefore, land relations are mainly governed by the norms of civil law. At the same time, in contemporary bourgeois states, special land legislation has been created that defines the obligations of landowners and regulates the procedure for land use but that does not touch upon the principles of private landownership. The appearance of such special legislation indicates that although it is unwilling to give up private ownership of land and other means of production, the bourgeois state is being forced to yield to the economic demands connected with the development of large-scale production and to interfere in the relations of private landownership. In terms of its social purpose, this legislation is directed toward subordinating the interests of small-scale property owners to the interests of capitalist monopolies.


Zemel’noie pravo. Moscow, 1969.


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