In February 2017, a conference was held at Moscow State University Lomonosov, on the “Scientific Basis and Practical Implementation of the ‘Family Homestead’ Idea in Russia and the World”. At this conference, sponsored by the Governor of Belgorod region, academic work was presented on the ‘Family Homestead’ idea, the central concept in the “Ringing Cedars of Russia” books by Vladimir Megre. Independently of this conference, a handful of other academics have also dealt with the social and economic aspects of Megre’s books. (1, 2, 3)
The first settlements of family homesteads, constructed by the design in Megre’s books, emerged in 2001. Since then the number of settlements registered with the Anastasia Foundation has grown to 508, 385 of which are in Russia; the rest are in eastern and central Europe. Many settlements have their own websites, VK or Facebook pages, and can easily be verified by looking a photos, videos or chatting with the people directly. On VKontakte, a Russian social network with about 460 million users, there are more than 170,000 posts about family homesteads (родовое поместье in Russian).
In 2001, in the book “Who Are We?” (Volume 5 of the “Ringing Cedars of Russia” series), Megre wrote about a Law on Family Homesteads, providing a hectare of free land to any willing citizen. The hectare could be passed on by inheritance but could not be bought or sold. At the time, the idea was unknown. Readers of Megre’s books formed a federal political party, the Family Party, with chapters in dozens of Russian cities. In 2015-6, the Family Party lobbied in support of the “Law on Family Homesteads” with a caravan of volunteers who performed concerts and held meetings in towns and cities across Russia. In 2016, the law entered the Russian Duma (parliament) for formal consideration, and was soon accepted. It commenced in February 2017 and has now received 113,941 applications, with 37,889 hectares already allocated for use. (Officials are not allowed to refuse applications, the demand has just been higher than expected.)
In December 2017, representatives of the Family Party attended the “Action Forum” of the ONF, an official popular platform where citizens present policy and reform agendas, to present the ‘family homestead’ idea. It was well received, and was included in the 33 proposals delivered to the federal government. Family party representative Maria Pelmeneva advocated legislation that would allow the construction of rural dwellings on agricultural land. She also spoke in favour of expanding the land allotment program to the whole country. In February 2018, the Prime Minister of Russia, Dmitri Medvedev, began the formal submission process to implement Ms. Pelmeneva’s recommendations into law.
The real world effects of Megre’s books are measurable, documented, and significant, if still very small compared with the whole population of Earth. Estimates are hard to make, but seem to concur that there are about 40,000 people in Russia and eastern Europe who live on family homesteads, support themselves by a combination of on- and off-homestead work, develop their lives, and raise children based on the ideas of Megre’s books.
Megre’s business model
Megre distributes his information cheaply (ebooks are $10 each). News, videos, webinars and conferences are all offered online for free. His products range from very cheap (pendant trinkets are about $3) to very luxurious (hand made cedar oil is over $110), and go right up to guest accommodation in their cedar house in Novosibirsk, which costs a few hundred dollars a night. The company employs a few dozen people, including previously unemployed from the Siberian village where the oil comes from. Most significantly, Megre’s company helps to distribute products made on family homesteads. Settlers of family homesteads can enter an arrangement with Megre, and have their product instantly available across the whole international network. This allows people to start their own businesses, market their produce and craft, and spend more time tending to their homestead. This is extremely helpful for someone trying to move onto the land.
Megre’s business model lets anyone participate, but also captures value from those who have money to spend. The main benefit of Megre’s model is that information travels freely — there is no secret, occult methodology to his techniques. They are clear, simple, understandable to a child, written in fairytale language that flows with narrative interest. Nobody makes careers teaching short courses in compartmentalised or pseudoscientific ideologies. There is a simple story that can be adapted to individual circumstances: Fall in love, find a piece of land, clean up the mess, plant a garden and raise happy children, perfect the land, achieve a sufficient yield from the land without external inputs, grow old on your land, be buried there, reincarnate there again. It’s a voluntary, self-motivated story that fulfills many social, environmental and economic aims. The major criticism of Megre’s books is that they are “not realistic”. And yet, some tens of thousands of people have managed, despite the challenges, to materialise their dreams in precisely the way he describes.
Many people who adopt Megre’s ideas are inspired in childlike fashion by a bright, optimistic imagination. They take on difficult tasks with a positive attitude. People build their whole house at the beginning of winter in less than a month or they stop spending money on consumer extravagances and clean up garbage dumps in a rural village. Megre’s model is about each family creating their own sustainable enterprise, being able to support themselves and produce something useful for the economy. Thanks to Megre, there is a political lobby group, a commercial distribution network, and many social and educational events, all working in favour of the people who want to create their own family homestead, and make this story come true.
Broader social impacts
The family homestead is a small plot of land, at least one hectare, a person’s little homeland on Earth, a space of love, an eternal garden for sustenance and spiritual fulfilment. Others have described the movement as “multi-generational homesteads practicing small-scale agriculture”. In Megre’s books, there are assertions including that interacting with nature brings one closer to God, and that creating a family homestead will preserve love in one’s family. These cannot be readily determined right now. But there is more to this than just fairy tales. In creating an inspired and beautiful project, Megre has overcome the major sustainability problem facing the world today—How to motivate people to transform their lifestyles?
Susan Richards wrote about the “Anastasia” movement in the Financial Times (a reputable London newspaper), and noted the following:
“The challenge of selling a more sustainable model of life to us is one our politicians haven’t begun to face. At some stage they’ll have to get round to it. Maybe they should bear in mind that while pompous political rhetoric switches people off, we have been programmed for thousands of years to respond to the power of stories.”
About the significance of Megre’s story books, A.I. Kolganov, Doctor of Economics, Head of Comparative Studies in Socio-economic Systems, Moscow State University Lomonosov, agrees. In a 2017 conference paper, he concluded that most people will probably not live in family homesteads, but even a small increase in their number could be beneficial. He said:
“Support for this movement can help solve many problems, including the removal of social tensions. It will show visible evidence of the potential held within civil society. It will not require any significant budgetary allocations from the state, and it may well be within the framework of existing regional development programs. But the results could be promising, presenting an unusual synthesis of traditional values and modern achievements of the digital economy and biotechnology. … the most important result that I expect is that the growth of the movement will significantly influence people’s future choices, adopting a new way of life, and new values corresponding to it.
Yu. A. Dmitriev, Doctor of Economics, Professor of the Department of Management and Marketing and A. E. Karpov, co-chair of Management and Marketing at Vladimir State University, highlight several major benefits of family homesteads:
”The family homestead, as a model of a small-scale management, eliminates soil degradation by machines, and other negative factors of intensive agricultural production. … One of the basic goals of the family homestead is improvement of the ecological situation. The development of a balanced natural landscape, including perennial plantations and water bodies, will help to overcome the ecological crisis. Returning to the rural way of life also lays the foundations of the spiritual revival of society by returning high moral traditions to the national culture.”
“Family homesteads can become the basis for the development of self-government and small forms of entrepreneurship. … The family homestead is primarily a way to improve the well-being and habitat of families, not creating economic systems designed to serve the interests of oligarchic or power structures.”
Volkova Irina Viktorovna, creator of a family homestead in Rodnoe settlement, Vladimir region, also presented a paper at the 2017 conference. She said:
“Having much in common with living nature, a person learns to understand, appreciate, and treat it carefully. … Each subsequent generation will improve their homestead, which they inherit. … For children born in a family homestead, the Homeland is not an abstract concept, but a favorite place on Earth belonging to a particular clan by birth. It educates the independence and responsibility of a person, the worldview is formed on the basis of a harmonious relationship with nature and people. It will improve the whole structure of society from the bottom up.”
Megre’s books have formed a significant movement in Russia and eastern Europe, with supporters around the world. The activities of Megre’s readers—being self-sufficient, cleaning up environmental pollution, providing for themselves ecologically, cultivating love in their families—are generally considered good. Economic scientists also consider the future potential of family homesteads highly. At present, the full range of assertions in Megre’s books cannot be fully verified nor denied. Topics such as reincarnation, telekinesis, teleportation, etc. are beyond the current scope of science, and have neither been conclusively observed nor explained. On the other hand, our understanding of such phenomena may increase in the future. For example, apparent evidence for reincarnation emerged in 2014 from the University of Virginia.
The whole story is yet to be proven, but the real effect of Megre’s books both within and outside of Russia cannot be denied. Tens of thousands of people have actively begun to shape their lives around the books, with positive results. Perhaps most remarkably of all, a federal law to allocate free land was passed in 2016, though Megre predicted it in 2001. There may be more to Megre’s books than appears at first sight.
What else will come true?
Conference on Family Homesteads: https://www.econ.msu.ru/science/conferences/News.20170407145916_1060/
Paper by A.I. Kolganov: http://meirska.com/family-homesteads-settlements-socio-economic-reform/
Original Kolganov paper (in Russian): http://anastasia.ru/upload/Conference-2017/%D0%9A%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%B3%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%BE%D0%B2_%D0%90_%D0%98_%D0%94%D0%BE%D0%BA%D0%BB%D0%B0%D0%B4.doc
Academic papers (in Russian): https://publications.hse.ru/chapters/204892898, http://cyberleninka.ru/article/n/samoizoliruyuschiesyasoobschestva-sotsialnaya-struktura-poseleniyrodovyh-pomestiy, https://cyberleninka.ru/article/n/alternativnye-selskie-poseleniya-v-rossii-stihiynaya-vnutrennyaya-emigratsiya-ili-osoznannyy-transfer-v-buduschee
List and map of Family Homestead Settlements (in Russian): http://anastasia.ru/patrimony
Family homestead settlement sites (in Russian): http://rodnoe.info/, https://vk.com/agudaria, https://www.facebook.com/rodpomschastlivoe/
VKontakte search for родовое поместье (in Russian): https://vk.com/search?c%5Bq%5D=%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%B4%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%BE%D0%B5%20%D0%BF%D0%BE%D0%BC%D0%B5%D1%81%D1%82%D1%8C%D0%B5&c%5Bsection%5D=auto
Volume 5, “Who Are We?”: https://anastasia.ru/en/store/electronic-products-en/text-books/vladimir-megre-electronic-book-who-are-we/
Family Party (in Russian): https://vk.com/rodnaya_partiya
Far Eastern hectare program: https://eng.minvr.ru/activity/razvitie-msp-i-konkurentsii/dalnevostochnyy-gektar/
Far Eastern hectare program (in Russian): https://надальнийвосток.рф/
Family Party at the ONF: http://vmegre.com/en/events/38725/
Family homesteads included in ONF recommendations (in Russian): https://onf.ru/2018/02/15/onf-po-itogam-foruma-deystviy-napravil-v-administraciyu-prezidenta-i-pravitelstvo-33/
Maria Pelmeneva: https://www.facebook.com/MariaPelmeneva
Medvedev called for submissions into Law on Family Homesteads: http://onf.ru/2018/02/21/dmitriy-medvedev-dal-pravitelstvu-bolee-30-porucheniy-po-itogam-foruma-deystviy-onf
Megre’s books for sale: http://anastasia.ru/en/store
Ringing Cedars free news: http://vmegre.com/events
Handmade cedar oil: http://megre.ru/catalog/maslo_sibirskogo_kedra/maslo_kedrovoe_250_ml_ruchnoy_raboty_izgotovitel_semya_mikheevykh/
Cedar House: http://megre.ru/cedar-house/
Megre company: http://megre.ru/
Building house at start of winter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYwJ76KpAZg
Clean up garbage dumps: http://meirska.com/family-homesteads-booklet-from-onf-forum/
Davidov paper: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cuag.12043
Susan Richards: https://www.ft.com/content/28d7c656-87a3-11de-9280-00144feabdc0
Kolganov paper: http://meirska.com/family-homesteads-settlements-socio-economic-reform/
Dmitriev and Karpov paper (in Russian): https://cyberleninka.ru/article/n/sotsialno-ekonomicheskoe-razvitie-selskih-territoriy-posredstvom-formirovaniya-i-razvitiya-poseleniy-rodovyh-pomestiy
Volkova paper: http://meirska.com/volkova-i-v-family-homesteads-the-basis-for-the-creation-of-a-just-society/
Evidence for reincarnation: https://www.npr.org/2014/01/05/259886077/searching-for-science-behind-reincarnation
Ringing Cedars books are published in English by the Ringing Cedars Publishing House, Novosibirsk, Russia. Unfortunately, many distorted and distracted versions appear in various languages, online and in print, which are not connected to Vladimir Megre. The author has limited power to prevent the circulation of non-official versions. For the benefit of readers, the only translation into English endorsed as accurate by the author can be found at http://anastasia.ru/en/store and on the author’s official website, http://vmegre.com/en/