Andrey Ivanovich Kolganov
Doctor of Economics, Professor, Head of laboratory, comparative study, socio-economic systems
Faculty of Economics
MSU Lomonosov

Родовые поместья и состоящие из них поселения как перспективная социально-экономическая форма

Family homesteads and settlements consisting of them as a promising socio-economic form

 

Introduction

The development of family homesteads in just the last two decades has turned from an attractive idea (popularly described in the series of books by Vladimir Nikolaevich Megre, begun in 1996 [Megre, 1996-2010]) into a broad social movement. Despite the considerable esoteric content present in these books, their rational side attracted the attention of many people, and the concept of the development of family homesteads [Megre, 2011] contained in them served as a practical guide for the reconstruction of the way of life of thousands (perhaps tens of thousands) of enthusiasts.

Now in Russia there are already more than 300 settlements, consisting of family homesteads. According to the Anastasia Foundation: “There are 370 settlements in Russia on September 16, 2017”. [List of …, 2017]. Based on the data of the portal “Poselenie.ru”, the largest number of such settlements is in the Krasnodar Territory, 44, followed by Vladimir and Yaroslavl regions – 22 and 21 respectively, in the Sverdlovsk and Tula oblasts, 15 settlements, in Smolensk – 14, in Nizhny Novgorod – 13, etc. In the Republic of Belarus there are 7 settlements, in Ukraine – 45, there are from one to three settlements in Kazakhstan, Latvia, Estonia, Moldova, Georgia, as well as in Bulgaria, Serbia, France and the USA [Settlements …, 2017].

Initiatives have already been taken several times to adopt the Federal law on family homesteads (the LDPR project of 2014 and the CPRF project of 2016), and in three regions of Russia the relevant laws were adopted at the regional level – in the Belgorod and Bryansk regions (the latter was declarative in nature and 24 May 2017 was declared invalid), and in the Krasnodar Territory. The popularity of participation in the creation of family homesteads is growing as public attention to this movement is growing.
This report aims to analyze the concept of family homesteads, the available practice of its implementation, substantiate the potential and limits of application, and consider the necessary legislative support measures

Terminology

Consider the existing definitions of the family homesteads. First of all, these definitions, of course, are given by supporters and participants in the movement for the creation of family homesteads.

One of them was presented at a roundtable in the framework of the Moscow Economic Forum in 2014: “A family homestead is a hectare of land on which the family carries out farming on the principles of natural farming (permaculture [1]) in order to transfer it to his family by inheritance, without the right to sell, where the products produced are not taxed.

Permaculture (permanent agriculture) is a method of management that involves the formation of a self-sufficient balancing ecosystem, where each component of a living system, interacting with other components, forms a stable self-regenerating habitat. ” [Stekolnikova, 2014].

A similar definition is given in I. Slavensky’s article “Family Homesteads and Settlements”:

“A family homestead is a piece of land for the permanent residence of a family of not less than 1 hectare (100x100m) on which a family can build a house, plant a family tree, own forest, a garden and a orchard, and equip a pond. <…> A family homestead settlement is a group of closely spaced family homesteads whose owners are united in a common partnership for the joint arrangement of a family homestead settlement, the creation of the appropriate infrastructure: administrative, educational, medical, cultural, sports and other public facilities and institutions.” And further: “The economic status of the Family Homstead is one indivisible allotment of 1 hectare of land, freely allocated to each willing Russian family for life use with the right to inheritance, for its arrangement with the purpose of creating the necessary conditions ensuring the life activity of a person, guaranteeing self-sufficiency, security and protection, as well as the preservation and strengthening of natural capacity.” [Slavensky, 2008]

It can be noted that these definitions are more descriptive than a strictly theoretical or, even more so, legal nature. The term “clan settlement” in Slavensky’s article may be disorienting about the real nature of the phenomenon under consideration. After all, a settlement consisting of family homesteads can not be defined as a “clan settlement”, for its members are not related by kinship (unlike a family homestead).

The concept of a family homestead in legislative acts, for example, in the corresponding law of the Belgorod region, is treated differently, although here one can see a display of definitions that were considered above:

“Article 2. Concepts used in this law

For the purposes of this law, the following basic concepts apply:

Family homestead – a land plot (land plots) with buildings, structures, other property on which the management of the local economy is organized;

(in the edition of the law of the Belgorod region of October 31, 2013 N 239)

the local economy is a form of life in which priority is given to the use of land as a natural object, protected as an important part of nature, ecological farming systems are being introduced, harmonious interaction with nature and minimal negative impact on it, original folk rites, holidays and crafts are revived, the healthy way of life is popularized;

(in the edition of the law of the Belgorod region of October 31, 2013 N 239)

a clan settlement – an association of citizens, leading a local economy in family homesteads, compactly located among themselves. ”

(in the edition of the law of the Belgorod region of October 31, 2013 N 239) [Belgorod law .., 2010].

The inaccurate term “clan settlement”, as we see, got into regional legislative acts (perhaps because of its brevity?). Regional legislation was unable to resolve a number of issues related to the federal level (in particular, the status of residential buildings on agricultural land) and therefore some practical problems in the organization of family homesteads remained unresolved. The draft federal law, submitted to the State Duma from the Communist Party faction, tried to bypass this defect:

“Family Homestead” (hereinafter referred to as “RP”) is an indivisible plot of land with an area of one to one and a half hectares, provided to adult citizens of the Russian Federation free of charge, for life inherited use and possession, without the right to sell, for building a house, without taxation of land, buildings and crops. The land and the manor built on it acquire the status of a dwelling. ” [Family homesteads, 2016].

Legislators of the Krasnodar Territory tried to avoid the contradiction between the status of agricultural land and the need to build dwellings on the grounds of the family homestead, without using the term “family homestead settlement” or “family homestead”, and introducing the concept of “rural homestead”. But as a result, the restriction is imposed on the status of the land plot of the rural homestead – the site must be “within the boundaries of townships”:

“A rural homestead is a set of objects of immovable property, including a land plot of land in municipal ownership, and (or) lands, state ownership of which is not delimited, from 0.5 to 5 hectares within the boundaries of the locality, used in the purposes of conducting agricultural production, with the dwelling house, economic buildings, facilities, production facilities, other property on it; “[The Law of Krasnodar .., 2012]. The question is, how many plots of such a square in the boundaries of settlements?

Despite the difference in tasks that the authors of these definitions have decided, it can be noted that they all agree that the family homestead (even if it comes under the more general name “rural homestead”) is a holistic complex comprising a piece of agricultural land (as usually not less than 1 hectare), with residential and household buildings on it, other production and cultural facilities, plantations of forests, fruit trees and shrubs, etc. As for the definition of the goals of creating a family homestead, there is much more discord here.

If the supporters of the movement are trying to create an image of a balanced and mutually conditioned development of the material and spiritual and moral component of life in the family homestead [Pavlov, 2012], addressing also the motives of life in harmony with nature, then for legislators the main thing is the economic purpose of the family homestead. However, even here common for all is the attention to the revival of the rural way of life, the rise of agricultural production, the release of environmentally friendly products, the solution of socio-demographic issues.

Yet the supporters of the movement mostly formulate the goals very broadly and very vaguely, the legislators, on the contrary, are rather narrow, striving for economic concreteness. Meanwhile, as I will try to show further, the issue of determining the goals of creating family homesteads is of fundamental importance both from the point of view of the destiny and prospects of the movement itself, and from the point of view of developing ways of its legislative support.

Such a sign as the formation of the economic complex of the family homestead on the basis of kinship (which brings it closer to the status of the peasant farm) is present only in the part of the definitions, but it is fundamental for the participants in the movement for the creation of family homesteads.

Finally, it should be noted that most of the definitions include the reference to settlements of family homesteads (sometimes inaccurately referred to as “clan settlements”) formed by groups of family homesteads set to cooperate with each other on the basis of a kind of communal way of life and territorial public self-government. It is understood that these settlements are a factor necessary (or, at least, favorable) for the existence of the family homesteads themselves, which find it difficult to carry out their mission and even survive in an isolated form.

Quite complex is the question of delineating settlements of family homesteads and eco-settlements, as well as the delineation of the family homestead and peasant farming. Both these issues are the subject of discussion both within the movement for the creation of family homesteads, and beyond.

Practice

The ideas of Megre, first published in 1996, fell on fertile ground – by that time they were groups of enthusiasts, by no means just isolated supporters, guided by various ideological considerations – ecological, religious, traditionalist, anarchistic, etc. They tried to create autonomous settlements in rural areas that would ensure both harmony with nature and social harmony.

Megre also succeeded in proposing a project that immediately propounded his supporters into leading positions in the formation of a post-urban settlement culture. The use of this very broad term is justified by the fact that the participants of this movement are mainly urban residents, who want to change their belonging to the urban way of life [Pozanenko, 2013, p. 167].

Studies devoted to this question amicably note that supporters of family homestead creation clearly prevail, making up more than two-thirds of post-urban settlements (sometimes more precise and contrary to the prevailing reality defined as eco-settlements) [Ekoposeleniya .., 2012, p. 22]. It should also be noted that the existence of individual family homesteads is almost not reflected in the information space, although they undoubtedly exist, although settlements consisting of family homesteads receive quite a wide coverage, including through their own efforts.

At present, settlements of family homesteads mostly (except for a small number of the oldest of them) go through the phase of formation and consolidation. They face significant organizational, economic, legal difficulties, sometimes with internal conflicts. The period of construction of housing and the establishment of the primary functioning of the clan economy takes at least five years, since it relies mainly on the personal funds of the participants.

This fact – the development and arrangement of family homesteads on the basis of self-financing at the expense of entrepreneurial incomes and the wages of participants – is one of the essential features of the practice of the movement for the creation of family homesteads. More than half of the participants in the family homesteads cannot yet live in them. So, for example, in the settlement of family homesteads Rodnoe (Vladimir region), created in 2002, by the beginning of 2009 about 200 families were settled, but only 60 remained for the winter. Now this figure is probably higher (at least 80) but on the whole, only about a quarter of the settlers are permanent residents, although this may be underestimated [Pozanenko, 2013, p. 164].

Of course, one could dream about the ideal case, when professional and entrepreneurial activity is committed by all participants with a permanent residence in their family homestead. However, the economic reality is such that, to date, there has not been created the opportunity to carry out any economic activity on the basis of distance employment or remote control. But even partial residence in the family homestead creates an improved way of life for the professionals and entrepreneurs, and a new deep motivation for the improvement in their craftsmanship.

At the site of the settlement of Rodnoy come the following comments on the reasons for dependence on the city:

“Among the frequently asked questions, what kind of money do people live in the settlement? Who earns, and how? We are all quite successful people, or at least we are striving for this, besides, we are in no hurry. And people earn everything in different ways, many of us work in the city, run our own businesses, some work as shift workers, some rent out an apartment, some build houses. There are family homesteads in our village and their construction brigades of rubbers, stove builders, someone has an excavator, someone is a good carpenter, a musician, a programmer, someone draws pictures, or sells seedlings from his small nursery.

True it is worth noting that today we are completely dependent on the city: where we earn money, we buy the majority of food products, machinery, equipment or building materials, gas, gasoline etc. but we hope that over time the connection with the city will be weaker and weaker “[About us, 2009].

The question is, is it worth considering independence from the city as an indispensable target for the inhabitants of family homesteads? I believe that the main goal is still not self-isolation, and not escape from city life (although a certain detachment from the modern urban way of life is necessary). The main thing is that the family homestead should serve as a basis for a healthy way of life, and for revealing the creative abilities of a person in various fields – for which contact with the city is not at all contraindicated.

Most of the family homesteads, including ones created quite a long time ago, and located near the cities, face the same infrastructure. Often there are no normal roads, no power lines, almost everywhere there are no schools, and medical aid points are at a considerable distance. Some settlements, not without some success, are trying solve these problems on their own, which, however, inevitably occurs very slowly. It is unlikely that this can be regarded as unique problem of family homesteads and the settlements consisting of them. This problem will be faced by all who settle in undeveloped territories. But this problem must be taken into account.

As for the main occupation of the participants of settlements of family homesteads, in this respect there cannot be any restrictions. Family homestead, according to the original design, is not a self-isolated system – it should provide the basis for human activity potentially in any areas. At the same time, environmentally balanced, environmentally friendly agricultural production acts as one of the most important means for achieving this goal, providing harmonious living conditions in the family homestead. The practice of settlements of family homesteads testifies, as already noted above, that members of family homesteads successfully apply their abilities in a wide variety of professional fields. The problem is only that at present such activities (including business) often require permanent employment in the city, which does not allow permanent residence in the family homestead.

The management of agriculture and forestry in family homesteads (as a condition for the normal existence of such an homestead) is given considerable attention. Participants in this movement are keen to use the latest developments in the development of environmentally friendly agricultural technologies. The main goal pursued in this case is not the achievement of immediate commercial results, but the creation of a basis for a way of life that would ensure harmony with nature. In this respect, the goals of the movement of family homesteads are linked to the goals of the creators of eco-settlements.

Many participants in the movement for the creation of family homesteads emphasize that their goal is not to create closed communities focused exclusively on traditional values (although there are supporters of this approach). It is believed that family homesteads should promote the disclosure of a person’s creative potential, not based on illusory, false values imposed by the consumer society, but on higher spiritual and moral values that allow to go beyond the limits of those economic, ecological, socio-demographic and spiritual-moral contradictions, which are generated by modern global capitalism.

Therefore, the movement does not reject the use of modern technologies, on the contrary – we can observe the very high activity of settlements of family homesteads in the use of modern means of informatics and telecommunications, their active presence in the modern information space.

It is not alien to the settlement of family homesteads and the use of modern methods for the formation of autonomous voluntary self-governing groups created by initiative groups to solve specific problems. Some of these groups can be permanently acting – for example, on the admission of new members, and some self-dissolve as its tasks are accomplished. Thus settlers dispense with the creation of stagnant bureaucratic structures. Participants in these groups provide the budget of the projects themselves, which can relieve the necessity of a common settlement budget [Poznanenko, 2016, p. 138].

Thus, the current state of the movement for the creation of family homesteads can be assessed as the initial stage, which is characterized by both a small and large difficulties that prevent the full materialisation of the opportunities of family homesteads. If we judge this movement only on the results already achieved, then we should not be surprised at the skeptical attitude it receives from the mass media, a significant part of the municipal, regional and federal authorities, and the inhabitants of the surrounding settlements. Nevertheless, in the concept of family homesteads, a great potential is laid, the realization of which, albeit with difficulty, is already discernible in the practical affairs of settlers.

Potential

The potential of family homesteads is determined, firstly, by the motivating reasons for their creation; secondly, their goals; thirdly, in the concept itself of family homesteads; and, fourthly, in the social base of the family homestead movement.

The family homestead movement has emerged for similar reasons as other post-communist movements and is associated with the crisis that has affected the current model of urban civilization. The market capitalist economy has led to the formation of a superurbanistic way of life, leading to the concentration of both industrial production and the service sector in major cities or in their immediate suburbs. This leads to a high level of environmental pollution, the threat of transport collapse, negating the transport benefits of the compact living of a large mass of people, creates a lot of socio-demographic problems associated with high population density, inevitably leading large segments of the population being in mega cities.

In addition, the market capitalist economy has led to the dominance of the “consumer society” targets and to a large-scale pursuit of fictitious imposed needs, which in turn leads to excessive production and excessive consumption of resources, which turns into a growing mass of waste.

Post-urban projects are designed to overcome these problems through the rational deconcentration of both production and population, as well as the transition of a significant of the population to a rural way of life. We should immediately and quite categorically note that such projects, if they are focused solely on restoring the old rural ways of life, have no prospects. Success can only be achieved by combining some traditional values with the latest achievements in the development of human capabilities, using the latest technologies that are aimed at revealing and using the creative potential of people towards the formation of an ecologically- and socially-harmonious mode of existence.

In this sense, the idea of family homesteads and settlements has a number of advantages both for ideological groups (religious, anarchistic, etc.) and for “clean” ecological settlements. Ideological groups can be distinguished by their large cohesion and stability, but are also characterized by considerable closure and inability to put forward a project which is broadly attractive to a lot of people regardless of their ideological preferences. As for “eco-settlements”, they, firstly, solve limited tasks (life in harmony with nature), and secondly, they are not aimed at the formation of social mechanisms that ensure achievement of the set goals. They rely only on the initial similarity of the beliefs of their participants, but do not necessarily have the mechanisms of self-reproduction (although they are capable of creating them if such a need is realized).

Family homesteads and settlements consisting of them are aimed at solving the problem of achieving both ecological, social, spiritual and moral harmony [Eco-settlements …, 2012, p. 22]. In addition, the very concept of family homesteads, involving the unification of their participants in a settlement that relies on both community traditions and modern forms of self-government, creates prerequisites for solving a wide range of tasks. Such structures are capable of self-reproduction – the relations developed there contribute to the consolidation and expansion of the original goals of the movement, ensuring the transfer of relevant values to the younger generation. A wide range of such social mechanisms can be seen in the practice of settlements of family homesteads, detailed on the Internet sites of these settlements – festivals, summer camps, theatrical productions, competitions, numerous educational and practical courses (including for children), widespread use of folk traditions in production, everyday life and artistic creation. Appeal to communal traditions also serves the close adhesion of settlers and creates prerequisites for purposeful solution to problems of spiritual and moral orientation, including the younger generation, on the basis of freedom of choice and voluntariness.

However, are the possibilities of family homesteads simply to avoid the negative aspects of modern urban life, and to create islands of an alternative? Even if it was only this, the movement for the creation of family homesteads would deserve broad public attention. But the potential for this movement is far greater.

The main thing is that the alternative social environment created within family homesteads and their settlements can be built into the structure of modern society, interact with it, and enrich it with its practice. Family homesteads are one of the possible channels for the gradual, voluntary, non-violent transformation of existing social relations and the existing mode of production, opening up the prospect of a more attractive life for many members of society. And this is achieved not at the expense of renouncing the achievements of civilization, but, on the contrary, by using them to effectively address our pressing problems.

Precisely which problems can family homesteads solve?

First of all, they are able to create an environment for the harmonious existence of human beings, creating conditions for the free disclosure of creative potential, relying on the best achievements of modern culture and civilization. In the family homestead, a person finds their original home, a place that will provide healthy, smart, generations with high intellectual and physical abilities, not torn from their native soil, and for whom the notion of homeland and love of the homeland are a natural part of their way of life.

The commonality of ideals and lifestyle among family homesteads serves as the basis for a high level of social trust and cooperation. This, in turn, ensures high economic results, creative success in the areas of professional activity, definitely including scientific and technological achievements, and for this – the formation of new, effective innovative and financial institutions. The achievements of people living and growing in such conditions will be guided not by narrow commercial goals, but by determining (alongside questions of economic efficiency) such values as human development, the strengthening of social ties, the improvement of culture, and the growth of patriotism.

Since the organization of family homesteads requires the participants of this movement to mobilize their creative potential to solve a wide range of tasks and overcome the problems, it forms a good basis for the transformation of family homesteads into centers of innovative development. The combination of a specific way of life in family homesteads with modern information and telecommunication technologies makes it possible to use forms of distance employment (“electronic cottage”) to involve settlers not only in solving problems facing family homesteads themselves, but also for their participation in innovative processes concerning questions for the entire national economic complex. Let me remind you that the bulk of the participants in the movement for the creation of family homesteads are urban residents, specialists with higher education.

Thus, new targets will be formed: the development of human potential in a turbulent environment based on the strengthening of healthy spiritual and moral values (patriotism, strengthening of the family, national cultural and everyday traditions, territorial-communal self-government, etc.).

The family homestead does not act as a restrictor of a person’s life path, or as a dumbbell on their feet. On the contrary, the family homestead expands opportunities for social choice and social mobility in comparison with the present situation. For example, resettlement in a family homestead can remove those restrictions imposed on a modern citizen by cramped housing conditions and extreme difficulties in overcoming them. Mortgage bondage is not a good alternative to the crowded life of growing and dividing families in a limited area. And in this respect the country estate with a house is not much better.

Modern technology allows us to build a relatively inexpensive housing (much cheaper than buying an apartment at existing market prices) in a short time. It should be noted that the lion’s share of the price of country houses is currently the high cost of suburban land, and the monopolistically high prices for connecting services (gas, electricity). The family homestead, provides people with a social minimum – normal housing and some food products – strengthens the independence of the individual from the labor market, which sometimes forces them to agree to the first job they can find.

In these ways, at least in part, the well-known institutional economy is weakened by the “path dependence” effect, whereby historical decisions compel adherence, although they may no longer meet our interests or provide economic efficiency.

The family homestead can contribute to the solution of another problem, also noted in the institutional economy – “free rider problems”. This problem arises when an opportunity is formed to evade the collective efforts undertaken, placing all their burden on those who do not shy away, but at the same time taking advantage of the fruits. Life in a family homestead will not raise such “free riders” for a variety of reasons. The very desire to create a family homestead presupposes a careful attitude of a person to the environment of their dwelling, does not allow them to consider it as a gift of resources, which can be exploited without worrying about the consequences or how it will affect the living of future generations. In addition, the formation of settlements of family homesteads, uniting people with common values and aspirations, creates an atmosphere in which any deviation from common goals and development means is straightened out, or, in extreme cases, leads to the displacement of the “free rider”.

Thus, family homesteads can become a kind of poles of economic growth and social development. They, being a new socio-economic reality, can become an experimental platform for working out new approaches to the investment process, acting, for example, (as suggested by M.Yu. Pavlov) as participants in the selection of investment projects at the local and regional levels, determining both the nature of these projects and the scale of their financing.

The social stability provided by family homesteads and settlements consisting of them constitutes a sort of “social capital”, based on a high level of mutual trust. These qualities can also define relations between state bodies and family homesteads – the stability and predictability of the object of government, along with the clarity of the goals and strategic guidelines for the development of the state will foster confidence between them, strengthening cooperation opportunities and expanding existing social capital in this area. Ultimately, this can serve to strengthen the sustainability of the development of society throughout the country, contributing to its internal consolidation.

Simultaneously, the conditions for creating and sustaining life in family homesteads presupposes the formation of harmonious interaction with the natural environment. One of the components of this interaction is the use of rational deconcentration of agricultural production by moving away from mass production technologies that deplete the soil (despite the use of mineral fertilizers) leading to environmental contamination with chemical plant products, and in livestock leading to saturation of products with antibiotics, growth stimulants, etc. The concept of deconcentration in family homesteads does not necessarily require the curtailment of mass production, since they are not in direct competition, but rather creates an alternative in the form of environmentally friendly production with careful application of the technologies of modern scientific achievement. The presence of such an alternative, once it reaches a certain scale, will put pressure on mass production forcing it to adopt cleaner and environmentally-balanced technological solutions.

At the same time, family homesteads will not compete with large agrarian producers for agricultural land. The idea of family homesteads presupposes that they will be created by introducing abandoned and fallow lands into circulation. This will additionally solve the problem of how to restore abandoned agricultural land.

Since both production and the overall arrangement of family homesteads relies on ecologically-balanced solutions, this will contribute, first, to improving the environmental sustainability of natural complexes in these areas, and secondly, to increase production and supply to urban settlements (especially nearby ones) of ecologically clean food products – both those produced on family homesteads, and the results of harvesting wild-growing fruits of nature (mushrooms, berries, nuts, medicinal plants, etc.).

The concept of family homesteads presupposes the settlers’ obligatory care for ensuring reforestation in their territories and the development of their biodiversity. This also has a favorable effect on the surrounding region.

Increasing the ecological balance and biodiversity of family homesteads, as well as the formation of a lifestyle corresponding to these goals, including those based on popular traditions that have justified themselves, makes it possible to organize, as a settlement, family homesteads for ecotourism, the main objective of which will be not only recreational, but also enlightening. In cooperation with medical and public organizations, recreational programs can be organized within settlements of family homesteads, based on their natural potential (ampelotherapy, enotherapy, hippotherapy, etc.)

The development of family homesteads and settlements of them will contribute to a more rational structure of settlement by reducing the size and proportion of large urban agglomerations. If it is possible to ensure the resettlement of significant contingents of the population to family homsteads, this will help to mitigate the contradictions of large megacities and provide a healthy lifestyle for many people.

In the future, the development of family homesteads will be able to ease employment problems, creating a new field of workers. Family homesteads also contribute to the solution of other socio-demographic problems: for example, it has already been noted that in family homesteads, the birth rate is increasing [Stekolnikova, 2014a], there is closer interaction of generations and care for one another. In settlements of family homsteads, the level of social defects, such as drunkenness, promiscuity, etc., is much lower.

Family homesteads, which refer to the best folk traditions and help consolidate them in everyday life, thereby contribute to the spiritual and moral recovery of settlers.

Each of these areas, even on a small scale, is already manifesting itself in practice within settlements of family homesteads. In any case, they are openly declared as goals of such settlements:

“To take responsibility for our lives, restore the tradition of strong families and good neighborly relations, to gain confidence in the future, sharply reduce the negative impact on nature, create a favorable environment for our children, restore the lost culture that embraces all aspects of human life and society, our task is to find a sense of joy and creativity again.” [Eco-settlement .., 2017].

Problems of support for family homesteads

It is quite obvious that due to the spontaneous development of the movement for the creation of family homesteads, the achievement of goals listed above will occur very slowly and on a small scale, with almost no effect on the overall socio-demographic situation. With all the wide popularity of the ideas underlying this movement, the complexities faced by its participants deter many of them from taking a decision to move to a family homestead. What are these problems?

One of the main problems is the state of transport, energy and social infrastructure in the places of organization of settlements of family homesteads. Since such settlements are mainly created on abandoned agricultural lands, they are characterized by the absence or extremely poor quality of the road network, the lack of electrical and gas networks, the lack of school and medical facilities.

However, it is the formation of settlements consisting of family homesteads makes it possible to solve these problems more effectively than, for example, disparate efforts to organize ordinary peasant farms. Combining the efforts of settlers, mobilizing their professional and creative abilities, and using the experience they have already gained in drawing up technically and economically sound projects for the development of the territories of such settlements – these are the advantages provided by family homesteads for the solution of emerging problems.

The second problem is the need for significant initial investment for the development of family homesteads. Among them are investments for housing construction, creation of infrastructure, production of perennial plantations, preparation of land for agricultural production, provision of water supply, registration of plots, etc.

Such a problem, like the previous one, arises with relocation to any undeveloped territory. But the concept of the family homesteads assumes, first, the use of the most effective modern technological solutions, shortening construction times and costs. Secondly, the creation of family homesteads is mainly done by people who are economically and professionally established, making it easier for them both to mobilize starting investments and to ensure running costs. Thirdly, the unification of family homesteads into settlements makes it possible to organize collective efforts to solve these problems, simplifying and reducing the cost of ongoing work compared to disparate efforts.

The third problem is the complexity of transitioning to sufficiently efficient production within the family homestead. Settlers (most of them urban residents) do not have enough experience to organize agricultural production, especially based on complex permaculture technologies that require very sensitive grasp of the nuanced site features of soil-climate, hydrology, botany, etc. In addition, the organization of reforestation and the production of perennial plantations only bring a significant return after 10-25 years (the transition of fruit trees and shrubs to the productive phase).

However, this problem (which inevitably arises in one form or another in any attempt to reclaim neglected agricultural lands) is solved more easily and cheaply by using the collective experience and collective efforts of the members of family homesteads.

At the present time, however, the advantages of family homesteads in solving these problems are not yet fully manifested, since the movement is only at the beginning of being deployed, there is only a small number of settlers who have already accumulated the necessary experience, whereas there are a large number of new participants in the movement. These circumstances are also responsible for the slow transition to permanent residence within family homesteads, and the decision to organize settlements of family homesteads not too far from cities.

In addition, settlers of family homesteads are faced with a whole complex of organizational and legal problems, most of which have not been resolved in the 15 years since the active deployment of the movement, despite numerous legislative initiatives in this area.

One of the main problems is the legal status of family homesteads and those created as settlements. The main legal collision lies in the fact that agricultural land allocated for the organization of family homesteads does not provide for the construction of primary housing on them. As a result, settlers either have to go to direct violations, which has already led to lawsuits and fines, or to look for workarounds, registering, for example, their permanent housing as temporary or as agricultural buildings.

This also creates obstacles for the legal registration of settlements of family homesteads, since the transfer of even a small part of the land from agricultural land to settlement land is associated with considerable administrative barriers. These barriers are easily surmounted by developers of cottage communities in suburban areas, but the organizers of family homesteads, unable to pay generous sums to gain the favor of officials, have it much more difficult.

Quite a number of issues also arise in the institutionalization of economic activity of family homesteads and settlements consisting of them [2]. Family homesteads are often institutionalized as peasant farms (PFH). But the peasant farm, in contrast to the family homestead, by law has the purpose of extracting profits, which causes problems associated with taxation. In addition, since the form of the peasant farm is aimed at conducting a profitable business, it inevitably entails the use of such forms of intensive farming that are associated with soil depletion and a violation of the ecological balance. Similar problems arise when registering a family homestead as a personal subsidiary farm.

Settlements of family homesteads sometimes use the form of a consumer cooperative, which allows them to have the status of a non-profit organization, although the goals and scope of the functions of the consumer cooperative are certainly narrower than those of the settlement of family homestead. Even less suitable is the form of horticultural partnership. In any case, these legal forms do not fully reflect the specific nature of the family homesteads and settlements created on their basis.

Another serious problem is the choice of the form of ownership of the economic complex of the family homestead and the definition of rules for its inheritance.

Should it be private property? Or is there an indefinite inheritable use? Or is it more expedient to give the economic complex of the family homestead the status of a share in a cooperative partnership organized on the basis of a settlement of family homesteads? And how should a family homestead be inherited? Many participants in the movement propose a scheme of a major, that is, unconditional transfer of an indivisible hereditary complex to a senior heir in the family, which, firstly, conflicts with the current legislation, and, secondly, may lead to infringement of the rights of other family members (or other participants in the development of the family homestead).

Disagreement about the various options among members of the family homestead movement shows that in the current legal field, none of the solutions are clearly ideal [3].

One of the possible solutions offered by legal experts is the clarification of the status of the peasant farm, which is hampered by the lack of certainty of the issue in Russian legislation of the legal personality of the “family”, and the rights associated with the legal entity “peasant farm”. In this regard could be considered the Law of the Republic of Armenia of January 22, 1991 No. C-0242-1 “On Peasant and Collective Farms” and the Law of the Republic of Turkmenistan of March 30, 2007 N 112-III “On the Daihan farm” [Romanovskaya, 2014]. However, it seems to me that with this approach there is still a fundamental conflict in that, unlike peasant farms, the extraction of profit is not the goal of the existence of the family homestead, and so they should be linked to a separate taxation regime, and at the same time the ordinary legal status of property turns out to be not entirely adequate for the purposes of the family homestead. A more productive approach considers: “Comparative analysis has shown significant, and at times even fundamental differences between the family homestead (family estate) which is an object of civil rights, and the peasant (farm) economy that is the subject of civil-legal relations. Therefore, for the legal regulation of the participation of a family homestead in civil circulation, an effective legal basis is needed – a separate federal law that will clarify and specify the general rule on a single immovable complex, as enshrined in the Civil Code of the Russian Federation “[Yagunova, 2016].

It should be said that with regard to the status of the land plot allocated for family homesteads, certain perspectives are opening up innovations in the legislation related to changes in the opportunities for citizens to obtain plots of land. Thus, Federal Law No. 171-FZ of June 23, 2014 (as amended on July 29, 2017) “On Introducing Amendments to the Land Code of the Russian Federation and Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation” significantly regulates the possibilities of obtaining land plots by citizens for free use, and opens the possibility of adopting legislative acts based on framework definitions introduced in the Land Code [Federal Law .., 2014]. The federal law “On the peculiarities of granting to citizens of land plots that are in state or municipal ownership and located on the territories of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation that are part of the Far Eastern Federal District and on amending certain legislative acts of the Russian Federation” dated 01.05.2016 No. 119-FZ contains norms that permit unlimited land use (allowing, for example, to build residential buildings on agricultural land). Article 8.3. No. 119-FZ reads: “The permitted use of a land plot established prior to the date of granting a land plot to a citizen for free use is not an obstacle to the choice by such a citizen of a different kind or other types of permitted use of the land parcel according to the rules established by this article. At the same time, a decision on changing the type of permitted use of a land plot is not required ” [Federal Law., 2016]. But presently these norms apply only to a number of Far Eastern territories.

Nevertheless, the potential removal of some legal obstacles still does not solve the serious economic and legal problem associated with the development of abandoned land, since most of them are not formally “free” and therefore cannot be allocated to new users for the organization of family homesteads. “… Large tracts of land are uncultivated, crop areas are shrinking and shifting to zones of non-arable land, the pace of land degradation is progressing, but these trends are not related to the creation of conditions to expand the availability of land for citizens with the purpose of restoring and settling life on it. Even in cases when the initiatives of citizens and public organizations have specific goals for revitalization, ecological restoration of the earth, its allocation is associated with bureaucratic obstacles in the formulation and overestimation of prices. The low fertility of the land and its meliorative unsettledness, the enormous scale and intensity of soil degradation, the fact that the long desolation of once inhabited spaces are not grounds for levying taxes and fines from landowners, the accumulation of which could be aimed at reviving the land within the framework of state programs.” [Slavyanskiy, 2008 ].

The complex of serious problems facing the organizers of family homesteads raises the question of organizing the supporting structures of this movement. These supporting structures, organized with active participation of the activists within the movement for the creation of family homesteads, could include the following tasks:

1. Formation of a fund for financial support of family homesteads and settlements of family homesteads. Even in the absence of special budgetary support, such a fund could take on the assistance in obtaining family homesteads and settlements the whole set of benefits allocated in accordance with the current legislation to peasant farms, small business entities, non-profit organizations, large families, etc. In addition, grants (including international ones) are not ruled out for the implementation of environmental projects, organization of cultural events, etc. It is also possible to participate in regional development programs and receive voluntary donations (including targeted donations that allow the creation of an endowment).

An interesting idea is the organization of a mutual crediting fund (credit cooperative, mutual aid fund) of settlements of family homesteads.

In the presence of legislative support, it is possible to apply a more favorable selection model – referring to family homesteads – to investment projects proposed by municipal and regional authorities, with a view to deciding on the need and the levels of their financing accordingly.

As for state support from budgetary sources, such assistance would be desirable, but it should not create “hunter-seekers”, and therefore it should be provided only through the existing structures of settlements of family homesteads.

2. Technological support for new settlers: the development of economically feasible plans for the development of family homesteads, the training of agriculture on the basis of permaculture, the use of local natural resources, energy conservation, construction of housing and other buildings using local materials, etc .; creation of telecommunications infrastructure between family homesteads and their settlements.

3. Economic and legal advice. Development of programs for effective use of the occupational skills of settlers on the basis of the use of the latest information and telecommunication technologies. I believe that without such programs prepared by serious experts (including necessarily from among the settlers themselves), one cannot hope that work in family homesteads will lead to serious innovative breakthroughs. Here it is necessary to provide a well-thought-out sequence of work and their coordination both among the members of family homesteads, and between them and the “external” partners. Rendering of economic and organizational-legal support of family homesteads (accounting services, registration of legal documents, etc.) and development of legislative initiatives.

The last point is of particular urgency, since the absence of a federal law regulating the status of family homesteads creates serious obstacles to their organization, forcing people to use semi-legal ways or even to go on direct violation of the law. Unfortunately, the earlier legislative initiatives were not very well developed in the legal sense and thus did not receive significant support. The draft law No. 555205-6 “On Family Homesteads and Family Homestead Settlements in the Russian Federation” was supported by only 13 regions (of which 4 – with the terms of revision), 6 more reacted neutrally, 34 regions rejected the project, others did not react [Gorelik, Timofeev, 2016 ].

Many jurists, even those skeptical about the legislative proposals that have been developed to date concerning family homesteads, still agree that it is necessary to adopt legislative norms at the federal level that would make it possible to inscribe the existence of family homesteads within the existing legal field and thereby give a new impetus to the movement: “The adoption of the law “On Family Homesteads” may create a family community that lives on its own land for generations, investing its labor and resources in it, to contribute to the overall growth of households, clan settlements and agriculture” [Gorelik, Timofeev, 2016].

Nikolay Kalmykov, director of the Expert-Analytical Center of the Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration under the President of the Russian Federation, noted: “Of course, the adoption of the law does not mean that tomorrow citizens will rush to create family homesteads. However, the adoption of the law can be useful to hundreds and thousands of families. In particular, this is a good additional impulse to stimulate internal migration, development of farming and self-employment. For many, this law can be a solution to social problems – for example, for families with many children … Many Russians, when retiring, seek to leave the big cities, and thus this initiative works for the interests of citizens. And, of course, the very concept of “Family homestead” is very important, helping to strengthen inter-generational connection, nurture and support love for one’s native land.” [Vostokova, 2015].

Solving the issue of legislative support for the initiative to create family homesteads can give this movement a much broader scope. The removal of various obstacles on the way of this movement will allow us to better assess both the real need of Russian citizens in the transition to a new way of life on the basis of family homesteads and their settlements, as well as the real economic and social potential contributed by family homesteads. But even the first steps in this direction, taken in extremely cramped conditions, and based solely on the initiative from below, already speak in its favor.

Support for this movement can help solve many problems, including the removal of social tensions. It will be a visible evidence of the potential, enclosed in the national stratum – or, if you will, – in civil society. It will not require any significant budgetary allocations from the state, which may well be within the framework of existing programs for the development of territories. But the result can be promising, presenting an unusual synthesis of traditional values and modern achievements of the digital economy and biotechnology.

I do not forecast the transition of the majority of the population of the Russian Federation to family homesteads, as some members of the movement are dreaming of creating. However, even the transition from several thousand current participants to hundreds of thousands, and from several hundred settlements of family homesteads to several thousand, is capable of giving noticeable results, especially at the local and regional levels. The increase in the scale of the movement will allow its participants to more effectively support each other, strengthen their authority in cooperation with local authorities and local population, will create the necessary supporting structures for the movement. But the most important result that I expect is that the growth of the movement will significantly influence the people’s future choices, the adoption of a new way of life and values corresponding to it.

 

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[1] Permaculture – permanent agriculture. “The basic principle of permaculture farming is to create a system of biological farming with the involvement of all types of management in a single cycle. This is a type of agricultural production where all the elements surrounding a person (their family) are the constituent parts of a single system: a house, a garden, a garden, a fence, subsidiary farming, domestic animals, irrigation system, natural fertilizers, etc.” [Maidurova, 2016].

[2] Current work on the problem of institutionalization of settlements of family homesteads is devoted to work [Pozanenko, 2016a, p. 183-192].

[3] For an overview of such discussions, see: [Miroshnikov, 2017]; [What we choose …, 2009].

Original document (in Russian) – 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

Published at: anastasia.ru/news/detail/34820/

 

Cite the report:

Kolganov, A. I., (2017). Family homesteads and settlements consisting of them as a promising socio-economic form (scientific report). In The role and conditions for the development of “family homesteads” in the social and economic transformation of Russia. (Russian) Trans. Walker, K.D. (2017). Moscow State University Lomonosov, 25 October 2017. Vladimir: Anastasia Foundation (anastasia.ru). 8 pp. Available at: https://meirska.com/family-homesteads-settlements-socio-economic-reform/. Accessed [DATE]