St. Mary's Law Journal


Knowing who owns what suddenly became important in Russia because of dramatic economic and market reforms of the Yeltsin government. The transfer of property, from the state to the private sector is at the heart of the reforms. It is generally recognized the “foundations of a market-based economic system are property rights and private ownership.” The purposes of this article are to (1) summarize reforms which successfully introduced a scheme of private ownership in Russia, as demonstrated by the Nizhny Novgorod experiment, and (2) discuss those property rights which remain unclear. Accordingly, the second and third parts of the article will explain how Russians have addressed the question “who owns what” at the federal and local levels. The fourth part of the article will assume the question of ownership answered and will discuss the actual transfer of ownership from state to private sector. Part Five of the article will outline those problem areas new property owners might encounter. It will discuss select issues which make the ownership transfers somewhat problematic. Substantial progress has been made in the area of small-scale privatizations involving Russian buyers. Medium-scale and certainly the large-scale privatizations will require foreign involvement to achieve the necessary capital requirements. In a very short period, the Russian government and the GKI developed a rational and reasonably effective system to transfer ownership from the state to private entrepreneurs. The system appears to allocate property rights and jurisdiction in a manner which may be traced, thus providing at least a minimum of certainty for buyers. Still, there are inconsistencies and gaps to address in the current laws relating to property and the new property relations achieved through privatization. This need will become especially acute as more and more foreigners participate in privatization transactions.


St. Mary's University School of Law