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    1. Statistical Data

Area north-south distance east-west distance the territory is considered suitable for settlement
17 075 000 km2 3 000 km 10 000 km about 35%

Population density urban population rural
150 million 12 people/km2 70% 30%

    2. Administrative Organisation

General administrative organisation of the country

According to the last Constitution (1993) Russia is a federal state with a republican form of government. The responsibility for urban development activity on the federal level is granted to the federal authority (currently the Ministry of Construction - Gosstroy) which is competent to implement and to co-ordinate the national urban development policies. In compliance with the Law, Gosstroy administers the preparation and approval of the RF General Settlement Scheme as well as the General Settlement Schemes for the large regions of RF, issues national building codes and rules, participates in decision-making concerning areas designated for special urban development (i.e. areas where uniform procedures are inapplicable but which are not specified yet), performs examination of documentation on urban development and design, issues licenses for construction design.

The role of other federal authorities in urban development activity is also significant. The most important are the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection, the Ministry of Culture (regarding heritage protection), the Ministry of Public Healthcare, the State Control Body for Home Affairs (mostly regarding auto transportation issues and arrangements). These federal authorities act in compliance with the legal acts regulating related activity, adopt normative acts relevant to their competencies, territorial divisions of federal authorities approve urban development plans and design documentation.

Russian Federation Subjects

There are 89 territories in the country - subjects of Russian Federation (RF), governed by state level bodies. Their population ranges from 18,000 inhabitants (Evenk autonomous area) up to 8 500 000 inhabitants (Moscow City), territorially they vary from 900 km2 (Moscow) up to 3 100 000 km2 (Yakhut Republic). Three of the RF subjects are neighboring with the Baltic coast - St. Petersburg City (1 600 km2 and 4 800 000 inhabitants), Leningrad Region (85 000 km2, 1 554 000 inhabitants) and Kaliningrad Region (15 100 km2, 817 000 inhabitants). RF subjects have authorities of urban development and architecture of their own, competent to perform (within the framework established by the federal legislation) in their respective areas the similar duties as corresponding federal bodies. Distribution of competencies in urban development activity between the Federal Government and RF subjects is not defined in the Constitution but stipulated by Urban Development Code (1998).


At the end of 1997 there were 13 255 municipalities recorded, about 90% of them are representing rural areas (raion, volost, uyezd). Municipalities are entitled to establish authorities of urban development and architecture at their level, to approve urban development documentation and to issue building permits. According to the federal legislation this general principle is not effective for two RF subjects, represented by one city (Moscow) or almost by one city (St. Petersburg). Within these RF subjects/cities the municipalities shall be entitled to perform urban development regulation under the acts of RF subjects. In Moscow where there is only one municipal unit, it is done; in St. Petersburg with 111 municipalities, the competencies in urban development regulation are not delegated to them yet, though this is under consideration in the case of some suburban communities.

    3. Brief Overview of Planning Legislation

At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries the Urban Development Act in Russia was very detailed and similar to respective European patterns. At any rate legislation did not impede appearance of such European-type cities as for example St. Petersburg or Odessa. In later soviet decades, urban development activity was not regulated by legal framework but by administrative acts and administrative power. Abrogation of private ownership of land and centralization of all important decisions resulted in distraction of land use as well as settlement patterns. Determinants like elimination of land subdivision, exaggerated block sizes, large areas built up in a short time with standard stock, absence of relevant tools for due rehabilitation of historic urban centers, etc. produced the type of environment which almost does not have precedents in human history. These areas are not attractive for investment, they are very difficult for the rehabilitation strategy by small steps. Similar problems are well known nowadays in most countries but nowhere on such an impressive scale as in Russia. Exceptional efforts should be applied to trigger the rehabilitation process, especially in the relatively new belts outside old city centers.

In 1998 the RF Urban Development Code was adopted by the RF Representative Assembly (“State Duma”) in replacement of the abrogated Law on the Basic Principles of Urban Development Activity in Russia (Supreme Council, 1992). Adoption of the new law was triggered by the shift in the structure of the state, called for by the new Constitution (1993) and by the urge of legislators to replace the bureaucratic decision-making by land use and development regulations, based on public agreements within cities and settlements concerned. The new substantially improved Code provided such a possibility. The Code states goals of urban development, describes basic public rights, defines essential actors, their rights and obligations, lists essential planning and development documents, their content and acceptance procedure, states that design documentation shall meet urban development requirements, accepted as the Urban Development Ordinance for each city or settlement.

Today there are no more urban development acts on the national level. At the same time there are very important and influential national scale laws for urban development activity. Most important of them are “On Ecological Assessment” (1995) and “On Historical and Cultural Monuments Preservation and Usage” (1978). In addition, there are many normative acts adopted by authorities of different levels.

Building activity is regulated by many legislative areas like

  • urban development legislation (in case RF Urban Development Code states that the design documentation is to meet the provisions of the urban development documentation);
  • legislation on architecture (law “On Architectural Activity in RF” adopted in 1995, regulates some stages of the approval process and specifies procedures of authorization of site development parameters);
  • legislation covering investment activity, in case this legislative area stipulates allocation of rights to develop property owned by public institutions;
  • land legislation which regulates land allocation, land subdivision, land rights recording and land titles issuance;
  • a number of acts adopted by executive bodies at different levels, regulating state assessment procedures for design documentation, professional licensing of design and construction activities, construction process control and inspections on sites, standardization issues.

The Structure of the Urban Development Code (of 1998) by chapters:

  1. General provisions.
  2. Citizens’ rights for favorable living environment.
  3. Competencies of the state authorities and municipalities concerning urban development activity.
  4. Structure of the urban development authorities, their rights and obligations.
  5. Urban development documentation.
  6. Urban planning documentation at the state level.
  7. Urban planning documentation at the municipal level.
  8. Land use regulation concerning cities and settlements.
  9. Land use regulation concerning suburban areas.
  10. State building norms and rules.
  11. State urban development activity survey (cadastre).
  12. Site development regulation in cities and settlements.
  13. Control of urban development activity, responsibilities for violations.
  14. Economic base of urban development activity.
  15. International cooperation.
  16. Final provisions.

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