Posted 20 января, 09:02

Published 20 января, 09:02

Modified 20 января, 09:30

Updated 20 января, 09:30

Confiscation of property from emigrants from Russia: probability and consequences

How will the new Shvonders dekulakize the Russians who left after the start of the Special military operation

20 января 2023, 09:02

Confiscation of property from emigrants from Russia: probability and consequences

To confiscate or not to confiscate property from citizens who left Russia after the start of their own? The proposal of the speaker of the State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin to "punish" those who left divided everyone into two camps: for and against. And there are also those who do not believe that such a thing is possible in a legal (at least formally) state.

Victoria Pavlova

It all started with the fact that on January 13, the speaker of the State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin in his Telegram channel attacked the "departed scoundrels" who left the country at a difficult time, live abroad at the expense of income from Russia and pour mud on their homeland. He proposed to make the confiscation of the emigrants' property in the Criminal Code, which can compensate for the damage caused. His words fell on fertile ground: a lot of similar initiatives appeared next.

Take away and divide

The head of the Federation Council Committee on Constitutional Legislation and State Building, Andrei Klishas, announced the possibility of implementing this proposal, seeing the difficulty only in the fact that formulations of the composition of a criminal offense are needed and appropriate amendments need to be made to the Criminal Code. A couple of days later, the Foundation for the Protection of the National Historical Heritage under the leadership of Alexander Karabanov appealed to Volodin with an initiative to confiscate property in favor of the state from foreign citizens located outside the Russian Federation. Svetlana Bessarab, a member of the State Duma Committee on Labor, Social Policy and Veterans' Affairs, also supports this approach, with the only difference that she offers various punishments - from fines for "small damage" to confiscation of property for "large damage".

And the vice-speaker of the State Duma Anna Kuznetsova offers to solve the housing problems of orphaned children with the help of apartments seized from emigrants. Now 288 thousand orphans are on the waiting list for housing, and about 600 billion rubles are required to solve their problems.

- There are those who have betrayed their country. There are people who have left the country, organizations on the territory of Russia, whose owners are people from unfriendly countries. Maybe in the search for funds for housing orphans to turn and look for resources in this direction?

Such ideas of "social justice" in the style of "take away and divide" will certainly be appreciated and supported by millions of Russians who do not want or simply cannot leave Russia due to their difficult financial situation. And just those who are used to thinking in the usual Soviet mentality with its image of the "enemy-fist". All this took place 100 years ago, when nationalized country estates were turned into rest homes and entirely tuberculosis sanatoriums for proletarians and not only. For example, the Arkhangelsk estate near Moscow has become a holiday home for senior and commanding personnel of the Red Army (there is still an operating clinical sanatorium of the Russian Ministry of Defense on its territory). Urban estates were simply populated by workers. This fate befell many Moscow houses, including the Matveev estate in Volkhovsky Lane, communal apartments were organized in the Tsaritsyno estate, and the Romanov patrimony in Izmailovo was populated with workers. With what enthusiasm people mastered new housing, Mikhail Bulgakov, a witness of those events, described in colors in the "Heart of a Dog". But how will the government decide which of the orphaned children will get, for example, Alla Pugacheva's palace? Those wishing to be orphaned can greatly increase.

Confiscation is not a problem for legislators

At the same time, the authorities are making timid attempts to calm people down. The first deputy chairman of the State Duma Committee on State Construction and Legislation, Yuri Sinelshchikov, admits that he has no idea how such proposals can be legally implemented. But when did it interfere with our authorities? The State Duma explains that the relevant committees have not received instructions to work on such a bill. Dmitry Peskov is also in a hurry to disown the unpleasant topic and says that the Kremlin does not discuss the issue of transferring the property of the Russians who left in favor of orphans.

However, Russians have long been accustomed to the fact that there is no smoke without fire. If the authorities start discussing something and even more so denying it, then changes are coming. And here is not just smoke, but a whole smokescreen. Should non-returning Russians be afraid and get rid of their property in a hurry?

Political scientist Alexey Vanifatov believes that it is easier to fix the confiscation of property from emigrants at the legislative level:

- Some of our compatriots leave for the winter in warm countries, because of weather comfort or other reasons, they do not violate anything, which means there are no reasons to confiscate their property and should not be. And there are people who left and began to criticize the actions of our country, in this case, if their actions fall under the articles of the Criminal Code, for example, on discrediting the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, add to this article punishment in the form of confiscation of property, and there is no need to invent additional separate articles.

In addition, our legislators can illustrate their actions with world experience. It is enough just to look at Europe and not go into details, says Ilya Grashchenkov, President of the Regional Policy Development Center Foundation:

- Seizure of property exists in many countries, most often applied to hostile persons. In Europe, the property of our oligarchs is being seized. There it goes under the article on combating money laundering. This is not a repressive, but a legislative confiscation. But since someone was affected by the confiscation, and someone was not, it means there is a political component. So Europe even earlier began to act in the same way as Russia. Only billionaires get hit there, and ordinary citizens can suffer here.

Strong traditions of weaning property in Russia

In general, if you look at the history of Russia, emigration and loss of rights, including property rights, are closely related. The Criminal Code of 1845 fixed the confiscation of property for participation in riots and treason. Also, nobles could lose their estates if they left Russia without fulfilling state tasks. But already in the second half of the XIX century, people began to think about the contradiction of these norms to the right to private property, and in 1871 the Ministry of Justice abolished the confiscation of property.

Confiscation for emigrants was not envisaged until 1920, when Vladimir Lenin issued a decree "On the confiscation of all movable property of citizens who fled outside the RSFSR." With real estate then everything was much easier. Doctor of Historical Sciences, Professor of MGIU Vadim Demin explains that there is no private property – there are no problems. Only now it has led to an irreparable loss of human capital:

- After the revolution, property was taken away from everyone – the Bolsheviks abolished private property. And from whom they wanted – they took away, to whom they wanted – they left. We have disappointing historical parallels: after the revolution, far from the worst people left Russia, and then they were very much missed. The inventor of television Zvorykin has left, the founder of helicopter construction Sikorsky has left, and this list can be continued. Therefore, it makes sense to leave people's property so that they, if possible, return.

Repression can affect everyone

If desired, the authorities can introduce such a norm. Technically it is possible. But how will people react to this? Experts' opinions on this matter are divided. Political scientist Pavel Salin believes that ordinary people will not worry about this topic:

- These initiatives are aimed not at the population, but at representatives of the elite, first of all – at the leaders of public opinion. As for the reaction of the population, it will be no, because the population will absolutely not notice it. And as for the crowbars, these are the next so-called information interventions aimed at marking a whip for them, intimidating them. The information activity of LOMOV, who criticize the foreign policy line of the Russian leadership, gives this leadership certain problems.

Ilya Grashchenkov also believes that this measure will first be extended to individuals. But the forest is being cut down – splinters are flying:

- So far, the initiative does not concern all those who have left, but those who are not sitting silently, active speakers, including top ones. These are people who have something to take away. But all those who express their position get there, for example, in social networks. It's not a fact that they have something to take away, but the main goal is moral pressure. Left – and sit quietly, they won't touch you. Subsequently, this measure can be extended to a wider range of people who, for some reason, have left for a long time. So they have already tried to change the tax regime in case of loss of residency, and after changing the status, restrictions on property rights may be introduced.

According to the expert, people will inevitably pay attention to such innovations and begin to react negatively. Too many can be affected by restrictions:

- People will react to such changes quite nervously, relatives of those who have left will begin to worry. If we say that 1-2 million people have left, then together with family members and relatives, we can count 5-10 million people who can be recognized as enemies of the authorities. Members of families in which there was a split can take the position of relatives who have left, because no one wants to lose property. As Machiavelli said: "a man would rather put up with the execution of his father than survive the weaning of property." This medieval European position is valid for any citizen. The ratings of the authorities on such a high-profile topic can go down.

Disappointing forecast – back to the era of Troubles

But all experts agree that nothing good will come of confiscation. After all, it's not 1917, the realities are completely different, explains political scientist Alexander Kynev:

- As for historical experience, after the revolution of 1917, it was an open dictatorship without any elements of democracy at all, and in principle no one was interested in any mass sentiments there. In our country, the authorities have always tried to maintain natural support, including by electoral means. And this idea is incompatible with it. Compatible with the dictatorship, not with this. Besides, society 100 years ago was different. And there were some grounds for a totalitarian scenario – now there are none. The scenario of mobilization in the spirit of totalitarianism (meaning public mobilization, not military) is impossible, it will only scare people away. People don't want to be mobilized, they want to live in peace.

Ilya Grashchenkov also points out that such measures will sever people's ties with Russia, block their way home.:

- Such a policy will prevent people from returning. Specialists of rare professions, the intellectual elite are more likely to transfer their property to relatives or sell it and finally break off relations with Russia. Such a policy can only affect those who hesitate, who are running out of funds, who do not understand how to survive in another country. That is, this applies only to those who escaped from mobilization. Not only IT specialists stormed the borders, but also numerous unemployed people. This is an ill-conceived and unconstitutional policy.

In the Federation Council, they hold the opposite opinion. Sergei Tsekov, a member of the International Affairs Committee, claims that the people will run back to Russia:

- I think that the situation should be ripe for their return. It is better to be here and control this property than [trying] to control it from abroad and then find out that you have lost it.

But political scientist Alexander Kynev explains that the interests of people in this case do not play any role:

- In general, the emergence of such ideas is absolutely not electoral in nature, but comes solely from the need to please one or more people in the country's leadership. By itself, a public conversation on this topic causes great damage, because it does not stop, but stimulates further emigration from Russia. He scares people. Such things will not stop anyone, on the contrary, they will encourage those who doubt to leave.

As a result, everything, according to tradition, comes down to politics, not to protecting people's interests. Proposals to provide orphans with housing against this background look like a cynical cover. In fact, we will get the destruction of property rights and a return to feudal traditions. In the XV century, the strengthening of the Moscow Principality went through limiting the departure of vassals to other principalities by prohibiting the sale of land or confiscation of property. Even the vigilantes, going into the service of another prince or boyar in Russia of those times had to return the land plot. And if history repeats itself, then after feudalism we will get a new Time of Troubles.