1.1. History of the planning system

Historically the Russian population settled in areas directed by the capital city. Settlements, cities and fortresses, such as Voronezh, Eletsk, Kursk, Samara and others were established for the purpose of serving communication by the land and water. Prior to the middle of the 16 century most urban areas developed spontaneously. Later, according to an edict by Tsar Ivan IV on the subdivision of land, re-planning began with the aim of putting in order street networks, land use and land taxation. At that time the first prototypes of general plans appeared; these were usually worked out in Moscow. At the beginning of XVIII century, during the reign of Peter the First, state institutions were established with the responsibility for urban planning and development regulations. In 1709 the first Building Commission was established in St. Petersburg primary with the responsibility of state urban planner and controller. The emperor's directives on red lines (street lines), fire-prevention measures, preference for the construction of stone buildings, the creation of green areas, and construction of embankments served as a sort of building code to produce a city of European pattern. Developers who violated established regulations were fined or even punished by loss of real estate. By 1720 the planning and development regulations had been established in all cities, including Saint-Petersburg. In 1765 Empress Ekaterina II established a Commission, responsible for the total subdivision of all lands in Russia and issued a manifesto requiring all owners to record their property boundaries. By the end of XVIII century the subdivision was accomplished in 18 provinces out of a total of 50. The Building Commission of Saint-Petersburg developed plans for 416 cities out of a total of 497. Subsequently, planning activities throughout the country were delegated to local authorities.

The Building Charter adopted in 1832 contained all of the key legal principles on urban planning and development applicable throughout Russia. In consequence of reforms implemented since 1870, representative bodies in cities were enabled to adopt building regulations according to the Building Charter. The Charter was in force until land nationalization in 1917. To the end of XIX century, real property was legally settled close to contemporary principles. The scope of legal norms and rules, as well as civil institutions to regulate rights and interests protection, were established. Land ownership was defined as follows: "The land owner has the right of full and exclusive supremacy concerning the surface of his lot within established boundaries, up in the air and down to the bowels of the earth". The relationship between private owners was regulated by the law of neighboring tenements. The relationship between private owners and society was regulated by public law. By law the observance of society interests was under the responsibility of the building police, authorized to control the execution of public restrictions. Law of neighboring tenements determined owner's rights, limited by rights of his neighbors and settled on combined rights concerning objects located at the boundaries of lots. The rules established the location of buildings and windows in relation to neighboring lots, permissible accessory uses, water drainage directions and so on. Intrusion into neighboring space was prohibited or had to be regulated by easements. Exceptional cases were settled by agreements or court decisions. Most restrictions for private developers were aimed at protecting public interests. The Building Charter regulated fire-prevention, health safety, intrusion into public space, and reduction of the property value due to lack of architectural appeal of neighboring structures. All owners and developers had to comply with technical and sanitary requirements regarding durability, height of buildings and residential rooms (no less than 2.5 m.), roof slopes, and minimal courtyard sizes. The fire protection spaces between buildings were different for buildings made of wood to those made of brick; the width of access for fire engines was to be no less than 4.25m. The most detailed rules were applied to buildings bordering public space. Some deviations from common rules were permitted, and they were determined by each city individually. Towers, spires, and belvederes were permitted to be above the height of the buildings by an amount proportional to the length of the fašade. Permissible projections to public space of bay windows and balconies were dependent on the size of the building facade and the corresponding floor level. Permissible projections of columns, pilasters or footsteps depended on the sidewalk width. Only the State Senate could repeal requirements adopted by the city representative body, the City Duma. The city executive body approved plans and facades of private buildings within city boundaries and issued building and rebuilding permits to owners and developers. The maintenance of lots and buildings, visible from public space, was also under regulation. The building police could not break into private space; disputes could only be settled in a court. City plans prepared by the city representative body were adopted by the Emperor. City plans as well as most requirements were valid only for the city-type areas; less dense suburban areas within the city administrative boundaries were regulated only by subdivision plans. The city plan represented street networks, blocks and public areas, location and purposes of public buildings, outlined areas permitted for wooden houses and lots to be condemned for state needs. The locations for temporary uses and for engineering infrastructure were not considered. All deviations, save subdivision of the private lot or reconstruction of a building after a fire, could be implemented only after adoption of amendments to the city plan.

Almost all Russian regulations and practices accumulated during 400 years of land use and development reforms were abolished by the Decree on Land, adopted in1917, and the Decree on Private Property in Cities, adopted in 1918. "The private property right on land is barred for ever; the state owned land can not be sold, leased, mortgaged or alienated in any other way. All the land ... is considered the common property of the people for the use of those, who work on it" ("Decree on land"). The Soviet urban planning and development institutions steadily implemented state orders, ensured by capital investments and human and natural resources, distributed by the central government. The particular prerequisites for Soviet urban development were as follows: (http://www.strana-oz.ru/?numid=16&article=777 ):

  • severe limitations on the use of land for non-state needs and on sizes of non-state buildings;
  • development of settlements only according to plans and projects, adopted by state authority;
  • country-wide standardization of urban planning, urban development and design documentations;
  • construction and maintenance of centralized infrastructure systems by the state;
  • budget financing of housing construction and maintenance;
  • high density of residential areas; standardized apartments and low floor area per capita (13.5 sq. m to 1985), social homogeneity all over in the country.

During the Soviet period the planning policy resulted in:

  • the location of many settlements according to the availability of natural resources and the demands of the defense sector;
  • the concentration of large industrial enterprises and, as a consequence, population growth in big cities;
  • withering away of small settlements.


To the end of soviet period most grave urban problems were as follows:

  • the settling system has not corresponded to new economic conditions since both the demand and communications became determined more by the market, than by the state plans;
  • enormous portion of worn out buildings, first of all physically and morally worn out housing stock;
  • problematic reconstruction of the mass standard housing due to its technical characteristics and to the type of development which has not considered lots' boundaries for buildings;
  • worn out transportation and engineering facilities;
  • large suburban areas under summer residences of citizens (almost half of families at cities own garden-lots or dachas).


Soon after the start of "perestroika" the working out of urban planning documentation within all the Russia virtually stopped: public budgets were insufficient, the proper legal base was absent and capacities of private investors and developers were but questionable. By the mid of 1990s there appeared capable private developers at housing and commercial service sectors, some cities adopted sort of zoning regulations based on soviet-time master plans. These regulations were analogous to US zoning patterns (in Russia at that time most foreign consultants on urban development regulation were represented by professional institutions of USA). Some municipalities adopted acts on impact fees to finance public facilities. In 1998 was adopted federal Urban Development Code, based mostly on western patterns, but failed to regulate all important rights and obligations of actors engaged in the field. To the end of 2004 there was adopted new federal Urban Development Code more relevant to professional expectations of planners and developers.