Ukraine’s tenurial tangle: Housing, land and property restitution in the Russian war

Peace &Change, Volume 48, Issue 4, Page 263-280, October 2023.


The severity of the population dislocation and destruction of housing, land and property (HLP) in the Ukraine war has driven efforts for starting reconstruction planning prior to the war's end. This comes with the realization that recovery will entail considerable preparation, including efforts at using seized Russian assets to finance it. Engaging in HLP restitution and compensation will be a primary recovery challenge, with the Ukrainian government moving forward with legislation for facilitating this. However, the government's current approach to processing what will be millions of HLP claims for restitution and compensation faces a daunting challenge. Housing, land and property rights prior to the war comprised a dense tangle of confusion, corruption, and inadequate documentation; such that attempting to untangle each claim on a case-by-case basis as currently planned is highly problematic and risks instability. This article describes this tangle as five categories of problems: (1) the post-Soviet transition, (2) rule of law problems, (3) administrative tangles, (4) corruption, and (5) war-related issues. The article then recommends that the government and international community pursue a ‘mass claims and transitional justice’ approach to large-scale HLP restitution which is aligned with international best practice and able to supersede the tenurial tangle.

This was originally published on Wiley: Peace & Change: Table of Contents.