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    VIP Island Capacity: How 'Robinsons' Now Uses Russian Far East Free Lands

    © Sputnik / Alexander Liskin
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    The “Far Eastern hectare” program allowing every Russian resident to get free rent and future ownership of a hectare of land in the Far East region is sparking the imagination of Russians and their compatriots abroad, as well as foreigners.

    Despite the fact that only an individual who is a Russian citizen at the time of ownership registration can become a landowner, there’s also a chance both for legal entities and foreigners to get their plot of land.

    As said by Anatoly Kutsenko, head of the Department of Economy, Investment and Agricultural Market Regulations of the Russian Ministry of Agriculture, at “The Far Eastern Hectare: From Granting to Developing” as part of the Eastern Economic Forum 2018 (September 12, 2018), only 26 percent of the program’s participants have taken land in the Far East for the purpose of farming.

    Regional authorities, banking sector representatives, as well as landowners who have received land to build a house, a bakery warehouse, a horse farm, a shopping mall or a resort zone took part in the session. Narek Oganisian’s project was one of the most peculiar. The man received his hectare on the desert island of Chakmut in the Sea of Japan. He’s planning to create “new Robinson” quests.

    Sputnik talked to the landowner to find out more about his idea.

    Sputnik: How did you come up with the idea?

    Narek Oganisian: I work in the banking sector and have nothing to do with the tourism industry. I have friends who have some experience in entertainment events and organizing tourist trips. When I first learned about the program, I started thinking of possible business plans.

    I studied the business plans of the Human Capital Development Agency and one of them was about the creation of a tourist agency. I thought I could do that type of business without moving to the island, but just going there from Moscow. For me, tourism is mainly beach holidays, so I was looking for coastal plots of land.

    And one of the plots that caught my eye wasn’t even a plot, but a desert island.

    Sputnik: Is it possible to apply for an entire island?

    Narek Oganisian: My family and I filed a joint application so that I could get the whole island. I love quests myself; and as soon as I got the land, I had a chance to organize live quests there – something like "Treasure Island" or "Feel Like a Robinson."

    This is a unique offer for Russia, and there are no other such projects in the world. There’s no competition. It’s a real uninhabited island – there’s a forest, beaches and the weather is quite good there, it’s +26 in the summer. Only 300 meters from the continent, the island of Chakmut is very conveniently located.

    You don’t need to rent huge ships to get there; it will take you 5 minutes and an inflatable boat to get to the island.

    Sputnik:  Were there any other islands suitable for your project?

    Narek Oganisian: There were some islands but I didn’t choose them for a number of reasons. The satellite images showed that there was poor or no vegetation on some islands; some of them were too far from the continent.

    Some islands are very large, so I might end up sharing them with some other landowners and their projects. Besides, there’s wildlife on some islands. As for Chakmut, it is just perfect. My team, the head of the village of Lazarev and two locals, visited the island, looked around and took some photos.

    The island has fresh water and good cellular signal; it’s absolutely safe – there are no wild animals, only birds, and there are no pests. Indeed, we’ve been very lucky.

    Sputnik: For how long have you been engaged in the project? Does the island have a website?

    Narek Oganisian: The project started in March this year. Last summer I wasn’t sure it would work out, so I didn’t work on it. I had some troubles choosing the allowable type of use as the plot has no cadaster entry.

    There were also legal nuances, but I addressed the Human Capital Development Agency and in March this year the issue was resolved. I then started working hard on the project; I’ve been working on the PR campaign, while there was nothing done on the plot itself.

    So, we have a website, it’s been functioning for a long time now; we’ve carried out an advertising campaign that resulted in 3.5 thousand applications.

    Sputnik: Will you manage to finish the project in a season?

    Narek Oganisian: No, it will take many years. This type of project attracts people – everyone wants to become a Robinson! We have even developed an app where you can take a picture of a plant on the island and check its name.

    That’s going to be one of the quest’s tasks – to find one or another plant on the island. We’re going to look at the far eastern flora. I’ve even started buying Sberbank coins for the “Treasure Island” quest.

    Sputnik: Are you going to build a hotel or camping on the island?

    Narek Oganisian: The first step is launching the “Robinson” quest, so I’m not going to build anything now. A Robinson doesn’t need anything.

    I’m going to build a campsite when we get to the second stage which is “quest-tourism”; there’ll be some quick assembly tents. I also want to buy some container houses. I’ve been looking at Polish houses – they’re metal and quite strong, so they’re perfect for any weather.

    If the project is profitable, there’ll be a chance to build some permanent houses.  But I will most likely build a pier.

    Sputnik: Are you going to hire any staff?

    Narek Oganisian: I have a manager, Elena Saprykina, head of the village of Lazarev; she has hired two locals. What we do need are guides. One of my two employees is a hunter; he has a license and knows the place.

    As for the “Robinson” quest, we only need to get people and register them with the Ministry of Emergencies; I think the manager can do that. As for quest-tourism, there’ll be people to organize quests and make sure that the rules are observed. There’s a doctor is in Lazarev.

    It’s good that the village isn’t very far from the island – it’s 300 meters away, so we can use the local infrastructure as well. I’m going to buy some house for tourist accommodation; we’re going to hire staff. I think we’ll have two work shifts, as there’ll be tourists on the island 24 hours a day.

    Sputnik: What about environmental security? There should be someone to ensure that waste is recycled and the environment is taken care of.

    Narek Oganisian: I’ve found special containers to burn garbage: it’s eco-friendly, the rubbish is burnt inside the container, so outside we will only have smoke.

    The plan includes sanitary zones and decontamination. Besides, one of my partners is a member of the Russian Geographical Society; he’s going to be actively involved in the project.

    This year marks the 230th anniversary of Admiral Mikhail Lazarev, but there is not a single monument in the Far East. We are going to build a monument to the admiral in the village Lazarev, a place named in his honor. This will be a present from me and the Russian Geographical Society.

    Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Narek Oganisian and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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    Tags:
    free land, entertainment, quest, land, business, investment, Far Eastern hectare, Narek Oganisian, Far East, Russia
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