Protecting Civil Rights

"Let me sell my land"


For the past two decades, roughly seven million Ukrainian landowners questioned what it truly meant to own their land. That’s because, despite having fertile farmland, they were too old to work it, could not sell it, or even use it as collateral in a bank loan. However, that would all change, thanks to one man’s vision of civil liberty and the global network of Atlas Network partners.

Meet Viktor Tsytsyura

When inheriting land from his parents, Viktor soon realized it was worthless; he was unable to work it, unable to sell it, and unable to use it as an investment tool. That’s because a “one-year” moratorium on selling the land was introduced when his parents took “ownership” of it. Nineteen years later, it was still in place even though the U.S.S.R. had collapsed. So why was he not entitled to equal and inalienable rights to his own land? Upset not only with his situation but the situation facing seven million honest Ukrainians like him, he took legal action for better standards of life in Ukraine.

Viktor Tsytsyura stands in a field of soybeans near his plot of land outside Ternopil, Ukraine ( Photo/Bernat Parera).

“This is my land, but the government said no. That’s why I decided to fight.”

If You Don’t Try, There Can Be No Social Progress

While watching a national debate show, Viktor noticed Dan Pasko, a Ukrainian businessman, speaking out against the moratorium. Viktor realized he was not alone in his mission to remove one of the last vestiges of Soviet tyranny. NGOs were actively engaged on the issue, so Viktor got in touch with EasyBusiness, the Kyiv-based think tank and Atlas Network partner Pasko co-founded.

Viktor reviews the ECHR ruling ( Photo/Bernat Parera).

Ingenuity Is Not Without Obstacles

United, the NGOs filed claims to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), and Viktor’s case was accepted. In 2018, the ECHR ruled that the moratorium violated the human rights of its citizens and that the government ought to make necessary changes to the law or else pay damages of US$50 billion to the landowners. A pitched legislative battle stretched several months, threatening to defeat the reform effort.

The Ternopil oblast regional council and administration building ( Photo/Bernat Parera).

Given the right to choose

In 2020, the Ukrainian parliament passed the proposed law to finally end the moratorium and establish a land market. Though imperfect, this new law is a major step in restoring the property rights of millions of people.

Viktor Tsytsyura has led an ordinary life but leaves an extraordinary legacy in his advocacy on behalf of millions of people just like him ( Photo/Bernat Parera).

His Quest For Freedom Is Our Quest

Viktor’s purpose is simple: he would like to leave something behind for his family. He believes that allowing millions just like him to exercise their full private property rights will drive the country forward both morally and financially. He is working toward what is right, and now landowners will be given the right to do as they choose. And that is the essence of the freedom and social progress for which Viktor has so ardently advocated: the absence of compulsion and the ability to exercise full control over that which is his. That is what Atlas Network and its partners strive for — individual freedom.