They began to conduct land accounting in Ancient Rus in the 9th century, when the country was 10 times smaller than today. Basically, the first plat books contained descriptions of monastic and church lands. But very soon the register of owners was expanded. Public authorities wanted to know who owned the land and must pay taxes. The country required substantial funds for the army and frequent wars.
Moreover, the land was becoming more and more valuable as a commodity. The noblemen and religious leaders wanted to strengthen their rights. During the reign of Ivan IV (the “Terrible”), the Cadastres were used for this purpose. Those books contained the owner's name along with information about how he had taken possession of the land. Cadastres were the most important evidence of ownership; they also became a prototype of the modern Unified State Register of Real Estate Rights and Transactions. However, it was more difficult to define the boundaries of estates. The area of land holdings was still approximate. Therefore, the number of boundary disputes and litigation was steadily increasing. In the late 17th century, a set of laws was adopted to define the procedures for land survey.
In the era of Peter I, the accuracy of field measurements was increased and land surveyors began to use special tools. The first training courses for surveyors began to appear. Tsar Peter I defined the goal to create a General map of the Russian Empire. Surveys of governments, theatres of war and sea coasts were conducted across the country. A detailed map and a three-volume atlas were published after the death of Peter I. It was a matter of national importance to keep the cadastral information registry and the penalty for the murder of a surveyor was death.
In the mid-18th century, they attempted to bring together information on the country's territory and all landowners. In fact, however, the comprehensive land survey was initiated by Catherine II. Since then, the land plots have been attributed not to the owners' names, but to the toponyms of settlements and wastelands. Surveyors spent 4 decades measuring the lands of the Russian Empire. During the reign of Catherine II, geodesy became an applied science. The Empress ordered the establishment of a school for land management professionals. A school named after Constantine, the newborn grandson of the Empress, was located in the Kremlin not far from the Land Survey Office.
In the days of Paul I, mapping was the duty of military men. And during the reign of Alexander I, the Army Corps of Land Surveyors was established. Geodesy and cartography demonstrated significant progress after the Pulkovo Observatory had been established during the reign of Nicholas I. The 20th century was an era of important discoveries. Under the leadership of Vasiliy Struve, a prominent astronomer, degree measurements of the meridian arc were performed and valuable information was obtained to determine the shape and size of the Earth. In prerevolutionary Russia, all information about the land plots and their owners was recorded in the Cadastre and the Plat Book. The information was quite accurate, so public authorities were able to collect taxes, and the owners, to claim land rights in court.
After the October Revolution, approaches to land-surveying and cadastral works were radically changed. Since then, all the land was owned by the state and ceased to be subject to taxation and it was no longer necessary to register property rights. However, there was a Cadastre in the USSR, only land plots were attributable not to owners, but to users. Public authorities needed accurate information on the land resources. It was essential to determine which land should be given to rural workers and which to the state and collective farms. Economic development of the country is also largely dependent on the quality of knowledge of its territory.
The Head Office of Geodesy was established for the purposes of land surveying, as well as creating and publishing maps. The Cartographic and Geodetic Service of the USSR had done a huge amount of work. Soviet scientists who specialized in geodesy and cartography are well-known all over the world. A high-precision geodetic network was created. Measurements were performed on land, under the water and from the air, resulting in the publishing of detailed topographic maps.
Despite the tremendous scientific experience gained throughout the 70-year history of the Soviet Union, modern Russia had to re-create the system of registration of rights almost from scratch. The “collective” property was to obtain definite boundaries and owners after Perestroika. Land once again becomes an object of taxation. As of today, geodesists and cartographers provide data that is used to search for minerals and even launch rockets into space. Without this information, it is impossible to use navigation systems and conduct land-use planning.
In the 21st century, the following three government agencies were responsible for cadastre, registration of property rights and cartography: Rosnedvizhimost, Roskartografiya and Rosregistratsiya. In 2008, in accordance with the decree of the President of the Russian Federation, the Federal Service for State Registration, Cadastre and Cartography (Rosreestr) was established to replace them.