Russia's first personal bankruptcy law came into force on Thursday in a move expected to usher in a flood of legal action by Russians who are struggling to pay back loans.
Russians with debts of more than 500,000 rubles ($7,680) that are more than 90 days overdue will now be able to declare themselves bankrupt, according to the new law, signed by President Vladimir Putin late last year.
Russia has previously allowed companies to declare themselves bankrupt but not individuals.
Russian banks encouraged people to take out loans and mortgages during the boom years of high oil prices and many are now struggling to make the repayments, particularly those who took out loans denominated in foreign currency before the ruble plummeted last year on the back of low oil prices and Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis.
"I receive many such letters [on the issue] and behind each is a personal tragedy," said the deputy president of Russia's central bank, Vasily Pozdyshev, in a statement.
"Experts estimate that some 400,000-500,000 citizens could apply for bankruptcy," Pozdyshev said.
Some experts have questioned how many will actually be able to do so, due to the relatively high cost of the procedure.
Banks however fear that a large number of lenders will use the law to avoid paying back loans, with the number of delayed payments already soaring over the last year.
"The law is entering force at an inconvenient moment," wrote Vedomosti business daily in an editorial.
"Debts on consumer loans today total 6 trillion rubles ($92 billion), while mortgage debts total 3 trillion rubles ($46 billion)."
"Formally, just under 600,000 Russians fall under the terms of the law."