Russian Politics and Society

By Richard Sakwa | Go to book overview

4Law and society

Constitutional-pluralistic systems can be corrupted by too much oligarchy or too much democracy. In the first case, they become corrupt because a minority manipulates the institutions and prevents them from reaching their highest form, which is government by the people. The second type of corruption appears, on the other hand, when oligarchy is too eroded and the different groups push their claims too far and no authority able to safeguard the general interest remains.

(Raymond Aron) 1

A legal (positivist) state is not necessarily a democratic one, but a democratic state is by definition governed by the rule of law. The task facing the Russian legal system was nothing short of revolutionary. The old Bolshevik system of jurisprudence, and the principles on which it was based, were clearly inadequate for a democratic market-based society, and thus a new system in its entirety had to be created. Even though the constitution-adopting process was marked by rupture, the reform of the legal system was far more evolutionary and in the event judicial reform moved slowly. Freed from communism, criminality rose to the surface, while the traditional metacorruption (of the system) took radically new forms during the grand privatisation of state assets in the 1990s. The security apparatus lost some of the prominence it had enjoyed in the communist years, but remained a significant presence. Progress towards the defence of human rights was patchy, with security agencies pursuing some high-profile persecutions of civic activists.


The legal system

Urban Russia since the judicial reform of 1864 had seen the development of a relatively free judiciary, Justices of the Peace (JPs) and the development of the jury system, but these achievements had been swept away by the Bolshevik regime. The Soviet regime restored the full powers of the procuracy and emphasised the primacy of social over civil rights. Only under Gorbachev did the judiciary begin to achieve a measure of political autonomy, but this had been precarious and it fell to the post-communist regime to consolidate judicial independence. Under the Soviet system each republic had its own legal code (as well as their own constitutions), but they varied little from all-Union standards. The struggle for statehood from 1990 had, naturally, been accompanied by legal conflicts between republican and Union legislation. During the 'war of the laws' of late 1990, the Russian Supreme Soviet insisted that Russian laws took precedence over all-Union laws. 2

-72-

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Russian Politics and Society
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures ix
  • Tables x
  • Preface to the Third Edition xi
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • Note on Style, Spelling and Transliteration xiv
  • Glossary of Acronyms, Acrostics and Terms xv
  • Part I - The Fall of Communism and the Rebirth of Russia 1
  • 1: Soviet Communism and Its Dissolution 3
  • 2: The Disintegration of the Ussr 27
  • Part II - Political Institutions and Processes 43
  • 3: The New Constitutional Order 45
  • 4: Law and Society 72
  • 5: The Executive 98
  • 6: The Legislature 125
  • 7: Electoral Politics 140
  • 8: Party Development 172
  • Part III - Federalism, Regionalism and Nationalism 201
  • 9: Federalism and the State 203
  • 10: Regional and Local Politics 224
  • 11: National Identity and State-Building 254
  • Part IV - Economy and Society 277
  • 12: Marketising the Economy 279
  • 13: Society and Social Movements 305
  • 14: Cultural Transformation 331
  • Part V - Foreign Policies 347
  • 15: Foreign Policy 349
  • 16: Commonwealth, Community and Fragmentation 375
  • 17: Defence and Security Policy 396
  • Part VI - Dilemmas of Democratisation 423
  • 18: Problems of Transition 425
  • 19: Pluralism, Elites, Regime and Leadership 445
  • 20: Democracy in Russia 463
  • Notes 475
  • Select Bibliography 524
  • Index 527
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