Twenty Years of Russian Legal Reform

By Pomeranz, William | Demokratizatsiya, Spring 2012 | Go to article overview

Twenty Years of Russian Legal Reform


Pomeranz, William, Demokratizatsiya


Abstract: This article examines what has changed in Russian law since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Among the accomplishments are the emergence of constitutional jurisprudence, the development of commercial law, and an increase in the basic transparency of the law. However, Russia is still not a rule-of-law country because the state is not subordinated to its own laws.

Three distinct stages of legal reform can be identified in Russia over the past twenty years, largely corresponding to the terms of Russia's first three presidents. Boris Yeltsin stands out as a law creator, as his administration re-wrote the constitution and much of Russia's legislation to meet the demands of a democracy and market economy. Vladimir Putin assumed the role as the primary enforcer of law as he re-centralized the Russian political system and called for a "dictatorship of' law," essentially requiring the strict observance, but not the broad interpretation, of the law. Finally, Dmitry Medvedev tried to present himself as the great promoter of the rule of law and legal reform, attacking corruption and seeking to overcome Russia's historical "legal nihilism."

Some overlap admittedly exists between these three periods. The centralizing trends so pronounced under Putin actually began under Yeltsin. Putin also has a reputation as a law creator, especially during his first term in office, which saw the introduction of such landmark pieces of legislation as the new Criminal Procedure Code and the Land Code.

Finally, Medvedev, while talking about decentralization, in fact played a significant role in strengthening the so-called "power vertical," most notably, by extending the president's and the Duma's terms to six and five years, respectively.

In retrospect, Russia's legal trajectory since the collapse of the Soviet Union has been both profound and contradictory, so what I propose to do in this brief essay is to provide a rough balance sheet of twenty years of legal reform. The Soviet Union was governed by "socialist law," which broadly promoted social over individual rights, presided over a planned (as opposed to a market) economy, and assumed a pedagogical role in the promotion of socialist ideology. Socialist law in its heyday was recognized by many commentators as one of the major legal systems of the world, along with the common law and civil law traditions. The end of the Soviet Union witnessed the disappearance of socialist law, at least in terms of its political and legislative content--although not necessarily in the mentality of those who lived under it.

By choosing the collapse of the Soviet Union as the point of reference for this essay--as opposed to a direct comparison with Western legal systems--I intend to highlight what has changed in terms of the rule of law since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and what critical problems remain, with the caveat that just because I am dividing this paper into two parts does not mean that I am making a "half full, half empty" argument. No matter from what perspective you view the Russian judicial system, legal reform remains a long, uphill struggle.

New Branches of Law

One of the most profound changes in Russian law over the past twenty years has been the emergence of a constitutional jurisprudence. While some Soviet defendants raised constitutional issues as part of their defense, the Soviet Union lacked a constitutional tribunal that could review whether Soviet laws, in fact, corresponded to the demands of the constitution. Thus, for example, in the famous trial of the dissident Vladimir Bukovskii, his lawyer could only argue that no crime had been committed, as set forth under the statute, as opposed to arguing that the underlying legislation itself was unconstitutional. (1)

Today, it is accepted that a Russian citizen can make a constitutional argument before the courts, claiming that certain laws or government actions violate one's fundamental rights. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Twenty Years of Russian Legal Reform
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.