Why Russia lacks rule of law



Vladimir Putin’s often arbitrary rule has “substantially retarded the growth of a rule of law state,” observers suggest.

Even during the late Soviet period – after the party had come to grips with the worst of Stalin’s excesses – Soviet law remained arbitrary, in that Kremlin leaders, like the early Bolsheviks, continued to manipulate the law, using it as an instrument of repression. Political factors, not legal precedents, determined judicial decisions, notes Dmitry Dubrovsky (right), affiliated with the Center of Independent Social Research in St. Petersburg. Telephone justice, a term signifying this reality, entered the lexicon, he writes for EurasiaNet:

Russia had a chance to break with the past when the communism collapsed in 1991. Unfortunately, a Soviet-style legal system, built upon the concept of arbitrary justice, managed to outlive the Soviet Union itself. During the twilight of the Soviet era, there was a serious attempt to push Russia in the direction of the rule of law. In mid-1991, a reform initiative sought to introduce the concept of judicial review via the creation of a Constitutional Court. Some Russian officials also pushed for the gradual introduction of jury trials.

Russia’s constitutional crisis in 1993 brought all movement toward the rule of law to an immediate halt, adds Dubrovsky, a former Reagan-Fascell fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy.

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