Russia and its Constitution

Promise and Political Reality


The Constitution of the Russian Federation was ratified in 1993 amid great hopes and aspirations following the collapse of the USSR. The constitution proclaims the goal of establishing a “democratic, federal state” that functions according to rule of law and promises a broad array of social, political and economic rights to its citizens. But how well has the Russian government lived up to realizing these promises? Seven distinguished scholars on Russian politics and law examine the state of political accountability, federal power-sharing, judicial independence, press freedom, and criminal procedure in Russia today. The picture that emerges is decidedly mixed; they conclude that the Russian constitution remains a work in progress.

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Gordon B. Smith, Ph.D. (1976) in Political Science, Indiana University, is Professor of Political Science and Director of the Walker Institute of International and Area Studies at the University of South Carolina. He has published extensively on Russian politics and law including "Reforming the Russian Legal System" (Cambridge, 1996).
Robert Sharlet, Ph.D. (1968) in Political Science, Indiana University, is the Chauncey Winters research Professor of Political Science at Union College. He is the author of seven books and numerous articles on Russian politics and law, including editor of "Public Policy and Law in Russia" (Martinus Nijhoff, 2005).

William B. Simons

Introduction: The Promise of the Russian Constitution
Gordon B. Smith

Chief Justices of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation: 1990 to the Present

Part I: Constitutional Promise and Political Realities

Chapter 1: Constitutionalism and Accountability in Contemporary Russia:
The Problem of Displaced Sovereignty
Richard Sakwa
Chapter 2: The Russian Constitutional Court’s Long Struggle for Viable Federalism
Robert Sharlet
Chapter 3: Russia’s Constitutional Spirit: Judge-Made Principles in Theory and Practice
Alexei Trochev

Part II: Constitutional Practice and Legal Obstacles

Chapter 4: Press Freedom in Russia: Does the Constitution Matter?
Peter Krug
Chapter 5: The Procuracy: Constitutional Questions Deferred
Gordon B. Smith
Chapter 6: Modern Russian Criminal Procedure: The Adversarial Principle and Guilty Plea
Stanislaw Pomorski
Chapter 7: Jury Trial and Adversary Procedure in Russia: Reform of Soviet Inquisitorial procedure or Democratic Window-Dressing?
Stephen C. Thaman
Chapter 8: Russia’s Constitutional Project and Prospects for the Future
Gordon B. Smith

About the Authors

List of Russian-Language Abbreviations


Students and scholars of Russian politics, law and society, as well as people interested in comparative politics, and comparative law and constitutions.