Socialist Constitutional Legacies in Regional Constitutions and Charters in Russia

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Jane Henderson



Russia has a federated structure. It is quite complex, with five different types of subjects of the Federation: republics, territories, regions, an autonomous region, cities of federal significance, and autonomous areas. Each of these subjects of the Federation has its own constitutive law. For a republic within Russia, this document is called a constitution. For each of the other subjects of the Federation, it is called a charter (ustav). These “figurehead” constitutions and charters obviously have great significance for their respective subject of the Federation. However, there are interesting disparities between them. This article explores one aspect of these. It considers the legacy of the Soviet approach to law in the precise wording of the constitutions of Russia’s republics and charters of the other subjects of the Federation. This careful textual analysis reveals that there are a few – although only a few – traces of Russia’s socialist past in the wording of these constitutive documents. However, that may not be the only “remnant of the Soviet past” in the approach taken in relation to these important laws. It is argued that the scarcity of an enforcement mechanism which might allow judicial consideration of any breach of a republican constitution or subject of the Federation charter is strongly reminiscent of the situation of constitutional unaccountability which existed under the Soviet regime.

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