Russian legal culture under the microscope as presidential elections loom

13 February 2012

As public protests continue to grow around perceived illegalities in the Russian presidential election race, the Foundation for Law, Justice and Society today publishes a report that examines the legal culture in Russia and challenges received wisdom from the West.

The report outlines the distinctive characteristics of Russian legal culture and describes the views of a group of experts on Russian law, politics, and economics to assess the effects of the country’s many institutional reforms since 1990 on the legal mentality and behaviour of the people.

Last week, Opposition leader Grigory Yavlinsky cited the Supreme Court's decision to uphold his expulsion from the presidential campaign as evidence that, "Russia is far from becoming a law-bound country", suggesting that most significant decisions are made either as a consequence of corruption or of political intervention.

"Last week, Opposition leader Grigory Yavlinsky cited the Supreme Court's decision to uphold his expulsion from the presidential campaign as evidence that, "Russia is far from becoming a law-bound country"

In practice, the relationship between law and everyday life in Russia is complicated, and in spite of extensive commentary, the central question of precisely what contribution law makes in organizing Russian society remains unanswered.

By assessing a range of issues such as the history of legal nihilism in Russia, the effects of economic freedoms and Western influences on the rule of law, and cases such as the Khodorkovsky trial, the report concludes that we are currently witnessing the emergence of an altogether new and unique form of legal culture in Russia.

The report emerges from a workshop held last year in Oxford. The next workshop in this series, on The Russian Socio-Legal Tradition, will be held at Queen's College Oxford on 19 April.

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Constructing Legal Culture through Institutional Reforms:
The Russian Experience

Dr Marina Kurkchiyan