Russian Federation

Russian Federation

Russian Federation is a federative republic, which has succeeded rights and duties of USSR in international relations. The state powers are exercised on the basis of the separation and independence of the legislative, executive and judiciary branches.


Constitution and legal system

The Russian legal system differs from both common law and civil law systems. Throughout the last decade, significant changes however were made to the overall structure and substantive rules of the Russian legal system, which has made it closer to the civil law traditions. Among these changes, feature the placement of more emphasis on individual rights and freedoms and the imposition of constitutional checks and balances on the exercise of governmental power.

The Constitution of Russia adopted by a nation-wide vote on 12 December 1993 is the primary source of law. No laws adopted by the Russian Federation and lower administrative units (sub-units of Russian Federation) may contravene to the Constitution. Constitution has direct legal effect: its provisions may be invoked in court

The sources of law include international law, general principles of law and international treaties concluded by the Russian Federation. If an international treaty stipulates other rules than those stipulated by the domestic law, the rules of the international treaty should be applied.

The Constitution provides that, the republics, territories, regions, federal cities, autonomous regions and autonomous areas may adopt legislation, provided that the latter does not encroach on the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation and the joint jurisdiction of the Russian Federation and the governmental sub-units of the Russian Federation. On matters of joint jurisdiction of the Russian Federation and the governmental sub-units of the Russian Federation, only federal laws are relevant and the legislation of the governmental sub-units of the Russian Federation must be adopted in accordance with them. If the law of a local jurisdiction fails to comply with the federal statute, it will not be applied. Thus, on matters of joint jurisdiction federal rules shall prevail.

Although decrees of the President are formally acts of the executive body, they have de facto equal legal effect with federal statutes. Presidential decrees should comply with the Constitution and the federal laws.

The decrees and orders of the government are binding throughout the Russian Federation. The President may repeal the decrees and executive orders of the government if they are not consistent with the Constitution, the federal laws or the presidential decrees.

The executive power is vested in the President and the government. The President is elected for a term of four years with a maximum of two successive terms, by secret ballot on the basis of general, equal and direct vote.

The President appoints the government composed of the Chairman of the government, Deputy Chairman and federal ministers.

Legislative power is exercised by a bicameral Federal Assembly, which consists of the Federation Council and the State Duma. The Federation Council (the upper house) consists of 178 seats (as of July 2000). The top executive and legislative officials in each of the 89 federal administrative units appoint the members of the Federation Council which serve a four-year term. The State Duma (the lower house) consists of 450 seats; half elected by proportional representation from party lists winning at least 5% of the vote, and half from single-member constituencies. The members of the Duma are elected by direct popular vote to serve a four-year term.

Legislative process. The President, the Federation Council, the members of the Federation Council, the deputies of the State Duma, the government and the legislative (representative) bodies of the subjects of the Russian Federation have the right of legislative initiative. Draft laws are introduced in the State Duma. Laws adopted by the State Duma are passed to the Federation Council for review within five days. In the event the State Duma disagrees with the decision of the Federation Council, the federal law is considered adopted if, in the second reading, at least two-thirds of the total number of deputies of the State Duma vote for it. Adopted federal laws are sent to the President for signing and publication. If the President rejects a federal law within fourteen days from the day it was sent to him/her, the State Duma and the Federation Council reconsider the law. If, at the second hearing, the federal law is approved in its earlier draft by a majority of not less than two thirds of the total number of deputies of the Federation Council and the State Duma, it must be signed by the President and published.

Judicial system. All courts are parts of the same system, and there are not two separate systems of federal and regional courts. The Ministry of Justice administers the system of courts. The penitentiary system and the law enforcement bodies (prokuratura) fall under the responsibility of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The judiciary is divided into three branches: the regular courts system with the Supreme or Higher Court of Russia as the highest body; the arbitration courts system headed by the High Court of Arbitration and competent on economic matters; the Constitutional Court. The Supreme Court is the highest judiciary body on civil, criminal and administrative matters. At a lower level are the supreme courts of the sub-units of the Federation. The third level consists of the "people's courts", located in the districts and small towns, and which deal with the highest number of cases. A separate system of military courts or tribunals is subordinated directly under the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court supervises the activity of the lower courts. The Supreme Court does not have the right to judicial review but has the right of legislative initiative and may submit its conclusions concerning interpretation of laws.

The Supreme Arbitration Court is the highest judiciary body resolving economic disputes and other cases considered by arbitration courts.

The Constitutional Court was established in 1991. Upon application by an interested governmental body (listed in article 125 of the Constitution), it may hold a statute or an executive enactment unconstitutional, or give its interpretation of the Constitution. Whenever a matter of constitutionality of an act involved in a case arises during proceedings before a regular court, the matter should be automatically referred to the Constitutional Court. Acts and provisions deemed unconstitutional loose legal force and international agreements may not be enforced and applied if not consistent with the Constitution.


Russian Federation is:

  • OSCE Participating State since 25 June 1973
  • Member State of the United Nations since 24 October 1945
  • Member State of the Council of Europe since 28 February 1996

Status of Ratification of the Main International Human Rights Treaties, Conventions and other instruments

01 December 2007
Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons (1985)
01 June 2007
CoE Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism (2007)
29 January 2007
International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (2007)

Legal Reviews

Overview of Good Practices with regard to NGO Regulation in the OSCE Participating States

Date : 10 July 2007 English [0.26 MB]