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Regular version of the site
Thomas Nagel's theory of justice

Dmitry Balashov.

Russian Sociological Review. 2023. Vol. 22. No. 4. P. 83-106.

Book chapter
Legal semiotics and types of arguments in human rights cases in Russia

Anita Soboleva.

In bk.: Research Handbook on Legal Semiotics. Research Handbooks in Legal Theory series. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2023. Ch. 17. P. 254-266.

Working paper
Introducing Patent Linkage in Russia: An Odd Choice at Odd Times

Gavrilova O., Kotova D.

BRICS Competition Law and Policy Series. WP 22. Higher School of Economics, 2021

Russian Legal System and Legal Tradition

Academic Year
Instruction in English
ECTS credits
Elective course
1 year, 4 module


Course Syllabus


The course provides an introduction to Russian law and legal system in context. It starts with a brief history of the constitution-making process and describes the difficulties of rebuilding the legal system during the country’s transfer from ‘socialist’ legal order to democracy and the rule of law. It further describes the main characteristics of Russia’s system of constitutional, administrative, civil, criminal and procedural law. The main emphasis is made on the overview of the sources of Russian law and their hierarchy, analysis of relevant legal concepts and judicial practice, including the case law of the Constitutional Court. The course pays special attention to such issues as federalism, separation of powers, Presidency, role of courts, legal profession, individual rights, legal regulation of entrepreneurial activities, civil and Arbitrazh procedure, new developments in criminal law, death penalty regulation, jury trails, and the main points of disagreement between the Russian Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights in their judicial practice on the same or similar cases.
Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

  • to obtain introductory knowledge about contemporary Russian law and legal system;
  • to get understanding how the Russian law works in context and correlates with other legal systems;
  • to gain skills in searching and analyzing the sources of Russian law available in English;
  • to develop the capacity to analyze Russian legislation and case law;
Expected Learning Outcomes

Expected Learning Outcomes

  • Students must gain knowledge on: - the distinctive features of the Russian legal system and of the main branches of Russian law; - the system of government and judicial system in their development since 1993 up to the present moment; - the main characteristics of the Russian federalism;
  • Students must gain knowledge on: - the most significant decisions of the Constitutional Court; - the peculiarities of Russian legal order, legal culture and legal consciousness; - the system of professional legal training in Russia;
  • Students must gain skills and abilities: - to read academic works about Russian law and to summarize their content accurately; - to find Russian legal judicial and governmental resources in English accessible through the Internet; - to analyze basic concepts underlying the main branches of Russian substantive and procedural law;
  • Students should gain the following competences: - to correctly use the legal terminology and understand legal concepts; - to analyze critically the academic literature and other sources for legal research in the area of the Russian law; - to work with information (search, evaluate, use information, necessary for fulfilment of scientific and professional tasks, from various sources, including application of the systematic approach);
Course Contents

Course Contents

  • Introduction to the course. Russian Law in comparative perspective.
    Aims and objectives of the course. English language sources on the Russian law and legal system. Studying Russian law in English: terminological and cultural difficulty. Russian legal system as a continental legal system. The civil law tradition in “socialist law” and contemporary Russian law. Russian law in context. Legal research on Russian law. English-language resources: legislation and court judgments.
  • Sources of Russian law and their hierarchy.
    Sources of law in the Russian legal system. Hierarchy of legal rules (norms) in the Russian legal system. Legislation and other normative acts as the sources of law. Collisions between the sources of law. Debates on the role of the judicial decisions. Decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and the Constitutional Court in the Russian legal system.
  • Federalism. Division of powers between the federation and the regions.
    Structure of the Federation. “Asymmetric” federalism. The Federation Treaty and the Constitution. Developments of the Russian Federation: from “parade of sovereignties” to the “vertical of power”. Delineating powers between the federation and the subjects. Federal requirement regarding governmental structure of subjects of federation. From elections to nomination of governors and back again.
  • Separation of Powers. Russian Presidency.
    Russian model of the separation of powers. Executive power, the President and the Government. Presidential powers. Implied powers.
  • The executive branch. The Federal Assembly.
    The Government’s role and powers. The State Duma and the Federation Council. Checks and balances in the Constitution and later statutes. Para-constitutional institutions. Prokuratura (prosecutors’ office): its status in the legal system, role and powers.
  • Election law and the electoral system.
    Main principles of election system: elections to the State Duma, Federation Council and to the post of President. Voting rights. Regulation of political advertising and media coverage of elections. Finance of the election campaigns. Election-related legal disputes. Judicial protection of electoral rights. Referenda.
  • Judicial system. The Constitutional Court
    Judicial power in the system of the separation of powers. The constitutional grounds for judicial power. Structure of courts in 1993 and subsequent changes. Liquidation of the High Court of Arbitration (Arbitrazh Court) and re-appointment procedure for judges. The Constitutional Court. Independence of judges: institutional guarantees and contextual difficulties. The 1991 Concept of judicial reform and “bringing justice to perfection”: strengthening the independence of judges, improving the transparency and accessibility of courts, raising public trust in the judicial system and safeguarding the enforcement of judicial decisions. Introduction of justices of the peace and jury trials. Transparency of courts and publication of judicial decisions. Selection and appointment of judges, professional ethics and responsibility, dismissal from office. Transformation of judicial power on legislative and institutional levels. Judicial review and effectiveness of remedies.
  • Russian Civil law (other than copy-rights law, intellectual property and inheritance). Property rights.
    Civil Code of the Russian Federation: general overview. Civil legislation and other acts containing norms of civil law. Relations regulated by civil legislation. Means of protection of civil law rights. Declaration of an act of a state agency or of an agency of self-government as invalid. Self-protection of civil rights. Natural persons (citizens). Incapacitation. Legal persons and their types. Legal capacity of a legal person. Ownership. Obligations: definitions, performance of obligations and means to secure performance. Contracts: definition and terms, conclusion of a contract, change and rescission of a contract. Transactions and representation. Compensation for damages. The rights of bone fide buyer. Torts (obligations as a result of the causing of harm). Liability for causing of harm.
  • Criminal law
    Russian Criminal Code of 1996 and amendments: general overview. Main tendencies in the evolution of criminal law since 1996. Criminalization and decriminalization of acts. Problems in application and classification of crimes. Between the offenses and crimes: administrative sanctions versus criminal sanctions. Abuse of criminal law by the law enforcement and the parties to civil disputes. Disputes about the necessity of the reform of the Criminal Code.
  • Russian Administrative Law. Code of Administrative Offenses. Code of Administrative Procedure.
    What we understand under administrative law in Russia vis-à-vis other countries. Administrative law and effective administration. Principles of the Russian administrative law. Administrative control and controlling bodies. Judicial review over the acts of administrative bodies. Code of administrative offenses. Administrative procedure. Code of Administrative Procedure (KAC) and first steps in its application (2015).
Assessment Elements

Assessment Elements

  • non-blocking Attendance and participation in class discussions
  • non-blocking Team presentation
  • non-blocking Essay
  • non-blocking Written assignment
Interim Assessment

Interim Assessment

  • Interim assessment (4 module)
    0.3 * Attendance and participation in class discussions + 0.2 * Essay + 0.1 * Team presentation + 0.4 * Written assignment


Recommended Core Bibliography

  • Elena Lukyanova. (2015). On the Rule of Law in the Context of Russian Foreign Policy. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsbas&AN=edsbas.C236B131
  • Esakov, G. (2012). The Russian Criminal Jury: Recent Developments, Practice, and Current Problems. American Journal of Comparative Law, 60(3), 665–702. https://doi.org/10.5131/AJCL.2011.0031

Recommended Additional Bibliography

  • Pomorski, S. (1998). Reforming Justice in Russia, 1864–1996: Power, Culture, and the Limits of Legal Order. Edited by Solomon Peter H. Jr. Armonk, NY, and London: M. E. Sharpe, 1997. 406p. $82.95. American Political Science Review, (02), 493. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsrep&AN=edsrep.a.cup.apsrev.v92y1998i02p493.494.21
  • Thorson, C., & Palgrave Connect (Online service). (2012). Politics, Judicial Review, and the Russian Constitutional Court. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=439235