Russian Legislation – Trends to Change


Russia began its legislative reform right before the USSR disintegration. In June 1990 the first Congress of Russian Deputies adopted a declaration of state sovereignity. Until that Russian legislation was completely the same as the USSR legislation.


Year 1991 was marked by the adoption of two important documents in which the Supreme Council of the Russian Federation defined a completely new concept of human rights and set up the basis for the further legal reform and changes in the legislative system. The adopted documents – “Declaration of Civil and Human Rights and Freedoms” and “A Concept for Judicial Reform in the Russian Federation” – had no legal force, but they were very important because they gave a significantly more clear notion of Russian legal system than any of the previous documents.


December 12, 1993 – elections to the upper and the lower chamber (Council of Federation and State Duma respectively) of the Russian parliament took place along with the referendum on the draft of the Constitution of the Russian Federation. The Constituion was approved by most of Russian people and this was a milestone in the history of modern Russia.


Since its adoption in 1999 the Russian Constitution is the supreme law of Russia. According to its Article 15, the Consitution “shall have supreme legal force and have direct effect, and shall be applicable throughout the entire territory of the Russian federation.” All federal and local laws should correspond to the norms of the Constitution and it guides Russian courts as well.


The main legal source of Russian law are the statutes, which are enacted strictly through the legislative process. There are also Codes. These are the basic sets of laws on a certain matter. Though many Russian legilsative Codes do have some gaps unable to regulate certain aspects, they still give the basis for judges to provide correct decisions on certain cases. It is often possible to interprete Codes in a flexible way and it is possible to base the interpretation on "general principles" of each given Code. These principles are given in the first chapters of the Codes. It is also allowed to reason by analogy. 


Let’s have a brief overview of Russian codes:


The new Customs Code of the Russian Federation was adopted on May 14, 2003 to substitute the old one dated back to 1993. The need to adopt a new Code arose from the problem of the development of Russian economy and foreign trade. The new Customs Code of the Russian Federation is to increase the efficiency of custom authorities through simplifying customs formalities and procedures, and customs agent activities. Tariffs are regulated by the Customs Tariff of the Russian Federation document which became eligible on April 1, 2000.


The present Criminal Code of the Russian Federation came into force on 1 January 1997. Moreover, on the 8 January President Yeltzin signed the Criminal Correction Code to regulate the conditions of the sentences. The new Criminal Code replaced the Soviet analogue of 1960. The main changes deal with economic crimes and crimes against property. These were the main pitfalls of the Soviet Criminal Code, as most of other chapters were already amended to correspond to new Russian realities.


The Tax Code of the Russian Federation was adopted and implemented in two parts. Part Two regulates local, republican and federal system of taxation. Part One (sometimes referred to as the "General Part) is considered to be much more important for the development of the country as it served as a vital step towards reforming Russian tax legislation in order to correspond with the market economy trends.


The Civil Code of the Russian Federation came into force in 1995 (in two parts). The document has certain basic principles:

  • Equality of all participants guaranteed by civil law; inviolability of private property
  • Freedom of contract
  • Free exercise of civil rights
  • Juridical protection of civil rights

The Code of Administrative Offences of the Russian Federation was implemented on July 1, 2002. The Code serves as a comprehensive legal act to set the forms and extent of administrative liability for offences in various aspects of Russian law. This includes tax, currency, labor and antimonopoly legislation.

Normative and non-normative decrees may be issued by the President of the Russian Federation if they don’t contradict with the Constitution and the Civil Code. The power to issue normative directives also belongs to the government.

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