The Russian legal system is generally classified as a civil law system. It is a code-based legal system and the organization of judicial review closely mirrors that of Western European civil law countries. However, the Russian tradition developed separately from other European legal cultures during the early period when the civil law system was being developed, and a number of features distinguish the Russian legal tradition from other civil law based systems, including historically the recognition by the State of non Civil Code-based legal orders and the unique institutional framework of the system of the administration of justice, including the important role of the procuracy within the system, which is responsible for the administration of judicial oversight and the prosecution of crimes.
The Russian judicial system is highly sophisticated, however there continue to be impediments to the establishment of an independent judicial branch, despite advances in reforming the legal and judicial system, especially in the early 1990s. Operating under the 1993 Constitution, the legacy of the Soviet Union, where the judiciary formed part of the law enforcement system and the judge had no more institutional or personal independence from the Executive than a police officer or a clerk, however remains powerful. It is far from clear that the executive and legislative branches have wholeheartedly or consistently embraced the changes, and the lack of political will or consensus is a significant factor in the slow and uneven progress of reform.
- 1. Until the nineteenth century, the Russian judicial system was subject to an administrative hierarchy headed by the Tsar. Richard Wortman, The Development of the Russian Legal Consciousness (1976).↵
- 2. During the Tsarist period, volost courts applied locally generated customary law rather than the Civil Code. This tradition was continued in the Soviet period in the form of ‘comrade courts’ and people’s courts. William Partlett, ‘Re-Classifying Russian Law: Mechanisms, Outcomes, and Solutions for an Overly Politicized Field’, 2 Columbia Journal of East European Law 1 (2008), p. 48.↵
- 3. William Partlett, ‘Re-Classifying Russian Law: Mechanisms, Outcomes, and Solutions for an Overly Politicized Field’, 2 Columbia Journal of East European Law 1 (2008), p. 47-51.↵
- 4. International Commission of Jurists, The State of the Judiciary in Russia (November 2010), p. 6-7.↵