Russia Government Information
Russia Government Basics
Type: semi-presidential federation
Independence: August 24, 1991.
Constitution: December 12, 1993; amended 2008, 2014
--chief of state, head of government, cabinet. Legislative
--Federal Assembly (Federation Council, State Duma). Judicial
--Constitutional Court, Supreme Court, Supreme Court of Arbitration, Office of Procurator General.
parties :A Just Russia [Sergey MIRONOV], Civic Platform or CPI [Rifat
SHAYKHUTDINOV], Communist Party of the Russian Federation or CPRF
[Gennadiy ZYUGANOV], Liberal Democratic Party of Russia or LDPR
[Vladimir ZHIRINOVSKIY], Rodina [Aleksei ZHURAVLYOV], United Russia
political parties are registered with Russia's Ministry of Justice (as
of October 2015), but only six parties maintain representation in
Russia's national legislature, and two of these only have one deputy
Political Pressure Groups:
Confederation of Labor of Russia or KTR, Federation of Independent
Trade Unions of Russia, Golos Association in Defense of Voters' Rights,
Memorial, Movement Against Illegal Migration, Russkiye, Solidarnost,
The World Russian People's Congress, Union of the Committees of
Soldiers' Mothers, Union of Russian Writers
Suffrage: Universal at 18 years.
Government of Russia
In the political system established by
the 1993 Constitution, the president wields considerable executive
power. There is no vice president, and the legislative is far weaker
than the executive. The president nominates the highest state
officials, including the prime minister, who must be approved by the
Duma. The president can pass decrees without consent from the Duma. He
also is head of the armed forces and of the national security council.
The president is elected can serve for at most two six-year
terms. There have been six presidential elections since 1990.
Boris Yeltsin was elected in 1991 to 1996, Dmitry Medvedev in 2008 and
the current president Vladimir Putin was elected in 2000, 2004 and
Russia is a federation, but the precise distribution of powers between
the central government and the regional and local authorities is still
evolving. The Russian Federation consists of 89 components, including
two federal cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg. The Constitution
explicitly defines the federal government's exclusive powers, but it
also describes most key regional issues as the joint responsibility of
the federal government and the Federation components.
Russia's judiciary and justice system are weak. Numerous matters that
are dealt with by administrative authority in European countries remain
subject to political influence in Russia. The Constitutional Court was
reconvened in March 1995 following its suspension by President Yeltsin
in October 1993. The 1993 Constitution empowers the court to arbitrate
disputes between the executive and legislative branches and between
Moscow and the regional and local governments. The court also is
authorized to rule on violations of constitutional rights, to examine
appeals from various bodies, and to participate in impeachment
proceedings against the president. The July 1994 Law on the
Constitutional Court prohibits the court from examining cases on its
own initiative and limits the scope of issues the court can hear.
In the past few years, the Russian Government has begun to reform the
criminal justice system and judicial institutions, including the
reintroduction of jury trials in certain criminal cases. Despite these
efforts, judges are only beginning to assert their constitutionally
mandated independence from other branches of government.
The Duma passed a Criminal Procedure Code and other judicial reforms
during its 2001 session. These reforms help make the Russian judicial
system more compatible with its Western counterparts and are seen by
most as an accomplishment in human rights. The reforms have
reintroduced jury trials in certain criminal cases and created a more
adversarial system of criminal trials that protect the rights of
defendants more adequately. In 2002, the introduction of the new code
led to significant reductions in time spent in detention for new
detainees, and the number of suspects placed in pretrial detention
declined by 30%.
Russia's human rights record remains uneven and has worsened in some
areas in recent years. Despite significant improvements in conditions
following the end of the Soviet Union, problem areas remain. In
particular, the Russian Government's military policy in Chechnya is a
cause for international concern. Government forces have killed numerous
civilians through the use of indiscriminate force in Chechnya. There
have been credible allegations of violations of international human
rights and humanitarian law committed by Russian forces. Chechen groups
also have committed abuses as well as acts of terrorism. Although the
government has made progress in recognizing the legitimacy of
international human rights standards, the institutionalization of
procedures to safeguard these rights has lagged. There are, however,
indications that the law is becoming an increasingly important tool for
those seeking to protect human rights; after a lengthy trial and eight
separate indictments, environmental whistleblower Alexander Nikitin was
acquitted of espionage charges relating to publication of material
exposing hazards posed by the Russian Navy's aging nuclear fleet. On
September 13, 2001, the Presidium of the Supreme Court dismissed the
prosecution's last appeal against the December 29, 1999 acquittal of
Nikitin. Nonetheless, serious problems remain.
The judiciary is often subject to manipulation by political authorities
and is plagued by large case backlogs and trial delays. Lengthy
pretrial detention remains a serious problem. Russia has one of the
highest prison population rates in the world, at 685 per 100,000. There
are credible reports of beating and torturing of inmates and detainees
by law enforcement and correctional officials. Prison conditions fall
well below international standards. In 2000, human rights Ombudsman
Oleg Mironov estimated that 50% of prisoners with whom he spoke claimed
to have been tortured. Human rights groups estimate that about 11,000
inmates and prison detainees die annually, most because of
overcrowding, disease, and lack of medical care. In 2001, President
Putin pronounced a moratorium on the death penalty. However, there are
reports that the Russian Government might still be violating promises
they made upon entering the European Council, especially in terms of
prison control and conditions.
Human rights groups are very critical of cases of Chechens disappearing
in the custody of Russian officials. Russian authorities have
introduced some improvements, including better access to complaint
mechanisms, the formal opening of investigations in most cases, and the
introduction of two decrees requiring the presence of civilian
investigators and other nonmilitary personnel during all largescale
military operations and targeted search and seizure operations. Human
rights groups welcome these changes but claim that most abuses remain
uninvestigated and unpunished.
Efforts to institutionalize official human rights bodies have been
mixed. In 1996, human rights activist Sergey Kovalev resigned as
chairman of the Presidential Human Rights Commission to protest the
government's record, particularly the war in Chechnya. Parliament in
1997 passed a law establishing a "human rights ombudsman," a position
that is provided for in Russia's constitution and is required of
members of the Council of Europe, to which Russia was admitted in
February 1996. The Duma finally selected Duma deputy Oleg Mironov in
May 1998. A member of the Communist Party, Mironov resigned from both
the Party and the Duma after the vote, citing the law's stipulation
that the Ombudsman be nonpartisan. Because of his party affiliation,
and because Mironov had no evident expertise in the field of human
rights, his appointment was widely criticized at the time by human
rights activists. International human rights groups operate freely in
Russia, although the government has hindered the movements and access
to information of some individuals investigating the war in Chechnya.
The Russian Constitution provides for freedom of religion and the
equality of all religions before the law as well as the separation of
church and state. Although Jews and Muslims continue to encounter
prejudice and societal discrimination, they have not been inhibited by
the government in the free practice of their religion. High-ranking
federal officials have condemned anti-Semitic hate crimes, but law
enforcement bodies have not effectively prosecuted those responsible.
The influx of missionaries over the past several years has led to
pressure by groups in Russia, specifically nationalists and the Russian
Orthodox Church, to limit the activities of these "nontraditional"
religious groups. In response, the Duma passed a restrictive and
potentially discriminatory law in October 1997. The law is very
complex, with many ambiguous and contradictory provisions. The law's
most controversial provisions separate religious "groups" and
"organizations" and introduce a 15-year rule, which allows groups that
have been in existence for 15 years or longer to obtain accredited
status. Senior Russian officials have pledged to implement the 1997 law
on religion in a manner that is not in conflict with Russia's
international human rights obligations. Some local officials, however,
have used the law as a pretext to restrict religious liberty.
The Constitution guarantees citizens the right to choose their place of
residence and to travel abroad. Some big-city governments, however,
have restricted this right through residential registration rules that
closely resemble the Soviet-era "propiska" regulations. Although the
rules were touted as a notification device rather than a control
system, their implementation has produced many of the same results as
the propiska system. The freedom to travel abroad and emigrate is
respected although restrictions may apply to those who have had access
to state secrets. Recognizing this progress, since 1994, the U.S.
President has found Russia to be in full compliance with the provisions
of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment.
Click here to get your Russian travel visa
Russia Travel & Culture Information
Plan ahead and sign up for the most popular Russia tours
Apply online to expedite your visa to Russia
Expedite Your Passport Now!
Click to Call for Expedited Service!