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The Russian Government

The Constituional Federation of Russia
Russia became a constitutional federation after the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) on August 24, 1991.
National Anthemn
"Patrioyicheskaya Pesnya"
"Patriotic Song"
Following the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in August 1991, Russia began its transition to self rule as the Russian Federation. It adopted a constitution on December 12, 1993, that established a new political system to replace the old Soviet system of government.

The Russian 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. The precise distribution of powers among the central government, regional, and local authorities is still evolving.

The Russian Federation operates under three branches of government:  the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial.

Executive Branch

The Russian Chief of State (President) is elected to a four-year term in office. In the political system established by the 1993 constitution, the president wields considerable executive power. There is no vice president, and the legislative is subordinate to the executive. The president is Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, head of the Security Council, which manages individual and state security, and appoints his own cabinet (Ministries of the Government). Should the president die in office, fail to exercise his powers due to ill health, is impeached, or resigns, the premier succeeds him and acts as president until a new election is held, which must be within three months. The Premier and Chairman of the Russian Federation Government and First Deputy Premiers and First Deputy Chairmen of the Government are appointed by the president on approval of the State Duma. The president can pass decrees without consent of the Duma and, if it repeatedly turns down his choice of prime minister, the president may dissolve the Duma.

Legislative Branch

Russia's bicameral legislative Federal Assembly is comprised of a 450-seat State Duma and a 178-seat Federation Council, filled by the top executive and legislative officials in each of Russia's 89 federal administrative units. The Council of Heads of Republics includes the leaders of the 21 ethnic-based Russian Republics. The Council of Heads of Administrations includes the leaders of the 66 autonomous territories and regions, and the mayors of Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Judicial Branch

The Russian legal system is based on civil law and includes judicial review of legislative acts. Russia's Constitutional Court is empowered by the 1993 constitution to arbitrate disputes between the executive and legislative branches and between Moscow and the regional and local governments. The court is also authorized to rule on violations of constitutional rights, to examine appeals from various bodies, and to participate in impeachment proceedings against the president. The court is limited in the scope of issues it can hear and prohibited from examining cases on its own initiative. The Federation Council appoints judges to the Constitutional Court on recommendation of the president.

The Federation Council appoints judges to the Supreme Court, Russia's highest court for criminal, civil, and administrative cases, and the Supreme Court of Arbitration, the highest court that resolves economic disputes, on recommendation of the president. Despite its structure, Russia's judiciary and justice system are weak. Many of the issues dealt with by administrative authority in European countries remain subject to political influence in Russia. In the recent past, the Russian Government has begun reforming its criminal justice system and judicial institutions, including the reintroduction of jury trials in certain criminal cases. Still, judges have only recently begun to assert their constitutionally mandated independence from other branches of government.

Political Parties

The pro-market democrats:  Our Home Is Russia;  Yabloko Bloc;  Russia's Democratic Choice Party;  Forward Russia!  The centrists and special interest parties:  the Congress of Russian Communities and the Women of Russia. The anti-market and/or ultranationalist parties:  Communist Party of the Russian Federation;  Liberal Democratic Party of Russia;  Agrarian Party;  Power to the People;  Russian Communist Worker's Party. Other political Parties active in the 1995-96 elections include Unity and Accord, the Democratic Party of Russia, Truth and Order, the National Patriotic Bloc, Russia's Regions, and the Congress of Russian Communities.

The CIA World Factbook contains the latest information on Russia's Government.


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