Patronage and Politics in the USSR (Cambridge Russian, Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies)

Patronage and Politics in the USSR
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Significantly, judicial and procedural reforms in Russia have been closely linked to the incorporation of international law, and especially international human rights law, in Russian domestic law. Generally, Article 15 4 of the Russian Constitution and relevant Supreme Court Plenary Rulings dictate that international law must be directly applied in court practice.

Pilot judgments of the ECtHR concerning access to courts are implemented on a national scale.

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For example, some of the legislation promoting transparency of courts and litigation is a result of international cooperation with the Council of Europe. This analysis demonstrates that access to law is a priority policy objective of public agencies in Russia. In fact, government policies are clearly oriented toward demand-stimulation for law, and they are designed to encourage social agents to conduct disputes in court.

Further, policies concerned with increasing access to law have attached particular weight to the domain of public law, and they are intended to ensure that disputes between citizens and government agents are regulated in formal procedures, often using human rights law. This in turn leads to a strong interaction between domestic and international law, such that international law assumes a constitutionally reinforced position in the domestic polity. As mentioned, these policies have been accompanied by a significant increase in litigation in Russia. The general volume of civil and administrative litigation in Russia began to rise very noticeably after —, as a result of judicial reform programmes and the adoption of the new procedural codes.

In , the Russian Congress of Judges reported that courts had that year processed what was then an unusually high annual sum of 5,, civil cases. By , the courts of general jurisdiction in Russia heard more than 17,, civil and administrative cases per year, almost twice as many as in Legislative changes also resulted in a rapid growth of claims in arbitrazh courts. As part of this general rise in litigation, judicial reform policies have led to significant increases in administrative litigation in Russia, the consequences of which require particular attention.

As a result, administrative litigation is now established as a quite specific type of litigation. From a procedural point of view, moreover, it is not easy in Russia to separate cases of administrative litigation from other cases. Only since has litigation concerning public actions been formally recognised, not as a specific type of civil litigation, but, distinctively, as administrative litigation. Despite these classificatory problems, it is still possible to assess the volume of administrative litigation in Russia.

Currently, each year approximately , cases arising from administrative and public law relations are considered by courts of general jurisdiction. This number began to increase shortly after the procedural codes were adopted, and it peaked, at , in Since then, it has been gradually decreasing. Also, from to , the number of claims considered by arbitrazh courts grew rapidly. It peaked in , at cases per year. It should be noted that since adoption of the CACP in , the arbitrazh courts no longer conduct judicial review.

In , the last cases were considered. Alongside this, there has also been an increase in the number of cases in which individuals and organizations have challenged non-normative administrative acts on grounds that these acts violate their basic rights, defined under the Constitution and current legislation, in accordance with international human rights law.

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This category of administrative claim occurs in a large variety of situations. For example, such claims may concern the granting or withdrawal of a license, the illegal actions of a police inspector, or the inaction of a municipality in granting a place for a child in a municipal nursery. The courts of general jurisdiction consider around , claims per year challenging illegal actions or omissions of federal and municipal bodies.

This number underwent a period of rapid and significant growth from 40, in to , in However, since , it has slightly decreased, and it now seems to have stabilized. This levelling out could, of course, indicate that the operations of the executive branch have improved. On the other hand, this could be caused by measures introduced by the government to cut the workload of judicial institutions. Notably, the government has introduced instruments to facilitate extra-judicial dispute resolution through petitions to the relevant supervisory organ.

In these respects, we can see a distinct pattern in the use of the law in Russia. First, we can see that the government deliberately stimulates use of law, and strategies to increase use of law reinforce the standing of human rights norms in the national legal system. Governmental stimulation of use of law then generates increases in litigation, especially in public law and in cases with human rights implications. As discussed below, in some respects, these processes mirror more classical lines of legal mobilization, and acts of litigation serve to create norms that define the public arena, reflecting new lines of articulation between government and society.

Second, we can observe that litigation in Russia is linked to the particular features of a hybrid polity, and it often results from a deliberate strategy on the part of government institutions: that is, it is not driven by independent oppositional attitudes, but is induced by governmental prerogatives, which serve particular governmental functions.

As a result, litigation rarely takes the form of contentious politics seen in other societies. In fact, the political results of litigation are linked, dialectically, to the semi-authoritarian nature of the governance system. It is not difficult to identify the systemic prerogatives that underlie the increases in litigation in Russia since Most evidently, litigation is driven by the fact that leading actors within the political system have decided that the lines of interaction between government bodies and agents in different parts of society are too weakly institutionalized.

This fact is perceived as undermining the authority of central state institutions and as inhibiting the effective performance of basic governance functions.

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As a result, government policies are consciously designed to encourage litigation as this is seen to help to impose a stricter legal order on social interactions, and to connect social agents more immediately to government bodies. In this respect, litigation is the direct result of a state-building process, which is intended to harden the linkage between state and society, and to extend the societal penetration of official political institutions. At the core of this strategy is an instrumental view of constitutional law, which presumes that litigation intensifies the impact of constitutional law in society, and it subjects social exchanges, in different domains, to a uniform constitutional grammar, thus expanding state structure into society as a whole.

During the years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, notably, state institutions were exposed to such intense corruption and office grabbing that they approached a condition of comprehensive debilitation, and both the general levels of state capacity and, more specifically, the ability of state agencies to penetrate into diffuse parts of society were greatly undermined by their institutional privatization Shlapentokh ; Tompson ; Taylor , p.

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In particular, this crisis was reflected in an at times egregious loss of social confidence in formal judicial institutions Grzymala-Busse and Luong , as, given the weakness of public agencies, citizens were often inclined to seek remedies for legal problems by private means. This phenomenon was widely described as shadow justice or legal nihilism Tikhomirov One main objective of the legal reforms conducted in Russia since , consequently, was to fight judicial privatism or shadow justice, and, in so doing, to use increased public access to law to stabilize public institutions.

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In particular, litigation was promoted to ensure that citizens were more closely articulated with the political system, and that exchanges between citizen and government took place in constitutionally controlled procedures, thus intensifying the societal authority and the basic capacity of the political system.

Such policies have had visible effects in Russia and they have helped to establish greater formality and immediacy between citizens and the state. The basic fact that litigation has increased shows that formal legal norms have penetrated more deeply into society, and the sphere of interaction between state and citizen has become more robustly constitutionalized. Public opinion surveys have clearly indicated that, at different points in society, people are increasingly willing to resolve their problems in courts, and the penetration of law into society is rising.

Patronage and Politics in the USSR (Cambridge Russian, Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies)

However, it can be seen most clearly in spheres of exchange in which regular justice previously had limited penetration, especially during the institutional collapse of the s. Increased access to justice substantially reduced the areas of society outside the direct control of state institutions, and it clearly extended the reach of formal government bodies.

In assessing the formalization of social interaction through litigation, it is important to bear in mind that there remain significant regional variations in the volume of litigation heard by Russian courts, suggesting that informal justice is still prevalent in some regions. For example, in , citizens in the Far Eastern Federal District of the Russian Federation were the most judicially active.

Moreover, the highest number of claims challenging normative acts and non-normative acts is recorded in the Central Federal District. The lowest rate of overall litigation was in the North Caucasian Federal District, with 60 claims per people. This is the poorest region in Russia, where use of sharia courts is common and clan structures provide important instruments for informal conflict resolution Tsaliev There are also regional variations in human rights consciousness and in approaches to unofficial patterns of dispute resolution. For example, early research Sheregi , p.

Consequently, there is no entirely uniform tendency towards expansion of formal law across all parts of Russian society. Despite this, even such variations suggest that social agents across Russia have become more responsive to formal normative modes of socio-political articulation. Even in regions where formal litigation is less widespread, more informal dispute resolution methods are increasingly incorporated under the general umbrella of the formal legal system.

Further, informal legal practices now only predominate in regions where informal justice is marked by strong cultural institutionalization. For example, in the Chechen Republic unofficial petitions to the president of the Republic remain the dominant mode of dispute resolution. In these different ways, the reforms promoting access to the justice system have extended the normative foundations of the governmental order, so that, in different functional and regional domains, agents across society enter a more immediate relation to the government through litigation.

Central to this phenomenon is the fact that litigation is used as a remedy for specific systemic weaknesses: namely, for low societal penetration of formal institutions. The growth of litigation thus results from systemic policies designed to trigger litigation, through which the use of law is expected to imprint a formal grammar on traditionally unregulated spheres of social exchange. Litigation has acquired a distinctive systemic importance in Russia, further, because of the fragile center-region linkages in Russian society, which historically jeopardized the integrity of the political system as a whole.

As mentioned, the political system in Russia is afflicted by a long history of low societal penetration. One particular symptom of this is that the force of formal governance institutions recedes rapidly outside major political centers, and local actors can easily build up independent power structures. Historically, this has meant, at different times, that political institutions have only been precariously embedded in society, and they have often relied on localized patterns of patrimonial resource distribution to secure support.

In this context, litigation has assumed core capacity-building importance in Russia, and access to law has been promoted for purposes of systemic reinforcement, in order to cement uniform foundations for government in different parts of society Kahn et al. Historically, states that encountered powerful inner-societal enclaves of power and weak center-periphery linkage have normally overcome this, if at all, through national democratic politicization. That is, such states have weakened embedded centrifugal forces through a deepening of competitive democracy and participatory citizenship at a national level, usually through the solidification of political parties and correlated institutional infrastructure, which erode the basis of influence enjoyed by local actors.

These measures include central control of the appointment of the regional governors, with appointments linked to promotion of party interests. Clearly, however, the democratic dimensions of government have not been comprehensively reinforced under Putin, and a strong, integrative party system has not materialized. Under these conditions, litigation is promoted as an important means of political-systemic nationalization, and one reason for the stimulation of litigation is that it is seen to compensate for the weak institutionalization of citizenship practices in other spheres.

Whereas other techniques used to promote the nationalization of Russian society are at least partly authoritarian, litigation contains a strong participatory dimension, and it forms a functional equivalent to more standard democratic citizenship practices. In this respect, the nationalizing function of political citizenship is displaced into the legal system. These policies were intended to create a single legal space across the entire Russian Federation, and to impose the formal law of the Constitution across all parts of society.

The impact of litigation on center-periphery relations results, first, from the general structure of the Russian judicial system, which is strictly centralized, and tends to heighten the cohesion of the political system as a whole. All Russian courts, including justices of the peace are funded from the federal budget. Through its systematization of court practice and plenary resolutions, the Court formulates guiding principles that, although not classified as sources of law, form compelling directives for judges.

Maintaining consistency in judicial practice is thus understood as a common obligation for all members of the judiciary, regardless of their regional location.

This centralizing impact of litigation is particularly visible in the number of appeals considered by higher-instance courts, in which higher courts have overturned lower-court rulings. Rescinding of lower-court rulings in higher courts can be seen as a key component in the construction of a uniform legal system, and it forms a final nexus in which litigation triggers intensified intersection between peripheral parts of society and the core political system. The highest rate of appeals against justices of the peace is seen in Privolzhskiy and Central Federal Districts, while the lowest is seen in the North Caucasian Federal District.

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However, the picture is reversed when it comes to the outcomes of appeals. Therefore, appeals are most successful in regions where informal legal practices are most prevalent. Regional variations in appeal statistics indicate, consequently, that measures for ensuring legal unity are at least partially effective. The impact of litigation on centre-periphery relations results, second, from the fact that administrative litigation, in particular, brings regional agencies more firmly under the control of central government.