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Liberal Or Authoritarian? How Would You Evaluate The 1993 Russian Constitution? Draw On The Constitution To Illustrate Your Answer

2666 words - 11 pages

Liberal:[adj.] Tolerant of change; not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or tradition or;[n] A person who favours a political philosophy of progress and reform and the protection of civil liberties.Authoritarian:[adj.] Characterized by or favouring absolute obedience to authority, as against individual freedom: an authoritarian regime, or;[adj.] Of, relating to, or expecting unquestioning obedience.To understand the fabric of the Russian constitution approved in December 1993, it is important to appreciate the political turmoil that coincided with its drafting and endorsement. During the early 1990s there was a concerted effort amongst the Soviet regime to reform the 1978 Russian ...view middle of the document...

While there was a fifty-eight percent approval for the constitution, the results were still contested, with opponents claiming Yeltsin had artificially inflated the turnout figures above the mandatory fifty percent required for the referendum to be valid. Even assuming the official figures are accurate, only slightly above thirty percent of the electorate gave their backing to the 1993 constitution. Due to the suspicion about Yeltsin's role in the creation of the constitution, there has been much debate over its ideological grounding.The second chapter of the constitution dealing with human and civil rights is its most perceptible liberal section, especially when considering the human rights violations that were commonplace under the Soviet regime. Article 22 for example prevents the authorities from detaining a citizen for more than 48 hours without a judicial review. While article 27 provides the right for Russian citizens to travel freely around the Russian Federation, and to 'choose his place of stay and residence' thus rendering the propiska residence permits unconstitutional. Continuing on this theme Article 61 states that a citizen of the Russian Federation could not be expelled from the country.The constitution established a series of republics, krais, oblasts and cities of federal significance, within a federal structure. Included in this was a guarantee that while Russian was the state language, the citizens had a right to retain their mother tongue and that 'numerically small' indigenous peoples had equal rights within the federation. Both of these are issues that had been contentious under the Soviet regime. This enabled Russia to become less centre orientated, with more power at the local and regional levels. This devolution of power to lower levels and recognition of a multi-cultural state is a clear step away from the centre dominated authoritarian past of Russia.A reversal of policy from the Soviet era also takes place in the economic rights set out in the constitution. Article 35 provides the right of private ownership, including the entitlement to buy and sell land. Article 8 reinforces this, with the acceptance of economic competition and freedom of economic activity. Combined with Article 34 which stipulated no monopolisation or 'unscrupulous competition' this is clearly a transition from the authoritarian centrally planned economic past of Russia to a new liberal market economy.Despite the liberal approach to the economy, Russia in the constitution defined herself as a 'social state' and clearly favoured a social liberal-democracy rather than the neo-liberal democracy that emerged in America and Britain during the 1980s. The structures of this socio-liberal democracy are evident in the provision of free schooling, healthcare, welfare benefits, worker rights such as minimum wage and maximum working hours and concern towards the environment. There are also fundamentalist scholars though who believe the word 'social' is...

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