State and politics
The Russian Federation is a federal republic. The
Constitution of the Russian Federation was amended on
December 12, 1993, replacing the Soviet Constitution of
1978. The constitution draws clear boundaries between the
executive (the president and the government), the
legislative (parliament) and the judiciary (the judiciary).
The Russian Federation has been criticized for not always
following this division of power in practice.
The 1993 Constitution, together with the political system
of the Russian Federation, gives the President considerable
power. At the same time, the government needs support and
confidence from Parliament. If there is disagreement between
the president and parliament, the president has the decisive
word, according to the constitution.
By an addition to the Constitution in 2008, the term of
office of both the Head of State (the President) and
Parliament was extended. The Russian Federation's
presidential term is now six years, instead of four, as
before. The President may also be re-elected more than once.
The 2008 constitutional change meant that Vladimir Putin
could be re-elected for a fourth term in the 2018 election. Also see AbbreviationFinder for abbreviation of RU and its meanings of Russia.
The Russian Federation consists of 83 administrative and
territorial units, so-called federation subjects,
with different status. The 21 autonomous so-called
republics, as well as an autonomous county (oblast)
and the four autonomous circles (okrug) bear names
of indigenous peoples, which, however, do not always
constitute a majority in the areas. In addition, 46 counties
(oblast), nine territories (kraj) and the
cities of Moscow and Saint Petersburg (federal cities).
The Ukrainian peninsula Crimea, which was annexed in
February 2014, is considered by the Russian Federation as an
autonomous republic, but is not recognized internationally
as part of the Russian Federation. See further Crimea. The
Russian Federation also counts the city of Sevastopol in
Crimea as a federal city, which is also not recognized
nationally. Thus, according to the Russian Federation, there
are 85 federation subjects.
The President has been elected since the 2012
presidential election for a six-year term, in accordance
with the law change made in 2008 (see above). The president
proposes the head of government, which Parliament must,
however, approve, and appoints other ministers on the Prime
Minister's proposal. The President sets guidelines for
domestic policy and is responsible for foreign policy.
Several authorities and ministries are directly under the
President of the Russian Federation, such as the Ministry of
the Interior, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry
of Defense, the Ministry of Justice and the Federal Security
Service and the intelligence service. The President of the
Russian Federation is the supreme commander, but is not
considered a member of the government. The President has the
right to issue decrees with immediate effect. The decree
must not conflict with the Constitution. The President has
the right to dissolve Parliament and to impose an emergency
permit. The President of the Russian Federation must be over
35 years of age and have lived in the Russian Federation for
at least ten years. The president can be dismissed by the
national court procedure.
Parliament, or the legislative and
representative body, is the Federal Assembly of the Russian
Federation, which consists of two chambers. The
Federation Council is the upper house of the Russian
parliament. It consists of 170 senators, two from each of
the federation's all objects of federation. This means that
illegally annexed Ukrainian territories are also represented
in the Federation Council. The Federation Council consists
of representatives who are not directly elected among
Russian citizens. The lower house is called duman
or s tatsumand has 450 members who are elected in
elections with a mixed election system. Half of the members
are elected in one-man constituencies and in proportional
elections. The State Duma was introduced in 1906 and was the
first elected parliament of the Russian Federation. From the
December 2011 election, the duma's term of office was
extended to five years.
The Constitutional Court consists of 19 judges, who are
proposed by the President and appointed by the Federation
Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991,
the Russian Federation has held elections for the
presidential post and for half of the members of the Duma,
the Russian lower house.
The president was previously elected for periods of four
years, but since Vladimir Putin returned to the 2012
presidential term, the term of office is six years (see
Since 1991, the Russian Federation has held three
different presidents. The first President of the Russian
Federation Boris Yeltsin ruled from 1991 until the turn of
the millennium. During the Yeltsin presidential term, the
Russian Federation was characterized by extensive financial
problems. When Yeltsin resigned, dissatisfaction with him
was widespread among the Russians.
Vladimir Putin succeeded Yeltsin in 2000, a post he held
until 2008 when, according to the then constitution, he
could not be re-elected for a third term. This period was
characterized by the rapid and high growth of the Russian
economy, largely due to the Russian Federation being able to
benefit greatly from the internationally high oil and energy
prices. The Russians got a better standard of living, which
helped make Putin more popular.
Dmitry Medvedev was elected President in 2008, a post he
held until 2012. Shortly after Medvedev took office as
President, the so-called Russian-Georgian War began in the
summer of 2008. Medvedev also had to deal with the
international economic crisis that began in 2007. The eight
years of Russian economic success that characterized Putin's
presidency was transformed into an economic decline.
Between 2008 and 2012, Putin, then as prime minister,
could continue to have a strong influence on Russian
politics. In 2012, he was re-elected president. The two
politicians have long been close to each other, but Putin
has so far been the most prominent.
Vladimir Putin returned in 2012 as president after
winning the first round of voting with 64 percent of the
vote. Criticism was raised about how the election was
conducted, both from the opposition and international
election observers from the OSCE. Extensive protests were
held at various locations in the Russian Federation.
Putin's third term in office has been marked by
increasing foreign policy tensions and more international
involvement. At the same time, repression and control have
increased. For example, a law from November 2012 forces
organizations that receive some form of financial assistance
from abroad, such as project grants, to register as
so-called "foreign agents". Putin is running for office in
the March 2018 presidential election and there are no clear
Elections for the duma were held earlier every four
years. These have been organized since 2011 every five
years. Half of the 450 members of the dum are elected in
one-man constituencies and in proportional elections.
The Russian Federation's policy was characterized in the
1990s by strong political polarization in questions of the
direction of economic reforms, the form of the governing
body and foreign policy. The ongoing economic problems have
affected both how citizens voted and how politics was
The December 1993 parliamentary elections were held
shortly after the constitutional crisis between President
Boris Yeltsin and the Russian parliament. Popular protests
took place around the parliament building and a TV station.
Yeltsin was held responsible for deteriorating living
conditions, economic crises and corruption, as well as
widespread problems in, for example, healthcare. Finally,
the Russian military intervened and the street fighting
resulted in many dead and injured.
The 1993 elections were considered a defeat for the
radical liberals. The majority of the Duma consisted of
nationalist and reform-critical parties. The Liberal
Democrat Party, which, despite its name, is considered
conservative, ultranationalist and rebellious, has
unexpectedly had great success in the election.
At the 1995 and 1999 parliamentary elections, the Russian
Federation Communist Party became the largest single party.
Since the 2003 parliamentary elections, the party is the
second largest. Party leader Gennady Ziuganov received
around 30 percent of the vote in the 2000 presidential
election. At the 1996 presidential election, Ziuganov went
on to a second round of elections, but lost to
then-President Boris Yeltsin.
The party system has changed as parties changed their
name or joined new parties. Since 2007, the duma has been
dominated by the Party of Russia, which is associated with
both Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev.
After the 2007 parliamentary elections, the party
received 315 of the Chamber's 450 seats. In the 2011
parliamentary elections, support for United Russia fell by
almost 15 percentage points. With 238 seats, the party still
got the lone majority in the duma. In the 2016 election,
United Russia received a majority of the votes.
The 2007, 2011 and 2016 parliamentary elections, and
especially the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, have
been criticized by both Russian opposition and international
organizations for not having been properly implemented. Only
a limited number of international observers are allowed in
the elections. In some cases, organizations have refrained
from monitoring elections because of difficulties in
conducting proper audits.
Ahead of the 2018 elections, the debate was re-raised
about different types of electoral fraud and difficulties
for the opposition to run on equal terms. Putin ran for
office in the March 2018 presidential election without clear
contenders or political opposition. He won by about 76
percent of the vote.
According to the Russian Federation, turnout was 67
percent, which was immediately questioned by the OSCE and
other organizations. Putin depended on a high turnout to try
to give the election legitimacy. Reports showed after the
election that cheating occurred, which also happened in
previous elections. In the 2018 elections, the voters could
have voted several times because they did not have to vote
in the place they lived in, thus making the turnout seem
higher than it actually was.
According to the Russian Federation, turnout was 67
percent, which was immediately questioned by the OSCE, other
organizations and the opposition in the Russian Federation.
Putin depended on a high turnout to try to give the election
legitimacy. Reports after the election showed that cheating
has occurred, which also happened in previous elections. At
the 2018 presidential election, Russian citizens did not
have to vote in the place they live. Individuals could
therefore, voluntarily or involuntarily, vote more than
once. This made voter participation seem higher than it was.
Other irregularities that affected the election results and
turnout were also noted.
When the Soviet Union disbanded in 1991, the Russian
Federation took over several of the international missions
and positions previously represented by the Soviet Union,
including the Soviet Union's permanent seat on the UN
The Russian Federation is currently one of eleven
post-Soviet states in the CIS, Commonwealth of Independent
States (2018). The regional alliance was formed after the
dissolution of the Soviet Union, focusing mainly on economy
The Russian Federation has been one of the Council of
Europe's 47 Member States since 1996 . The Russian
Federation is one of the 57 states participating in the OSCE
(Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe). Since
1998, the Russian Federation has been a member of APEC, an
international agency to promote trade between the member
states of the Pacific region.
The Russian Federation participates in the Council of the
Baltic States, an intergovernmental cooperation council for
mainly Baltic Sea countries.
The Russian Federation was previously one of the eight
countries of the G8, an informal group consisting of the
world's largest industrialized economies. After the Russian
Federation illegally annexed the Crimean Peninsula in
Ukraine in 2014, the country was excluded and the group
transitioned into G7.
The Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) entered into force in
2015. The five Member States of the Russian Federation,
Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan want to
facilitate the free movement of goods, services, capital and
labor between Member States, a cooperation similar to the
EU's work for a freer internal market. Discussions are
ongoing with other post-Soviet states on membership. Both
the EU and the US have expressed fears that the EAEU may act
as a means of restoring the Soviet Union.
The Russian Federation is not a member of NATO. Vladimir
Putin is negative about NATO's closer contacts with
countries in the Russian Federation's vicinity (compare
Russian Federation: Defense).
The Russian judicial system (legislation, courts, police
and prosecutors) has had a dramatic history. First through
Alexander IIRussia's reforms in 1864 gained Russia an
independent and professional legal force. The Bolshevik
takeover of power in 1917 meant that the trend towards the
rule of law was broken. In order to create a new socialist
legal system, Lenin set up a system of public courts. The
judges at the national courts did not have to have formal
legal knowledge. Soon enough, a hierarchical court system
was introduced with higher courts, but all courts and
judicial appointments worked under the control of the
Communist Party. The autonomous positions of the courts
under communism were accentuated under Stalin, when they
became partly instruments of terror. After Stalin's death,
the terror ceased, but the courts were still an instrument
of political leadership.
First, Mikhail Gorbachev began to reform the judiciary,
and Boris Yeltsin continued the transformation in the rule
of law. The Russian Federation's judicial system is
regulated, among other things. of the 1993 Constitution and
of current procedural and court legislation. Legislation
such as covers the needs of the market economy.
Nevertheless, the legislation is not comprehensive, and it
is often contradictory. It is not always complied with
either. The judges have been given a more independent
position. The appointments to the three highest courts, the
Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court and the Supreme
Arbitration Court, must be approved by the Federal Council.
The Russian Federation has regional supreme courts, and
the various republics have their own supreme courts. In
addition to the possibility of appeal, the legislation
permits a regular audit procedure, which means that
statutory judgments can be revoked. The Prosecutor's Office
largely retains the position it held during the communist
period, which means that - in addition to the task of
leading preliminary investigations and bringing the state's
action in criminal proceedings - it has a general oversight
of the administration and special oversight of courts,
police and prisons. Certain administrative decisions can
also be appealed to the court.
Police operations are divided between the Ministry of
Security and the Ministry of the Interior. Increased
corruption and crime are an increasing obstacle to the rule
of law's implementation in the Russian Federation. The death
penalty remains in the legislation but is de facto abolished
The Russian Federation is still characterized by the
great transition from planning economy to market economy.
With the fall of the Soviet Union, the state social
protection network disappeared and the economic gaps
increased, as did poverty. Today, the Russian administration
is characterized by widespread corruption and inefficiency
and critical voices are often silenced by the authorities.
During the 1990s, liberal press laws were established
that opened up a lively social debate, but during the 2000s
the climate for the free press again deteriorated and
self-censorship became more and more common. Human rights
activists, critical journalists and whistleblowers risk
being subjected to harassment and outright violence. Between
1993 and 2007, 44 journalists were murdered in connection
with their professional practice. On Reporters Without
Borders press freedom map, the Russian Federation shows a
negative trend and in 2015 was ranked 152 out of 180
The climate for LGBTQ people has also deteriorated
seriously. Repressive legislation that bans "gay propaganda"
and which makes gay-friendly logos and the display of the
rainbow flag punishable has been introduced in several
Russian provinces. The Pride Parade in both Moscow and Saint
Petersburg has been subjected to serious attacks for several
years in a row, and as of 2012, gay parades and similar
public actions were declared illegal in the country's
The worst offenses against the civilian population are
committed in the northern parts of the Caucasus on the
pretext of combating terrorism. Although torture and other
cruel or humiliating treatment is prohibited by the Russian
Constitution, it is common practice from the security
forces, for which impunity exists in practice. From
Chechnya, human rights organizations report collective
punishments in the search for terrorists who often hit
relatives of suspects. In the most violent republic of
Dagestan, where the Islamist uprising is at its strongest,
there is the closest civil war with daily casualties.
Women are particularly vulnerable in the North Caucasus,
and in Chechnya, the Chechen government, with Ramzan Kadyrov
at the forefront, has banned women without a veil from
working in the public sector as well as staying in schools
and universities. A widespread notion in Russian society at
large is that domestic violence is a private matter which
makes the situation extra difficult for women and national
action plans to safeguard women's rights are lacking.
Two-thirds of all reported murders in the Russian Federation
are estimated to be the result of domestic violence against
women. Sexual harassment and trafficking in women for sexual
purposes are further examples of the offenses committed
against women in the country. Children are also affected by
the Russian sex industry.
Heads of State
||Vladimir Putin *
* interim until May 7, 2000.