Russia Government and Politics

State and politics

Russia Country Flag

Reference: Russia Flag Meaning


According to, 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.┬áCheck Countryaah for other countries that start with R.

The Constitutional Court consists of 19 judges, who are proposed by the President and appointed by the Federation Council.


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 above).

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 challengers.

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 shaped.

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.

International relations

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 Security Council.

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 and defense.

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 in 1999.

Human Rights

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 countries surveyed.

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 capital.

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


1991-99 Boris Yeltsin
1999-2008 Vladimir Putin *
2008-12 Dmitry Medvedev
2012- Vladimir Putin

* interim until May 7, 2000.

Prime Ministers

1991-92 Boris Yeltsin
1992-98 Viktor Chernomyrdin
1998 Sergey Kirijenko
1998-99 Jevgenij Primakov
1999 Sergei Stepashin
1999-2000 Vladimir Putin
2000-04 Michail Kasianov
2004-07 Michail Fradkov
2007-08 Viktor Zubkov
2008-12 Vladimir Putin
2012-20 Dimitrij Medvedev
2020 Michail Misjustin

Russia Head of Government

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