Russian History


The Judiciary

The Ministry of Justice administers Russia's judicial system. The ministry's responsibilities include the establishment of courts and the appointment of judges at levels below the federal district courts. The ministry also gathers forensic statistics and conducts sociological research and educational programs applicable to crime prevention.

Many Western observers consider the judicial and legal systems weak links in Russia's reform efforts, stymieing privatization, the fight against crime and corruption, the protection of civil and human rights, and the general ascendancy of the rule of law. Many judges appointed by the regimes of Leonid I. Brezhnev (in office 1964-82) and Yuriy V. Andropov (in office 1982-84) remained in place in the mid-1990s. Such arbiters were trained in "socialist law" and had become accustomed to basing their verdicts on telephone calls from local CPSU bosses rather than on the legal merits of cases.

For court infrastructure and financial support, judges must depend on the Ministry of Justice, and for housing they must depend on local authorities in the jurisdiction where they sit. In 1995 the average salary for a judge was US$160 per month, substantially less than the earnings associated with more menial positions in Russian society. These circumstances, combined with irregularities in the appointment process and the continued strong position of the procurators, deprived judges in the lower jurisdictions of independent authority (see The Procuracy, ch. 10).