Pussy and Other Riots. Russia's Human Rights Revolt in the 21st Century

Thesis (M.A.), 2015

119 Pages, Grade: 5




Chapter 1: From the Past to the Present
1.1 State and Individual: “The Right to Swing the State’s First Ends Where the Man’s Rights Begin?”
1.1.1 The Definition, The Reasons and Some Methodological Controversies: the relationship between the power of state and the rights of individual in the context of the global international affairs.
1.1.2 State and individual: who governs whom?
1.1.3 Where do the people's rights begin and the state's authority end? Historical prospection from the European experience
1.1.4 How the state can be controlled by people themselves: system of mechanisms and regulations
1.2 Is It Possible to Make Russia Less Violent and More Liberal? Or How Did Russia Understand “The Rights of Others” in Her Historical Discourse?
1.2.1 What are the origins of human rights in Europe and Russia? and how do they understand them?
1.2.2 State in power: people’s friend or enemy?
1.2.3 Where is the root of the European and Russian diversity and where is the common ground of their resemblance?
1.2.4 Living in the bipolar world: communism and human rights
1.2.5 Living in the Post-Communist times. Whether is Russia ready to ensure her citizens with the basic political and civil human rights principles?

Chapter 2: Freedom of Speech in Modern Russia. The Pussy Riot’s Case. The Victims of a Political Prosecution or the Hooligans, who Harshly Disrupt Public Order?
2.1 Political resistance or devil's dances?
2.2 Detention. Birds in a cage
2.3 The “tragicomedy” starts. Prelude
2.4 Trial. The scene number 1
2.5 The scene number 2. Culmination
2.6 Final stages. Appeal to the Moscow City Court. Verdict number 2
2.7 Completion. The imprisonment
2.8 Aftermath. The stage is closed: contrition or simply PR?
2.9 The eternal question: Who is guilty? and what to do?
2.10 In search of the Investigators
2.11 Victims or “Spiritual Judges”
2.12 Vladimir Putin and Pussy Riot
2.13 Conclusions. Who is guilty and for what?

Chapter 3: The Duality of Coercion in Russia: Cracking Down on „Foreign Agent“
3.1 How coercion really works in Russia? System of carrot and stick
3.2 The Duality of “the Foreign Agent Law”
3.3 Some sort of discrimination
3.4 How does the state administration constrain NGOs? Reprisals in practice
3.5 The court proceeding over “the suspicious NGOs”. USAID and “Golos” examples
3.6 Conclusions


Annex I. State and Society
Annex II. Russian prospects
Annex III. “Foreign agent”
Annex IV. Elections
Annex V. Persecution of opposition
Annex VI. Religion and State
Annex VII. Russia and the West
Annex VIII. Russia and the USA

Primary sources
official documents
Secondary sources:
official speeches
References to the Internet articles
References to Internet portals


“The sacrifice of human rights is not an imperative of development, but merely a convenience for those, who control development policy (or even simply a cover for their self-enrichment), then repressive regimes are deprived of one important defense of their human rights violations”[1]. Jack Donnelly

Does a single individual have a voice in a world of massive violations, especially in the situation, when his opponent is the state itself? Do the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the dozen of documents following it protect people from the evident abuses of their natural and inalienable rights? What kind of influence an individual’s revolt against the official policy of his own government may exert on the general picture of the human rights dimensions in the whole country? These and the other similar concerns are especially relevant for any country, which is taking serious measures to be a truly democratic state, where the commitments to the fundamental political and social liberties, among which freedom of expression and press, is of an urgent need to lay the foundation of its stable society.

Being the result of a cumulative historical process, the complexity of the relationship between human rights theory and practice may have a particular striking effect, when we consider their applying in the ongoing unsteady geopolitical situation as well as within one defined country.

As long as the legal authority at the level of official dialogue holds to “rules for the game” and addresses any questions arising from “below”, it will be always possible to minimize public discontent on the diversity of routine points. On the contrary, while the basic human rights and liberties are employed only on the paper, overseeing visible limitations on people’s freedom and obvious exaggeration of political power by the certain governmental institutions, it will inevitably lead to the situation, when people become stimulated enough to search for their own “methods” to obtain justice. In this case, demonstrations, revolt, insurrection and rebellion are the only ways to protest against the apparent governmental oppression.

This could be applied to modern Russia with her political stripe of “the personalized Putin’s autocracy”. In her present conditions any attempts by a single individual or a group of people to arrive at “the rightfulness” in the alternative methods, rather than referring to “non-effective” official apparatus, and, therefore, to “penetrate into history and revive it with their breath[2], quite often collide with the evident disapproval from the authority's ideological line.

After several years of the state’s systematic abuses of the primary political and civil rights, the Russian Federation has confirmed her reputation as the country where opposition is usually barred from participating in elections or is harassed, beaten and jailed, their newspapers are obliged to get through the censorship checks, and voters are often miscounted, curbed and manipulated. This can additionally be marked with a quite negative assessment of those people who dared to express their dissatisfaction with the specific mechanisms of civil query formed by the government.

Contemporary Russia, despite her officially recognizable status of “the modern democracy”, casts a great doubt on her “legitimacy”, as well as that her top political elite contribute effectively to its functioning. Taking into account the fact that with the collapse of the USSR and especially with Putin’s coming to power, the present Russian Federation “refused” to accept the loss of her everlasting status of the “Empire” with its whole complex of the repressive methods to keep its own people in the complete obedience and submission to “higher tsar’s will” – any real (or potential) revolt against “official power” is perceived as the attempt to destroy the entire monolith of subordination.

Living in the environment with the increased demand of the practical implementation of the basic human rights principles together with the major liberal ideas, such kind of repressive stance leads only to “birth of anger in the name of truth, snarling rage, brutal and terrible accumulation of the sense of violence, and finally, any ordinary existence become impossible[3]. The ongoing Russian protests against Putin’s system and against “unbearable” existence under the circumstances of the actual execution of the policy called simply “tightening of the screw”, become a substantial theme in the current Russian social and political space.

Due to the growing interest directed at what is “Putin's sovereign democracy” and how he “tolerates” the fundamental human rights principles in relation to the Russian citizens, there are a large number of prominent scholars and notable researchers who paid increased attention to the above-mentioned problems. The main distinguished point between them is just their political affiliation. Some of these “intellectual pundits” are belonging to the group of those, who pose themselves as the fiery defenders of the present Putin's constituent official rhetoric, as Aleksandr Dugin and Igor Panarin, for instance. The opposite side expose themselves predominantly as the oppositions to the ideological stripe Putin leads at the present time, standing firmly on the liberal and democratic background. In this case, Lilia Shevtsova is a good example of the confidential supporter of the “de-Putinization” of Russia.

Being the author of this work, I do not count myself to neither of these camps, trying to observe information about the ongoing human rights dimensions in Russia in a quite objective way.

The ascertaining of the issues about the riots on behalf of the primary human rights and liberties in contemporary Russia are of important practical and academic significance. From the practical point of view, the understanding of the specificity of Putin's approach to the addressing of the current domestic challenges will help to find out how present Russia's government – applying “crackdown” actions at home against its own citizens – is ready to conduct the relationship with her international "partners" at the global scale. In its turn, the academic importance is based on the contribution to the debate concerning the Russian place in the international responsibility regime. It will make the considerable input in the development of the basic approaches to the addressing of the modern human rights challenges over the questions of freedom of speech and the rights to express himself freely without any kind of limitations from the official authority.

My Master Thesis is entitled “Pussy and Other Riots: Russia's Human Rights Revolt in the XXI century”.

The object of the research are certain examples of the human rights revolt (Pussy Riot case and the law on “foreign agent”) in modern Russia as the way to show deep cleavages and discontent between “legal” Putin’s authority and Russian civil society.

The Thesis focuses on the subsequent concerns.

The first one is the revealing of nature of the declared normative principles of human rights in Russia in the diachronic and synchronic aspects and their comparison to the similar human rights standard in the European perception.

The second is a more substantive one: analysis of the practical cases and the identifying of the general dynamics of human rights violations in Russia in the XXI century.

This work also aims to provide answers on the following research issues:

1. What is the specific nature of the Russian state in the matter of human rights and freedoms in its comparison to the European traditions?
2. What are the main reasons of the ongoing political persecution in modern Russia?
3. How do the current Russian “crack down” actions influence on her foreign policy with the other nations?

Each of these queries additionally bring up more specific points that will be indicated throughout the whole thesis. From this position, the work is organized in three chapters. The first part is dedicated to the comparative analysis of state and individual’s rights in the form of the European and Russian historical discourses, considering the peculiarities of their political culture, philosophical theories, values and traditions. Furthermore, it also in a quite detailed manner examines the legal framework and practices used to reflect the contemporary situation with the human rights dimension in Russia under Putin’s reign. The second and the third sections are devoted to the scrutinized investigation of the Pussy Riot case (freedom of speech) and the duality of coercion in Russian in the context of the crackdown policy on “foreign agent” (the law on “foreign agent” against the activity of the independent NGOs). These chapters are followed by general conclusions.

The theoretical propositions and two case studies, thereof, will help to find the answer on the basic research questions, which are grounded mainly on the qualitative analysis. The work was conducted on the basis of historical, analytical, comparative, systemic, normative and prospective methods together with the including of the case study approach. The methodology was deployed as follows. The first chapter is introduced through the applying of the historical, comparative and partially analytical approaches by the exploring of a legal dimension of the adherence to the fundamental human rights taken by the state and its people in the conditions of the Western and Russian historical developments. In the second and the third parts normative, systematic, analytical and prospective methods became useful to make the research of the “true” reasons and the legality of Putin’s crackdown actions employed against the ongoing wave of the oppositional protests, demonstrations and revolts.

It should also be noted, that the starting point of this Master Thesis are the main internationally accepted regulations on human rights. Among them are the political theories of social contracts between the state and its citizens (Tomas Hobbes and John Locke's ideas). The relevant to them political and social culture in Russia (namely, the construction of the human rights approach as the result of the historical compilation of the powerful Asian, Byzantine and later Western influences on the Russian perception of the values of a human being) are also belonging to the primary initial positions of the work. While actual political practices, the series of the recently adopted laws (especially since the beginning of the oppositional protests in 2011) and additional amendments to the Criminal Code could be served as the primary resources for the analysis of the present scale of the evident lawlessness and arbitrariness of the contemporary Putin's government.

Chapter 1: From the Past to the Present

1.1 State and Individual: “The Right to Swing the State’s First Ends Where the Man’s Rights Begin?”

“Human institutions[4] would serve human purposes only if they have been deliberately designed for these purposes and have appropriate apparatus to control their fulfilments”[5] Naomi Moldofsky

1.1.1 The Definition, The Reasons and Some Methodological Controversies: the relationship between the power of state and the rights of individual in the context of the global international affairs.

What role should the official authority play in the life of the individual or the whole nation? Where are the legal boundaries of the government's interference into the private sphere of its own citizens? Does the individual alone have the rights to stand up against the will of the authority in case his life is at stake? These and the other relevant questions have formed the basis for the major political doctrines, with a particular emphasis on the discussion how the government as the institution should be set up and how one should act within its borders to benefit rather than suffer from living in the state.

It may be appropriate to begin with the fundamental concepts, which are expressed by such definitions as “international affairs”, “state”, “government”, “world society or humanity” and “individual” as the coordinative conclusion of this line. In spite of the fact, that term “international politics or affairs” is mainly “embraced to denote only official relationship, that is, relations between states as such, not relations between private institutions or individuals in different states[6], it is worth mentioning that this term is undoubtedly not always used in such a restricted sense. In fact, while the theory of realism refers to the statement, that “the state” is the central and the most common object of the international politics analysis, over the last couple of decades relatively new theories of constructivism and liberalism have already “dared” to challenge this “classical affirmation”.

In contrast to realism, which says that “international affairs are “conducting mostly by the interests of the state itself[7], the constructivist approach puts the main focus on the social context in the certain states between which the international relations occur. Standing firmly on the point, that “the states are not and never have been the only international actors. The importance of non-state actors and the extent of transnational activities are obvious[8] – aforementioned theory traces the root of the international relations to the specificity of a domestic policy, the concrete belief, ideas, mix of history and norms of the determined states. Perhaps partially because of their interest to states' ideologies and beliefs, constructivism has also underscored the considerable role of non-governmental groups in the general process of the worldwide relationship. It means that “international bureaucracies may seek to pursue their own interests (from economic benefits to human rights protection) even against the wishes of the states that created them[9].

Bear in mind this point of view (and in addition to the main purpose of this work), the fact how Russia is “willing” to fulfill her obligations – embodied in a set of political, economic and civil rights adopted as the part of the internationally recognized conventions and treaties – can profoundly influence the picture of how international relations will develop, at least, in the Eastern European region. Regarding the constructivist approach to the peculiar role of the domestic policy in the creation of the entire picture of the global affairs, the way how the Russian Federation treats the rights and freedoms of her own people and what kind of ideas, norm and belief she puts first, will have direct response to how and on which base she is ready to cooperate with the other states at the international arena.

There are two additional statements that argue the importance of “human rights dimensions within the determined state” for the whole complex of international relations. The first one advocates an idea of “world society”, which “conceived of as a social body of the global policy integrated to such an extent that a major political event or distribution in one part of it is likely to have repercussions of varying strength in practically every other part[10]. As long as the defined country pushes “moralistic causes”, while overseeing rigid violations of the primary human rights established by the numerous international treaties at its own territory, there will be no place for the mutual and trustful relationship at the worldwide scale.

The second assertion derives from the liberal international theory that above all based on the proposition “about the effect of democracy, nationalism, social inequality, commerce and international institutions on the world policy[11]. The core assumption of liberalism's methodology is that “the fundamental actors in politics are members of domestic society, understood as individuals and privately-constituted groups seeking to promote their independent interests. In order to put forward their will and desires, the individuals can form a government, whose interests eventually determine the state's policy. Hence, the behavior of countries – and, hence, levels of international conflict and cooperation – reflect the nature and configuration of the people's preferences within the defined state[12]. Therefore, not only states, but also individuals themselves are able to exert profound influence on the international relations.

Consequently, referring to the claim that “the state preferences are shaped and constituted at the domestic level by the political interplay of individuals and groups seeking to maximize leverage at the world policy[13], this argument will be especially relevant in the Russian conditions. As the masses here mostly remain to be always voiceless and only small group of oligarchs manage to control the main “legal order” inside as well as outside the state. By the same token, relying on the constructivism and liberalism approaches, the revealing of the current human rights abuses in Russia – and particularly her discouraging “crackdown policy” – will make the substantial impact on the understanding of how state through the breaking of the human rights law at home, could be able to do the same at the international level.

1.1.2 State and individual: who governs whom?

To avoid any undue confusions over the issues what is the role of the official authority in the whole human rights systems? Does the government favor enough towards the basic needs of its own citizens? Or briefly, who serves whom? It might be appropriate to start with the question “is a state a positive or constructive force with responsibilities that should be enlarged, or is a negative or destructive entity that must be constrained or, perhaps, smashed altogether[14].

The shadow of the state falls upon almost every aspect of human activity. From domestic order to external defense, from social welfare to sanitation, from education to economic management the state shapes and controls, and where it does not do this, it authorizes, supervises, regulates or proscribes. The whole life of individuals is ultimately subject to the authority of the state, which is defined as “a set of institutions that are recognizable “public” and are responsible for the collective organization of social existence[15]. In an attempt to perform its role of the “guarantor of social order”, it comprises the various institutions that embrace the political executive or government, the policy, the courts, the military, the social security system, etc.

It shows that even though in theory the state is portrayed as an independent subject with its aim to serve the common or collective good, the historical experience shows that the state could be effectively subordinated to its own government. In its turn, the government quite often could be biased in a favor of some privilege groups or a dominion class, while “non-elected state bodies (the civil service, the judiciary, the police, the military and so on) in this case, instead of being strictly impartial, frequently are subject to the authority of their politicalmaster[16]. Having been “occupied” by the interests of some governmental representatives, the state eventually loses its function of a “defender” (if it was in general) of the people's rights and interests, converted rather in their “suppressor”.

Proceeding from the realm of civil and political rights – what will be the main object of this work, especially such as the freedom of speech and press – in the case the defined country stands firmly on the basic democratic principles – though in reality seems to pursue the bureaucratic interests of the certain sectors of the state – it will inevitably lead to the rigid social disruptions and deep cleavages within the state itself.

In this context followed by John Locke's ideas of “civilized society”, where “life, liberty and property” belong to the inalienable and self-evident rights of man, over time these arguments maintain the notion, that “human rights are “pre-political”, thus unchangeable and unaffected by cultural or political variation[17]. Drawing on the belief in the primacy of the individual over any kind of official authority, one may suggest that the man is the central to any political or social theory. From this perspective, all assertions about government, as the institution to hold peace and protection of all, should be made in relation to people, who compose it. Such “rugged individualism[18] naturally caused the distrust to the state and most forms of the governmental intervention into the private sphere of its own citizens.

1.1.3 Where do the people's rights begin and the state's authority end? Historical prospection from the European experience

Although interweaving in many areas and sharing similar principles, there are a few different approaches for the explanation of a “specific nature” of the above-mentioned issues. One of the most fundamental of them is the idea of “the state of nature”, which is often linked to origins in Western political philosophy and natural law, developed by such philosophers as John Locke and Thomas Hobbes. Being both the social contract and natural law theorists, their resemblance ends at the understanding of the “nature” of human beings and the role of the state in the upholding of the general order within its borders.

According to John Locke’s reasoning, “to properly understand political power and trace its origins, we must consider the state that all people are in naturally. That is a state of perfect freedom of acting and disposing of their own possessions. People in this state do not have to ask permission to act or depend on the will of others to arrange matters on their behalf. It is evident that all human beings – as creatures belonging to the same species and rank and born indiscriminately with all the same natural advantages and faculties – are equal amongst themselves[19]. They, eventually, have no relationship based on the duties of subordination or subjection to one another, what, in the result, makes no need of any superpower to tell others what they should do.

The evolution towards the promotion of the legal government can be expected only for the reason to protect the people's prosperity and peace against those few, who could violate the natural law. The government, in this case, would be legitimate only through the consent of the governed, and could exist as long as it meets these fundamental necessities of the community. The government, that abuses the trust of people will easily lose its legitimacy and should be overthrown. It follows that, whatever nationality, place of residence, property or any relative status people possess, nobody could harm others in their life, health, liberty, or possessions. These statements contributed later to a creation of so-called “political, civil and economic rights” (the right to speak freely, the right to vote, to practice a religion of one's choice, not to be arbitrarily detained, etc.), which are now endorsed by all governments around the world.

Thomas Hobbes asserted the role of the state in the life of the human beings in a rather opposite way. “As long as men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in the condition known as ‘war’; and it is a war of every man against every man[20]. Peace is obtained only by coming together to create a social contract, whereby men consent to lay down part of their “unalienable” rights to the state with one single governor at the top. Looking for the way not to lose oneself into the constant civil wars, people should submit themselves to the government in the form of monarchy.

Hobbes saw the “state of nature” as a struggle of the personal interests in an environment of anarchy. Faced with a world of enemies, where no rules or regulations to turn to for protection, a concern for power must override just about everything else. To act differently through the pursuing of justice or acting out of compassion, would always leave certain individuals open towards even more severe attack. An absolute authority, therefore, is the only power able to protect people from their selfishness and evil.

As far as they would promote their own self-interest without looking to the principle “Don’t do to someone else anything that you would not want done to you[21], the agreement within society would never work. The full or, at least, partial distribution of power to the individuals would create a dangerous situation of war and make life “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”. Only a complete surrender of all rights to a powerful monarch will keep all individuals in fear and allow for a condition of peace.

Having made a profound constructive impact on the subsequent works in political philosophy, both thinkers gave substantial impetus to the further development of the concepts about the nature of human beings and the principle of their rights. Moreover, their “social contract theory” proved to be “the starting point” for most of the contemporary explanations about the origins of the state-individual interactions.

The importance of those different traditions could be traced back also to the adoption of the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, which under the partial influence of Locke's ideas of “natural rights”, proclaimed that “all men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.

The aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.

The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. No body nor individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation[22], what, with the passage of time, led to “the establishment of the contours of the contemporary consensus on internationally recognized human rights[23].

Yet, though these ideas were actively developed in the twentieth century, at that time the state “did not always run the functions of the servant of people, rather frequently performed a role of their master[24]. Whereas, according to the “social contract theory”, the aim of the state is restricted to the defense of a set of political, civil, economic and social rights, it should act predominantly in the interest of all people through the representing of the common good. In the situation, when government misuses its political power, using its authority to pursue its own interest and, thus, threaten individual's rights as easily as it may uphold them, people should employ some form of protection against it, which can be delivered generally through the mechanism of constitutional and representative organs. However, the historical experience shows that it usually does not look like the same in reality.

Due to the modern political theorists such as Robert Dahl, Charles Lindblom and J.K. Galbraith, “the contemporary states are both more complex and less responsive to public pressures than it was previously. Contrarily, the state can and does forge its own sectional interests[25]. Therefrom, it may not be longer perceived as a “neutral player” inside and outside of its territory. It rather exists side by side with the other subjects of the social relationship. In this way, “state elite, composed of senior civil servants, judges, police chiefs, military leaders and so on, maybe seen to pursue either the bureaucratic points of their sector of the state or somebody’s private interests[26]. If the state is conceived as a political actor with its own rights, it can be regarded as the powerful (maybe even the most powerful) interest group in society.

As the modern historian and political theorist Martin van Creveld stressed “The state - being recognized by law – is capable of behaving as if it were a person in making contracts, owning property, defending itself, and the like. Furthermore, being sovereign, it refuses to share any of the above functions with others but concentrates all of them in its own hands. And, being territorial, it exercises such powers over all the people who live within its borders[27]. The only way to preserve individual’s rights is to proclaim the need to “roll back the frontiers of the state[28] (drawing on the early liberal ideas). In other case, driving forward own interests – or the interests of the certain person, who is on the top of the power – while misusing its obligations to give freedom, protection and all possible political, civil and economic rights to its own citizens, the social disrupt and human rights abuses are seemed to be inevitable in such a state.

1.1.4 How the state can be controlled by people themselves: system of mechanisms and regulations

In the present time, when human rights violations remain widespread, the discourse of human rights continues to flourish. In spite of the fact, that the constitutions of most governments around the world stand on the point, that “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness[29] ; in many countries governments still incline to violate human rights with impunity.

A common challenge to this view is the concept of “legal system”. What one group of the states may consider immutable norms in human rights are not always applicable to others. Claims based on the controversy, that “legal system”, as the notion, characterizes by two different criteria. Firstly, “it is an intersubjective system, designed to apply to all the members of the given human community. Secondly, it is generally encompasses mechanism of enforcement, obligation and coercion[30].

The reason why official government frequently allocated rights to everybody in its society is delegated to its purpose to mitigate tensions between “upper” and “lower” levels of the social structure as the way to reduce the possible risk of civil unrest. On the other side, taking responsibilities for the adherence to primary kinds of human rights and standing on the position of “mutual respect”, government could easily use its authority for its own benefits in every possible occasion. Such dual allegiance, ultimately, “has contributed to the perpetuation of a double standard of moral behavior in which various appeals to human rights obligations remain subordinated tothe national interest[31] or to somebody’s interests, who is on the apex of the power.

It is worth pointing out that the problem also exists in the “huge number of vaguely defined rights in the official legal system of each country, what mainly ends up giving governments enormous discretion. If the government advances one group of rights, while neglecting others, how does one tell whether it complies with the law the best it can or cynically evades them?[32].

Based on the provisions of “the inviolability of property and personal integrity[33] from the possible imposition of the monopolistic authority by the government itself or through its certain representatives, the separation of the political power among the legislative, executive and juridical bodies serves to deprive repressive regimes of one of the substantial defenses of their human rights abuses.

Another way of looking at this issue is going back to the origins of constitution as the “effective barrier to protect the individual against the violence of government, which always prone to the exceeding of its competence assigned by the social contract[34]. Having gone through the process of codifying by the constitutional law, in the current time the protection of human rights is a central “purpose of modern European constitutionalism, and constitutional judges are the agents of that purpose. It means that under certain conditions, constitutional judges construct a discourse, a set of dialogues and collective conversation about the capacities and limits of the use of state power[35].

over the last decades, the function of the constitutional courts in a defense process of the man's rights against governmental encroachments very often can be supplemented by the work of a different kind of non-governmental institutions, whose main activity is devoted to advancing human rights within one particular state or at the global dimensions.

In accordance with the American tradition, the constitution of the free society cannot confine itself only to the separation of power. Instead of this, they have created a specific “checks” system of the reciprocal inhibition for the divided governments, their balancing and blending. Such a construction prevents the expansion of one power at the expense of the others, takes measures to eliminate possible conflicts between the certain political structures and, above all, governs actions that could hinder the violation of human and civil rights. The decentralization of the official power and due process of law are either favorable enough to provide the feeling of security and protection required by its own citizens.

Elaborating on these claims, the last important issue is whether democracy, as the officially established political system, is the truthful guarantor of the abidance of the main human rights ideas?

Standing on the principle to deliver freedom and equality for all, democratic standards allocate clear preferences for “the collective decisions with majority support” or so-called “majoritarian premise[36] , limiting the single individual in his determined personal rights through the creation of specific groups of influence. Moreover, from its earlier time, the concept of democracy originally covers mainly the civil and political rights (freedom of expression, press, assembly, association, the like), whereas economic, social and cultural rights usually suffer a bit from the evident inequality.

Another relevant point, “the exercise of democracy deserves to remain ineffective when its outcome is such that it violates the very rights and liberties for the sake of which democracy itself has been instituted[37]. The main contradiction relies on the position that the protection, afforded by official civil law – as the foundations on which democracy stands on – is not enough where fundamental values and aspects of private life are at stake. The supplementary problem is that democracy, as the political system itself, belongs mainly to the historical legacies of Europe and America, while the rest tend more to follow their own cultural values and original political forms of governing. These differences provide additional opportunities to mislead the general principles of all human beings.

Although democracy is considered as the most “effective system” to ensure the general human rights ideas in work, in reality it contributes only contingently to the realization of the major human rights principles. Even when democracy and human rights are not going into direct conflict, they frequently point in completely different directions.

If the individual is central to any political system, then his rights are inherently defined by who protects or preserves them. Performing the role of a mediator in the people’s relationship, in the “ideal” conditions the functioning of a state should be constrained by what institutional framework allows. Thus, the governmental prerogatives should be modest, and activity is limited by regulatory norms of the society itself. Coercion or obedience can be taken only when they are justified by constitutional law. The main task of the state as such is to create a favorable atmosphere for the realization of the legitimate and integral rights of all.

Nevertheless, in reality, the state frequently acts as the monopolistic force in and of itself, whereas its territory serves to be the space in which serious conflicts are playing out. The only way for man to protect himself from the usurpation power is calling to certain mechanism of representative, non-governmental or constitutional apparatus.

By examining the whole picture of the state behavior regarding main human rights principles, the major point was to clarify how their system of interaction work and to what extent they are able to shape each other's desires and intentions. While European state’s structure belongs more to the “social contract’s type”, in which – despite all possible political turbulences and misusing the power by “the vast majority of officials” – still remains “effective” leverage in the hands of people, that can be used to influence on the governmental decision-making process. Russia, in her turn, tends more to the “hybrid” types. Being officially recognized by the international community as the democratic country, the current events in the Russian Federation are able to doubt this statement quite seriously.

Proceeding from these facts one may wonder how has it happened, that, sharing the larger number of the European territorial space as well as historical events, Russia managed to develop in a completely separate state? Relying on the European and Russian past experiences, the evident issue is whether is it possible for them to find a common base over the point how should the state treat its own people?

1.2 Is It Possible to Make Russia Less Violent and More Liberal? Or How Did Russia Understand “The Rights of Others” in Her Historical Discourse?

“The only security against political slavery is the check maintained over governors, by the diffusion of intelligence, activity and public spirit among the governed”[38]. John Stuart Mill

World history has witnessed many examples of “turning points”, which radically changed the current of events of people’s lives, giving impetus to the creation of something new, previously unseen, or contributed to the restoration of something old in its altered forms. The collapse of the Soviet Union could be attributed to this category, while the “altered form” related to the reconstruction of the previously existing Russian Empire, which nowadays is referred to as the Russian Federation.

Being forced for decades to live under the constant threat of the Asian nomadic tribes invasion, what henceforth has been substituted by the “harsh” tsar's authority with the later powerful influence of the philosophical ideas of the West, Russia eventually gave birth to communism with its cult of personality, censorship and widespread repression. After the breakup of the Soviet Union there was a prediction that Russia would manage to create a robust civil society with a stable democratic principle. However, in the state, which had never been deeply rooted in democratic traditions, such a transition had not necessarily facilitated the protection of generally accepted human rights standards.

Even though Russia has considerably stabilized since 1991, her progress towards a liberal democracy has an air of unreality. Rampant political and legal corruption, lack of transparency, increased governmental control, insufficient public participation have made significant contribution to this doubt. Viewing a lack of effective human rights policy as the impediments to the development of a democratic environment, the crucial thing is to specify Russia’s concern about the individual, his rights and duties by discussing some historical experiences Russia faced throughout the ages.

Subsequently, a number of key issues arose. Are there any commonly recognized human rights ideas in both Europe and Russia? What are the differences in Russian's perception of the individual rights in comparison to the Western nations? And why is Russia still unable to adjust accordingly to the full range of the fundamental human rights principles?

It is better to start from the emphasizing of the basic European and Russian cultural differences as they might pose substantial challenges to the Russian way towards the establishment of the appropriate human rights environment or setting up the government, whose monopoly on power will be limited by the inalienable rights of the individual, constitutions or other fundamental laws. In brief, how a country in transition may hold not only free and fair elections, but also provide the protection of individual liberties in their adherence to the rule of law, which is commonly found in the long-standing democracies.

1.2.1 What are the origins of human rights in Europe and Russia? and how do they understand them?

It would not be true to claim that Russia has never had long human rights traditions; that she always was a half-barbarous and totally backward country in the sense of higher moral principles. Standing on the crossroads of the East and West, Byzantine and Latin civilizations, Russia has incorporated specific elements from each of them. Therefore, the inconsistency of Russian nature is due to the entanglement of Russian history and the clash of the Eastern and Western elements in her. This eventually contributed to the construction of the world, which from its very beginning was built on the constant opposition and dissimilarity. A world, where the Western secularism with its pure rationalism and individualism could be harmoniously combined with the Eastern impulsivity, collectivism and the religious dogmatism.

one notable peculiarity of this historical path is the fact that Russia essentially created a distinguished civilization. Having its own cultural features, Russian civilization differentiated from the others by its views on the relations between the individual and the group, the citizen and the state as well as had the contradictory points about the importance of rights and responsibilities, equality of all before the law, liberty, authority and hierarchy of the government. These differences emerged as the product of centuries, being far more fundamental than the distinction in the political ideologies. As a result, over the ages such a divergence in Russian and European civilizations have generated the most prolonged inconsistency in finding the common ground for negotiations and close cooperation. Instead of this, they continued to deepen their diversity, what has manifested quite significantly especially since the time of Renaissance.

A typical example of those essential differences traced back to the time of the Age of Enlightenment, when the Western world, having “completed” with the religious dogmatism, turned to the rationalism and agnosticism. It finally led to the domination of secularism and individualism with its direct focus on the private sphere of each human beings. In comparison to Europe, Russia has just missed the time of the Renaissance, immersing further in her own social content. Under these circumstances, she accepted a markedly distinct way of thought, where the “religiousness”, as the collective sense, and following it moral principles were the main criterion by which the Russians were judged.

At a more basic level, “Western concept differ fundamentally from those prevalent in other civilizations. Western ideal of individualism, liberalism, constitutionalism, human rights, equality, liberty, the rule of law, democracy, the separation of church and state, often have little resonance in Orthodox Russian culture[39]. Each of these visions recognizes the aspects that Europe and Russia have developed relations between human, religion and authority in rather discrepant ways.

In Western civilization, the secular political power was borne as the result of “compromise between the Church and the official government. None of them has won the winner's laurels. On the contrary, the period of seeking agreement brought in to the eventual determination of the western tradition of the law. Covering all European countries, such “creative engagement” has also approved the new ways to solve possible disputes within society, developed theories of contract law and the concept of property rights, defined the legal boundaries of the using of the state power in regard to any person through the generalization of her inalienable rights and freedoms[40]. These processes has made the European traditional culture more dynamic, converting it into a constant and unchanging phenomenon.

It is also worth mentioning, that “Western” Christianity was reflected in the state institutions of power. Legal procedures and methods were served to mitigate the influence of contradictions between opposing legal norms, while the theological doctrine was associated with the use of such rules and regulations, which would be able to ensure the effectiveness of the accepted law in favor of each citizen.

The Russian historical legacy was quite different. “The soul of the Russian people was moulded by the Orthodox Church. It was shaped in a purely religious mould. And that religious mould was preserved even to our own day. Nevertheless, in the Russian soul there remained a strong natural element, linked with the immensity of Russia itself, with the boundless Russian plain. Russian historians explain the despotic character of Russian government by this necessary organization of the boundless Russian plain[41]. The crucial point here is that the religious energy of the Russian spirit possesses the aptitude of switching over and directing itself to purposes, which are not naturally religious, but to social and political ones. In virtue of their dogmatic quality of spirit, Russians have always been true to type, “both in the seventeenth century as Dissenters and Old-ritualists, and in the nineteenth century as revolutionaries, nihilists and communists. The structure of spirit remained the same[42].

Being always ready to make do with suffering and to make sacrifices for the sake of their faith, the great majority of the Russian masses, with the same sacrifices, were also willing to tolerate all the hardships of life from their ruler, as it was perceived as the Lord's punishment. Following the words of the famous Russian historian A.V. Kartashevsky “there were no clear differences between the power of God and the authority of tsar, what resulted in a formation of the patriarchal consciousness of the inseparability of the political and religious factors. In such conditions, the princes of the ruling family had assumed the role of the God's representatives on the earth, giving preferences to the tsar to further divine rights in his own interests[43]. In simple words, being hopelessly torn between the faith in Lord and the obedience to tsar, Russian moved “effortlessly between universes of extreme morality and extreme tyranny[44].

The lack of a legal basis in church-state relations was additional reasons for legal nihilism deeply rooted in the Russian state and society. Elaborating on these points, “blunt of the legal consciousness of Russian intelligentsia and the lack of interest in legal ideas are the result of Russia’s stale evil, what meant the lack of any legal arrangement in the everyday Russian’s life[45].

As Russian thinker, Alexander Herzen, mentioned in his time, “the calling to the vengeance of injustice within one-half of the Russians has ultimately sown the widespread hatred within the others. Total inequality before the court, killed all respect for the rule of law among the whole Russian society. Russians, no matter whoever they are, used to bypass or break the law if it can be done with impunity[46]. In fact, either people or government can easily deceive one another. There were no guarantee for truth to live in such an environment. The evident question here is does the state in Russia is a “friend” for its own citizens or it fulfill more the role of their “suppressor”?

1.2.2 State in power: people’s friend or enemy?

The obvious reason why European countries and Russia frequently cannot find consensus over the human rights standards lays in the differences of their understanding of the nature of these standards or the means, which are usually used to protect them.

The general atmosphere in Russia differed strongly from the European scenario. In the Russian case, the specificity of the state traditions derived from the geographic inevitabilities of her location in combining with some historic turbulences. While the first factor had made significant influence on a general scene of the governing structure, the second one has generated her character.

To outline these main points, one should start from the Russian structure of the political power, which takes its origins from the time of Golden Horde. Having been for decades under the power of the khan, Russia had essentially changed the complete picture of her historical evolution. On the one hand, “Mongol-Tatar domination severed Russia from the West for centuries, hence, preventing the country from benefiting from the scientific and economic changes that transformed Europe from the time of the Renaissance onward[47].

On the other hand, Russia was the state that “took the role of successor to the Mongol Khan, what after all exerted a great deal of influence in transforming weak and divided appanage Russia into a powerful, disciplined and monolithic autocracy[48].

Russia, in fact, having inherited the dictatorial and authoritarian tendencies of the Mongols, had not given democracy a chance to flourish in her society. The widespread enslavement, at which anyone is not protected against a despotic ruler, with the monopoly power of force and coercion, and the legal nihilism of people's rights, are the common attributes of the Russia's governmental scheme. Hardly any appealed to some significant modification in such a structure, retaining its similar features in the time of Empire, the Communist Republic, and even in the modern Federalist Republic. Drawing on the words of the Russian historian Yuriy Afanasiew, “Russian power derives from the conflict. It is mono subjective construction with one single ruler on the top. In fact, it is “the Asian pyramid”, which is functioning with the aim to oppress and destroy all other entities. Russian authority has genes of the Golden Horde. Its essence has not changed. It has always been oligarchic with the centralized nature[49].

Another key point is the character of power, which, in this case, finds its roots in the Byzantine idea of the peremptory obedience to the tsar's authority, who possessed an absolute and completely unquestioned power over “a divinely sanctioned Christian world-state. With the passage of time such tendencies contributed to the creation of a specific picture of the Russian political culture that was expressed, generally, as Orthodox Christian absolutism[50]. In spite of the numerous attempts to catch up with the Western countries through the absorption of their progressive philosophical doctrines, Russia continued to follow her traditional role of a supreme autocrat-despot.

To draw a conclusion, the contrast in political culture between Europe and Russia was stark, and it reflected the civilizational gap that separated them. While in the Western world the medieval governmental model based on the power of coercion, has been finally replaced by the social contract as the leading way towards the democratization and the respect of human rights; Russia has chosen totally distinctive road. The Russian state has evolved a centralized autocracy, which automatically has rejected any potentials to have a legal voice in such society. Notwithstanding of all these fact, there is still remains the issue is whether is it really possible to talk about the complete incompatibility of the Russian and European values?

1.2.3 Where is the root of the European and Russian diversity and where is the common ground of their resemblance?

Taking into account the specific differences in the nature of cultural values Russia and Western countries are based on, the last, but not the least significant question is whether is it possible for Russia to move in the similar direction as the West?

one set of hypothetical answers to this issue is hidden deeply in the Russian historical legacy of her authoritarian rule and in the weakened influence of the European progressive philosophical doctrines among the Russian masses that undoubtedly, even in the current time, present substantial challenges for human rights reforms in this country.

In comparison to Russia, the Western society has always been more organic in its nature. It went beyond simply the organization of their structure, encompassing the specificity of European character. From its origins, everything in the West was bounded, formulated and arranged in categories. Such coherence, thereof, has quite facilitated the process of communication between elites and peasants; hence, has relieved the whole admitting procedure of the newly emerging reformist ideas. As a result, in time, when Europe was “covered” by the enlightenment concepts of freedom, the right to life and property, the aristocracy as well as the majority of masses glorified them equally, though their interests were driving by the different motives.

Russia had built her social relationship in a rather opposite way. “The Western education among the upper ranks of Russia was alien to her own masses. While the teaching of Voltaire and mystical Freemasonry superficially influenced the Russian ruling class, the ordinary Russians went on living by the old religious beliefs and regarded the gentry as an alien race. The Western impact struck primarily at the masses and strengthened the privileged groups[51]. The economic and social gap between Russia's upper and lower classes, the lack of legal consciousness with the insufficiencies of connectivity within society and the despondency about Russia's social backwardness determined the creation of the dual Russian nature. Being torn between two contradictory forces, one part of Russia had chosen the Western line of development, the rest moved further toward the East. The first group was called Westerners, the other one carried the name Slavophiles.

Despite the fact, that imperial Moscow was characterized mainly by her harsh despotism, “where slavery was widespread and civil liberty counted for nothing[52], it would be not true to claim that Russia had not her own “liberal intent[53]. Like most European countries in the time of Enlightenment, Russia similarly exposed herself to the leading French and English influential philosophy. Followed by Kant "moral imperative" and Hegel's political thoughts, the Russian Westerners openly declared their gravitation towards the rule of law. Drawing on the essence of “conservative liberalism” (ohranitelni liberalism)[54], they noted that Imperial Russia needed to learn how to reconcile freedom with authority and law. In political life this message sounded as “liberal measures and strong authority[55].

By liberalism, the Western group meant, “respect for an individual’s freedom and right to participate in public life. By pursuing private interests (including economic gain) and public concerns, citizens create an independent society not controlled by the state. Strong government, in contrast, is responsible for the political unity of the country and the protection of individual rights through law and order[56].

The rise of awareness of the Westerns' ideas was accompanied by the recognition of needs for legislative consolidation of Russia's civil rights and freedoms. It has later contributed to the drafting of “preliminarily constitutional and political reforms”, that took place at the beginning of the XVIII century. Based on the French Declaration of Civil and Human rights, combining with Russian own experience in this sphere, in 1809 the Western group of liberals in “The Code of the State Law[57] proclaimed a direct move towards the principles of political and civil freedom. The right to vote for aristocracy as well as middle class on the basis of the property qualification has also been devolved. This was the first step to go in the same way as the West did.

With the passage of some decades, a few additional constitutional projects were developed. Having contained sections on political rights and freedoms, they included the rights to participate in public affairs and in public administration. The freedom of association and assembly were likewise transferred to people.

one of most visible Russia's political philosophers Boris Chycherin, in his book “The General State Laws”, pointed on the vital necessity for Russia to establish “the legal base”, on which each civil society stands on. The proposal included such rights as “personal freedom; the inviolability of homes, papers and letters; liberty and security of property; freedom of conscience and speech, comprising in itself the freedom of teaching and freedom of the press; freedom of assembly and associations and the right to petition[58].

As Boris Chychering has stressed “such regulations have not only personal, but also huge political importance. Both oral and written expressions, the rights to assembly, association and petition can be used as the instruments of political activity or, at least, the means to influence the government in its decision. Therefore, they make the transition to the political rules[59].

Putting Russia in the same line with the Western states, part of the Russian cultural circles adhered to the vision of “Russia as the European country, which does not elaborate any previously unknown principles, but develops like others, under the influence of the dominant forces in modern European history[60].

Such ideas gave impetus “for the gradual evolution of political freedom, noting the need for the preconditions of liberty: the separation of government powers, an independent judiciary, a politically conscious middle class, and the broad acceptance of the rule of law[61]. Guiding country further towards the freedom of personality, liberal education, religious tolerance, and the implementation of reforms as a stable ground of a just and free civil society, these progressive segments of Russia, even in such autocratic environment, managed to embody a number of quite democratic changes. Judicial alteration with the following local government reforms in addition to the abolishment of serfdom, adopted in the second half of the XIX century, have eventually led to the establishment of the Manifest of October 17th, 1905. Called as “The Improvements of the state’s order”, it ultimately laid “the unshakable foundations for the civil liberty on the basis of an actual integrity of the person, his freedom of conscience, expression, assembly and association[62].


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[41] Geoffrey Bles. 1960. Nicolas Berdyaev. The Origins of Russian Communism. London, p. 8.

[42] Geoffrey Bles, 1960, ibid., p. 9.

[43] Anton Władimirowicz Kartaszow. 1991. Oczerki po istorii russkoj cerkwi. [ Sketches about Russian Churche's History ] . Tom 1. Moskwa, p. 215.

[44] The Economist. 12 July 2014. Because we’re worth it, p. 48.

[45] Yuri Afanasjew, 2005, ibid., p. 51.

[46] Yuri Afanasjew, 2005, ibid., p. 51.

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[48] Shireen Hunter, Jeffrey L. Thomas, Alexander Melikishvili, 2004, ibid., p. 145.

[49] Yuri Afanasjew, 2005, ibid., p. 41.

[50] Dennis P. Hupchick. 1995. Conflict and Chaos in Eastern Europe. New York, p. 196.

[51] Geoffrey Bles, 1960, ibid., p. 14.

[52] Gary M. Hamburg. 1992. Boris Chicherin. Early Russian Liberalism: 1828 – 1866. Stanford: Stanford University Press, p. 91.

[53] Mark Pomar. 1996. Anatoly Fedorovich Koni. Liberal Jurist as Moralist. University of Pittsburg, p. 13.

[54] Mark Pomar, 1996, ibid., p. 11.

[55] Mark Pomar, 1996, ibid., p. 11.

[56] Mark Pomar, 1996, ibid., p. 11.

[57] Siergiej Smirnow. 2013. Społeczeństwo obywatelskie i prawa człowieka w Rosji. [ Civil socjety and Human Rights in Russia ] in Rosja XXI wiek. Geopolityka, Gospodarka, Kultura [ Geopolitic. Economy. Culture ], eds. Marian Wilk. Łodź, p. 169.

[58] Siergiej Smirnow, 2013, ibid., p. 169.

[59] Boris Chycherin. 2006. Общее государственное право [ General public law ]. Под ред. и с предисловием В.А. Томсинова. Москва, Издательство “Зеркало”, С. 211-212.

[60] Andrzej Walicki. 1992. Legal Philosophies of Russian Liberalism. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, p.119.

[61] Gary M. Hamburg, 1992, ibid., p. 335.

[62] Siergiej Smirnow, 2013, ibid., p. 170.

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Pussy and Other Riots. Russia's Human Rights Revolt in the 21st Century
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