Staunton, February 20 –Konstantin Aranovsky, a judge on Russia’s Constitutional Court, says that the Soviet Union was “an illegally established state” whose authorities bear responsibility for numerus rimes and that the Russian Federation must not be considered the legal successor of the ‘repressive-terrorist actins’ of the USSR.”
The judge’s view, reported by Kommersant three days ago, has no legal force by itself; but it does challenge Vladimir Putin’s insistence on the continuity of Russian statehood from tsarist times through the USSR to the Russian Federation of today and highlights the internal inconsistency of Russian legal opinion about this issue (kommersant.ru/doc/4258690).
Indeed, even Aranovsky wants to have it both ways, arguing that Russia must not be viewed as the legal successor of the USSR with regard to any crimes it committed and for which compensation may be sought but that it should enjoy the benefits of continuity when it comes to things like its seat as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.
Russia may compensate victims of the Soviet system, the judge says, but it does so not as a continuation of the USSR but as a new state that is acting mercifully rather than because f legal liability. His words have sparked debate, with the sides selecting out of his argument what they view as best and rejecting the rest (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5E4CDD944CC3E).
But because his argument does not have legal force and because he like many of his opponents wants to have it both ways, with Russia a continuation of the USSR for some purposes but not for others, it is far from clear whether Aranovsky has opened a real debate or simply raised an issue that is unlikely to go anywhere.