Monday, June 29, 2020

All Russia’s Regions Should Be Writing Constitutions Rather than Amending Russian One, Vodnyov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 27 – Residents of the Russian Federation shouldn’t be focused on “amending or defending” that country’s basic law but instead should begin to write their own constitutions defining the basis of their status as post-imperial republics, Vasily Vodnyov, an ethnic Russian regionalist now living in Riga, says. 

            To be sure, he writes, “today, Russian ‘national republics formally have their own ‘constitutions, but in reality, they are in no way distinguished from ‘the statutes’ – what a military word! – of the ‘Russian’ krays and oblasts.” Both need to write new constitutions defining their self-standing nature (

            Vodnyov says he is certain that his proposal will strike many as “senseless and ‘too radical.’” But thinking ahead is always a good idea: “All the post-Russian states will need international recognition” and need to develop laws in correspondence with international norms  -- instead of seeking to say the latter don’t matter as the Russian constitution does.

            On the one hand, his proposal is a flight of fancy given Moscow’s ability to block constitutional changes it doesn’t like. But on the other, it is rooted in the experience of some former Soviet republics and especially the occupied Baltic countries which, before 1991, thought long and hard about the constitutional and legal changes they would need to introduce.

            If some in the non-Russian republics and predominantly Russian oblasts and krays begin to think in those terms again, that will make a positive contribution to their development by setting an agenda for demands that could not only transform their territories but also the Russian Federation as a whole. 

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