The Constitution of the Russian Federation: how it was adopted, interesting facts, the essence of the holiday on December 12, 2023

December 12, 2023 is the Constitution Day in Russia. The basic law of the country was adopted by popular vote in 1993. What has changed in the document and what traditions are associated with the holiday – in the material of Izvestia.

How and when the Constitution of the Russian Federation was adopted

The current basic law is the fifth of those adopted. It was approved on December 12, 1993 in a popular vote. The choice in favor of the new Constitution was made by more than a third of citizens. The document has 137 articles and two sections, it defines the foundations of the political, legal and economic systems of the state.

Photo: TASS/Boris Kavashkin

The constitution was drawn up over a period of 3.5 years by more than a thousand people. All the time while the law was being prepared, the new Russia lived according to the old document of the USSR era. In total, 20 projects were proposed, but in the end they chose the joint work of scientists and lawyers under the leadership of politician Sergei Shakhrai, people’s deputy and lawyer Sergei Alekseev, and the mayor of St. Petersburg Anatoly Sobchak. The modern version was preceded by the Constitution of the RSFSR of 1918 and the first Constitution of the USSR of 1924. Then the country lived according to two more supreme legal acts: Stalin’s of 1936 and Brezhnev’s of 1978.

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“The main volume of the Constitution is about the rights and freedoms of man and citizen. If we follow the text of the Constitution, we will see that we have yet to reach the level that is set in it, ”one of the authors of the document, a member of the civil initiatives committee, Sergei Tsyplyaev, told Izvestia.

Do Russians Know Their Constitution?

In 2018 VTsIOM conducted a study, which showed that 23% of citizens are not familiar with the basic law and have never read it, another 69% have a general idea about it. About 6% of people are well oriented in the document. At the same time, a VTsIOM poll from 2017 showed that more than half of Russians consider it necessary to amend the law.

Among the amendments, it was proposed to prescribe the minimum wage and pension, to secure the right to free healthcare and education, and to fix the punishment for corruption.

– Sometimes people simply do not understand what exactly should be written in the Constitution. In the understanding of many, this is “a kind of Talmud in which there are answers to all questions,” Alexei Martynov, director of the International Institute of Recent States, explained to Izvestia.

Photo: Izvestia/Alexander Kazakov

How many amendments were made to the constitution

In total, more than 250 changes were included in the basic law of Russia, which affected the structure of state power, human rights and freedoms, the names of regions, as well as family values ​​and concern for nature conservation. The last amendments were made in October 2022 in connection with the admission of new territories to the country. Similarly, in 2014, changes appeared after the annexation of the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol.

A major revision took place in June 2020. It expanded the powers of the president, parliament and government, and banned officials from having foreign citizenship or residence permits. The amendments also consolidated the state’s social guarantees to citizens: the minimum wage and the mandatory indexation of pensions and benefits.

From left: Head of the Kherson Region Administration Vladimir Saldo, Head of the Zaporozhye Region Administration Yevgeny Balitsky, Head of the LPR Leonid Pasechnik and Head of the DPR Denis Pushilin (left to right) at the ceremony of signing agreements on the entry into the Russian Federation of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, Zaporozhye and Kherson Regions in St. George’s Hall of the Bolshoi Kremlin Palace

Photo: RIA Novosti / Mikhail Metzel

Unusual facts about the Constitution

– The modern version of the Constitution largely corresponds to the Soviet edition of 1978. Historians have found in it similarities with the provisions of the main law of France.

– The Russian republics (and there are now 24 of them) also have days of their own constitutions. So, on November 6, this holiday is celebrated in Tatarstan, on July 26 – in Dagestan, and on April 11 – in Crimea. The republics have the right to their own constitution in Art. 5.

– “Copy No. 1” of the basic law is kept in the Kremlin library. This is the name of the document on which the head of state holds his right hand during the inauguration. The text of the presidential oath is enshrined in Art. 82. From 1996 to 2000, “Copy No. 1” was the official symbol of power.

Vladimir Putin’s hand on the Constitution of the Russian Federation while taking the oath

Photo: TASS / Alexey Panov

– For the first time, the Constitution in Russia was almost adopted during the reign of Alexander I. However, as a result, the emperor refused this decision. Historians partially associate the Decembrist uprising of 1825 with this event.

– In 1999 and 2005, copies of the Russian Constitution went into space. One brochure was on the Mir station, and the other was on board the ISS. The first time she was brought into orbit for a practical purpose: cosmonaut Sergei Avdeev was going to get a law degree and asked for a text to prepare.

How are the Constitution and the Constitutional Court related?

The main goal of such a court is to protect the foundations of the constitutional order, as well as the rights and freedoms of citizens, the supremacy of the fundamental law throughout the country. At the request of the president, senators and deputies, the Constitutional Court gives interpretation of paragraphs of the Constitution.

For example, when in 2013 the ECtHR proposed to amend the main Russian law, the Constitutional Court ruled that Moscow could ignore the decisions of international instances if they contradicted the main document of the country. (The editor of The National Interest Dmitry Simes left a comment on this topic in the Izvestia column.)

“The Constitution has convincingly proven its effectiveness and will remain the reliable legal foundation of the country for many decades to come,” Vladimir Putin stressed in his 2020 speech.

Photo: RIA Novosti / Alexey Danichev

Holiday December 12, 2023 – day off or not

Constitution Day was a holiday for 10 years, from 1994 to 2004. Since 2005, it has been considered simply a memorable and working day, although Russian politicians and senators have repeatedly made attempts to return the status of a day off. On this day, streets and houses are decorated with flags, concerts and light shows are held in the evenings.

The all-Russian reception of citizens is timed to coincide with this day, in which representatives of the authorities answer questions from residents. The holiday has its own tradition: on December 12, Russians who have reached the age of 14 are solemnly presented with passports, and honored lawyers and judges are given diplomas.

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