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Doctoral defence of Aryna Dzmitryieva, MA, LLM, 9.2.2024: Russian Legal Culture in the Courts and the Judiciary: a Socio-Legal Analysis

The doctoral dissertation in the field of Legislative Studies will be examined at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Business Studies, Joensuu Campus and online.

What is the topic of your doctoral research? Why is it important to study the topic?

This research aims to investigate the underlying causes of the decline of the Russian judicial system by examining its institutional framework, professional norms, values, attitudes towards the law, and patterns of behavior observed inside the legal system. The study of the nature of the Russian judiciary, as well as the selection, recruitment, status, and decision-making of judges, allows for a more nuanced understanding of the explicit and implicit rules, assumptions, and practices that shape the Russian judicial system, as well as the forces that have undermined the establishment of independent and impartial courts, and, finally, a better understanding of Russian legal culture.

What are the key findings or observations of your doctoral research?

The study demonstrates that legislative and institutional changes to the judiciary cannot alone result in an independent and powerful court system capable of preventing authoritarian tendencies. On the contrary, it shows that changes can occur in the opposite direction. The findings of this research make it possible to understand the components of judicial culture. In particular, the study found that, while the formal institutional setup is intended to encourage meritocratic selection from a diverse pool of candidates, in fact, only individuals with backgrounds in state institutions have a realistic possibility of being appointed to the bench. The sustainability of Soviet-style bureaucratic legal profession institutions proved to be more significant than reformers had anticipated. Instead of promoting standards of behavior and professionalism, the court has mothballed itself into three hierarchical levels. As a result of bureaucratization, judges express worries about performance indicators that conflict with moral ideals of justice and human rights.This research provides an opportunity to initiate discussions with decision-makers about Russian legislation, legal culture, and judicial reform. Future policy initiatives can consider how organizational, political, and informal circumstances influence how norms are implemented. A realistic grasp of the judiciary, its organization, and formal and informal practices will enable the development of meaningful judicial reform recommendations.

What are the key research methods and materials used in your doctoral research?

This dissertation integrates qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-methods approaches that are widely employed in socio-legal studies. Specifically, the study uses empirical data collected on the Russian judiciary. The data consist of a novel biographical dataset, two original surveys of judges and law teachers, over eighty semi-structured interviews with judges, court officials, and law professors, and two datasets of civil and criminal cases adjudicated in arbitrazh courts and general jurisdiction courts. The diversity of research methodologies and data employed in this study stems from a combination of two characteristics: the sheer size of Russia's legal system and the employment of various data collection techniques.

The doctoral dissertation of Aryna Dzmitryieva, MA, LLM, entitled Russian Legal Culture in the Courts and the Judiciary: a Socio-Legal Analysis, will be examined at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Business Studies on 9 February 2024 at 12 PM in the Aurora Building, Auditorium AU100. The Opponents will be Professor Emeritus Markku Kivinen, Ph.D., Finnish Centre for Russian and East European Studies, Aleksanteri Institute Helsinki, and Professor, Soili Nystén-Haarala, Ph.D., Faculty of Law, University of Lapland, Rovaniemi, and the Custos will be Professor, Anssi Keinänen, Ph.D., Department of Law, University of Eastern Finland. The language of the public examination is English. The public examination will be streamed live.

The most recents articles included in this dissertation are: 

  • Dzmitryieva, Aryna. Becoming a Judge in Russia: An Analysis of Judicial Biographies. Europe-Asia Studies, 73(1) 2021, p. 131–156
  • Dzmitryieva, Aryna – Bocharov, Timur, The Swan, the Pike and the Crayfish: The Deep Cleavages in Russian Legal Education. Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization 31 (2) 2023, p. 161–196.