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The mechanism of complaints has a major impact on the new Russian legal modernization project

  • Economy and society

Complaining to the authorities is a traditional semi-informal way of restoring justice in Russia, which supported authoritarian social contract in times of monarchy and during the Soviet period. It has survived several historical gaps and, in a sense, acts as a thread that stitches together different eras, coexisting with the establishment and modernization of legal institutions, compensating, accompanying, and sometimes substituting for them. In mid-2000s it was re-established in Russia, despite almost two decades of successful legal modernization. The doctoral dissertation of Kandidat nauk Elena Bogdanova aims to examine the following question: Is the development of the Russian complaint mechanism consistent with legal modernization?

Analyzing wide-ranging data and sources collected over 17 years, such as legislation, in-depth interviews, archival materials, original texts, and examples of different methods of complaints in Soviet and contemporary Russia, the thesis demonstrates a transformation of the mechanism of complaints from the pre-revolutionary period to today.

The research presented in the thesis shows that, unlike in previous periods, today the complaints mechanism is functionally redundant. In its ability to restore justice, it duplicates judicial and pre-trial ways of dispute resolution. However, pre-modern features of this institution of the past are actively used for governmental purposes. It supports and legitimizes a sole-leader model analogous to the one supported by the pre-revolutionary version of the mechanism and promotes a new authoritarian social contract between the state and society. 

Allowing both formal and informal regulations, the complaint mechanism not only legitimates informality in the sphere of justice, but it also connects formal and informal rules and blurs the boundaries between them. Pre-modern ability of the mechanism to combine functions of judicature and governance allows the violation of the principle of separation of powers when necessary. Being a part of the legal system, the mechanism of complaints today has a major impact on the new Russian legal modernization project, which includes both legality and informality.

The doctoral dissertation of Ms. Elena Bogdanova, entitled Complaints to the Authorities in Russia: A Trap between Tradition and Legal Modernization, will be examined at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Business Studies on the 6th March 2021 online. The opponent in the public examination will be Emeritus Professor Emeritus Markku Kivinen, and Professor, Docent Soili Nystén-Haarala of the University of Lapland will serve as the custos. The public examination will be held in English.

Public examination online

Dissertation online