The Chechen war and Russia's transition to democracy
Lavan, Derek M
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The Russian government's handling of the crisis in Chechnya has cast a long shadow over the prospects for Russia's successful transition to democracy. The Chechen war has thrown into stark relief the essential authoritarian nature of the Russian state. Russia is weak in several fundamental principles of democracy: rule of law, constitutionalism, a separation of powers, and an effective system of checks-and-balances. Because of the limited powers entrusted to it by the Constitution, the parliament proved unable to influence the government's decisions relative to Chechnya. In the absence of a Russian legal tradition, the Constitutional Court failed to uphold the Constitution and prevent the executive branch from violating the law during the Chechen war. The Russian government is a quasi-autocracy, in which a small circle of ministers and advisors exercise true power. Ultimate, unaccountable authority resides personally with the chief executive, and the key decision-making center of the Russian government is his Security Council. This body is legally unaccountable, and its decisions relative to the Chechen crisis demonstrated a lack of democratic norms. Through a detailed reconstruction of key events and developments during the Chechen crisis, this thesis demonstrates that Russia's transition to democracy is far from complete
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