December 12: the Constitution Day in Russia

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December 12 is a significant and memorable date of the Russian state, Constitution Day.

On that day, in 1993, the Constitution of the Russian Federation was adopted by popular vote. The referendum was attended by 58 million and 58.4% voted for its adoption. The Constitution officially took effect on December 25th, 1993, on the day of its publication.

December 12: the Constitution Day in Russia

The modern Constitution had a few predecessors: first, it was the Constitution of the RSFSR adopted in 1918, then the first Constitution of the USSR, adopted in 1924, it secured the victory of socialism in the Soviet territory. Then came the Constitution of 1936 and the so-called Brezhnev Constitution of 1977 which was in effect until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The new Constitution of the Russian Federation of 1993 significantly changed the structure of the highest bodies of state power. It fixed the principle of separation of powers, a serious step was taken towards improving the federal structure of Russia. For the first time in the history of Russia, the norms of the Constitution were given direct effect. This means that anyone can protect their rights by referring to constitutional norms, and judicial and other state bodies when considering cases and resolving disputed issues should be guided, first of all, by the norms of the basic law within the Constitution.

The new Constitution did not describe, as it was before, a pre-established unified economic system based on state property, but equally protected all forms of property ensuring freedom of development of civil society.

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The fundamental law proclaimed the President of the Russian Federation the head of state and entrusted him with the responsibility of protecting the Constitution, human and civil rights and freedoms, protecting the sovereignty of the Russian Federation, its independence and state integrity, and ensuring the coordinated functioning and interaction of state authorities.

A binding made of the finest leather of red color, a silver coat of arms of Russia, and the inscription “Constitution of the Russian Federation” embossed with gold – this is the “copy number one” of the country’s main law. The so-called inaugural edition of the Constitution of the Russian Federation is stored in the library of the head of state in the Kremlin.

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Upon taking the office, the President of the Russian Federation swear the oath to the people on a copy of the Constitution of the Russian Federation. The text of the oath is enshrined in Article 82 of the Constitution. All the ceremonies of the assumption of Vladimir Putin as president of Russia (in 2000, 2004, 2012 and 2018), as well as the ceremony of taking the office of President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev (in 2008), were held using that same special copy of the Constitution. This has become a tradition, but is not enforced by law or described anywhere. Since 2000, the President of Russia has the right to swear the oath by laying a hand on any edition of the Basic Law.

Since the first adoption of the Constitution, a number of amendments have been made to the document. One of them is the provision that the President of the Russian Federation is elected for a term of six years, and the State Duma is elected for a term of five years (previously the term was 4 years in both cases).

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For about ten years, starting from 1994, Constitution Day has been an official day off. However, in December 2004, the State Duma adopted amendments to the Labor Code of the Russian Federation changing the holiday calendar of Russia which cancelled the day off on the Constitution Day. Nevertheless, in July 2005, the Constitution Day became one of the memorable dates of Russia.

Also, despite the day off cancellation, on December 12, various events are held throughout the country in honour of the country’s main law. Many of them are held in educational and cultural institutions of Russian cities – events range from law lessons, round tables, thematic presentations and exhibitions, holiday concerts, mass events, rallies to flash mobs and many more.

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