Could Courts in Non-Russian Republics Undercut Putin’s Power Vertical and Promote Federalism?
March 23 – A decision by a Kabardino-Balkarian court to allow Circassians with
Turkish passports to remain there despite earlier Russian efforts to expel them
and a call by Chuvash activists to create a constitutional court in their
republic suggest courts in non-Russian republics may undercut Vladimir Putin’s
power vertical and promote Russian federalism.
Putin in his effort to control Russian government at all levels and analysts of
his actions have focused on the legislative and executive branches of political
authority apparently confident in the one case and convinced in the latter that
courts in Russia remain so tightly controlled and thus cannot become a problem
for the Kremlin.
two cases suggest that at least some people in the non-Russian republics of the
Russian Federation, increasingly unable to promote their ideas in the executive
and legislative realms are now turning to the courts, a trend that suggests at
the very least that the judicial branch in those republics may now be the locus
of real politics.
Circassian activists told the Kavkaz-Uzel portal that a court in the
Kabardino-Balkarian capital of Nalchik had found in favor of a group of
Circassians with Turkish passports whom the Russian Federal Migration Service
had sought to deport in the days following the downing of a Russian warplane by
Turkish forces (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/279573/).
court’s decision has been confirmed by Asker Sokht, head of the Adyge Khase
organization in Krasnodar kray, who noted that “the judicial organs of power
had spoken in defense of the rights of compatriots” and that “with regard to
all citizens of Turkey, there had been positive decisions.”
a result, he said, these Circassians “can calmly continue their life in their
historical motherland in Russia.”He
said he wanted to “express his gratitude to all those who did not remain indifferent
and who defended the rights of our compatriots: government employees, public
activists, lawyers, and ordinary citizens.”
this court decision does not have precedential value in the Russian Federation,
it is likely to stimulate Circassians and others to turn to the courts to allow
the return of their compatriots from abroad and to challenge efforts by Moscow
to block such moves as well as to defend the other rights of their communities.
an open letter to the authorities, Ireklekh noted that most other republics
have such institutions but that Chuvashia, along with the Altay Republic and
Crimea, does not. The lack of such a court means, it declared, that there are “frequent
violations of the rights and freedoms of people” and that citizens have nowhere
to complain about unjust government decisions.
Ireklekh’s tract record – the Chuvash authorities have rejected its earlier
calls for boosting the state language of the republic, for re-inserting the
state nature of the republic in the constitution, and for erecting a monument
to the national hero Ulypu – this latest appeal may not succeed.But it is likely to get others to think about
how they might use the courts.