This article is a brief sketch of recent development of the doctrine and practice in Russian constitutional and administrative law. The focus is made on the controversial issues of state organization and status of individuals, as well as the realization of legal principles established by the Constitution of the Russian Federation in 1993.

The Constitution of the Russian Federation adopted in 1993 has brought out an essential need for change in the Russian legal and political system. Many principles established by this Constitution were formerly rejected or criticized in the Soviet law (e.g., the principle of separation of powers).

As a result, Russian legal theory today is not based on well developed doctrine, and while rethinking Soviet era legal research seems to be a more intricate task than working out a new legal theory.

During the years since 1993 new legal and state systems have been developing. Changes have affected different spheres. In the beginning, Russian legislation changed very slowly. Five years ago, about half of the statutes in effect were those remained from the Soviet era, being in line with the principles of the Soviet legal and political system.

Some legal institutes in the sphere of the Russian constitutional and administrative law changed several times during these years. Numerous – and sometimes hasty – modifications of legislation were characteristic of this process. For example, election law underwent four reforms since 1993. The system of real estate rights registration has changed three times, excluding minor changes. But the best illustration is still Russian tax legislation. The Second part of the Tax Code (rules for each tax) was amended 28 times during 2004 only! At the same time the total number of statutes increased.

During these years legal practice was also developing. Judicial practice played a great role in this process, particularly the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation. The Soviet legal system did not know this institution would become so important. The Constitutional Court is often compared to a parliament, remembering that its decisions are equal to statutes in every-day practice. As statutes traditionally played main role in the Russian law (as distinct from Common law states), the role of court rule-making (including that of the Constitutional Court) is one of the main themes discussed in the Russian legal doctrine.

Generalizing the problems of the present day Russian Constitutional and Administrative law, it is challenges of the implementation of the legal principles of the 1993 Constitution in Russian legislation, courts and administrative practice that are in the center of polemics.

The period of the 1993 Constitution implementation is still very short. Russia has to adopt the legal principles known to the world constitutional practice and to adjust them to its special needs. Many principles are being interpreted differently, and general problems are being discussed. The issues of urgent importance are discussed below.