Pragmatic Constitutional Court in Russia’s Dual State

This paper analyzes the conduct of the Russian Constitutional Court (RCC) and its chairman, Valerii Zorkin, in an effort to explain its institutional health and longevity in the context of consolidated authoritarianism. We argue that the stability of RCC today seems to have been due in large part to the pragmatic actions of its chairman, who managed to fend off many attacks to protect the tribunal through his interactions with Russia’s leaders. It starts with outlining the three key characteristics of an institutionalized constitutional review tribunal – access and jurisdiction, decision-making autonomy in cases and internal operations, and authoritativeness. Then, it lays out the patterns of conduct of RCC that the two regimes (constitutionalism and political expediency), which are combined in the dual state, anticipate. In this theoretical context, we explore the pragmatism of RCC and its chairman as reflected in its loyalty to Vladimir Putin and in its resilience and activism.