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Modern Russian Criminal Procedure: the Adversarial Principle and Guilty Plea

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Chapter Summary

The 1993 Constitution of the Russian Federation, Article 123(3), declares: "Judicial proceedings shall be conducted based on the principle of adversariness and equality of the parties". This very general, if vague, constitutional language should be read in the political context of the early 1990s, a period when the Soviet system of criminal justice was subject to devastating criticism by liberal, reform minded politicians and lawyers. Usage of the terms "inquisitorial" and "adversarial" criminal proceedings was then-and still remains-politically charged. With the passage of time, the general language of Article 123(3) gradually acquired more specific meaning, first via authoritative jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court and later by the 2001 Code. This chapter provides a brief overview of this process. It focuses on the procedure of guilty pleas, which epitomizes the adversarial principle and represents the most radical break with the indigenous tradition of Russian law.

Keywords: adversarial principle; constitutional court; criminal procedure; guilty pleas; Russian law; Soviet system



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