Constitutional re-traditionalization in Eastern Europe and Russia

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Author: Andrey Medushevsky

DOI: 10.21128/1812-7126-2018-1-13-32

Keywords: constitutional cycles; constitutional justice; constitutional re-traditionalisation; Eastern Europe; fundamental rights; legal counter-reforms; national identity; parliamentarism; Russia; sovereignty


This article examines the logic of constitutional transformation in countries of Eastern Europe and Russia during the period which started from the fall of Communism in the 1990s and up to the most recent legal and political upheavals. Without question, the initial liberal impulse that inspired the whole democratic transition in countries of the region has been dissolved and substituted by a new conservative political orientation rooted in feelings of alienation, disappointment, inconsistency, and aggressive nationalistic reaction to constitutional modernization. Why has this new trend become so visible in political life and so influential in the current agenda of constitutional counter-reforms, and where are the natural limits for its fulfillment? In order to answer these questions, the author proposes a conceptual framework: a theory of constitutional cycles that reveal the dynamism of legal transformation as the shift of social priorities from the abandonment of an old constitutional model to the reception of a new one with a subsequent phase of constitutional abeyance that potentially could result in a more or less visible restoration of traditional forms and methods of constitutional regulation. This big constitutional cycle is coming to its end in Eastern Europe and Russia, making relevant the analysis of such phenomenon as constitutional re-traditionalisation (or re-constitutionalisation). From this angle, the author presents theoretical grounds for this study, analyses the typology and main characteristic features of the constitutional re-traditionalisation process in countries of the region, the evident and implicit functions in legal and political development regarding such items as the search of new national identity, conservative reinterpretation of fundamental legal rights, authoritarian corrections in the system of separation of powers, the suppression of independent constitutional justice, and public policy regulation. Being an apparent challenge to classic European liberal values, this trend, as the author concludes, has its own logic and limits. The crucial itinerary line in this development is the destiny of political pluralism, the real independence of constitutional justice, and the capability of elites to protect or repudiate these values for their own interests.

About the author: Andrey Medushevsky – Doctor of Sciences (Philosophy), Tenured Professor, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Medushevsky A. (2018) Konstitutsionnaya retraditsionalizatsiya v Vostochnoy Evrope i Rossii [Constitutional re-traditionalization in Eastern Europe and Russia]. Sravnitel’noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, no.1, pp.13–32. (In Russian).


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