The long echo of terror: commentary on Russia’s Constitutional Court Judgment of 10 December 2019 no. 39-P

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Authors: Irina Dudko, Olga Kryazhkova

DOI: 10.21128/1812-7126-2020-2-134-143

Keywords: historical memory; housing registration; rehabilitation of victims of political repression; state compensation for harm; transitional justice


In 2019 Russia’s Constitutional Court examined the rights of rehabilitated victims of political repression in the Soviet Union. It was the second such case in 26 years. The Constitutional Court scrutinized two acts: a federal law rehabilitating victim of political repressions and a Moscow law on state housing support. In 1991 Russian law guaranteed the right of returning rehabilitated people to cities from which they or their parents had been deported. In 2005 the Parliament changed the federal law and gave the right of resolving the issue to the Russian regions. After that rehabilitated victims of political repressions couldn’t receive state housing in many regions. Three elder women appealed to the Court. For many years they could not return to Moscow and receive housing. They proved that the guarantee of compensation for harm to the victims of Stalin-era terror was not actually implemented. In the judgment of 10 December 2019 №39-P the Constitutional Court decided that the legislation contradicted the Russian Constitution by making it impossible to receive housing for rehabilitated victims of political repressions. This case was the center of attention of mass media in Russia. The issue is complicated and unusual. The Constitutional Court changed the traditional approach of refusing the rehabilitated victims’ complaints. The significance of the judgment is that the Court made the state’s obligations to compensate for harm to Stalin-era terror victims to its obligations to victims of Chernobyl nuclear power station accident. This article is a commentary on this judgment of the Constitutional Court. The authors discuss the legal significance of the decision, addressing two questions: first, if there is a link between the right to receive state housing and the right to return to cities from which the repressed were sent, and second, what role has the Monetization Act (2004) played in government obligations? They ask what legal changes will follow under the judgment of the Constitutional Court for rehabilitation of victims of political repressions. The authors analyze the development of legal norms and practices of the Constitutional Court and conclude that the decision is aimed at correcting ineffective state policy from the 1990s of social support for the rehabilitated. The judgment could be called an example of the concept of transitional period justice. The authors also note that the significance of the case is not only legal. Its idea is to keep the memory of political repressions in a “soft” textual form and to make possible further public consideration of this issue.

About the authors: Irina Dudko – Candidate of Sciences (Ph.D.) in Law, Associate Professor, Russian State University of Justice, Moscow, Russia; Olga Kryazhkova – Candidate of Sciences (Ph.D.) in Law, Associate Professor, Russian State University of Justice, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Dudko I., Kryazhkova O. (2020) Dolgoe ekho terrora: kommentariy k Po­stanovleniyu Konstitutsionnogo Suda Rossii ot 10 dekabrya 2019 goda No. 39-P [The long echo of terror: commentary on Russia’s Constitutional Court judgment of 10 December 2019 no. 39-P]. Sravnitel’noe konstitutsionnoe obosrenie, vol. 29, no. 2, pp. 134–143. (In Russian).


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