“Tower of Babel”: a comment to the practice of autonomous interpretation of the provisions of the European Convention and the Russian Constitution

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Author: Pavel Blokhin

DOI: 10.21128/1812-7126-2019-6-106-120

Keywords: constitutional interpretation; family; property; proportionality of restriction; аutonomous interpretation


The genre of the present article can be classified as a commentary on the practice of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation and the European Court of Human Rights, devoted to an identical range of issues. Namely, such issues are the interpretation of the concepts of “family”, “marriage”, as well as the concepts of “possessions”, “property” used in the formulation of basic human rights. While in the first case we are talking about the so-called evolving rights, in the second case – about traditional rights: as a consequence, the approaches to the interpretation of these concepts are expectedly different. The main hypothesis is that the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation, as the European Court of Human Rights, along with tools such as the evolving interpretation (the doctrine of the “living Constitution”) and others, uses the autonomous (constitutional) interpretation. The purpose of this interpretation is to identify the real meaning of the norms and institutions of the European Convention (Russian Constitution), which does not coincide with the meaning that was attributed to them by national legal systems (norms of ordinary legislation). Another hypothesis is that the fundamental differences between the approaches of the two high jurisdictions in this aspect do not happen often. Thus, the author proves that under certain circumstances the objects of unauthorized construction are considered by both courts as the “property” of a person, which entails the endowment of such a person with certain rights and guarantees regarding the fate of these objects. Also, relations of same-sex couples can be viewed through the prism of the right to respect for private (personal) life, despite the fact that protecting them through the prism of the right to respect for family life (right to marry) is faced with significant difficulties. On the contrary, even with a coincident assessment of certain subjective rights as being protected by the norms of constitutional or international law, there are discrepancies in assessing whether the limitations of such rights (measures to implement positive obligations of the state) are compatible with the provisions of the Constitution of the Russian Federation and the European Convention.

About the author: Pavel Blokhin – Candidate of Sciences (Ph.D.) in Law, Adviser to Judge of the Russian Constitutional Court; Senior Lecturer, Higher School of Economics, Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Citation: Blokhin P. (2019) “Vavilonskoe stolpotvorenie”: kommentariy k praktike avtonomnogo tolkovaniya norm Evropeyskoy Konventsii i rossiyskoy Konstitutsii [“Tower of Babel”: a comment to the practice of autonomous interpretation of the provisions of the European Convention and the Russian Constitution]. Sravnitel'noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol. 28, no. 6, pp. 106–120. (In Russian).


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