Less democracy, more courts: A puzzle of judicial review in Russia

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40 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores why, throughout the 1990s, some Russian regions created their own constitutional courts and others did not. Contrary to current theories that assert that politicians create a strong and independent judiciary to protect them from the tyranny of election-winners in the context of political uncertainty, my analysis finds that constitutional courts emerged only in those regions where governors virtually guaranteed their re-election by consolidating their political power vis-à-vis federal and local governments. The article argues that both federal and regional politicians used the process of creating subnational constitutional courts to legitimize their federalism and judicial reforms. The changes in the balance of power between those governors, who aspired to have their own judicial system, and the federal government that insisted on a single federal judicial system, determined the variation in the process of court-building across Russian regions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)513-548
Number of pages36
JournalLaw and Society Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law

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