AALS “Hot Topics” Program: Russia’s “Dictatorship of Law”

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3 Responses

  1. A.J. Sutter says:

    As a practical matter, and assuming Putin will win the next presidential contest: would it be feasible for Medvedev to issue a pardon unless he were willing to risk similar treatment to Khodorovsky, once his term expires?

    BTW, thanks especially for bringing Putin’s evocative phrase to light. I’m going to be teaching an undergraduate law seminar about the nature of democracy next year — that one phrase could be good for a whole session.

  2. Matt says:

    A.J.- you might also want to include the other expression for Putinism, “Managed Democracy”. There’s more management than democracy in it, and not a very happy form of management, but it had appeal to many people in Russia for a time. (Less now, maybe, given the recent election results.)

    Some problems w/ pardoning Khodorkovsky would include that it would probably be pretty unpopular, and that because it’s actually not implausible that he’s guilty of most of what he’s charged with. He’s often presented as some good guy in the west, but he was just as much a crook as the rest of the oligarchs. (Sometimes this is presented as meaning that he simply took advantage of inadequate law, and while that’s surely true, it barely touches the surface.) And, while he surely got an unfair trial, that doesn’t distinguish him any interesting way from the vast majority of defendants in Russia. (For comparison, when Eduard Limonov was sent to jail on obviously false charges some years ago, it was hardly covered in the west, and when poor, unknown NBP members are sent to prison for minor offenses on terms not much better than Khodorkovsky’s, it doesn’t register at all. They are, from my perspective, fairly unsympathetic, but this leads me to think the issue w/ Khodorkovsky is more one of PR and elite sympathy than deep issues of justice.)

  3. Jordan J. Paust says:

    Dictatorship indeed!