WORLD FACTBOOK OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEMS
Ilya V. Nikiforov
Faculty of Law,
Center for Legal Information
This country report is one of many prepared for the World Factbook
of Criminal Justice Systems under Grant No. 90-BJ-CX-0002 from the Bureau
of Justice Statistics to the State University of New York at
Albany. The project director for the World Factbook of Criminal Justice
was Graeme R. Newman, but responsibility for the accuracy of the
information contained in each report is that of the individual
author. The contents of these reports do not necessarily reflect the
views or policies of the Bureau of Justice Statistics or the U.S. Department
1. Political System.
Russia is a federative state. The sources of
law in Russia include the Russian constitution,
Federal constitutional law, Federal laws, and laws
of subjects of federation. Administrative bodies
issue the acts that must comply with the laws.
The Constitution has the preeminent force and
Federal laws cannot contradict Federal
constitutional law. Although court decisions are
not officially accepted as the sources of law in
Russia, the explanatory rulings of the Supreme
Court of Russia usually not only clarify the
application of existing law but also create new
legal rules. Lower courts usually comply in their
practice with the Supreme Court rulings.
The penitentiary system and the
law-enforcement bodies of Russia are headed by the
Ministry of Internal affairs.
2. Legal System.
Russia is a federative state. According to
Section 71 of the Constitution of Russia, criminal
and criminal-procedure law are under the exclusive
jurisdiction of Federal bodies. The assurance of
public order and safety is a joint duty of the
federation and its parts. It should be noted that
acts issued by authorities of the regions and
republics forming Russia cannot contradict the
laws issued by Federal bodies.
The system of courts is governed by the
Justice Ministry of Russia, which has territorial
branches in the federation. This ministry
primarily performs financial and administrative
functions. Judges are independent and make their
decisions according to the rule of law. Higher
courts may affirm or repeal the decisions of the
lower courts according to criminal procedure rules
and may also grant writs of certiorari.
The most important laws originate from: the
Criminal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code, the
Criminal Punishment Execution Code (in Russian it
is called the Reforming Labour Code), Law on the
Justice System, Law on the Militia, and Law on the
Status of Judges.
3. History of the Criminal Justice System.
The criminal legislation of Russia has its
deepest roots in the first known act, Russkaya
pravda, issued in 11th century. The great
codification of Russian criminal legislation
called Sobornoe Ulozhenie occurred in 1649.
Before the revolution the Ulozhenie o nakazaniyah
ugolovnich i ispravitelnich was effective. Texts
of these statutes can be found in Russian
legislation of X-XX centuries. (See source 12).
The Soviet period had a great effect on the
judicial system and up to the present day there
are a number of major laws, including the Criminal
Code and Criminal Procedure Code, that remain in
force. In the summer of 1994, President Yeltzin
approved a draft of the Criminal Code was passed
Although the Criminal Code has been amended
seven times since 1990, reforms in post-Soviet
criminal legislation go rather slowly. For
example, the distinction between State and private
property was removed from the Criminal Code only
in the summer of 1994. Prior to that, the Code
called for more serious punishments for crimes
against State property.
1. Classifications of Crimes.
*Legal classification. There is no crime that is
not indicated in the criminal code. This is the
sole source of criminal legislation. The Code
classifies crimes into two categories: major
offenses, such as rape, kidnapping, treason,
espionage, crimes against the justice system,
serious violent crimes, and murder; minor offenses
such as offenses against property, hooliganism,
and offenses against the public order. This
distinction is used to determine sentencing of
offenders' and the type of correctional
institutions to which they are sent.
*Age of criminal responsibility. The age of
criminal responsibility is 16 years. Persons over
14 years old will bear responsibility only for
murder, major bodily injury, rape, kidnapping,
larceny, robbery, burglary, stealing of firearms
and drugs, malicious hooliganism, and train
catastrophe. The court may impose educational
or reform measures instead of criminal punishment
on persons under the age of 18 who committed a
*Drug offenses. The Criminal code includes a
number of drug statutes which make illegal:
1)unlawful production, transportation, storage,
mailing or distribution of drugs; 2)stealing
drugs; 3)inclination to consume drugs; 4)unlawful
obtaining and storage of a small quantity of
drugs; 5)cultivation of poppy or hemp;
6)organization of haunts for consummation of
The list of illegal drugs was created by the
Constant Committee for Drug Control of the Health
Care Ministry of Russia in compliance with the
Uniform International Convention on Drugs 1961. It
contains more than 400 substances including opium,
morphine, hemp, heroin, cocaine, and codeine. In
addition, there is a list of drastic remedies and
poisons that are illegal to produce, transport,
store, or distribute.
2. Crime Statistics.
The following data were compiled by the
Ministry of Internal Affairs for the years
1989-1993 on the basis of police reports. In 1993
2,799,614 crimes were reported; only 1,395,000 of
them (50.6%) were investigated successfully.
Major crimes constitute 17% of all reported
crimes; crimes against property, more than 50%.
The definitions of crimes comply with the
Criminal Code but are not available in this
1989 1990 1991 1992 1993
Total number of crimes reported
1,620,000 1,890,000 2,200,000 2,700,000 2,800,000
13,543 15,566 16,122 23,006 29,213
Major bodily injury
36,872 40,962 41,195 53,873 66,902
14,597 15,010 14,073 13,663 14,400
*Drug offenses. There were 53,200 drug crimes
reported in 1993, 1.8 times greater than in 1992.
*Crime Regions. No information available.
1) Groups Most Victimized by Crime.
Russian researchers indicate that certain
segments of the population are more victimized by
crime than others. For example, youth and senior
citizens are victimized more often than other
groups. Men are more often the victims of
hooliganism and women, more often victims of
fraud. In 81% of all crime and in 63.2% of major
bodily injuries, the victims were relatives or
friends of the offenders.
The occupations of individuals also effect
whether or not they be a victim of crime. Taxi
drivers, businesspersons or bank employees,
militia officers, and cashiers are considered at
risk in Russia.
In certain cases, some culpability belongs to
the victim. For example, in 40% of all rape cases
and 41% of all manslaughter cases alcohol was
present in the victim's bloodstream.
2. Victims' Assistance Agencies. No information
3. Role of Victim in Prosecution and Sentencing.
A victim may participate in the trial. In
certain cases, for example, in rape cases or in
breach of author's rights cases, the prosecution
can proceed only after a written declaration by
the victim. There are, however, a few exceptions
in which a prosecutor can initiate proceedings. In
these cases a victim cannot stop the proceeding
after the complaint is filed. In contrast,
prosecution in slander and beating cases can be
initiated and stopped by the victim.
4) Victims' Rights Legislation.
Article 30 of the Law on Property, adopted
December 25th, 1990, provides that the state shall
compensate material damage sustained by a victim
from a crime. But in 1993 and 1994, the action of
this provision was suspended because the budget
did not allow for it. Legislation on the defense
of persons participating in criminal procedure is
pending in the Parliament.
The Militia is a public agency, a part of the
executive branch of government. Its tasks are
protecting life, physical health, rights and
freedoms of citizens; protecting property, and
the interests of the state and society from
criminal and other unlawful infringements. The
Militia is authorized to use force to perform its
The Militia forms a part of the structure of
the Ministry of Internal Affairs. It is subdivided
into the Criminal Militia and the Public Security
Militia. The Criminal Militia is subordinated to
the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia and the
ministries of internal affairs of the republics
comprising the Russian federation. The Public
Security Militia is also subordinated to local
The Criminal Militia has the task of
prevention, suppression, and exposure of criminal
offenses that require a preliminary investigation;
the organization of searches for persons who have
escaped from bodies of inquiry; investigations
under judicial bodies involving persons who avoid
the execution of criminal punishment;
investigation of missing persons and of other
persons as the law prescribes.
The Public Security Militia or local militia
has the task of ensuring the personal security of
citizens; ensuring the public security; protection
of public order; prevention and suppression of
criminal offenses and minor delinquencies; the
disclosure of criminal offenses that do not
require a preliminary investigation; investigation
of criminal offenses in the form of inquiry; the
rendering of assistance to citizens, officials,
businesses, establishments, organizations and
An independent police structure is the
Department of Taxation Police. The Taxation
Police are charged with the prevention,
suppression, and exposure of taxation crimes and
infringements; safeguarding taxation inspection,
and protection of the department's officers.
*Expenditures. Annual expenditure on the law
enforcement system in 1994 was approximately
16,000,000,000,000 rubles (US$7,000,000,000).
*Number of police. a) A Special Detachment of
Militia is created for a city with a population
exceeding 300,000 persons. b) A "Watching unit"
with 8-12 officers is created for a town with a
population exceeding 50,000 persons. The average
size for a "watching unit" of a water or a railway
transport internal affairs department is also 8-12
officers. c) The number of corrections officers
employed in a penitentiary that houses people
during pre-trial incarceration depends on the
number of persons incarcerated:
Persons Number of
d) There is one officer of inquiry for every 165
primary materials (or for approx. 50 cases)
brought before the court. e) There is one juvenile
delinquency inspector for every 4,000-5,000
persons under 16. f) There is one inspector per
3,000 vehicles in the automobile inspection unit.
*Availability of police automobiles. Information
*Electronic equipment. Information not available.
*Weapons The militia is authorized to use
firearms, rubber batons, tear-gas, and firehoses.
There is no information on the availability of
bullet proof vests.
4. Training and Qualifications.
To join the militia, a person is required to
pass professional training in specialized higher
or secondary educational establishments of the
Ministry of Internal Affairs or other state
departments. To enter these establishments, a
person must be 18-35 years old, have a secondary
educationand no previous convictions. An officer
serves a probation period lasting from 3 months to
*Use of force. Officers of the militia are
allowed to use physical force, special means, and
weapons. Physical force, including special combat
methods, can be used for prevention of offenses
and delinquencies, detention of offenders, and
overcoming resistance to lawful orders.
Special means include rubber batons,
tear-gas, manacles, special light and sound
diverting means, firehoses, special means for
stopping transport, armoured cars, and patrol
The Militia can use firearms for defense of
citizens, for self-defense, to gain the release of
hostages, to detain offenders, and to suppress
escapes. An officer must inform the chief of the
militia department of every incident involving the
use of firearms no more than 24 hours after the
incident. In 1993, firearms were used by police
officers 2,200 times and 376 criminals were
The use of firearms and special means is
forbidden against women, persons who are obviously
disabled, and persons under the age of 18.
*Stop/apprehend a suspect. A body prosecuting an
inquiry has the right to arrest an alleged
offender if the relevant offense may be punished
by imprisonment, provided that: 1) the person is
detained during the crime or immediately after, or
2) eye-witnesses, including victims, indicate that
the person is the offender, or 3) the suspect or
his clothes bear the obvious signs of the crime,
or such signs can be found with him or in his
home, or 4) when reasons exist to suspect the
person of committing the crime, provided that: (a)
the person tried to escape, or (b) has no
permanent domicile, or (c) cannot be identified.
*Decision to arrest. No information available.
*Search and seizure. If certain documents or
items which are important for further
investigation are known to be at a certain
location or at the disposal of a certain person,
investigators have the right to seize these items
An investigator can perform a search to find
tools used for committing a crime, documents,
valuables, persons, or dead bodies.
Approval by the prosecutor is required to
perform a search, to seize documents which contain
State secrets, or to seize postal and telegraph
*Confessions. No information available.
A person can appeal against the actions of a
militia officer to higher officers or militia
bodies, to the prosecutor, or to the court.
PROSECUTORIAL AND JUDICIAL PROCESS
1. Rights of Accused.
*Rights of the accused at trial. The accused has
the right: 1) to be informed of the nature and
course of the accusation; 2) to give explanations
in the course of accusation; to present evidence;
submit petitions and appeals to the court; 3) to
know the reasons and grounds for arrest; 4) to
examine the materials introduced to the court to
validate the charges; 5) to know the reasons and
grounds for the extension of his incarceration; 6)
to examine the records of pre-trial investigation;
7) to have a Counselor; 8) to reject individual
judges or other trial participants and 9) at the
end of investigation, to examine all materials
pertainng the case and 10) to appeal the actions
and decisions of an investigator, a prosecutor and
or a judge.
A case can be examined by a court
consisting of: 1) a Judge and two Assessors, 2)
three Judges, 3) a Jury, or 4) a Judge alone.
The jury system was just introduced into
Russian criminal procedure and the changes have
not yet taken effect. The jury will participate
in the trial at the discretion of the offender if
he is accused of serious crimes (malicious murder,
treason, acts of terrorism, or offenses against
justice). They will decide only questions of fact,
not questions of applicable law or the sentence.
With a few exceptions, every citizen from 25 to 70
years old can be a juror (Law of July 16th, 1993).
*Assistance to the accused. After the accusation
against him is brought, an accused gains the right
to have a Counselor who must be a member of the
bar association. At the trial the accused can also
have a Public Counselor who is a representative of
the public association or labor collective where
he has worked. Any person can act as Counsel for
the defense, whose duty it is to protect the
interests of the defendant in the court.
An accused can be released from paying
counselor fees by the decision of the court or an
*Preparatory procedures for bringing a suspect to
trial. There are two pre-trial stages: the
institution of proceedings and the preliminary
investigation. 1) The preliminary investigation
consists of a) promulgation of court members; b)
identification of the accused; c) control of
attendance of participants in the trial; d)
explanation of rights to participants in the
trial; e) removing witnesses from the hall and f)
examination of petitions. 2) Court investigation:
a) evidence examination; 3) pleadings which
consist of speeches delivered by the prosecutor,
civil plaintiff, civil respondent, their
representatives, counselors, and the accused
defendant if he does not have a counselor. 4)
Short second pleadings: all participants of the
trial have the right to plea once more. 5) The
final word of the defendant. 6) The participants
in the trial present to the court their
suggestions concerning the sentence. 7) Passing a
*Official who conducts prosecution. An accusation
before the court is initiated by a prosecutor or a
public prosecutor who is a representative of a
public association or labor collective where the
accused had worked.
*Alternatives to trial. Alternatives to going to
trial include transferring the case to the
juvenile commission, transfering it to comrades'
court, use of an official reprimand, and release
If an accused is not mentally fit, a court
can decide to use compulsory medical treatment
instead of penal punishment; compulsory
reformatory measures can be applied if an accused
is under 18.
*Proportion of prosecuted cases going to trial.
No information available.
*Pre-trial incarceration conditions. Pre-trial
incarceration can be used if the punishment for
the alleged offense includes imprisonment of 1
year or more or because of the public danger of
the offense. Approval of the prosecutor is
required for pre-trial incarceration.
*Bail procedure. The accused or any other person
can deposit money to guarantee attendance of the
accused at the investigation and the trial. The
size of the bail is determined by the investigator
and approval of the prosecutor is required for use
of bail. If the suspect or the accused fails to
attend the trial, the bail is turned over to the
*Proportion of pre-trial offenders incarcerated.
The proportion of pre-trial offenders who have
been incarcerated by year:
1983 - 48%
1984 - 30%
1985 - 30%
1986 - 22%
1987 - 17%
The highest judicial body of Russia is the
Supreme or Higher Court of Russia. On the second
level of the court system, are the supreme courts
of the republics comprising the Russian
Federation; courts of territories and regions;
Moscow and St. Petersburg city courts. The third
level of courts consists of the people's courts,
located in the districts and small towns. These
courts process the greatest number of criminal
A separate system of military courts or
tribunals is subordinated directly to the Supreme
*Number of judges. No information available.
*Appointment and qualifications. In order to
become a judge, a person must be a citizen of
Russia, have a certificate of higher legal
education, pass an appropriate qualification exam,
and have a good reputation. He is required to
reach the age of 25 years to be a judge of the
People's Court; 30 years to be a judge of the
court of second level; and 35 years to be a judge
of the Supreme Court of Russia.
In order to become a judge of the court of
second level a lawyer must have 5 years of
practical experience in law. To become a judge of
the Supreme Court, practical experience of 10
years is required.
A judge cannot be a member of the parliament
or other body of State power. He also cannot be a
member of any political party, engage in any
for-profit activity, or have any other paid job except
for artistic or creative work, scientific, or
lecture work. First-time judges are elected for a
5-year period of probation and after that they are
elected to a life term.
3. Special Courts.
Military courts and tribunals examine (1)
cases that involve offenses committed by members
of the military; by other persons during
periodical military training; by officers;
non-commissioned officers, and other ranks of
State security bodies; (2) espionage cases; and
(3) cases concerning malfeasance committed by
officers of the penitentiary system.
PENALTIES AND SENTENCING
1. Sentencing Process.
*Who determines the sentence? According to the
Criminal Procedure Code, the judge alone may
decide a case where the person is accused of minor
crimes, as well as cases where the punishment is
not to exceed 5 years of imprisonment, as long as
the accused agrees. Other cases are decided by a
judge and two peoples' assessors who act as
regular judges and have the same rights to
participate in the determination of the sentence.
The decisions are made by a majority vote in these
cases. The trial may also be conducted by three
professional judges if the accused agrees.
*Is there a special sentencing hearing? The court
gives a sentence after having retired into a
separate consulting room. A sentence is settled
by a majority vote. If a judge has a special
opinion on the case he can file his special
opinion in writing, but is obliged to sign the
sentence. This special opinion is not pronounced
but is open to be read.
*Which persons have input into the sentencing
process? Only members of the court participating
in the current trial can be present at the room
2. Types of penalties.
*Range of penalties. The range of criminal
punishments in Russia includes capital punishment,
imprisonment, fines, reforming works without
imprisonment, publicity, dismissal from office,
deprivation of the right to hold certain positions
or perform certain activities, restitution of
financial damage, and additional punishments, such
as confiscation of property and deprivation of
special military or other ranks.
*Death penalty. According to the new Constitution
of 1993, a capital sentence may be imposed only
for serious violent offenses against human life.
There have been 60 executions per year over the
past few years. Execution is performed by firing
*Number of prisons and type. The penitentiary
system consists of 764 reforming labor
institutions, ispravitelno-trudovich colonii, and
13 prisons. There are 60 educational-labor
institutions for juvenile criminals. Men and
women are confined in separate institutions, as
are adult and juvenile criminals.
*Number of prison beds. Information not
*Average daily/number of prisoners. At the
beginning of 1994 there were over 600,000 persons
in reforming labor institutions of which 21,600
were women and 19,100, juveniles. Of those in
institutions, over half have been convicted of
violent crimes and half are either alcoholics or
*Number of annual admissions. No information
*Actual or estimated proportion of inmates
incarcerated. No information available.
*Administration. The penitentiary system is
governed by the Main Department for Reformation
Affairs which constitutes an integral part of the
Ministry of Internal Affairs.
*Prison guards. No information available.
*Training and qualifications. The penitentiary
system is guarded by Troops of the Ministry of
Internal Affairs. The Internal Troops consist of
all male persons who are called for military
service or who voluntarily sign contracts for such
By 1996 the ministry is expected to organize
special guardian divisions for the penitentiary
system, so that the Internal Troops will no longer
be used for this purpose.
*Expenditure on the prison system. No information
*Number of prisoners awaiting trial. There were
233,500 persons in prisons who were being detained
while under investigation. In 1993, 437,700 men
were detained as alleged offenders in the course
of preliminary investigation and two-thirds of
them were incarcerated.
3. Prison Conditions.
*Remissions. For good behavior and labor, the
convict may be encouraged by premiums and given
permission to spend additional money for food and
everyday goods, permission for additional short
visits up to 4 hours and long visits up to three
days, and permission to receive additional mail
and parcels. In 1993, over 55,000 prisoners were
given the privilege of furloughs.
For excellent behavior and honest labor,
prisoners may be released from part of their
punishment or may be placed in less restrictive
*Work/education. Every prisoner must work.
Prisoners are paid for their labor according to
the quality and quantity of their work and in
compliance with the national economy's standards
and rates. Due to the economic situation in 1993,
over 200,000 prisoners were unemployed - there was
no job for them. The new Constitution prohibits
forced work, but it is not clear whether these
provisions are being enforced.
Juvenile prisoners study to complete the
obligatory secondary education program. Other
prisoners must study to comply with the 8-year
secondary education standard. Those over 40 years
old may study at their own discretion.
*Amenities/privileges. There are hospitals in the
penitentiary. The patients in these hospitals are
treated in accordance with the health care
legislation of the Russian Federation.
EXTRADITION AND TREATIES
*Extradition. To determine the extent of criminal
jurisdiction, the Criminal Code of Russia uses
both the rule of territory (all crimes committed
on the territory of Russia) and the rule of
citizenship (all crimes committed by citizens of
Russia). The authorities of Russia adhere to a
position that alleged offenders should be
extradited to the country that initiated the
proceedings, unless the offender is a citizen of
Russia. The Constitution of the Russian
Federation provides that extradition of alleged
criminals and transfer of prisoners to other
countries is possible on the basis of
international agreements or laws of the Russian
Federation. In no case shall Russia extradite a
person who is accused for his political views or
for actions that do not constitute a crime in
Russia has over 20 bilateral treaties
regarding legal assistance in civil and criminal
cases. They were concluded with most of the former
socialist countries: Albania, Hungary, Poland,
Romania, Yugoslavia, Germany, Bulgaria,
Czechoslovakia, North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam,
Mongolia, the Republics of Moldova and Azerbaidgan
as well as with Iraq, Tunisia, Cyprus, Finland,
Greece, and Algeria. Some of these treaties have
provisions regarding extradition.
In January of 1993, the Commonwealth of
Independent States (CIS) countries signed a
"Convention on legal assistance in civil and
criminal cases". Russia ratified the convention
on August 5th, 1994. The CIS now includes the
Republic of Armenia, the Bielarus Republic, the
Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kirgiz Republic, the
Russian Federation, the Republic of Tadgikistan,
Turkmenistan, the Republic of Uzbekistan, Ukraine,
the Republic of Georgia and Azerbaidgan.
*Exchange of prisoners. On May 19th, 1978, a
group of countries concluded the "Convention On
the transfer of persons convicted for imprisonment
to the country of their citizenship." This
convention is currently in force for Russia.
Current policy is to transfer prisoners to the
country of their citizenship to serve their
*Specific conditions. No information available.
All sources in Russian.
Criminal Code of Russia with commentaries.
St.Petersburg. Severo-Zapad publishing
Criminal Reformation Code of Russia. Moscow.
Juridicheskaya Literatura. 1986.
The report of the Ministry of Internal Affairs
// Rossiiskaya Gazeta, 1994, March 11.
Criminology. Publishing house of St. Petersburg
USSR Supreme Court Bulletin // 1991. N 8.
Criminal activity and criminal offences in
USSR. Moscow. 1990. Editor: Smirnov.
Zhalinskiy A.E. Minkovsky G.M. Criminal
activity in USSR 1989: statistics and
commentaries // Soviet State and law. 1990.
"Convention on legal assistance in civil and
criminal cases", (January 22nd, 1993) //
Vestnic Vyshego Aribtrazhnogo Suda.
1994. N 3.
Kurs Mezhdunarodnogo Prava. Moscow. Nayka
Publishing house. 1992. Vol. 6.
Mezhdunarodnoe Pravo v documentah. Moscow.
Collection of treaties on legal assistance in
the civil and criminal cases. Moscow. 1988.
Rossiskoe zakonodatelstvo X-XX vekov (Russian
legislation of X-XX centuries). Moscow.
1990-1994. vol 1-7.