From the history of Russian parliamentarism

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Painting by Ilya Repin “Ceremonial Sitting of the State Council on 7 May 1901 Marking the Centenary of its Foundation”

In accordance with the Constitution of the Russian Federation, the Russian parliament – the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation – consists of two chambers: the Council of the Federation and the State Duma. The bicameral chamber of parliament has deep roots in national history.

Portrait of Mikhail Speransky, 1824

 

Portrait of Emperor Alexander I, 1812

At the beginning of the 19th century, based on instructions from Emperor Alexander I, the outstanding Russian reformer and legal theorist Mikhail Speransky provided an outline of the legislative and representative body headed by the tsar. It was to consist of two chambers – the State Council and the State Duma. In 1810, the State Council was established and became the highest legislative institution of the Russian Empire. Its powers and functions fully corresponded to the powers and functions of the upper chambers of European parliaments. Before being approved by the emperor, all legislative acts had to be discussed in the State Council. This body’s purview also included considering matters related to declaring war and concluding peace. The formation of the State Duma in the 19th century failed.

The law on the establishment of the State Duma in the Russian Empire was only signed in 1905 by Emperor Nicholas II. With a subsequent manifesto in 1906, the emperor stated that “from the time the State Council and State Duma convene, a law cannot take effect without the approval of the Council and the Duma”. In this manner, the idea of creating an all-Russian legislative and representative body was realised: the first Russian bicameral parliament had been created.

The starting point for the establishment of parliamentarism in Russia was April 27, 1906 – the day when the emperor gave a welcome speech to the members of the State Council and the State Duma invited to the Winter Palace. At the same time, there were separate meetings of the State Council (in Mariinsky Palace) and the State Duma (in Tauride Palace). In modern Russia this date is established by federal law as the Day of Russian Parliamentarism. The initiative to adopt the corresponding law came from Chairman of the Council of the Federation Valentina Matvienko and Chairman of the State Duma Sergei Naryshkin. The Day of Russian Parliamentarism was broadly celebrated in the country for the first time in 2013.

From the USSR Supreme Soviet to the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation

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Joint meeting of the CPSU Central Committee, USSR Supreme Soviet and the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR. Moscow, 1970

During the February and October revolutions of 1917, a new system of representative power was formed – the Soviets.

In the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the legislative and representative functions belonged to the Congress of Soviets starting in 1924. For routine work, the Central Executive Committee of the USSR was formed with two chambers – the Union Council in which the union republics were represented proportionally to the population in each of them, and the Council of Nationalities, which was formed on a representative principle: from the union’s republics, autonomous republics and autonomous regions.

The USSR Constitution of 1936 retained the bicameral parliament. A mechanism of conciliation procedures was envisaged in case of disagreements between the chambers as was the ability to dissolve both chambers in the event an agreement could not be reached. The bicameral structure of the supreme representative body existed until the collapse of the USSR.

Adopted by popular vote on December 12, 1993, the Constitution of the Russian Federation stipulated that the representative and legislative authorities in the Russian Federation are comprised of a bicameral parliament – the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation.

Chairman of the Council of the  Federation Vladimir Shumeyko (1994–1996)

Chairman of the Council of the  Federation Yegor Stroyev (1996–2001)

Chairman of the Council of the  Federation Sergey Mironov (2002–2011)

Powers of the Council of the Federation



Meeting of the Council of the Federation

The issues that pertain to the jurisdiction of the Council of the Federation are identified by the Constitution of the Russian Federation.

The Council of the Federation participates in the formation of state bodies: it schedules elections for the President of the Russian Federation; dismisses the President of the Russian Federation from office; appoints judges of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation and the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation; appoints and dismisses the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation and Deputy Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation; and appoints and dismisses the Deputy Chairman of the Audit Chamber of the Russian Federation and half of its auditors.

Other constitutional matters of jurisdiction of the Council of the Federation include: approval of changes to borders between the constituent entities of the Russian Federation; approval of the decrees of the President of the Russian Federation on the introduction of martial law or a state of emergency; deciding whether it is possible to use the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation outside its territory; and appealing to the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation with requests.

As a legislative body of the government, the Council of the Federation: has the right to a legislative initiative, including the right to submit proposals on amendments and revisions to the provisions of the Constitution of the Russian Federation; considers draft laws approved by the State Duma on amendments to Chapters 3–8 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation; and considers federal constitutional laws approved and adopted by the State Duma and federal laws.

The Council of the Federation is required to consider federal laws on matters concerning the federal budget, federal taxes and fees, financial, currency, credit and customs regulation, the issuance of money; the ratification and denunciation of international treaties of the Russian Federation, the status and protection of the state border of the Russian Federation as well as war and peace. The Council of the Federation has the right to approve or reject any federal law it considers.

Members of the Council of the Federation are also vested with the right to make legislative initiatives.

The Foreign Affairs Committee of the Council of the Federation holds consultations on matters concerning the appointment and recall of diplomatic representatives of the Russian Federation in foreign states and international organisations.

The individual powers of the Council of the Federation are enshrined by federal constitutional laws and federal laws. In accordance with these laws, the Council of the Federation appoints the Chairman of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, approves the members of the Presidium of the Supreme Court from among the judges of the Supreme Court, appoints 10 representatives of the public as members of the Supreme Qualification Collegium of Judges of the Russian Federation; appoints five members of the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation; and sends representatives of the Council of the Federation to the National Finance Council and other organisations.

In accordance with the Agreement on the Status of the Economic Court of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Council of the Federation appoints judges of the Economic Court of the Commonwealth of Independent States on behalf of the Russian Federation.

Formation of the Council of the Federation

In accordance with the Constitution of the Russian Federation, the Council of the Federation includes two representatives from each constituent entity of the Russian Federation – one each from the legislative (representative) and executive government authorities; representatives of the Russian Federation appointed by the President of the Russian Federation, the number of which may not exceed ten percent of the total number of members of the Council of the Federation who are representatives of the legislative (representative) and executive government authorities of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation. The President of the Russian Federation cannot dismiss a member of the Council of the Federation who is a representative of the Russian Federation and was appointed before the President took office during the President’s first term in office with the exception of cases specified by federal law.

During the first two years in which the Council of the Federation functioned, an electoral arrangement was used to form the chamber. Elections to the Council of the first convocation were held on December 12, 1993 in accordance with the decrees of the President of the Russian Federation, which stated that the Council of the Federation should include two deputies from each of the 89 constituent entities of the Russian Federation. Deputies were elected for two years on the basis of the majority system in the two-mandate electoral districts formed within the administrative boundaries of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation (one district in the territory of each constituent entity). Candidates for the Council of the Federation were nominated by groups of voters and electoral associations.


Meeting in the Council of the Federation between President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and members of the Council of the Federation. Moscow, 2012

A total of 176 deputies were elected. The deputy corps primarily worked on a non-permanent basis. The first meeting of the Council of the Federation, which was opened by the President of the Russian Federation, was held on 11 January 1994.

The Federal Law “On the Procedure for the Formation of the Council of the Federation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation” took effect on 13 December 1995. Under this law, the Council of the Federation consisted of two representatives from each constituent entity of the Russian Federation (according to position): the chairman of the legislative (representative) government authority and head of the executive government authority. Members of the Council of the Federation combined work in the Council of the Federation their duties in the relevant constituent entity of the Russian Federation.

The new Federal Law “On the Procedure for Forming the Council of the Federation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation” took effect on 8 August 2000. It stipulated that the chamber would consist of representatives elected by the legislative (representative) government authorities of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation and appointed by the highest officials of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation (heads of the highest executive government authorities of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation) for their term in office.

Given that a number of constituent entities of the Russian Federation – the Republic of Bashkortostan, Kabardino-Balkar Republic, Republic of Karelia, Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) and Sverdlovsk Region – have bicameral legislative government authorities, the new federal law stipulated that a member of the Council of the Federation who is a representative from a bicameral legislative government authority of a constituent entity of the Russian Federation is elected alternately from each chamber for half of the term in office of the corresponding chamber.

Starting from January 2011, the procedure for forming the Council of the Federation stipulated that a candidate for election (appointment) as a representative in the Council of the Federation could be a citizen of the Russian Federation who is a deputy in a legislative (representative) government authority of a constituent entity of the Russian Federation or a deputy in a representative body of a municipality located on the territory of said constituent entity of the Russian Federation.

On 21 September 2011, member of the Council of the Federation from the executive government authority of the city of St Petersburg Valentina Matvienko was elected Chairman of the Council of the Federation.

Starting from 1 January 2013, the Federal Law “On the Procedure for Forming the Council of the Federation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation” initiated by President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin took effect. The law aims to expand the role of citizens in the formation of the chamber. According to the provisions of the law, a candidate vying for the powers of a member of the Council of the Federation may be a citizen of the Russian Federation who has reached the age of 30 years and who has an impeccable reputation and has permanently resided in the territory of the relevant constituent entity of the Russian Federation for five years prior to being nominated as a candidate for the Council of the Federation. The provision on the period of permanent residence shall not apply in cases specified by law. A representative of the Council of the Federation from a legislative (representative) government authority of a constituent entity of the Russian Federation may only be a deputy of this body. One of three candidates nominated by the head of a region during elections for the highest official of a constituent entity of the Russian Federation is granted the powers of a member of the Council of the Federation as a representative of the executive government authority of the constituent entity of the Russian Federation.

On 22 July 2014, Law No. 11-FKZ of the Russian Federation on an Amendment to the Constitution of the Russian Federation dated 21 July 2014 “On the Council of the Federation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation” (approved by the State Duma on 23 May 2014 and the Council of the Federation on 28, May 2014) took effect and amended Articles 83 and 95 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation. Under the approved version of Article 95 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, the Council of the Federation not only includes two representatives from each constituent entity of the Russian Federation, but also representatives of the Russian Federation appointed by the President of the Russian Federation, the number of which may not exceed ten percent of the total number of members of the Council of the Federation.

Forms of activities of the Council of the Federation

Orlov Region Days in the Council of the Federation, Moscow, 2016

The Council of the Federation is a permanent body. Its meetings are held as required, but at least twice a month. Meetings of the Council of the Federation are the primary form of the chamber's work. They are held separately from sessions of the State Duma except for when messages are delivered by the President of the Russian Federation, the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation or foreign leaders. Meetings of the Council of the Federation are held in Moscow and are open.


First meeting of the Organising Committee for Holding the Year of Culture in the Russian Federation.
Moscow, 2013

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Meeting between Chairman of the Council of the Federation Valentina Matvienko and winners of the All-Russian School of Olympiad in Law.
Moscow, 2013

The site of a meeting may be changed, and a closed meeting may also be held based on a decision by the Council of the Federation.

The Council of the Federation adopts resolutions on matters that fall within its purview according to the Constitution of the Russian Federation, federal constitutional and federal laws as well as on the organisation of the chamber's activity. The Chamber may make statements or appeals on general political and socioeconomic issues. The Council of the Federation may send a parliamentary inquiry to officials of the government authorities of the Russian Federation, a request to the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation and give instructions to the Audit Chamber of the Russian Federation in the manner prescribed by the Regulation of the Council of the Federation. The Regulation also allows the Chairman of the Council of the Federation to appoint the chamber’s plenipotentiary representatives to federal and other government authorities.

In accordance with legislation, the Council of the Federation works jointly with the State Duma to investigate facts and circumstances that have negative consequences for the public and government.

During sessions of the Council of the Federation, parliamentary hearings, roundtables, seminars and conferences are held in addition to parliamentary meetings. Parliamentary hearings result in the adoption of recommendations and other documents, which are approved by the committee of the Council of the Federation responsible for preparing for and holding the parliamentary hearings or by the chamber’s Council or the Council of the Federation.

At committee meetings, the Council of the Federation gives preliminary consideration to basic and conceptual proposals for the exercising of the Council’s constitutional powers, drafts of federal constitutional and federal laws as well as issues that fall within the purview of the upper house. The Council of the Federation currently has 10 committees.

Members of the Council of the Federation


Valentina Matvienko, Chairman of the Council of the  Federation, representative on the Council of the Federation  from the executive government authorities  of the City of St Petersburg


Nikolay Fedorov, First Deputy Chairman of the Council  of the Federation from the executive government authorities of the Chuvash Republic

The Council of the Federation adopts the decision on the number of Deputy Chairmen of the Council of the Federation. Candidates for the position of Deputy Chairman of the Council of the Federation are proposed by the Chairman of the Council of the Federation from among the members of the Council of the Federation and elected via secret ballot.

The distribution of duties among the First Deputy and Deputy Chairmen of the Council of the Federation is prescribed in accordance with the Regulation of the Council of the Federation by the decree of the Chairman of the Council of the Federation.

Evgeny Bushmin, Deputy Chairman of the Council of
the Federation, representative on the Council of the Federation from the executive government authorities of the Rostov Region


Yury Vorobyev, Deputy Chairman of the Council  of the Federation, representative on the Council of the Federation from the legislative (representative) government authorities  of the Vologda Region


Galina Karelova, Deputy Chairman of the Council of the Federation, representative on the Council of the Federation from the executive government authorities of the Voronezh Region

Ilyas Umakhanov, Deputy Chairman of the Council of the Federation, representative on the Council of the Federation from the executive government authorities of the Republic of Dagestan

Council of the Chamber

The Council of the Chamber is a permanent body of the Council of the Federation that was formed to prepare and consider matters concerning the activities of the upper chamber. The Council of the Chamber includes the Chairman of the Council of the Federation, the First Deputy Chairman and Deputy Chairmen as well as the Chairmen of the Committees of the Council of the Federation. The powers of the Council of the Chamber include: approving schedules for meetings of the Council of the Federation; discussing the degree of preparation of matters submitted to the Chamber for consideration; considering the draft agenda of the meetings of the Council of the Federation; adopting decisions on holding parliamentary hearings; considering and approving the Plan of Inter-Parliamentary Cooperation of the Council of the Federation; resolving other issues in accordance with the Regulation of the Council of the Federation. Members of the Council of the Federation are informed about all matters considered by the Council of the Chamber and the decisions adopted on such matters.

Chairmen of the Committees of the Council of the Federation


Meeting of the members of the Presidium of the Council of Legislators of the Russian Federation with President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin. St Petersburg, 2016

The Council of Legislators is an advisory and consultative body under the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation. It was established to provide coordinated legislative support to implement state policy in delimitating powers on subjects under the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation and subjects under the joint jurisdiction of the Russian Federation and its constituent entities, improve the mechanisms for exercising control powers of the Council of the Federation, the State Duma and legislative (representative) bodies of the government authorities of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation, organise their interaction in the legislative process and exchange experience concerning parliamentary activities.

The Council of Legislators includes: the Chairman of the Council of the Federation, Chairman of the State Duma, First Deputy or Deputy Chairman of the Council of the Federation, First Deputy or Deputy Chairman of the State Duma and the Chairmen of the legislative (representative) government authorities of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation.

The Council of Legislators is headed by two co-chairmen – the Chairman of the Council of the Federation and the Chairman of the State Duma.

In order to ensure the continuity of its activities, the Council of Legislators forms permanent working bodies – the Presidium and the commissions.

The priority tasks of the Council of Legislators are: formulating recommendations to determine the main areas for the development of federal legislation and legislation of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation; ensuring the legislative process is systematic at the federal and regional levels; discussing drafts of the most significant federal laws.

Council of the Federation – Chamber of the regions


Opening of the sixth Nevsky International Ecological Congress. St Petersburg, 2013

The Council of the Federation represents the interests of the regions at the federal level of the legislative authorities, harmonises them with the interests of the federal centre and facilitates the actual involvement of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation in the adoption of the most important state decisions. To this end, the upper chamber is expanding and deepening its ties with the Russian regions in every possible way.

Holding Days of the Council of the Federation in the regions and the Days of the Constituent Entities of the Russian Federation in the Council of the Federation is an important form of this work. Events related to the Days of the Council of the Federation in the regions and the Days of the Constituent Entities of the Russian Federation in the Council of the Federation are attended by the heads and representatives of the regional government authorities, heads and representatives of the federal government authorities, members of the Council of the Federation, experts and scientists. These events include research and training conferences, roundtables and discussions on topical problems of parliamentarism, state building and legislative practice based on which recommendations and other documents are adopted. This all creates broad opportunities for promoting ideas about parliamentarism, helps to acquaint the public with the activities of the Council of the Federation and regional government authorities and helps members of the upper chamber to find effective legislative solutions to problems involving the socioeconomic development of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation.

The Russian Federation

The Russian Federation includes the following constituent entities:

Republics

Republic of Adygea (Adygea), Republic of Altai, Republic of Bashkortostan, Republic of Buryatia, Republic of Dagestan, Republic of Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkar Republic, Republic of Kalmykia, Karachay-Cherkess Republic, Republic of Karelia, Republic of Komi, Republic of Crimea, Mari El Republic, Republic of Mordovia, Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), Republic of North Ossetia – Alania, Republic of Tatarstan (Tatarstan), Republic of Tyva, Udmurt Republic, Republic of Khakassia, Chechen Republic, Chuvash Republic – Chuvashia

 

Territories

Altai Territory, Zabaykalsky Territory, Kamchatka Territory, Krasnodar Territory, Krasnoyarsk Territory, Perm Territory, Primorsky Territory, Stavropol Territory, Khabarovsk Territory

 

Regions

Amur Region, Arkhangelsk Region, Astrakhan Region, Belgorod Region, Bryansk Region, Vladimir Region, Volgograd Region, Vologda Region, Voronezh Region, Ivanovo Region, Irkutsk Region, Kaliningrad Region, Kaluga Region, Kemerovo

Region, Kirov Region, Kostroma Region, Kurgan Region, Kursk Region, Leningrad Region, Lipetsk Region, Magadan Region, Moscow Region, Murmansk Region, Nizhny Novgorod Region, Novgorod Region, Novosibirsk Region, Omsk Region, Orenburg Region, Orlov Region, Penza Region, Pskov Region, Rostov Region, Ryazan Region, Samara Region, Saratov Region, Sakhalin Region, Sverdlovsk Region, Smolensk Region, Tambov Region, Tver Region, Tomsk Region, Tula Region, Tyumen Region, Ulyanovsk Region, Chelyabinsk Region, Yaroslavl Region

 

Federal cities

Moscow, St Petersburg, Sevastopol

 

Autonomous region

Jewish Autonomous Region

 

Autonomous districts

Nenets Autonomous District, Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District – Yugra, Chukotka Autonomous District, Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District

 

The Russian Federation has eight federal districts:

Central Federal District, North-West Federal District, Southern Federal District, North Caucasus Federal District, Volga Federal District, Ural Federal District, Siberian Federal District, Far Eastern Federal District.

International activities

Meeting of the Council of the CIS Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, St Petersburg, 2016

In order to implement the foreign policy of the Russian Federation, the Council of the Federation conducts active international activities, which are regulated by the Council of the Chamber and the Committees of the Council of the Federation. In relations with the parliaments of other countries, international organisations as well as state and public figures from foreign countries, the Chamber is represented by the Chairman of the Council of the Federation, the Deputy Chairmen, the Chairmen and Deputy Chairmen of the Committees of the Council of the Federation as well as members of the Committees of the Council of the Federation involved in international events.

Based on a recommendation from the Chairman of the Council of the Federation, the Council of the Chamber annually approves the plan for inter-parliamentary cooperation, which is put together by all Committees of the Council of the Federation and structural units of the Office of the Council of the Federation.

The Committee on Foreign Affairs (CFA) ensures the Federation Council exercises both representative functions and legislative powers concerning legal support for the foreign policy of the Russian Federation and fulfilment of the state's international obligations. Above all, this entails the chamber’s consideration of federal laws adopted by the State Duma on issues concerning the ratification and denunciation of international treaties of the Russian Federation, the status and protection of Russia's state border, war and peace as well as the exclusive jurisdiction of the Council of the Federation to use the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation outside its territory. One of the chamber’s constitutional duties is to advise on the appointment and recall of Russian ambassadors in foreign states and permanent representative in international organisations.

The foreign policy priorities of the Council of the Federation include deepening integration within the CIS space, the development of the Eurasian process and the approximation of legislation in the post-Soviet space. The Chamber drafts bills to be adopted by the Parliament of the Union State and model legislative acts to be adopted by the Inter-parliamentary Assembly of member states of the Commonwealth of Independent States and other integration associations in which Russia participates. The CFA’s purview includes promoting the development of interregional and cross-border cooperation between the constituent entities of the Russian Federation and municipalities and the implementation of migration policy.

Based on the recommendation of the CFA, the Council of the Federation concludes agreements (memorandums) on inter-parliamentary cooperation with the parliaments (chambers of parliaments) of foreign states, exchanges parliamentary delegations, forms delegations of the Council of the Federation to participate in the events of international parliamentary organisations as well as bilateral cooperation commissions and friendship groups and organises thematic parliamentary hearings and roundtables at which proposals are drafted to improve the effectiveness of Russia’s foreign policy and parliament-based diplomacy. The Chamber maintains regular contacts with parliamentarians from other countries, including as part of joint working groups with foreign parliaments and international parliamentary organisations, including the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of the CIS, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

One of the most important areas of work of the Council of the Federation is the expansion of inter-parliamentary ties with BRICS countries as well as partners in Asia, Latin America and Africa. Particular attention is paid to the support and protection of the rights of Russian compatriots who are interested in preserving their spiritual and cultural identity and maintaining stable ties with their historical homeland.

Other equally important tasks in the activities of the Council of the Federation include developing a dialogue with the countries of Europe and North America, explaining Russia's position on key issues on the international agenda as well as participating in the search for solutions to contentious and conflict issues.

The Office of International Relations of the Council of the Federation handles analytical, reference, information, organisational, protocol as well as passport and visa support for the international activities of the Council of the Federation.


Meeting between Chairman of the Council of the Federation Valentina Matvienko and Chairman of the State Council of the Republic of Cuba Raul Castro. Havana, 2013