Documents on Democracy

Issue Date Spring 1991
Volume 2
Issue 2
Page Numbers 124-29
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The article by Oleg Rumyantsev beginning on page 35 focuses on the draft Constitution approved by the Constitutional Commission of the Congress of People’s Deputies of the Russian Republic. This document was translated into English in preparation for a Washington-Moscow videoconference on 30 November 1990 that enabled Russian scholars and members of parliament to discuss the draft with American constitutional experts. (The videoconference, organized and chaired by Neil Kritz, was sponsored by the Federal Bar Association Section of International Law, Freedom House, and the National Endowment for Democracy, in cooperation with the American Bar Association Section of International Law and Practice.) Slightly edited excerpts from this translation, which is 71 manuscript pages in length, appear below:

PREAMBLE (see page 38)


Article 1.1 – The Russian Federation is a sovereign, democratic, social, and legal state of the nations that are historically united within its borders . . . . It independently defines and executes its domestic and foreign policy . . . . The state sovereignty of the Russian Federation is indivisible and inseparable.

Article 1.2.1 – The bearer of sovereignty and the only source of state power of the Russian Federation is its multinational people.

Article 1.3.1 – The supreme value is the human being, his life, honor, dignity, freedom, personal sanctity, and natural and unalienable rights.

Article 1.3.2 – Human rights in the Russian Federation are guaranteed in accordance with the universally accepted principles and norms of international law.

Article 1.4.1 – Democracy in the Russian Federation is based on the principle of political and ideological pluralism. [End Page 124]

Article 1.4.2 – No ideology is permitted to be installed as an official state ideology.

Article 1.5.1 – . . . the Russian state is based on the principle of separation of powers: legislative, executive, judiciary; and separation of authority of the Federation, its republics, and local governments.

Article 1.6.2 – The Constitution of the Russian Federation is the Supreme Law of the Republic. Any laws and legal rules contradicting the Constitution are not legally valid.

Article 1.7.1 – The foundation of the economy of the Russian Federation is a social market economy that combines free labor and guarantees of social rights, respect of property . free enterprise, and honest competition.

Article 1.8.1 – The state operates on the principle of social democracy and justice in the interest of the welfare of its citizens and the society.

The main social duty of the state is the creation of conditions for proper living standards of all people and the development of the creative potential of each person . . . .

Article 1.9.3 – The Russian Federation and all entities included in its territory respect and guarantee the rights of all nationalities . . . .

Article 1.10.1 – The Russian Federation may voluntarily unite with other states into a Union (Commonwealth) on the basis of treaty . . . .

Article 1.10.2 – The sovereignty of the Russian Federation remains unshakable. The Russian Federation retains the right freely to leave a Union (Commonwealth).


Article – Citizens of the Russian Federation within its territory are guaranteed equal rights and liberties regardless of race, nationality, language, social origin, ownership status, position, residency, religion, party membership, and former incarceration.

Article – Men and women have equal rights and liberties.

Article 2.1.4 – Exercising one’s rights and liberties should not infringe on the interests and rights of other persons, and it should not be directed to overthrowing the existing constitutional system, to stirring up religious, social, class, and national intolerance, and to war propaganda.

Article 2.3.2 – . . . Everybody has protection from arbitrary encroachment by the state, society, and individuals on personal and family life. Personal correspondence, telephone conversations, and other information must remain secret . . . .

Article – Every citizen of the Russian Federation has freedom of movement and . . . place of residence within the Russian Federation. Citizens have the fight to leave the Russian Federation and return.

Article – Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, belief, and free expression of this belief . . . . [End Page 125]

Article 2.3.8 – Freedom of conscience, religion, and religious activity is an unalienable right of man.

Article 2.4.3 – Citizens are guaranteed freedom of association, including formation of political parties, trade unions, and other public organizations within the framework of federal laws . . . .

Article 2.5.1 – Each citizen has the right to own property, which includes the right of ownership, use, and disposal of such property.

Article 2.5.3 – The Russian Federation guarantees everyone fair and favorable working conditions, including fair and equal payment for labor of equal value without any discrimination, and not less than the minimum wage prescribed by law . . . .

Article 2.5.7 – Citizens of the Russian Federation are entitled to obtain financial compensation for old age, sickness, disability, and in case of the loss of the breadwinner . . . .

Article – Any person accused of a criminal offense is considered to be innocent until proven guilty in accordance with the law . . . .

Article 2.7.1 – Citizens of the Russian Federation are obliged to observe the Constitution and the laws of the republic, and to respect the rights, liberties, and dignity of other people.

Article 2.7.2 – Citizens of the Russian Federation are obliged to protect the environment . . . .

Article 2.7.4 – Citizens of the Russian Federation are obliged to participate in defense of the Federation against outside invasion . . . .


Article – The right to strike is recognized . . . .

Article – Freedom of enterprise is recognized and guaranteed by law.

Article – Parents are obliged to take care of their children born through a legal marriage or out of wedlock until their legal age . . . .

Article 3.2.7 – Adult children are obliged to care for their parents . . . .

Article 3.3.5 – Institutions of higher and secondary education are autonomous . . . .

Article 3.4.1 – The mass media are free. Censorship is prohibited.

Article 3.5.1 – Religion and religious associations are separated from the state.

Article – Political parties and other public associations operate freely. Restrictions on their activity may be imposed only by courts.


Article 4.1.1 – The Russian Federation consists of national and regional state entities which have the constitutional-legal status of . . . republics (lands) and federal territories.

Article – The republics included in the Russian Federation adopt constitutions, promulgate laws, and form their own systems of state [End Page 126] bodies. Their constitution and republican laws should not contradict the Constitution of the Russian Federation.

Article – Federal territories are guided both by the Constitution of the Russian Federation and by the laws of federal territories.


[Editors’ note: In this Section, the draft contains two alternate versions on the legislative and executive branches. Both versions feature a popularly elected president and a bicameral legislature with one chamber (the Federal Council) elected on a federal basis. In Version A, the president exercises executive power. In Version B, the president serves as head of state, but the government (Council of Ministers) is responsible to the parliament.]

Article 5.6.1 – Elections in the Russian Federation shall be held on the basis of universal, equal, and direct suffrage and by secret ballot.

Article – Judges shall be independent and subject only to the law and to the voice of their conscience . . . .

Article – Judges shall not have the fight to apply a law which contradicts the Constitution.

Article – The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation may be formed for military defense of the state sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Russian Federation.


Article 6.1.3 – The Federal Parliament shall have the right to adopt a law on the modification of the Constitution not less than half a year after the proposal in question has been introduced; this law shall be adopted by two-thirds of the votes of all the members of each Chamber . . . .

Article – A law on the modification of the Constitution shall enter into force on the entire territory of the Russian Federation after it has been ratified by two-thirds of the total number of republics.

Article – The present Constitution shall enter into force . . . on the day after the results of the All-Russian referendum on the ratification of the Constitution by the nation as a whole have been established.


Article – A federal law on the privatization and municipalization of state property must be adopted not later than three months after the Constitution of the Russian Federation shall have entered into force.

Article – Until the first President of the Russian Federation takes office, the duties of the President shall be performed by the Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR . . . .

Article – Laws and other normative acts of the [Soviet] Union shall continue to be in force only insofar as they do not contradict the Constitution of the Russian Federation. [End Page 127]

The new Democratic Russia Movement, a coalition of the largest and most representative prodemocracy parties, groups, and citizens in Russia, claims a full membership of over 300,000 and has departments in 72 of the 73 regions of the Russian Federation. Below is the “General Provisions” section of the Democratic Russia Movement’s charter, adopted at its Constituent Congress on 21 October 1990:

1.1 The Democratic Russia Movement is a mass social-political organization of voluntarily united parties, public organizations, and movements, other associations, and private citizens.

1.2 The goal of the Movement is: [the] coordination of activities of the democratic forces opposing the state-political monopoly of the CPSU; and [the] conduct of joint election campaigns, parliamentary activities, and other concrete and joint actions and affairs aimed at the establishment of civil society.

1.3 Every constituent part of the Movement shall retain the right to determine its own strategy and tactics.

1.4 The moral basis of the Movement’s activity shall be: nonviolence; respect for human rights and dignity; denial of totalitarianism and racial, national, and class exclusiveness.

1.5 The Movement shall act in accordance with the existing legislation of the Russian Federation.


On 18 January 1991, after the brutal repression of democratic activists in Vilnius, Lithuania, Mayor Gabor Demszky of Budapest wrote the following letter to Mayor Bernatonis of Vilnius (as read into the U.S. Congressional Record by Representative Frank Horton):

Esteemed Mayor Bernatonis:

The tragic events of recent days created a sad and horrifying feeling among the citizens of Budapest. Please let the people of Vilnius know that we want to share the sorrow for the loss of their loved ones and we would like to offer our help for the relatives of the innocent victims. In the future, the citizens of Budapest will do everything in their power to help you in your effort to achieve peace guaranteed by international treaties.

We Hungarians remember very well when in 1956 the leaders of Moscow—taking advantage of the crisis in Suez——-created a puppet regime, attacked our country, and wanted to crush our ambitions for freedom and independence by sheer force. The rulers of the Kremlin had to learn that the use of military force can delay results, but cannot stop us from fighting for our freedom. [End Page 128]

There are those who detect a parallel between the events of 1956 and the events of 1991 in Vilnius. There may be common characteristics, but the differences are even more significant. The first is that since 1956 the world has experienced fundamental changes, and Moscow has to take into account the power that is the solidarity demonstrated by other nations for your cause. Secondly, the Soviet Union is not capable of fighting against the rightful will of the people any longer. For this we are certain, that not arms but reasons will make the final decision in Vilnius.

Esteemed Mayor, in 1956 Budapest was titled the “Capital of Freedom.” Today we, the citizens of Budapest, regard Vilnius as the capital of freedom. A place where the idea of freedom cannot be taken away from the people anymore. A place where the idea of freedom will be victorious.

—Dr. Gabor Demszky

Mayor of Budapest


On 16 December 1991, Reverend Jean-Bertrand Aristide won an overwhelming victory in Haiti’s presidential election. Below are excerpts from his inaugural address at the National Palace in Port-au-Prince on 7 February 1991:

Sisters and brothers here; sisters and brothers in the tenth department [Haitians overseas] . . . We walked as an avalanche; we marched as an avalanche; we are continuing to organize ourselves as an avalanche, an avalanche of love which is covering our country, as well as the tenth department. My heart is basking in this avalanche of love . . . .

From 1791 to 1991, it took 200 years of travel to obtain our second independence. When our mother Haiti gave birth to our first independence, our ancestors had said: Freedom or death. Today, 7 February 1991, on our second independence, we are screaming with all our strength: Democracy or death! . . .

From now on, this historic mobilization and avalanche organization, embedded with the stamp of Haitian genius, will regenerate the nation. It is at this new cornerstone of history that the decisive emergence of strength asserts itself, now that the people’s will is irreversible . . . .

With the recent free elections that were witnessed by the international community, democracy has found its true meaning within our society. Our task will be to confront many problems: those of corruption, of drug trafficking, of terrorism . . . . Democracy in our vocabulary will not be named in vain. It truly will mean justice and well-being for all. The Constitution will be the guide for our new, second independence. [End Page 129]