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Suing Putin: Patterns of Anti-Government Litigation in Russia, 2000-2008

40 Pages Posted: 27 Aug 2010 Last revised: 9 Jan 2015

Alexei Trochev

School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Nazarbayev University

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Date Written: August 21, 2010


This paper examines litigation patterns in two categories of court cases, in which Russian government agencies are sued by individuals or companies: lawsuits against unpaid monetary obligations of Russian government agencies, and lawsuits brought by the victims of wrongful actions or decisions of federal government officials. It argues that despite Russia's turn away from democracy and despite their deep cynicism about judiciary, Russians increasingly use courts to fight for their rights and that judges are willing to rule in their favor in many cases. Moreover, the conditions are ripe for the expansion of anti-government litigation, as Putin’s successor, current Russian President Dmitrii Medvedev, attempts to bring more transparency into the judicial system.

Proliferation of anti-government litigation in Russia is possible because the ruling regime faces conflicting goals. On the one hand, it wants to make courts “user-friendly” to promote economic growth and social peace. This is why it does not roll back the scope of judicial protection of individual rights and tolerates judicial decisions, which are contrary to the wishes of the President or Prime Minister. Yet Russia’s rulers are unable to improve judicial performance overnight. On the other hand, they encourage government officials to abuse individual rights: extorting bribes, exploiting subordinates and torturing enemies is acceptable as long as officials are loyal to the regime. Yet rulers are unable to capture courts to cover up unlawful government actions. As a result, Russian courts order federal government to pay billions of rubles in compensation to aggrieved individuals and companies.

Keywords: Russia, anti-government litigation, Supreme Court, judicial politics, judicial review, Putin, authoritarianism

JEL Classification: J52, K42

Suggested Citation

Trochev, Alexei, Suing Putin: Patterns of Anti-Government Litigation in Russia, 2000-2008 (August 21, 2010). Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1134. Available at SSRN: or

Alexei Trochev (Contact Author)

School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Nazarbayev University ( email )

53 Kabanbay Batyra Avenue
Astana, 010000


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