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Differences between US and Russian Constitutions

September 10th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Russia and the United States have a few similarities and differences that are, or are not, written directly into their constitutions. One of the main areas in which this can be seen are within each country’s version of civil liberties, rights, and duties. The first amendment of the United State’s constitution includes such provisions as the freedom of religion. This is represented within the 28th Article of the Russian Constitution. The main difference between these two articles can be seen in the U.S. constitution, it is stated within; “no law respecting an establishment of religion.” In the Russian’s Article 28 it is stated much more specifically as “freedom of conscience and freedom of religion […] or to profess none.” It also has Article 14 to ensure that the state is secular and all religious associations are kept separate from government. This difference has made for a bit of controversy in the U.S., as can be seen here in La Crosse and elsewhere in the country concerning the Ten Commandments on government property.

Article 29 in the Russian constitution states the equivalent of the United State’s freedom of speech. Again, the main difference is the wording. The Russian constitution is much more exact with its language. For example, it specifies thought and directly bans propaganda of social, racial, national, religious, or language supremacy. Article 29 section 2 is also another area not represented as explicitly in the United State’s constitution. Their version of freedom of the press is very similar, yet the Russian version is again more detailed in its wording.

In Amendment 2 the United State’s constitution guarantees citizens right to keep and bear arms. There is not an Article in the Russian constitution that guarantees this. This is one of the only instances that there is not an Article to cover a right that the United States has.

Articles 46 – 54 cover a broad array of due process issues. For instance the right to a speedy trial as prescribed by the 6th Amendment is mirrored in Article 22. As stated, no person may be held for more than 48 hours without a judicial decision. A person’s innocence until proof of guilt is detailed in Article 49 number 1, whereas the U.S. constitution did not have this, until as an after thought it was put into law. Each constitution states that no defendant may be forced to testify against themselves. This is seen in Article 51 and Amendment 5. Double jeopardy is covered in Article 50 and Amendment 5 and they each declare the person’s right to not be tried twice for the same crime. Amendment 6 and Article 28 both state the persons’ right to council, although the Russians’ Article 28 is again more explicit in its wording of “free of charge” and from the moment of arrest, being taken into custody, or the bringing of a charge. Another instance that is not covered in the Russian constitution is the matter of an excessive bail. Amendment 8 states that neither excessive bail, nor excessive fine may be imposed. In the later part of this amendment the subject of cruel and unusual punishment is considered and is embodied in Article 21’s banning of torture, violence, or other cruel or degrading treatment or punishment. This Article also ensures that no person will be subjected to medical, scientific, or other experiments without consent- something not seen in the United States’ constitution.

With Amendment 13 and 19 slavery and equality was sought out in the American constitution. Although it was not until the Civil Rights Act that it was actually accomplished. These same conditions can be found directly in the Russian constitution in Articles17 and 19. Article 17 of the Russian constitution guarantees that basic human and civil rights along with all freedoms, belong to each person from birth. Article 19 is even more all encompassing and it guarantees equality for all without regard for sex, race, nationality, language, origin, property, or official status, place of residence, attitude toward religion, persuasions, affiliation with social associations, or other circumstances. It also delves into social, racial, national, language, or religious affiliation being prohibited. Detailed as prohibiting compulsory labor and keeping all labor free, Article 37 bans all types of slavery. In section 5 of Article 37 it even prescribes the right of a person to have rest and relaxation, going beyond the labor law that the United States constitution does not even begin to cover. These conditions are much more inclusive than that of the United States’. There is no mention of society’s social, language, or persuasions within the U.S. constitution- these are all things left for the judicial branch. This is very common for many of the Articles within the Russian constitution, which are represented in United States’ law, but not in the constitution.

Article 32 defines the ability of Russian citizens to participate in government, their right to elect and to be elected, access to state employment, and various other issues dealing with governmental participation. These same issues are embodied in the 14th, 19th, and 26th Amendment of the United States constitution. Amendment 1 and Article 31 each give the people the right to assemble and petition their governments, although the Russian version is again more detailed in its wording.

There are numerous examples of liberties and rights within the Russian constitution that are not in the United States’ constitution. In most cases, instead of being part of the constitution, many of these are merely as laws and could be subject to change or removal. The Russian constitution has a few key differences, such as adhering to international law, something even
U. S. law does not do.

The death penalty is specifically mentioned in Article 20, whereas each state in the U.S. has the right to choose whether or not to use it. In Article 23 honor and good reputation are directly addressed, while in the U.S., slander is considered civil law not constitutional. Article 26 section 2 designates each person’s right to choose their language for communication, upbringing, education, and artistic creation. This issue has caused some controversy in the U.S., as some people would like to guarantee the national language to be English.

The Russian constitution also includes protection for the environment. Although it gives citizens the right to possess and use their land at their own discretion, it must adhere to Articles 36 and 42 and people are obliged by duty according to Article 58 to protect the environment and treat natural wealth with care. There have been environmental groups in the U.S. begging for any legislation to protect the environment with this type of legislation. There is not a shred of wording in the U.S. constitution covering the protection of the environment, which is an astounding declaration as to where their priorities lie.

The duties that are stipulated are like nothing we can find in the U.S. constitution. In Article 38 the family is defined and protected under state protection. The closest we come to this is the W-2 program. This article also designates children’s as responsible for taking care of their parents if they are unable to work and after they have reached 18 years of age. In Article 39, the citizens are guaranteed social security and are encouraged to begin other forms of social insurance. In the U.S., there is great controversy surrounding Social Securities ability to keep pace with the explosion in the population. If this were to happen, there they would have no choice but to adhere to their constitution and continue benefits.

People’s right to free housing is dictated in Article 40 and covers those persons in need who are of low-income. Health protection and medical assistance is guaranteed for all citizens free of charge and improvement of the health of the population is cited in Article 41. It is encouraged to promote a physical culture and over all well being in the Russian Federation. It is unconstitutional for officials to withhold information that may pose a threat to a person’s life and health.

Article 43 deals with the people’s right to a free education. This covers preschool, basic general, and secondary vocational education. It also states that each person on a competitive basis is guaranteed to receive a higher education in a state or municipal institution. It also requires parents to send their children to obtain at least a secondary education.

In Article 44, it is stated that it is each person’s duty to care for the preservation of historical and cultural heritage and cherish historical and cultural monuments. This is not found anywhere in the U.S. constitution. Each citizen has the duty of defense of the Fatherland and shall perform either military service or an alternative civilian service as designated in Article 59. In Article 60 the age limit of adulthood is also designated as eighteen years of age.

Many Articles in the Russian constitution cannot be found in the United State’s constitution, but have been put into place in U.S. law. This can be construed as either good or bad, but also may be why this constitution has lasted as long as it has without any major overhauls. I do believe there should be a few amendments put in based on the Russian constitution. Although we are a free nation and allowed to participate in government, I believe we need something to ensure more involvement. If we do not, it will slowly erode to a point where politicians will completely dictate every move our government makes. So, if we were to incorporate something like Article 59 into U.S. policy, it may force a higher number of people to actually contribute to the well being of our nation.

To make it the citizens’ duty to protect the environment may also be an excellent item to include into our constitution. We are destroying our land, air, and water as quickly as the bottom dollar can be made and in the process, we are losing our most valuable resources. If we are to last and have land to live on, water to drink, and air to breath, something needs to be rectified in a place that is indispensable- the constitution.

There are many niceties incorporated directly into the Russian constitution that I can not conceive working here in the United States. Mandating children to take care of their parents, a free education, and free housing are all very nice things, but I can not see them being put into place here. I don’t think our budget could withstand putting people through college, yet I do believe it is a wise move to educate your citizens as much as possible because it would discourage crime and increase work productivity among the citizens.

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