Law in a Lawless State - Features of Russia


Host institution: Humboldt Universität zu Berlin / Institut für Sozialwissenschaften

Credits: 3 ECTS (BA) 

Online class time: Thursdays, 16:00 – 18:00 CET 

Duration: 16 SESSIONS 20.10.22 - 16.02.22 

ECTS: 3 

Duration: 120 min per lecture 

Language: English / Russian with simultaneous translation 

Partners/Support: Auswärtiges Amt/Deutsche Gesellschaft für Osteuropakunde 

Register status: Open


In just 20 years, the Russian Federation has gone from a state with gradually consolidating institutions of democracy and civil society to an imitative model reminiscent of Soviet models still to be forgotten. This is not a unique case: since the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the collapse of the state has been faster and more tragic.  But the era of Putin's institutional degradation, despite its gradual nature, is comparable to the events of that time both in the scale of change and in the catastrophic consequences, including the Ukrainian war.

This series of lectures describes the most important features of this process, from the degradation of legal culture, constitutional foundations, and education to the destruction of freedom of speech, the independent judiciary, and the entire system of separation of powers.  Imitation of elections, destruction of federalism, expansion of repressive apparatus, toughening of the penitentiary system, and increasing international isolation - these destructive phenomena are seen as facets of the general process of the largest country in the world rolling back into the authoritarian past.  With predictable negative consequences both for Russia itself and for its neighbours.

Registration is open during the course.



To provide a general understanding about:

- Transformation of Soviet constitution to the modern constitution of Russia

- Rights of media and press in modern Russia 

- Russian judicial system and court reforms

- Concept of the “enemy of the state” and laws about “foreign agents” and “undesired organisation”

·    - Evolution of prison system in Russia

Upon the successful completion of the course students will be able to: 

- Understand how human rights work in Russia and what influence the ECHR had on the rule of law and what happens to it after Russia was expelled out of it

·   - Understand the system of election in Russia and what function they still play

·    - Understand the correlation and conflict between domestic and international law in Russia       

- Understand what “freedom of word” means in Russia and how independent media work in the light of new laws regarding “foreign agents”


Course requirements include: 

- Attendance  

- - Reading materials 

 The final grade for the course will be based on the following:

- Course attendance

- Participation in the final round table

The language of the lectures is English. Those lectures, which will be originally  held in Russian, will be simultaneously translated into English. Zoom platform will be used for the lectures with the simultaneous translations. The overall description of  the course input, lecturers as well as technical side will be discussed during the first introductory lecture. 

The syllabus can be found here. The final version will be updated soon.


Elena Lukyanova, D.Sc. (Law) Elena A. Lukyanova,

Ilya Shablinsky, D.Sc. (Law), member of the Moscow Helsinki Group 

Ekaterina Mishina, Cand. Sc. (Law)

Gleb Bogush, Cand. Sc. (Law)

Dmitry Dubrovsky, Cand. Sc. (History)

Maria Voskobitova, Cand. Sc. (Law) 

Dmitry Oreshkin, Cand. Sc. (Geography)

Olga Romanova, Head and founder of "Russia behind bars", professor at the Free University

Elena Panfilova, D.Sc. (Law) 

This course is hosted by the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, financially supported by the German Foreign Office and organized in cooperation with Off-University and Science at Risk - Akademisches Netzwerk Osteuropa (AKNO).