Unlike Erdogan, Putin does not need to purge Russia’s submissive judiciary

Erdoğan’s ongoing purge of the judiciary is unsurprising: apparently, an influential group of appellate judges was one of the few barriers left on his march to absolute power – although the magistrates’ motives may have little to do with the rule of law.

During his years as an active politician, Berlusconi was hounded by the so-called “progressive” wing of the judiciary, which caught up with him eventually.

But Putin – technically speaking, dependent on the legal system by virtue of his insistence on following procedural formalities – has enjoyed an accommodating judiciary. Docile and obliging, for the most part. Light years away from institutional resistance, but willing to quickly expel and punish those few judges who dare to criticize its collusion with the executive and the prosecutors.

One reason, perhaps, is the fact that the Soviet corps of judges and prosecutors was neither dismissed nor purged following the regime change in 1991. Although the judges of the USSR supreme court were made redundant, that slot was automatically filled by the Soviet-appointed supreme court of the Russian Federation, ex-RSFSR. The current chairman of the Russian supreme court was appointed to the job in 1989, under the old system, albeit during the perestroika.

Twenty-five years has passed since 1991, and a new generation of prosecutors and judges has entered the service, even more shamelessly willing to do the bidding of the executive branch than their Soviet predecessors.

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