> Moving Russian Supreme Court to St. Petersburg Not Decentralization, Shevchuk Says

Moving Russian Supreme Court to St. Petersburg Not Decentralization, Shevchuk Says


Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 30 – Officials in Moscow are talking about moving the Russian Supreme Court from Moscow to St. Petersburg just as they did the Constitutional Court in 2006 and they are celebrating this as reflecting their commitment to federalism. In fact, Mikhail Shevchuk says, it would be if anything exactly the reverse.

            The reason some in Moscow want to move the court is to gain control of its current offices, the regionalist writer continues; the reason some in the court want to move is that some of its members have concluded that they will have better offices in the northern capital (region.expert/supreme_court/).

            But shifting this or any other central institution to St. Petersburg or any other city outside of Moscow is “not decentralization” whatever the Kremlin media suggests.  Rather it is exactly the opposite, a display of the fact that a central institution regardless of where it may be located will remain completely independent of the people in whatever place it is put.

            “In Russia,” Shevchuk says, “many terms have a different meaning than the generally accepted one. ‘Federal’ here means ‘central,’ while in Germany, the term ‘federal land’ means a region, and [again in Russia] ‘federalization means the strengthening not of the regions but of ‘the center.’” 

            Moving a central court to St. Petersburg doesn’t elevate the status of that city but rather makes it into “a distant branch of the capital to which the imperial ‘center’ sends its most unneeded and insignificant for itself element” of governance.  The northern capital, in short, is becoming “a sleeping district for employees of the apparatus.” That is all.

            Of course, if Moscow goes further and moves not only the Supreme Court but also the Duma as some have suggested, that would be “extremely symbolic,” the commentator says. In that event, the only thing that would physically remain in Moscow as the most obvious embodiment of “the federal center” would be the Kremlin.