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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

5 Years of Constitution Marked




Russia marks the fifth anniversary of the passage of its post-Soviet constitution on Saturday and will celebrate by taking Monday off from school and work.


Federal and city government offices will be closed Monday, as will schools, but many stores will be open for business. Sberbank also said that its branch offices will be open Monday.


While many ordinary Russians will relish the chance to play in the snow or get together with friends, few will give much thought to the much maligned document approved in a national referendum on Dec. 12, 1993.


In recent months, the Constitution has come under attack from communists and others who say it gives the president too much power and should be changed.


The approach of Saturday's holiday gave the Constitution's supporters and detractors an occasion to state their case.


Gennady Seleznyov, a moderate Communist and speaker of the State Duma, parliament's lower house, said Friday that the Russian Constitution was "far from perfect" and should be amended.


"We have every opportunity to express our respect for the Constitution and start amending it extensively by reducing presidential powers and stepping up Cabinet powers and the controlling functions of parliament," he was quoted as saying by Interfax.


But Yegor Stroyev, who chairs the upper house of parliament, defended the Constitution by saying it served as a "stabilizing factor" after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Despite its many flaws, it provided a solid basis for creating laws that meet international legal standards, Itar-Tass quoted him as saying.


President Boris Yeltsin has accepted the need for constitutional changes, but the head of the internal policy department at the presidential administration, Andrei Loginov, said it was too soon to amend the Constitution.


It needs to remain unchanged for at least seven years to start being effective, Interfax reported him as saying on Thursday.


Sergei Filatov, who headed Yeltsin's administration in 1993 when the Constitution was drawn up, denied that the national charter gives the president virtually authoritarian powers.


"Everything stated in the Constitution provides opportunities to build a democratic, lawful ... state," Nezavisimaya Gazeta quoted him as saying in Friday's edition. "But real life is much more complicated," Filatov added, arguing that the recent economic crisis has undermined its achievements in improving human rights.


The 1993 Constitution, which was written right after Yeltsin suppressed his opponents in the Soviet-era parliament, replaced the 1977 charter written under Brezhnev.