20 years under Putin: a timeline

June 9, 2012 marked the first anniversary of the death of Vladimir Tumanov, a distinguished Russian lawyer, the former Chairman of the Russian Federation Constitutional Court (1995-97), and the first Russian judge to be appointed to the European Court for Human Rights. Just before this anniversary, Ekaterina Mishina spoke with some of his prominent former colleagues who shared their recollections about Tumanov's work, personality, and his role in developing Russian legal theory and culture.



Vladimir Tumanov was one of the best lawyers Russia has ever known and one of the most charming people I have ever met. Having attained great heights in academia and then in government, Tumanov managed to resist the temptations of power without having made any missteps on the hierarchical ladder along the way. He ended his career once more in academia. Until the final moments, he remained young and healthy, preserving his relish for life. I would like to dedicate this column in memoriam of Vladimir Tumanov.



Vladimir Aleksandrovich Tumanov was born in 1926. He first studied at the Legal Department of the Institute of Foreign Trade of the Ministry of Foreign Trade of the USSR (later the Moscow State Institute of International Relations). In 1959, he received his graduate degree from the All-Union Law Academy of the Ministry of Law of the USSR. For nearly thirty years, he worked at the Institute of State and Law. He was a Doctor of Juridical Science, an Honored Academic of the Russian Federation, and an Honored Lawyer of the Russian Federation. Tumanov was also an active member of the International Academy of Comparative Law and the President of the International Association of Legal Science under the auspices of UNESCO.

In 1994, he was elected Justice of the Russian Federation Constitutional Court, and later, its Chairperson (1995-1997). One of the most controversial Constitutional Court decisions of that period was the confirmation of the legitimacy of President Boris Yeltsin’s decree to bring troops into Chechnya. Several Duma deputies had pointed to the decree’s non-conformity with the Russian Constitution. Nonetheless, in August 1995, when the Constitutional Court defined the events in Chechnya leading up to the invasion as an ‘uprising’, their verdict upheld the legality of the head of state of bringing in troops for the purposes of regulating the conflict. Tumanov himself, however, later criticized the operation that led to the first Chechen War. In 1998, after he left his position as Constitutional Court Chairman, Vladimir Tumanov went on to become the first judge to represent Russia at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.


Professor Vladimir B. Isakov, Vice-Chairman of the Russian Chamber of Commerce, the head of the State Duma Committee for Legislative and Judicial Reform from 1993 to 1995:

“I met Vladimir Toumanov many years before we served on the State Duma together, which was in 1993. At one of the first Duma sessions, I was elected head of the Committee for Legislative and Judicial Reform, and Vladimir Tumanov was made a member of this Committee. For a certain time, I was his boss, in a way. This opportunity gave me the chance to witness Vladimir Tumanov's substantial contributions to the legislative process. Working with him, I saw that he was not only an extraordinary academician and lawyer, but also a wise politician. Apparently, I was not the only one to notice this about him, and in October of 1994, not long after he began his Duma career, Vladimir Tumanov was elected Justice of the Russian Federation Constitutional Court. In February 1995, Tumanov became Court Chairman.”


Professor Tamara G. Morschakova, Justice of the Russian Federation Constitutional Court from 1991 to 2002, Deputy Chairman of the RF CC from 1995 to 2002:

“Vladimir Tumanov was a uniquely gifted man, a great academic, an educator in the broadest sense of the world, harsh and serious in legal discussions, while, at the same time, a wise and straight-forward, dignified statesman. He worked during that brief period in Russian history, when humanist legal standards were finally stated and began to shape Russian legislature. Tumanov was very friendly and had extraordinary communication skills that were apparent in how he treated his friends, his colleagues, his students, and his family. He was always very frank with people. In others he appreciated intelligence and sincerity. Although he could be critical, he was also always prepared to help someone in need. He was generous with compliments, his jokes and his laughter were contagious, and he always took interest in people. He loved music. The last time I ever saw him he told me not to be sad.”


Professor Anatoly Kovler, a member of the European Court for Human Rights since 1999:

"It is very difficult to write about Vladimir Tumanov in the past tense. I've always felt like his student and I am proud of it. While studying at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations I happened to get his translation of René David’s famous Major Legal Systems in the World Today, a masterpiece of academic research. He also contributed to the translation and editing of works by other well-known contemporary (mostly French) lawyers. That was his mission: to provide attentive Soviet readers with examples of alternative academic methods. His own book on bourgeois legal ideology was a research masterpiece. These contributions were enough to make Vladimir Tumanov one of the most valuable legal minds of our time.

I met Professor Tumanov in 1979, during the organizational stage of the World Congress of the International Association of the Political Science in Moscow, which shook up the world of Soviet social sciences in the final years of Brezhnev's rule. While summarizing the Congress, Tumanov came up with an idea of establishing an organization dedicated to the study of comparative law. Unfortunately, this great idea drowned in the Soviet bureaucratic system. Beginning with perestroika, both academic circles and the political leadership realized that they needed to study how the state and its institutions could be organized optimally. In light of this, at the Institute of State and Law of the USSR Academy of Sciences, the Department of State and Law in Bourgeois Countries, chaired by Tumanov, the Department of State and Law in Developing Countries, chaired by Veniamin Chirkin, as well as the section on foreign academic research (chaired by me), began to write countless memoranda to this end. In the late 1980s, we were very active in developing the legal foundations for electoral reform, and the draft laws on the freedom of conscience, NGOs, and political parties (the latter almost in secret immediately preceding the annulment of the notorious Article 6 of the Soviet Constitution that established the leading role of the Communist Party). By 1992, our work was even more intensive. The time had come for the adoption of new legislative acts and systemic reform. The academic expertise in draft laws and regulations became mandatory. This was when the Institute of State and Law did some of its most important work.

In May and June of 1993, by the decree of President Yeltsin, Vladimir Toumanov became a member of the working group for the development of the draft Russian Constitution. Shortly afterwards, Tumanov was appointed a Presidential Representative in the Constitutional Assembly. He joined the Constitutional Assembly together with his small but very efficient team from the Institute of State and Law. We used to work 14-16 hours a day and frequently ran from Kremlin to the Institute of State and Law for reference materials. That was when the Center for Comparative Law was finally created with the merger of the three aforementioned departments.

Unfortunately, Vladimir Tumanov didn't get the chance to work for the Center. In the wake of the shocking events of October 1993, he instead accepted Sergey Shakhrai’s proposal to run for the State Duma on the ticket of the Party of Russian Unity and Consensus. It appeared Tumanov was now going to war. At his farewell party at the Institute, he pointed out that even Plato was an advocate of the rule of the wise. I believe that at the time, he was the most competent member of the State Duma when it came to drafting law, including the law on the Russian Federation Constitutional Court. We all know what happened after that: Tumanov was elected a Justice of the Constitutional Court, then, by secret ballot, the Justices elected him their Chairman.

In many ways, the fate of Tumanov’s Center for Comparative Law, which I became the head of, was determined by the tasks of that time. Our main objective was to come up with a generalized, historical analysis of the problems of transition from the Soviet regime to a market economy. We focused on issues surrounding the creation of a new political system and judiciary. The fact that the Center had a team of amazing experts allowed us to publish a number of fundamental works in just a few years. Our studies were centered on comparative constitutional law, the modern institution of the presidency, on parliamentarism, the status of political parties, and the problems of federalism. Still involved in the Center's activities pro bono, Tumanov took part in discussing all of our publications and was disappaointed that he had no time to contribute to our work. However, he generously shared sources, helped request necessary books, and somehow found time to read almost everything we'd written. He even did some editing, finding weak points in arguments and factual inaccuracies. Being the head of the Center, sometimes I had to negotiate between Tumanov’s criticism and the ambitions of our Center academics. I recall one such situations when Tumanov requested that I tell a certain 'N' that their piece was a hack job. I declined, saying that N would be upset. Toumanov said that in that case, he would speak to N. A week later, N submitted a new draft that was a masterpiece.

I recall the last time I saw Vladimir at his home in Moscow in December of 2010. While signing a book for me he said, “I wish you knew how ashamed am I of some the things I published.” Along the way, the Center for Comparative Law was reorganized several times, but the approach established by Tumanov never changed. The Center continues to publish original work and translations, develop special courses, and take part in the defense of dissertations.

I hate to end this on the great loss that Tumanov’s passing represents for the legal and academic community. He will live in our memory as an exemplar of European legal culture, and a true pioneer in legal theory and comparative law.”