This article analyzes the successful adaptation of the Russian Constitutional Court (RCC) to an increasingly authoritarian regime under President Vladimir Putin. It argues that the key to its success lay in its pragmatic approach, whereby the Court decides cases that matter to the regime in a politically expedient way, while giving priority to legal and constitutional considerations in other cases, thereby recognizing the reality of a dual state. Over the years the RCC has taken a pragmatic approach in its reaction to changes in the rules of its operations, in its personnel, and in the policies of the popular political leader, including reducing the country’s subordination of European legal norms. In so doing, the Court and its skillful chairman Valerii Zorkin achieved considerable autonomy in pursuing its own legal vision on many issues and even improved the implementation of its decisions by other judges and political bodies alike (previously a big problem). In short, the RCC developed its own version of “authoritarian constitutionalism”, which may serve as a model for constitutional judicial bodies in other authoritarian states.

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