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About Constitutions

A constitution (from Latin constitutio — structure) means the principal law of a state that determines its public and social structure, it is the basis of the entire legal framework of the country.

A constitution is a political, legal and ideological document. As a political document, it legislates a certain ratio of social forces, political parties, and pressure groups in the society.

Legal importance of a constitution is that it forms a legal basis of legal development of the existing rule of law. As the Constitution has the supreme legal power, all other acts should conform to it, which, in particular, is ensured by the system of constitutional (including judicial) control.

The oath of the head of state is the most solemn part of the ceremony of his/her inauguration. In most countries, the oath is made on the most important (both ideologically and politically) document, the role of which has been traditionally vested with the Constitution or the Scripture (both books are often co-present as, for instance, in the U.S.A.).

In Russia, the President takes an oath on a copy of the Russian Constitution (adopted on December 12th, 1993, the wording of the oath is written in Article 82 of the Constitution).

Before 1996, there was no such official attribute of presidential power as a special copy of the Constitution. When he first took office in 1991, the first Russian President Boris Yeltsin took his oath in the ‘presence’ of folder with texts of the RSFSR Constitution and the Declaration of State Sovereignty of the Russian Federation but without putting his right hand on the cover of the Principal Law.

When Boris Yeltsin’s second taking of office of the President on August 9th, 1996, was prepared for, the arrangement of the formal ceremony was modified. In particular, the wording of the Russian Constitution was issued as a special edition in a single copy. Four days prior to the appointed ceremony date, a format status of one of the three official symbols of the presidential power, which are transferred by a leaving president to his successor after the latter has taken his oath, was assigned to it.

See the Russian Presidential Decree No. 1138 of August 5th, 1996, On Official Symbols of Presidential Power and Their Use when a Newly Elected President of the Russian Federation Takes Office.

A day before his inauguration May 7th, 2000, acting Russian President Vladimir Putin cancelled the 1996 Order of presidential credentials. A special copy of the wording of the Constitution was devoid of the official status of presidential power.

See the Russian President Order No. 832 of May 6th, 2000, On Making Amendments and Supplements to Certain Decrees of the Russian President.

The ‘inauguration’ copy is constantly kept in the Presidential Administration Library in the Kremlin and leaves its walls once in four years only: to ‘participate’ in the inauguration ceremony (in addition, copies of the principal laws of all states are kept in the Russian President’s library as foreign guests often give complimentary copies of their Constitutions to the Russian leaders).