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Article

Religious Beliefs and the Limits of Their Accommodation in Russia: Some Landmark Cases of the Russia Supreme Court

Religion and Society in Central and Eastern Europe . 2018. Vol. 11. No. 1. P. 3-19.

The Russian Constitution establishes liberal principles on the exercise of religious freedoms. However, the Russian statutory law does not provide explicit rules on how to implement these principles and what their limits are. This puts the Russian courts in an ambiguous situation, whereby they have to defend the religious minorities pursuant to the constitutional law, although they are practically precluded from granting accommodations to these minorities, otherwise courts could be viewed as depriving the parliament of its legislative function. Meanwhile, the Russian legislative authorities are reluctant to legitimize such accommodations for the minorities. In this situation, the Russian courts of general jurisdiction in concrete cases decide on the factual limits of the protection and thereby indirectly accept the idea of accommodation, which is not elaborated in the statutory law, providing remedies or limitations on its enforcement. The courts are generally indisposed to recognize that their decisions develops the statutory law and therefore tend to shroud their approaches and the criteria in the formalistic language. This paper examines some of the criteria and approaches that the Russian Supreme Court has formulated in several landmark cases concerning religious freedoms. The author underscores the relevance of such an analysis for the comparative research projects, which aim at understanding (dis)similarities of the legal accommodations on religious grounds in different countries.