(Source: Mike Eckel, RFE/RL)
When President Vladimir Putin dropped his bombshell announcement calling for changing Russia’s constitution, the immediate focus was on what it meant for his future.
Several amendments he submitted to parliament days after his January 15 national speech called for rearranging Russia’s power structure. They also give him options should he seek to retain power after 2024, when he is barred from running for reelection.
Those proposals were quickly taken up by a 75-member commission, which was established to draft amendments, and given preliminary approval by the State Duma, the lower house of parliament.
But other proposals have floated through Kremlin halls and elsewhere in Moscow. More than 300, in fact, some of which will presumably make it into the biggest update yet of the post-Soviet constitution that Russia adopted in 1993.
Not all of them are known to the public, and some are unusual from the standpoint of constitutional law.
Depending on how many are approved, it could result in a constitution that is enormously complex, addressing issues as wide-ranging as who can marry whom and how to address Moscow’s role in the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.
A crucial second vote in the Duma – which is scheduled for February 11 but may be postponed for weeks – should provide more clarity as to what is actually under final consideration.
Here’s a look at some of the other proposals that have bubbled to the surface since the first vote in the Duma.
God (And The Constitution)
The Russian Orthodox Church has made a resounding comeback after decades of neglect and persecution under Soviet atheism. Putin has embraced the church, in part because its willingness to provide moral or spiritual justification for social policies.
On February 1, the head of the church, Patriarch Kirill, called for writing the word “God” into the constitution.
“Let us pray, let us work hard so that our founding law includes mention of God,” he said. “Because most Russian citizens believe in God.”
“I am not talking only about the Orthodox [Christians]. I am also talking about Muslims and many, many others. If the words ‘God’s storied native land’ can be in the national anthem, why can this not be said in our constitution?” he said.
While a growing number of Russians consider themselves Orthodox Christians, and church attendance is increasing – though still relatively small – this change would likely cause alarm among citizens who fear that the Russian Orthodox Church is gaining too much clout.
The existing constitution says outright that Russia is a secular state and that “no religion may be established as a state or obligatory one.” So, including an explicit mention of “God” would be a major change.
Putin, who has pointed to the Russian church as a source of moral guidance for Russians and is shown on state TV at church on major holidays like Christmas and Easter, made no mention of the issue in his speech.
Konstantin Remchukov, a journalist and commentator on the Moscow radio station Ekho Moskvy, offered what seemed to be a tongue-in-cheek counterproposal.
“The [constitution] should include everything that has a place in our lives,” he said. “If we have a place for both God and the Devil, then we should write: there is a God and Devil.”
Copyright (c) 2019. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.