The primary and fundamental statement of laws in the Russian Federation is the Constitution of the Russian Federation. Since its adoption in a 1993 referendum the Russian Constitution is considered to be the supreme law of the land. Article 15 of the Constitution reads that it “shall have supreme legal force and have direct effect, and shall be applicable throughout the entire territory of the Russian Federation.” Courts are guided by the Constitution and it trumps federal and local laws.
Constitutional laws cannot become part of the constitution or amend parts of it absent a special legal act on constitutional amendment. They are typically enacted in important areas of constitutional law, such as Article 56 which allows for the passage of constitutional laws necessitated by a state of emergency. Constitutional laws enjoy special status within hierarchy of laws, since federal constitutional laws will displace federal laws.
Statutes are the predominant legal source of Russian law, and may only be enacted through the legislative process. Codes are the basis for law on a matter, and they are usually supplemented with legislation to develop certain provisions. There are gaps in some of the codes, but even still the judges will find a basis for deciding the case in a given code. Codes are interpreted flexibly, and interpretation may be based on enumeration of “general principles” of the codes. General principles are usually articulated at the beginning of the codes in the first chapter to outline the reason for the legislation. Reasoning by analogy is also allowed.
Presidential decrees and directives
The President has power to issue normative and non-normative decrees, provided they do not contravene the constitution and federal laws. "On the basis and for the sake of implementation of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, federal laws, normative decrees of the President of the Russian Federation" Government may also issue directives having “normative” character.
Agencies may enact regulations through their general competency, but these are limited to the extent of the constitution and relevant codes. If these limits are not strictly defined, then the president may use agencies to get around the legislative process. Consequently, agencies may have their powers limited by statutes. The Civil Code purposely authorizes supplementary rules by “statute” rather than the broader term “legislation” which could encompass other secondary law.
Judicial decisions, judicial practice and explanations of supreme courts
Russia is a civil law country; and, strictly speaking, decisions rendered by courts are not binding on other courts. However, the lower courts generally follow the principles established by the supreme courts. Moreover, according to Art.304 of the Code of Procedure in Commercial Courts, the Supreme Arbitrazhny Court can set aside a decision of a lower court on the grounds that this decision contravenes uniformity in interpretation of law as established by case law. In practice, but not in theory, precedents of the higher courts are becoming an important Russian law.
USSR legislation fills gaps as the new system is being put in place, and is purely transitional until the Russian Parliament can add new laws. It cannot contradict legislative acts of RF.
Judges often reason by analogy, using the general principles of the law the codes to interpret provisions broadly. This is especially true in the case of Hogsteen v. Bruschveka. Judges don’t rely on natural law, but rather legal positivism combined with general principles of law. They may rely on “the requirements of good faith, reasonableness, and justice since Civil Code and other codes tell specific principles within the code. Other principles are equity and fairness, general principles of law, etc.
The Russian Civil Code explicitly mentions custom as a separate source of law.
Individual scholars may be influential by drafting legislation or debating proposed legislation. Unlike in some civil-law systems, academic treatises or learned commentary is not considered a separate source of law or cited by judges, but judges and attorney rely on it for their arguments.
All international law and the international treaties of the Russian Federation are part of Russian domestic legal system. Domestic law gives way to international law according to Article 15 of the Constitution. The Constitutional Court has the greatest expertise in applying international law.