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7 E. Eur. Const. Rev. 52 (1998)
The Propiska and the Constitutional Court

handle is hein.journals/eeurcr7 and id is 152 raw text is: Freedom of movemnt In the Rusn  Federation today

The Propiska and the Constitutional Court
Konstantin Katanian

nder the communist regime, freedom             of
movement was monitored and curbed by
means of the propiska-a required residence
permit that restricted an individual's right to choose his
place of residence and to travel within the country.
Inaugurated by Stalin on the model of a well-
established czarist practice of restricting freedom of
movement, the propiska system became increasingly
entrenched over the course of the communist era. The
complaints of human-rights activists about the system
went unheard for many years, except in the West.
Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika encouraged
discussion of the public's rights and liberties, includ-
ing the freedom of movement that the propiska kept
rigidly in check. Activists protested that the propiska
violated the constitutional right to travel freely and to
choose one's place of residence. In the period
between 1990 and 1991, the USSR Committee on
Constitutional Oversight (Komitet Konstitutsionnogo
Nadzora SSSR), headed by Sergei Alekseev, recom-
mended the system's overhaul and liberalization. The
committee concluded that all citizens of the Soviet
Union should be free to choose their place of residence,
being obliged to inform state officials only of their
choices, nothing more. From the outset, however, the
committee was hamstrung. It lacked resources, its
resolutions were nonbinding, and with the USSR's
collapse, its writ expired before it accomplished much.
The Russian Federation Parliament, moreover,
failed to set up a similar successor committee on con-
stitutional oversight. Instead, inJuly 1991, Parliament
ratified the Law on the Constitutional Court. By
October, the newly appointed justices of the
Constitutional Court had begun their work, and, by
January of 1992, the Court began to examine cases

touching on the constitutional protection of citizens'
basic rights. But several years passed before the issue
of the propiska, which stayed on the books in demo-
cratic Russia, came before the Constitutional Court.
Finally, on April 18, 1995, the Court heard a case
brought by Lyudmila Sitalova. Sitalova claimed that
the RSFSR Housing Code violated Art. 40.1 of the
Constitution, which reads: Everyone shall have the
right to a home. No one may be arbitrarily deprived
of a home. Her case did not directly involve the ordi-
nances covered by the propiska law, because the
Court found that they were not subject to adjudica-
tion; but the Court did note that the USSR
Committee on Constitutional Oversight had already
found the ordinances covered by the propiska statutes
unconstitutional and nonbinding.
What Sitalova's case did challenge was the
constitutionality of Arts. 54.1 and 54.2 of the
Housing Code, which maintain that a tenant has the
right to host guests in his rented space in the pre-
scribed manner. The oblast court had interpreted this
phrase to mean that tenants and guests must comply
with the propiska regulations. Sitalova's counsel
argued that the oblast court's interpretation of Arts.
54.1 and 54.2 of the Housing Code was mistaken, and
that this judicial interpretation ran counter to Art.
40.1 of the Constitution.
The facts were these. Sitalova had lived in V N.
Kaderkin's apartment for five years, in a relationship
that resembled   a common-law     marriage. But
throughout this period she remained registered as a
resident of her daughter's home. After Kaderkin's par-
ents died, Sitalova tried to register herself as a resident
of Kaderkin's apartment, but her application was
refused. The regional court then ruled in Sitalova's

52                                                                         EAST EUROPEAN CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW

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