'The Russian people don't need the state watching their every step'

The cult of the state has prevailed in Russia over many centuries. Individuals have been seen as at best a means and at worst an obstacle for strengthening the state's might.

I remind you that the Russian Constitution celebrates its fifteenth anniversary in December. What is important is not the date itself of course, but the fact that it is the Constitution that upholds freedom and justice, human dignity and welfare, protection of family and Fatherland, and the unity of our multiethnic people - not just as common values but as legal concepts. In other words, the Constitution gives them force in practice and supports them with all the resources of the state and with all of its own authority. The Constitution forms our social institutions and the way of life of millions of people. It is for this reason that in my first Address to the Federal Assembly I feel it necessary to set out my vision of the fundamental laws governing our life, the goals and values of our society, cemented in the Constitution and thus having a direct influence on every aspect of our domestic and foreign policy. I would like to give a brief analysis of how these goals and values have ensured the development of Russia's statehood, and I want to say a few words in particular on the following points. First is the decisive role the Constitution has played in developing democracy in Russia. As I said, the personal freedom and the maturity of the democratic institutions and procedures that it guarantees are the source for our continued development. Now, as we come to a new stage in our development, we are setting new goals that call for greater participation by our citizens, political parties and other public institutions. I will name these new goals. Second is the Constitution's importance in developing a new legal system and independent courts, and in combating corruption and legal nihilism. I note that legal nihilism is not a new phenomenon in Russia but is something that has its roots deep in our distant past. Fifteen years is too short a time to eradicate such deeply-rooted traditions. But it is also true that we have not yet made a deep-reaching systemic attempt to address this problem of disregard for the law. Third is the role the Constitution plays in continued expansion of free enterprise and economic freedom. This is the key to successful development of a middle class, growth of small and medium businesses and the establishment of an innovation economy. Fourth is the implementation of the social guarantees set out in the Constitution: wages, benefits, pensions and savings. I repeat that the state authorities will continue to fulfil their commitments to the public even in today's difficult situation. I want to remind you too that the Constitution prohibits propaganda of social superiority. This is a moral law that also has legal force in our country. Finally, fifth, the Constitution also plays its part in bolstering international law. International law, as we know, is made up of states' observance of their national constitutions and their commitments under international agreements and treaties. Therefore, the better states coordinate their actions on the international stage with the provisions of international law, the greater the level of security in our world. The Constitution paves the way for Russia's renewal as a free nation and a society that holds law and the dignity of each individual as its highest values. The cult of the state and the illusory wisdom of the administrative apparatus have prevailed in Russia over many centuries. Individuals with their rights and freedoms, personal interests and problems, have been seen as at best a means and at worst an obstacle for strengthening the state's might. This view endured throughout many centuries. I would like to quote Pyotr Stolypin, who said, "What we need to do first is create citizens, and once this has been achieved civic spirit will prevail of its own accord in Russia. First comes the citizen and then the civic spirit, but we have usually preached the other way round". This is why the adoption in 1993 of a Constitution proclaiming the individual, their life, rights and property as the highest value was an unprecedented event in Russia's history, and we should thank all those who took part in drafting and adopting this document. Some of them are present here today. - Excerpt from President Medvedev's address to the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, November 5, Grand Kremlin Palance, Moscow