Russia's red-tape bonfire postponed after thousands of Soviet laws listed for repeal go missing

Roland Oliphant
Russia wants to repeal thousands of Soviet laws that remain on the statue books thirty years after the USSR collapsed - AFP

Russia's ministry of justice has said it cannot cancel thousands of Soviet-era laws because it has lost the paperwork.

Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian prime minister, ordered the repeal of thousands of obsolete but still enforceable Communist statutes in September. 

About 60 percent of the "zombie laws" have already been cancelled. 

But the ministry has said it will not meet the November 15 deadline because it simply cannot find the original legislation for the rest, Russia's Vedomosti reported. 

The 20,400 acts and decrees listed for the axe include a 1917 law enforcing an eight hour working day, regulations on rabbit breeding, and a directive on preventing smallpox in goats. 

There are even yet-to-be repealed guidelines for suppressing counter-revolutionary riots. 

About a third of the laws seem to exist only as references in other bits of legislation, and cannot be repealed until the original documents can be checked by hand, the paper reported. 

The bonfire of red tape is part of an effort to rationalise the country's often confusing morass of regulations governing watchdog agencies. 

Mr Medvedev has trumpeted the policy as a "regulatory guillotine" designed to ease the burden on small and medium businesses. 

Konstantin Chuychenko, the deputy prime minister overseeing the project, said the decision to repeal was taken after officials realised how difficult it would be to tweak current legislation bit by bit.

"For example, the Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance shouldn't be supervising agricultural land use. But nor do we think you can do away with regulations for soil safety, and the agency should do that," he said in September.

In the end, it was decided it would be "easier to cancel the Soviet acts than integrate them with post-Soviet regulations."

The government has promised that cancelling the Soviet eight-hour working day directive - a key reform brought in by the revolution - will not affect modern Russians, whose eight-hour day is separately protected in modern law. 

The Soviet Union's last constitution, written in 1977, was repealed and replaced with the current Russian constitution in 1991.