How a Russian wrote the Swiss Constitution

More and more often I hear one question: “Can a good Constitution be written in Russia?” Indeed, the main document of our country tends to change under almost every ruler (Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Yeltsin, Putin). But there are other examples, more pleasant, when our Russians wrote the Constitution, certain norms of which are in force to this day.

A citizen of the Russian Empire, Ivan Antonovich Kapodistrias, wrote the first Swiss Constitution in 1814. In general, the biography of this person is amazing. He was the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Empire, and later became the first ruler of an independent Greece. Ivan Antonovich lived only 55 years (not enough by today's standards, but enough for the 19th century), but so many things significant for history fit into this period.

Until 1814, Switzerland did not have a constitution. The country consisted of three cantons, which signed the Federal Charter, which was in force until the capture of Switzerland by Napoleon’s troops. And although the text of the Constitution was written during the French occupation, they even voted for it, but it was never put into effect.

Ivan Kapodistrias first got acquainted with Switzerland when he was sent under the guise of a simple traveler to find convenient routes for the movement of the allied troops. He soon became Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Minister of the Russian Empire to the Swiss Confederation. It was in this position that he developed the Constitution, which was adopted at the referendum in 1814. This Constitution was the only one among all the cantonal constitutions approved in this way.

Subsequently, the Swiss Constitution has changed several times. The last time this happened was in 1999. But even this document contains provisions developed and actively promoted by Ivan Antonovich Kapodostriya. For example, the world-famous Swiss neutrality status, which is guaranteed by the world powers forever. The statesman himself became an honorary citizen of several cantons.

Moreover, after the overthrow of Napoleon, Great Britain insisted on the restoration of the absolute monarchy of the Bourbons. But Kapodistrias, together with Razumovsky, were able to convince the members of the Congress of Vienna to adopt a constitutional charter, as a result of which the first French Constitution appeared after the overthrow of Bonaparte.

When I am asked about the Russian Constitution, why we cannot write once and for centuries (as in the USA, for example), I answer with this story. We can and did. For others only. This is the whole of Russia.

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Dmitry Trusov

Dmitry Trusov

Entrepreneur, historian, traveler, blogger