Unconventional Russian-English Dictionary of Legal Terms

Lawyers use thousands of specialist words. The task of their translation is not exclusively lexical, in many ways it is cultural: a Russian limited liability company is not the same as an American LLC, arbitration is not ’arbitrazh’ and trial, arguably, does not translate into Russian at all. Trance/Literator is an experiment in creating an unconventional English-Russian dictionary of legal terms.

Adhesion Contract

Adhesion Contract or the Contract of Adhesion — договор присоединения («dogovor prisoyedineniya») — is a contract whose terms are determined by one party and signed by another, a weaker party.

As the Russian law stands, «the party adhering to the contract has the right to demand the rescission or change of the contract if the contract of adhesion — even if it does not contradict the law — deprives this party of rights usually granted under contracts of such type, excludes of limits the liability of the other party for the violations of obligations or contains other terms clearly burdensome for the adhering party, that it, on the basis of its reasonably understood interests, would not have accepted if it had the possibility to take part in drafting the terms of the contract». (Article 428 of the Civil Code of the Russian Federation).

The idea behind this rule of law is that a weaker party, usually a consumer with little commercial leverage who cannot influence the terms and has to sign the contract as it is, could have some protection against bigger and more cunning players.

Curiously, the courts of general jurisdiction — which are closer to ordinary people and, thus, are supposed to protect the rights of consumers — do not like this rule and almost never enforce it. Commercial courts, on the other hand, take a more protectionist approach (Newsletter No. 147 of the Supreme Commercial Court «Court Practice Overview of Disputes Relating to the Application of  the Russian Civil Code Provisions on Loan Agreements»).

Russian Advocate

Advocate — «адвокат» — is a member of one of the regional chambers of advocates. The chambers of advocates were created in 2003 following the adoption of somewhat obtuse Federal Law «On Advocacy».

In Russia, it is not required to be an advocate in order to practice law unless one practices criminal law. The law on advocacy has many peculiar features and most lawyers practicing commercial law prefer to stay out and practice as independent legal consultants.


Affidavit — «аффидевит» or «письменное показание под присягой» — is a written declaration made under oath before a notary public or similar official that certain facts are true to the best of the knowledge of the person signing the document. It is widely used in arbitration and litigation when the witness cannot attend the hearing.

Russian courts admit foreign affidavits as the proof of foreign law (decision of the Supreme Commercial Court #12434/11) and, even, the proof of facts (case #А56-29235/02). Russian notaries can issue similar documents but may be reluctant to do so once the case has been opened (art. 102 of the Russian Law «On Notaries»).

This is strange as Russian courts should not admit such documents as this is directly prohibited by law (art. 81 of the Code of Commercial Procedure).