Zorkin was born on 18 February 1943 in Konstantinovka, Oktyabrsky District in Primorsky Krai (Maritime Province). In 1964, he matriculated from the Law Department of the Moscow University, in which he lectured until the late 1980s. He also lectured at the Ministry of USSR Internal Affairs, and became a professor. He became recognized as a leading specialist on the legal doctrines of Boris Chicherin. During the last two years of the Soviet Union's existence, he led a group of legal experts working for the Soviet Constitutional Commission, furthering the case of shaping Russia a presidential republic. He left the CPSU after the August coup.
In October 1991 he became a judge of the Constitutional Court of Russia and on 1 November was elected the court's first (and only) chairman with unlimited tenure. During the Russian constitutional crisis of 1992-1993, Zorkin and the Constitutional Court collided with President Yeltsin on a number of issues, incl. his decision to ban the CPSU and (later) the National Salvation Front. On 30 November 1992, the court overruled Yeltsin's decision to disband the local branches of the Communist Party (court maintained that disbanding the ruling bodies of the party was lawful).
In September 1993, Zorkin was involved in the bitter dispute as to the legitimacy of Boris Yeltsin's decision to dissolve the Supreme Soviet of Russia, a decision which ran contrary to the outdated RSFSR constitution. Zorkin is often credited with having stood behind the 22 September 1993 court ruling which declared Yeltsin's decision unconstitutional. Though the ruling (passed with 9 judges in favor and 4 judges against), was in agreement with the Constitution, Yeltsin had the work of the court suspended and Zorkin was forced to resign from the position of the chairman on 6 October 1993, retaining the post of a member of the court. Namely, Sergey Filatov, the head of the president's administration, is reported to have called the judges in the morning of 5 October, demanding Zorkin's resignation. However, 8 judges out of the 12 ones present at the session of the court suggested that Zorkin should not resign (4 judges - N.Vitruk, E.Ametistov, T.Morshchakova and V.Oleynik - recommending Zorkin's resignation). In the evening, Filatov contacted Zorkin himself and demanded that he stepped down, otherwise a ...read more