Capital punishment was a legal penalty in the Soviet Union for most of the country's existence. The legal justification of capital punishment was found in Article 22 of the Fundamental Principles of Criminal Legislation, which stated that the death penalty was permitted "as an exceptional measure of punishment, until its complete abolition".
According to Western estimates, in the early 1980s Soviet courts passed around 2,000 death sentences every year, of which two-thirds were commuted to prison terms. The death penalty was not applied to minors or pregnant women.
During the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies in November 1917, the government of Soviet Russia decreed the abolition of death penalty. Later in February 1918, death penalty was reinstated and especially during the Red Terror.
The first person to be sentenced to death by a Soviet court was Alexey Schastny, Admiral of the Baltic Fleet, on 21 June 1918. Conditional death sentences also occurred in the early 1920s. Decrees issued in 1922, 1923 and 1933 provided police with the right to carry out summary executions, but they were repealed in 1959. Capital punishment was abolished on 26 May 1947, but was reinstated in 1950. Capital punishment was extended to cases of aggravated murder in 1954.
In addition to crimes such as high treason, espionage, terrorism and murder, capital punishment was imposed for economic crimes, such as "the pilfering of state or public property in especially large amounts". The hijacking of a plane became a capital crime in 1973.
Capital punishment for crimes against state and public property was reintroduced in 1961. During the same year, two foreign currency traders, Rokotov and Faibishenko, were retroactively sentenced to death and executed. By 1987, over 6,000 people had been executed for committing an economic crime. The death penalty was generally applied if the crime involved sums exceeding about 10,000 rubles, though there was no fixed threshold.
Several officials were executed for economic crimes as part of Yuri Andropov's anti-corruption campaign. Vladimir I. Rytov, a deputy Minister of Fisheries, was executed in 1982 for smuggling millions of dollars worth of caviar to the West. The director of Gastronom 1, one of Moscow's most prominent gourmet food stores, was executed in 1984 for corruption. The chairman of Technopromexport was executed in 1984 for "systematically taking big bribes". Bella Borodkina, head of the restaurants and canteens department in Gelendzhik, was sentenced to death for receiving $758,500 in bribes.
|Key||Country||Year of last execution||Executions 2018||Year abolished||Notes|
1996 (rest of Russia)
|n/a||Firing squad. Russia retains the death penalty, but it is not used due to a 1996 moratorium. There have been 4 brief periods when Russia has completely abolished the death penalty, in the 18th century Russian empress Elizabeth abolished it, but it was restored by the next emperor, Peter III of Russia; then, on 12 March 1917 to 12 July 1917 following the overthrow of the Tsar, 27 October 1917 to 18 February 1918 following the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks, and 1947–1950 after the end of the Second World War (Joseph Stalin abolished it in 1947, but he had restored it in 1950, and for this short period, the strictest punishment in USSR was penal servitude in GULAG for 25 years). Currently the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation envisages the death penalty for five crimes: murder with aggravating circumstances, assassination attempt against a state or public figure, attempt on the life of a person administering justice or preliminary investigations, attempt on the life of a law-enforcement officer, and genocide. On 16 April 1997, Russia signed the Sixth Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights, but has yet to ratify it. There has been a moratorium on executions since 1996; no executions in the Russian Federation since August 1996 (except one in 1999 in the Chechen Republic, a former limited recognition state). In November 2009, the Constitutional Court extended the moratorium indefinitely pending ratification of the Sixth Protocol. The death penalty is still present in statutes. See Capital punishment in Russia.|
|Ukraine||1997||2000||Abolished February 2000 after the Constitutional Court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional in December 1999. New criminal code passed in April 2000. The unrecognized Donetsk People's Republic reintroduced the death penalty for treason in 2014.|
|Belarus||2018||4||n/a||Belarus is the only country in Europe to continue to use capital punishment. Executions are carried out by a single shot to the head. Laws allow capital punishment for acts of aggression; murder of a representative of a foreign state or international organization with the intention to provoke international tension or war; international terrorism; genocide; crimes against the security of humanity; murder with aggravating circumstances; terrorism; terrorist acts; treason that results in loss of life; conspiracy to seize power; sabotage; murder of a police officer; murder of a border patrol; use of weapons of mass destruction; and violations of the laws and customs of war. See Capital punishment in Belarus.|
|Uzbekistan||2005||2008||President Islam Karimov signed a decree on 1 August 2005 that replaced the death penalty with life imprisonment on 1 January 2008|
|Kazakhstan||2003||2021||Moratorium since 17 December 2003. Abolished on 30 July 2009 for other crimes. On 28 March 2011 the Presidential Commission for Human Rights in Astana asked the government to abolish capital punishment. Currently only one person, mass murderer Ruslan Kulikbayev, is on death row in Kazakhstan.|
|Georgia||1995||2006||The death penalty was abolished for most offenses in 1997, but the constitution stated that the Supreme Court had the power to impose the death penalty in exceptionally serious cases of "crimes against life". On 27 December 2006, President Mikheil Saakashvili signed into a law a new constitutional amendment totally abolishing the death penalty in all circumstances.
The self-proclaimed state of Abkhazia, which is claimed by Georgia, still retains the death penalty for wartime treason, but it has been under moratorium since 2007.
|Moldova||*None since independence in 1991||2005||Last execution when a part of the USSR was in 1985. On 23 September 2005 the Moldovan Constitutional Court approved constitutional amendments that abolished the death penalty.
The self-proclaimed state of Transnistria, which is claimed by Moldova, still retains the death penalty but has observed a moratorium on executions since 1999.
|Latvia||1996||2012||Death penalty abolished for peacetime offenses 1999. Abolished for all crimes 2012.|
|Kyrgyzstan||*None since independence in 1991||2007||Kyrgyz authorities had extended a moratorium on executions each year since 1998. Abolished by constitution in 2007|
|Tajikistan||2004||n/a||Firing squad. Death penalty for murder with aggravating circumstances; rape with aggravating circumstances; terrorism; biocide; genocide. Moratorium introduced 30 April 2004 by President Emomali Rahmon, which means instead of capital punishment, the individual shall receive a life in prison. Persons excluded from death row are: the elderly, women, pregnant women, intellectually disabled, the mentally ill, and teenagers who were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime.|
|Armenia||*None since independence in 1991||1998||Abolished in 1998 by Constitution. The last execution when Armenia was a part of the USSR was on 30 August 1991.|
|Turkmenistan||1997||1999||Abolished 1999 by Constitution.|
|Estonia||1991||1998||The last execution in Estonia has taken place on 11 September 1991 when Rein Oruste was shot with a bullet to the back of the head for the crime of murder.|