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By John Helmer, Moscow

Since the Middle Ages, so for almost a thousand years, the hat which symbolized European learning was the mortar board. It originally meant the wearer had graduated with a university degree. It also symbolized that he had more degrees and more learning still to earn.  It was a symbol of the superiority of the wearer’s education compared to the unlettered — and of his mediocrity among the learned.

When the Chairman of the Russian Constitutional Court, 75-year old Valery Zorkin, presided at Tuesday’s investiture of President Vladimir Putin for his fourth term, Zorkin was wearing a  mortar board —  a hat not  known before in Russian court tradition.  The other court judges in the audience also wore them.  

The Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and General Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff, were in their ceremonial uniforms, but hatless. The Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, wore a double-breasted suit with double vents. Unprecedented for him, but hatless. The only other hatted official at the ceremony was Patriarch Kirill. Without mortar boards, if they think they have more to learn about governing Russia, they are keeping it to themselves.

Kremlin photograph of President Putin taking the oath of office. To his right on the dais,Chief Judge Zorkin. In the left foreground,  other judges of the Constitutional Court. Source:  http://kremlin.ru/events/president/news/57416

In the official television broadcast of the ceremony the Kremlin producers recorded on full screen  several pretty young women, plus Medvedev, Gerasimov, former deputy prime ministers Igor Shuvalov and Arkady Dvorkovich, and outgoing foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.  Dmitry Rogozin, the deputy prime minister in charge of the military-industrial complex, was recorded in a crowd; Medvedev announced later that Rogozin is being replaced.

Alexei Kudrin, candidate right now to be the second most powerful official in the land, was not recorded on film or in the Kremlin website’s photo album.  It was his script which Putin read out in the inauguration speech. It was not Shoigu’s, nor Gerasimov’s, nor Rogozin’s.

The breakthroughs which Putin made the keynote of his speech, repeating the word no less than seven  times, are Kudrin’s recommendations, not those of the Stavka. For the differences between them, and their rivalry for power in the new government, read this and this.

Note: Lead image, from left to right: Alexei Kudrin; Anton Siluanov, nominated by Medvedev to be the new First Deputy Prime Minister; Anton Vaino, presently chief of the Kremlin staff; and Sergei Kirienko, deputy chief of the Kremlin staff. Article 21(2) of the 1992 Russian law on the status of judges  orders that "judges wear gowns during the administration of justice", but doesn't mention a hat. The 1994 law on the Constitutional Court repeated the provision: "Judges of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation shall preside in robes" -- hatless and wigless. The 1996 statute  regulating the Russian courts says "during the administration of justice judges wear gowns or have a different distinguishing mark of their position". The Constitutional Court was telephoned and asked when the mortar board was introduced as part of the judges' robing, and what it symbolizes. The Court press spokesman requested an email of the questions; he then refused to reply. 

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