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(nesovershennoletnie), in law, persons who have not reached the legally established age for full legal capacity. In the USSR, citizens who have attained the age of 18 are considered to have reached majority; persons up to the age of 15 (up to 14 years of age in criminal law and procedure) are called maloletnie.
The legal status of minors derives from factors having to do with age—lack of experience and an inability to correctly evaluate certain phenomena or to foresee the consequences of their actions. Accordingly, the law provides for certain limitations on the independent commission by minors of acts entailing legal consequences. The duty to perform these acts in the minor’s name and interests or to exercise control over them rests with parents or persons replacing them (guardians, curators, and legal representatives). Certain duties with respect to legal protection of the rights and interests of minors are entrusted to state bodies, such as juvenile affairs commissions, the procuracy, and guardianship and curatorship agencies. All branches of Soviet law make special provisions for the legal status of minors with due regard for their age. A minor’s capacity to own property and other civil rights is not limited by law, but the possibility of exercising these rights independently is limited. For example, a person between the ages of 15 and 18 may carry out transactions with the consent of his parents or the persons replacing them. These limitations are removed when a minor marries (in those Union republics where the age of marriage is less than 18).
Minors may be employed when they reach the age of 16; in exceptional cases, they may start work at the age of 15 with the consent of the factory trade union committee. The labor rights of minors include the right to a shortened workday at the same wages as adult workers in the corresponding category, the right to a month’s vacation during the summer (only at the request of the minor can the vacation be postponed to another season), and the right to vocational training at the expense of the enterprise. To facilitate placement of minors in jobs, quotas for employing minors and providing vocational training have been established for all enterprises and organizations. Minors may be employed only after a medical examination, and thereafter medical examinations are given annually to working minors. Minors are prohibited from performing heavy work, underground work, and work under harmful or dangerous conditions (which are enumerated on a specific list). It is also forbidden to enlist minors for overtime work, night work, and work on days off.
To discharge a minor, in addition to following the general procedure for discharge by the management, the prior consent of the Juvenile Affairs Commission must be obtained. The commission must also be informed if a minor submits his resignation in order to establish, if possible, the reasons for submitting the resignation and ensure placement in another job. Such privileges as a shorter workday and additional vacation have been established for minors who combine work with study at evening or correspondence schools.
Minors incur civil liability for harm caused by their actions upon reaching the age of 15. Liability is combined with the obligation of the parents or persons replacing them to compensate partially or fully for the harm caused. From the age of 11, minors who commit offenses are subject to the jurisdiction of the Commission on Juvenile Affairs. As a general rule, they are subject to administrative jurisdiction at age 16. In cases where juveniles between the ages of 14 and 16 disrupt public order, militia agencies may impose a fine on the parents. If a minor between the ages of 16 and 18 who does not earn wages commits petty hooliganism, the fine imposed or the expense of detention under arrest is also charged to the parents.
For the most common crimes among minors that an adolescent can recognize as socially dangerous, criminal liability begins at 14 years of age. Among these offenses are theft, malicious hooliganism, robbery, and causing bodily injury that impairs health. Minors also become criminally liable for the most serious crimes at the same age, including murder, causing serious bodily injury, rape, and assault with intent to rob. Minors become criminally liable for other crimes at the age of 16. However, such punishment as execution, exile, banishment, and deprivation of freedom for more than 10 years may not be applied to minors found guilty of crimes. The law provides for a preferential parole procedure for minors, and they serve their punishment separately from adults. Social mentors are appointed for minors on probation as well as those released from custody. In civil trials, the rights and legal interests of minors are, as a rule, protected by their parents or persons replacing them. In a criminal trial, the parents also protect the interests of minors who have been victimized. Although minors of any age may be interrogated as witnesses or victims, if they are under 14 years old their parents must be present at the interrogation. A minor who is under indictment (or suspicion) is an independent subject of procedural rights and duties. In addition, the participation of a defense attorney (from the moment that the indictment is delivered) and a legal representative is mandatory.
Soviet law establishes a number of preventive measures to ensure the correct development of the personality of minors. For example, it is illegal to sell alcoholic beverages to minors, and restrictions are placed on their presence in public places late in the evening. Criminal liability has been established for drawing minors into drunkenness, prostitution, and the like, and there is administrative liability and liability before juvenile affairs commissions and comrades’ courts for bringing a minor to a state of intoxication and for other actions involving incorrect upbringing of minors and providing a negative example for them. Criminal liability has also been instituted for torturing or corrupting a minor, for malicious evasion of alimony payments, for abuse of guardianship duties, and for divulging the secret of adoption. Parents who evade their duties in raising children or who abuse their rights may be deprived of their parental rights. A worker who is performing educational functions with regard to a minor and commits an amoral act incompatible with his work may be discharged on these grounds.
G. M. MIN’KOVSKII