Russian Early Modern Criminal Procedure and Culture of Appeal

in Review of Central and East European Law
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This article explores early modern criminal procedure and the emergence of a culture of appeal in the Russian system of criminal justice. It raises several important questions: Why did the appeal procedure not function as an ultimate guarantee of justice? How did Russian procedural law make appeals nothing more than the last stop on an ‘assembly line’, as a confirmation of a verdict rather than another court instance? How was criminal procedure connected with the political regime and a broader understanding of justice in early modern Russia? And what was then the ultimate goal of appeals that encouraged litigants to proceed with their cases to the highest court authorities? The author argues that Russia developed a so-called ‘appeal culture’, i.e., a situation in which individuals were willing to proceed with an appeal despite the quality of judicial decisions. Coupled with selective justice and a subjective understanding of fair trial, the appeal became one of the main means of acquiring a desirable verdict or, at least, of preventing an adversary from receiving such a verdict.

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