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When Stalin demanded in 1944 that all Soviet Union republics be admitted to the un, he revealed a conception of sovereignty that diverged from the usual perception of Soviet diplomacy as exceedingly centralised. Soviet theories and practices of sovereignty consisted indeed in a mix of contradictory elements, illustrating the communist criticism of bourgeois international law, but also a willingness to re-use parts of it and tailor them to new political needs. This article focuses on this elastic approach to sovereignty, its legal expression and diplomatic rationale. Particular attention is paid to the sovereignty of Union republics, central to Soviet legal rhetoric, that led them to be active in the international arena in the 1920s and after 1944, and develop state institutions that would smooth up the transition to independence after 1991.

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In: Journal of the History of International Law / Revue d'histoire du droit international
Author: Johannes Socher

Today, the prohibition of the use of force is universally accepted as a norm of customary international law. Nevertheless, several exceptions are discussed in international law scholarship. One of them, wars of national liberation, originates in Lenin’s socialist war theory and was subsequently maintained by the former Soviet doctrine of international law. Little known in western academia, this Soviet argument of national liberation struggles to be ‘just wars’ is still alive in Russian international law scholarship today, and, therefore, a lasting legacy of Lenin’s theory of wars of national liberation in international legal discourse as developed around the time of the Russian Revolution (even if sometimes ignored) may be conceded.

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In: Journal of the History of International Law / Revue d'histoire du droit international
Author: John Quigley

A requirement was written into the Covenant of the League of Nations that treaties be communicated to the League for publication. This innovation is widely attributed to US President Woodrow Wilson, who drafted the language for the League Covenant on this issue. What is less remembered is that behind Wilson’s initiative lay an action by Leon Trotsky, Commissar for Foreign Affairs of the fledgling Soviet Russian government, who revealed treaties that had been concluded secretly on the Allied side during World War i in which various states were promised territorial gains upon the anticipated successful conclusion of the war. Trotsky’s revelation gained world attention and mobilized public sentiment against secret arrangements between governments. Wilson took his initiative in this context. The registration of treaties, which later was carried over into the Charter of the United Nations, has become one of the most important institutions of the modern international order.

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In: Journal of the History of International Law / Revue d'histoire du droit international

The article introduces two traditions of conceptualizing the relationship between sovereignty and property which have been present in legal and political doctrine and in international law. One tradition sees the two concepts as separated, the other as interrelated. The article then shows that the Soviet approach to sovereignty and property, which manifested itself in certain measures adopted after the 1917 Russian Revolution (the abolition of private property, the repudiation of tsarist debts) and which was largely informed by the ideology of Marxism-Leninism, falls under the second tradition. Finally, the article discusses how the Soviet approach to sovereignty and property sought to affect international law and to what extent it has managed, or failed, to do so.

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In: Journal of the History of International Law / Revue d'histoire du droit international
Author: Lauri Mälksoo

The aim of this article is to explore the theory and practice of the Soviet position on the right of peoples to self-determination in 1917 and afterwards. It is a misunderstanding to mention Lenin’s (the Bolsheviks’) and Wilson’s concepts of self-determination in one breath, as ‘precursors’ in international law. The Soviet concept of the right of peoples to self-determination was adopted for tactical and propagandistic purposes, and it had little in common with the liberal democratic concept of this right that saw the right of peoples to self-determination as an end in itself. The real contribution of the Russian Bolsheviks to the history of international law has, to some extent, been overlooked. Throughout the 20th century, the West and the ussr had different regional standards and usages of the right of peoples to self-determination, thus presenting a continuous challenge to the idea of the universality of international law.

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In: Journal of the History of International Law / Revue d'histoire du droit international

This article is devoted to an analysis of the Soviet doctrines of foreign policy, international law and relations. It is claimed that Soviet international law was based on two conflicting ideas – the idea of universal peace and the idea of world revolution. These ideas were reflected in two conflicting principles of Soviet international law – the principle of peaceful coexistence and the principle of socialist internationalism. Throughout its history the ussr was balancing between these ideas and principles depending on its internal and external interests and the current political situation, moving its foreign policy from the first principle to the second one, and vice versa. The article divides the history of Soviet foreign policy into five major stages – the foreign policy of Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev and Gorbachev – to analyse each of these stages in turn.

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In: Journal of the History of International Law / Revue d'histoire du droit international
Author: Bill Bowring

The subject matter of this article is the moment at which Soviet Russia made its first and unexpected step into international legal relations. My focus is the role played, as a legal adviser, by Yevgeniy Pashukanis. I trace the tragic trajectory of Pashukanis up to his murder by Stalin’s regime, and conclude with an evaluation of the significance of the Treaty. It is my contention that the General Theory is not at all representative of Pashukanis’ work as whole. With the exception of this text, Pashukanis was an orthodox Soviet legal scholar, adapting successfully to changes in the prevailing theoretical and ideological direction of the ussr. The Treaty between two defeated and to different extents pariah powers was of immense significance, not only for the immediate survival of Soviet Russia, and its gradual integration into the international legal order, but also for the subsequent trajectories of both countries.

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In: Journal of the History of International Law / Revue d'histoire du droit international