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The article aims to demonstrate that while the jurors’ acquittal of the famous terrorist Vera Zasulich has often been interpreted in terms of sympathy for ‘a desperate girl’, previously underestimated legal and political claims also played an important role in the trial. The key legal experts at the trial – her defense attorney Aleksandrov and the president of the court Koni – interpreted Zasulich’s attempt on Trepov’s life as an act of societal self-defense: Zasulich was presented as a victim of a society which could no longer tolerate arbitrariness by authorities. The flogging of political prisoner Bogolyubov following Trepov’s illegal order made Zasulich desperate to take revenge in order to alert Russian society of the humiliating arbitrariness and the unfairness of the political and legal structures of late Imperial Russia.

Her victimization highlighted her “moral right” to act as a defendant of true law and legality in Russia. This idea of “moral right,” which empowered Zasulich to act in defense of society, was supported by Koni’s conceptualization of law and state power as an embodiment of the people’s will and responsibility. This conceptualization was elaborated in detail in his scholarly legal writings scholarship on the right to self-defense. The article brings together Koni’s theory and his practical role in Zasulich’s acquittal and demonstrates tensions between the Great Reforms and their political and social limitations.

In: Russian History

Abstract

The article describes and analyses the competing approaches to codification in Russia during the first decades of the nineteenth century following Napoleon (and his Code Civil) and its evaluation in the late nineteenth century. Based on recent methodology—the history of notions (Begriffsgeschichte)—this article presents the history of codification through the perspective of the emergence and development of the Russian legal terms 'svod' (compilation/digest) and 'ulozhenie' (system/code). These terms represented the 'battle flags' of the two parties: on one hand, those whom one might characterize as rationalist, universalist, Enlightenment-oriented, based on the French Revolution and inspired by the Code Napoleon; and, on the other, those who might better be described as history-oriented, traditionalist, romantic, nationalist. Speranskii, initially the prime representative of the first tendency, was ultimately successful as the leader of a Russian codification movement by claiming an original national approach to codification, while in practice combining the two elements. The article seeks to demonstrate that the categories of 'national', 'traditional', 'original'—as well as their opposites, 'universalistic', 'rationalist'—which were used in the political and academic discourse on codification in nineteenth-century Russia, may be analyzed as a rhetorical means of argument skillfully applied by the ambitious drafters of new codes (as well as by their opponents). Contextual analysis of both the Russian and European political background of codification discussions are applied in this work, which leads to conclusions on the construction (and deconstruction) of a national mythology of legal traditions. My view of the creation of a new code of laws (ulozhenie)—during the first three decades of the nineteenth century—is one of the completion of a Russian national project. It became such rather suddenly in the spring of 1812 as a result of both major forces and of chance circumstances, the movement of armies, global ideas and the passions of historical figures. The combination of a number of factors resulted in a situation whereby the political struggle over the new code was conducted through the language of nationalism by contrasting the 'national spirit of the law' with 'foreign principles'. In the struggle for a new code, the opposing sides not only used 'national rhetoric' introduced from outside but, also, changed the Russian language, inventing new 'national' meanings for legal concepts.

In: Review of Central and East European Law

This article describes and analyzes the legislative politics of the revolutionary regimes in Russia in 1917-1918. The author aims to demonstrate the political meaning of the form of early Soviet legislation and its legitimizing effect. Revolutionary legislators often used specific language in new laws as a vehicle for legitimacy, i.e., as a means of making the people comply with those laws. The two main types of legal language used by the Bolsheviks can be interpreted from the perspective of different types of legitimacy. The revolutionary strategy used propagandistic legislation, written in the language of lay people, which urged them to act according to the new law. This can be seen as a request for the people to take certain actions and thus to legitimize the soviets. On the other hand, they also used the traditional strategy by employing old bureaucratic means of writing and distributing legislation to the local soviets. The language used by this strategy could not be easily understood by a lay audience and implied a tradition of obeying the law written in familiar legal language, which in turn implied rational/legal legitimacy. The second strategy had already become dominant after the first months of the Bolshevik Revolution. This observation demonstrates that, from the very beginning of their rule, Soviet leaders approached legislative policy from a technocratic point of view, which determined the further development of Soviet legal theory and practice.

In: Review of Central and East European Law
In: The Legal Dimension in Cold-War Interactions
In: The Legal Dimension in Cold-War Interactions
In: The Legal Dimension in Cold-War Interactions
In: The Legal Dimension in Cold-War Interactions
In: The Legal Dimension in Cold-War Interactions
Given their relationship to political rhetoric, myths of the Cold War certainly matter today; the legal field is no exception. Although Cold-War studies remains a blooming field, its legal dimensions have not been sufficiently developed. Only recently have legal scholars begun to embark upon research in law and the Cold War and how this area is regarded nowadays, both explicitly and implicitly. Preliminary results show that, on both sides of the Iron Curtain, knowledge of law of the ‘Other’ was encapsulated within two main frameworks: ideological and pragmatic. How did these approaches interrelate and influence one another? Can pure knowledge strictly be divided from contextual conditions? The chapters in this volume present retrospective accounts of actors who have been involved in the circulation of knowledge through the Curtain and, also, research on recent political and legal phenomena echoing the Cold-War discourse.

Contributors: Jane Henderson, Albert J. Schmidt, Zlata E. Benevolenskaya, Leena Lehtinen, Boris N. Mamlyuk, William Partlett, Paul B. Stephan