Soviet International Law: Between Slogans and Practice

In: Journal of the History of International Law / Revue d'histoire du droit international
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  • 1 Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Max-Planck-Institut fur auslandisches offentliches Recht und VolkerrechtHeidelbergGermanyFaculty of Law, V. N. Karazin Kharkiv National UniversityKharkivUkraine
  • | 2 Legislation Institute of the Verkhovna Rada of UkraineNational Academy of the Legal Sciences of UkraineKyivUkraine
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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.


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.

1 Introduction

In 2017, the October Revolution will celebrate its 100th anniversary. It was, certainly, one of the most important and controversial events of the 20th century, which entered the annals of history as a century of bloody wars and revolutions. The October Revolution gave birth to the first socialist state, changed the political map of the world and started several contradictory processes. Soviet international law was one of its creations. It was a mixture of the norms of general international law, ‘socialist’ or ‘Soviet’ international law according to the Soviet theory of international law that regulated the ‘new’ form, ‘highest’ level of international relations – relations between socialist states – doctrines and strategies of the foreign policy enunciated by the Soviet leaders, ideological dogmas, slogans and principles proclaimed by the programme documents of the Communist parties, mainly the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (cpsu). All these sources aimed to serve the foreign policy of the ussr and to justify its actions and claims.

From the October Revolution, Soviet international law received two conflicting ideas – the idea of universal peace and the idea of world revolution. For more than 70 years the ussr exercised its foreign policy based on these two ideas, balancing them depending on its internal and external interests and the current political situation. Due to their interchangeability and variability the principle of peaceful coexistence (derived from the idea of universal peace) and the principle of socialist internationalism (derived from the idea of world revolution) were not legal principles but rather political slogans.

Over time, the foreign policy doctrine of the ussr, based on Marxist-Leninist teaching, has undergone some changes and transformations. The attitude towards the October Revolution has also changed. The first part of this article is devoted to a review of the Soviet and post-Soviet assessments of this event. The attitude towards the October Revolution reflects the attitude to the Soviet era and Soviet ideology in general, including such phenomena as Soviet international law and Soviet foreign policy. The second part of the article considers the history of the international relations of the ussr. In particular, it analyses the evolution of Soviet doctrine of foreign policy from Lenin’s ‘proletarian’ internationalism to Gorbachev’s ‘new thinking’.

2 The October Revolution and International Law

The impact of the October Revolution on international relations and international law has undergone controversial assessments. While Soviet works on international law stated that this event was the starting point from which contemporary international law emerged, the assessments of the October Revolution in the post-Soviet period (sometimes expressed by the same authors) are much more modest, if not negative.

Soviet monographs, articles and other publications on the issues of international law necessarily referred to the October Revolution and its ‘progressive’ impact on the formation of the ‘new’ (in the meaning of Soviet ideology – progressive) international law and international order. Soviet textbooks on international law – in Soviet times the textbooks were widely used by the state ideology to spread ‘officially’ recognised ideas – contained a detailed analysis of the October Revolution and its impact on the development of such principles of contemporary international law as the principle of the non-use of force, peaceful coexistence, non-interference in internal affairs, sovereign equality, self-determination of peoples and other principles.1

For example, the textbook International Law (1957), edited by Fedor I. Kozhevnikov, stated:

The Great October Socialist Revolution opened a new era in the history of Mankind. It led to the creation of the first socialist state in the world, whose foreign and international-legal practices were fundamentally different from foreign and international-legal practices of the exploitative states.

The foreign policy of the Soviet state reflects the depths of people’s character; it expresses the aspirations and will of the masses – the real creators of their history – to set long lasting and stable peace; only this type of policy meets the vital interests of all peoples.2

These statements were repeated in a number of textbooks and monographs on international law written by Soviet authors. Soviet theory of international law unanimously accepted that it was the October Revolution that brought the principles of justice, freedom, equality, fraternity and international friendship to international law and international relations. For Soviet authors this idea was so obvious that the repeated statements on ‘new’ and ‘progressive’ nature of international law after the October Revolution and ‘creative energy’ of the Soviet state in international relations did not need additional evidence or critical analysis.3 Soviet theory used to contrast the ‘new’ and ‘old’, ‘Soviet’ and ‘bourgeois’, ‘capitalist’ and ‘socialist’ international law. In this approach, everything ‘Soviet’ was progressive, fair and right, meanwhile everything ‘bourgeois’ was labelled as regressive, unfair and wrong.

In 1969, Grigory I. Tunkin, a prominent international-law Soviet theorist, wrote:

Before the Great October Socialist Revolution international law – we call it the old international law – . . . recognised and legally secured the rule of force in international relations . . . Present-day international law prohibits resorting to war, the use of force or the threat of force against territorial integrity and political independence of any state . . . The states are bound to solve their disputes solely by peaceful means.

The new international law is directed against war, it is a weapon of peace. The very appearance of the principle of non-aggression has considerably altered the nature of international law . . .

The old international law contained rules and institutions which served as instruments of colonial and semi-colonial enslavement of peoples . . . By its nature, present-day international law is anti-colonial. The recognition of the principle of national self-determination as a universally accepted principle of international law turned international law against colonialism . . .4

Tunkin continues to compare the ‘new’ and ‘old’ international law and concludes:

The changes in international law since the October Revolution justify the statement that contemporary international law is a qualitatively new international law which may be briefly called the law of peaceful coexistence and free-development of people.5

The statements on the exceptional importance of the October Revolution for the progressive development of international law had an ideological nature and were included in the programme documents of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The 3rd Programme of the cpsu stated:

The Great October Revolution breached the imperialist front in Russia . . . firmly established the dictatorship of the proletariat and created a new type of state – the Soviet socialist state, and a new type of democracy – democracy for the working people . . . For the first time there emerged in the international arena a state which put forward the great slogan of peace and began carrying through new principles in relations between peoples and countries. Mankind acquired a reliable bulwark in its struggle against wars of conquest, for peace and the security of the peoples.6

With the collapse of the ussr, which on the level of ideas meant the defeat of communist ideology, the attitude towards the October Revolution has changed. It is reflected, inter alia, in the name of this event: before 1991 it was called ‘Great October Socialist Revolution’, later the epithet ‘great’ was removed and name was changed to ‘October Revolution’, ‘socialist revolution’, ‘Soviet revolution’, ‘revolution of 1917’; in some cases, to express a negative attitude to this event, it is called the ‘October coup’.7

In Russian fundamental works on international law from post-Soviet times, the October Revolution is not an exceptional event that gave birth to contemporary international law. It was admitted that ‘all important events in the life of society and the interstates system will inevitably lead to substantial changes in international law’.8 In addition, in the post-Soviet interpretation, the October Revolution had both positive and negative consequences for the international system. Its positive impact on international law should be seen in the fact that the October Revolution put forward the ideas and principles that became a turning point in the history of international law: the prohibition of an aggressive war, the right to self-determination, the principle of equality of the states regardless of their economic, social and political systems, the principle of the invalidity of unequal treaties and agreements imposed by force, and the principle of respect for social and economic rights. As for the negative consequences of the October Revolution, post-Soviet authors refer to the fact that the revolution split the world into two hostile camps with opposing socio-economic systems and ideologies.9

It should be noted that in the late 1990s and early 2000s the post-Soviet theory of international law fundamentally changed its general approach to the periods into which the history of international law was divided. In the Soviet era and during first decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union the theory of international law mainly used the ‘traditional’ Marxist-Leninist approach to distinguish major stages of international law, dividing it into the international law of slave society, feudal society, capitalist society and international law after the October Revolution (in Soviet-era publications) or modern international law (in post-Soviet publications). Post-Soviet theory of international law rejected Marxist-Leninist teaching. Recent works on international law divide its history into the following periods: ancient worlds; from the fall of the Roman Empire to the Peace of Westphalia; from the Westphalia Peace to the Hague Peace Conference; from the Hague Peace Conference to the creation of the un and formation of modern international law.10

This classification does not mention the October Revolution. As a result, the analysis of its impact on international law and relations has been reduced to several sentences or even words.11 Post-Soviet literature on international law gives examples of publications on the history of international law that avoid mentioning the October Revolution. Instead, they analyse the impact of the First World War on international law.12

The textbook International Law (2001), edited by V. I. Kuznetsov, is one of the rare attempts in post-Soviet literature to make an objective and critical analysis of the October Revolution and its significance for international law. In the chapter ‘Essay on the History of International Law. The Contribution of Russia: Mistakes and Achievements’, it notes:

In Soviet literature, perhaps, the largest number of myths is connected with the October Revolution . . . It would be an absurdity to deny, as some colleagues in the West did, that the October Revolution had a huge impact on international law . . . but it is the same absurdity to argue, as has been done everywhere in our country, that the October Revolution ruined the old international law and that new international law emerged from the very next morning after the revolution. In fact, nothing like this can happen to law . . .13

Hereafter Vladimir I. Kuznetsov criticises the Soviet theory of international law for being based on class position, for using international law as a tool of the political and ideological struggle and breaking the universality of international law by dividing it into capitalist and socialist international law. His conclusion is:

October 1917 and the following very controversial and difficult events in Russia will remain forever in our history. Every significant event in the history does not have only one charge – minus or plus. It carries a multipolar charge, speeding up or slowing down the movement of all humanity. For international law the revolutionary events of 1917 in our country have become a factor accelerating its progressive development.14

Unfortunately, in Russian legal science only a few works demonstrate a critical approach to the analysis of the October Revolution and its consequences for international law. Instead of this, a dangerous tendency – to revive Soviet tradition of referring to the decision of the party and the government as the main criterion of correctness and validity of foreign and internal policy – has recently emerged.15 This tendency reflects the conflict between legal theory and practice, real policy and slogans as it was in the Soviet time. It confirms that Russian jurisprudence is ready to serve changeable interests of the government supporting and justifying its decisions. It means that after collapse of the Soviet Union almost nothing has changed in Russian legal theory and, that it follows the way of Soviet jurisprudence.

3 The Doctrines of Soviet International Law and Foreign Policy: From World Revolution to ‘New Thinking’

The foreign policy of any state is embodied in the actions of politicians and diplomats, but, at the same time, it is based on a set of concepts, ideas and programmes that determine its directions and priorities and provide, if necessary, the external acts of a state with theoretical justification. In other words, the implementation of foreign policy needs to have certain principles and doctrines as its ideological and theoretical foundation.

During almost the entire period of its existence, the Soviet Union built its foreign policy on the doctrine formed by Vladimir I. Lenin. From time to time it has undergone some changes and transformations to meet challenges that arose before the Soviet state, but it had never been fundamentally reconsidered until Mikhail S. Gorbachev, in the middle of the 1980s.

In general, the Soviet doctrine of foreign policy was based on two conflicting ideas: universal peace and world revolution that evolved into the principles of ‘peaceful coexistence’ and ‘proletarian (socialist) internationalism’ respectively. The first principle – the principle of peaceful coexistence – was aimed at regulating relations between the ussr and the capitalist camp. The principle declared the rejection of direct military confrontation with capitalist countries, and the establishment and development of economic cooperation with them. By the second principle – the principle of socialist internationalism – the ussr considered itself to be obliged to support foreign communist parties and liberation movements of the international working class in their fight against the global capitalist system; on a simplistic level socialist internationalism could be explained as a geopolitical justification of Soviet intervention in the affairs of any region in the world, if there were signs of socialist revolution or national liberation struggle. Throughout its history the Soviet Union implemented both principles, moving its foreign policy from the first principle to the second one, and vice versa, thus the practice of ‘peaceful coexistence’ is inseparable from the practice of ‘socialist internationalism’.

The choice between these two principles was determined by a specific period and related to specific historical tasks. The temporal priority of one of these two principles in the international policy of the Soviet state puzzled its opponents and made them search for an answer to the question: which interests – national or ideological – guided policies of the Soviet leaders?16 If national interests have priority, the primary concern of the ussr should be the growth of power and stability inside the state;17 if the ideology prevails over national interests the overriding objective of the Soviet leaders should be to spread communist revolution throughout the world and ensure the worldwide triumph of communism.18

In fact, the national interests of the Soviet Union were allied to the communist ideology, which served as a means of legitimation of Soviet actions and claims in international relations. Such a combination of principles gave the Soviet Union a wide scope for manoeuvre, making its foreign policy so flexible that for an outside observer it might seem to be contradictory, inconsistent and confusing. As was said:

Soviet Russia was born in revolution. Its first calls to world revolution inflamed the hatred of its enemies and stirred the spirit of revolt among its friends. Within a comparatively short time it put the revolutionary clarion on one side and assumed the role of the commercial traveller seeking ‘normal trade relations’ and a compromise peace with the hated capitalist states. Later, its representatives entered the reviled League of Nations . . . Then it launched a crusade against Nazism and Fascism, pleaded, and manoeuvred for ‘collective security against the aggressor’, only to stagger friend and foe alike by finally making a pact with Nazi Germany . . .19

The history of Soviet foreign policy can be divided into five major stages, each characterised by the dominance of one of the above-mentioned principles. These stages are connected to Soviet leaders, taking into account that each of them had his own ‘style’ of exercising internal and external policy, and brought his own vision and interpretation of the basic principles of Soviet foreign policy, adopting (with the exception of Mikhail S. Gorbachev) either the principle of peaceful coexistence or that of socialist internationalism to the current needs and challenges. These stages can be called: Lenin’s foreign policy (1917− middle of the 1920s); Stalin’s foreign policy (1920s−1950s); Khrushchev’s foreign policy (1950s − middle of the 1960s); Brezhnev’s foreign policy (middle of the 1960s − beginning of the 1980s) and the last one – Gorbachev’s foreign policy until the collapse of Soviet Union.

3.1 Lenin’s Foreign Policy: The Beginnings of the Soviet State

From the very beginning the Soviet state claimed to be a new force in the international arena, which was called to change the system of international relations. Karl Radek said:

The foreign policy of the Soviet Government differs as much from the foreign policy of the other Great Powers as the domestic policy of the first socialist state differs from the domestic policy of the states belonging to the capitalist system.20

The Soviet state, which smashed the old ‘bourgeois’ and ‘exploiting society’s’ machinery of the state and set the new one, could not use international legal principles and norms created by the bourgeois states to serve their interests. According to Vladimir I. Lenin, the Soviet state should have a selective approach to existing international law and reject certain bourgeois norms and institutions. On this issue he stated:

There are various clauses, comrades – the predatory governments, you know, not only made agreements between themselves on plunder, but among these agreements they also included economic and various other clauses on good-neighbourly relations. We shall not bind ourselves by treaties. We shall not allow ourselves to be entangled by treaties. We reject all clauses on plunder and violence, but we shall welcome all clauses containing provisions for good-neighbourly relations and all economic agreements; we cannot reject these.21

Thus, the Soviet government started its foreign policy with a declaration of the high slogans of a just and democratic world. But were the Bolsheviks sincere in their statements; were they consistent in their actions? Were they, indeed, willing to abandon the old ‘imperialist’ methods of exercising of foreign policy, against which they had risen; were they ready to reject secret diplomacy and interference in the internal affairs of other states or was it, using Lenin’s terminology, a ‘revolutionary phrase’?22

As is well known, the day after their seizure of power, the Bolsheviks adopted the Decree on Peace, which declared:

The workers’ and peasants’ government, created by the Revolution of October . . . calls upon all belligerent peoples and their governments to start immediate negotiations for a just, democratic peace . . . by such a peace the government means an immediate peace without annexations (i.e., without the seizure of foreign lands, without the forcible incorporation of foreign nations) and without indemnities.23

Though the next lines of the Decree, which gave a definition of annexation, condemned war and recognised aggressive war to be ‘the greatest crime against humanity’,24 found their further development in the norms of contemporary international law, the Decree in general reflected the contradictions of Soviet foreign policy. Its final provisions appealed not to peace but to the revolutionary struggle. They were addressed to ‘the class-conscious workers of the three most advanced nations of mankind’ and the largest states participating in the First World War – Great Britain, France, and Germany – expressing a hope

. . . that the workers of these countries will understand the duty that now faces them of saving mankind from the horrors of war and its consequences, that these workers, by comprehensive, determined, and supremely vigorous action, will help us to conclude peace successfully, and at the same time emancipate the labouring and exploited masses from all forms of slavery and all forms of exploitation.25

Later the Decree on Peace entered all Soviet books on international law; Soviet ideology successfully used it as convincing evidence of Soviet peacekeeping policy. But in 1917, the Decree on Peace was aimed not at ensuring peace in Europe but, mainly, to protect and strengthen the Soviet government. The next step taken in this direction was the Russian-German separate peace – the Brest-Litovsk Peace Treaty – that was not favourable for Russia.26

In the report On War and Peace at the Seventh Congress of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks), which took place in March 1918, Vladimir I. Lenin stated: ‘History teaches us that peace is a respite from war; war is a way to get a better or worse peace . . . By signing the peace treaty . . . we will not stop our proletarian revolution . . .’.27 Stressing the need for signing the Brest-Litovsk Peace Treaty with Germany, Lenin said:

Some people, definitely as children, think that if you have signed an agreement, you have sold out to Satan and gone to hell. It is just funny, while the military history proves very clearly that the signing of an agreement after a defeat is a means of gathering forces.28

It is interesting that the Congress, while adopting the resolution on ratification of the peace treaty with Germany, which, in Lenin’s terms was ‘humiliating’, ‘heavy’ and ‘shameful’ for Russia, decided not to publish this resolution and obliged all participants to keep its contents secret. It agreed to publish – not immediately but later and under a special order of the Central Committee – a very brief message that the Congress had supported the ratification.29 Indeed, for a government that called for the rejection of secret diplomacy and believed that ‘a state is strong when the people are politically conscious . . . when the people know everything, can form an opinion of everything and do everything consciously’,30 it was a very strange decision.

Despite the difficulties with which the newly born Soviet state was faced, the Bolsheviks did not reject the idea of world proletarian revolution. Inspired by the principles of nineteenth-century Marxist internationalism they thought that workers have no country, that the proletariat of all lands should join forces in their common struggle against the bourgeois. They considered the October Revolution an event that would spark social upheaval in Western Europe. In August 1918, V. I. Lenin wrote:

We are banking (staking) on the inevitability of world revolution . . . We know that circumstances pushed forward our, Russian, detachment of the socialist proletariat not because of our merits, but because of the special backwardness of Russia, and that before the world revolution breaks out a number of separate revolutions may be defeated. Despite this we do know that we are invincible, because mankind will not be broken by the imperialist slaughter but overcome it . . . we are invincible, because the world proletarian revolution is invincible.31

Moreover, they considered world revolution as a guarantee to protect their own power. The idea of world proletarian revolution is associated with the doctrine of ‘revolutionary intervention’ that was supported by V. I. Lenin, L. D. Trotsky, G. E. Zinoviev, N. I. Bukharin, M. N. Tukhachevsky and others. This doctrine had its first implication in 1918, when the Bolsheviks supported Finnish, Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian parties in order to establish Soviet regimes in these areas. But it was to be expressed in its clearest form in 1919–1920 during the Bolsheviks’ efforts to establish Soviet power in Poland. The revolutionary statements of the Bolsheviks’ leaders proved that there would be no obstacles, except physical impossibility, to a westward push by the Red Army.32

In particular, Gregory E. Zinoviev, who was a head of the Communist International (Comintern), had no intention of waiting until revolution in other countries would ripen and called to give history a push by rendering military assistance to revolutionary forces in Europe. He believed that ‘the light from the revolution is setting the world on fire’ and ‘if tomorrow the proletarian revolution is victorious in Berlin, we shall unite with proletarian Berlin against bourgeois Paris and imperialist London. If tomorrow in Paris or Rome the workers should seize power, we should unite with proletarian Rome against bourgeoisie Vienna or with the workers of Paris against Ebert’s Berlin’.

Despite Vladimir I. Lenin’s stated opposition to ‘pushing’ revolution he also supported attempts to spread the revolution westward by military force in 1919, in an effort to link Soviet power with the revolutionary struggle in Germany. Lenin was not opposed to war as such and believed that a revolutionary war was inevitable in order to sweep away the capitalist world order. Furthermore, in 1921 he argued that ‘revolutionary wars’, such as wars against capitalists in defence of the oppressed classes, in defence of nations oppressed by imperialists and in defence of socialist revolution against foreign invaders, were justified.33

According to the Bolshevik leaders, intervention could be ‘revolutionary’ and ‘reactionary’. The first was fair and legitimate, the second had no right to exist. So-called ‘red intervention’ even had moral supremacy because of its altruistic nature. As Nikolay I. Bukharin and Evgeny A. Preobrazhensky stated in the A.B.C. of Communism: ‘the proletariat as a class must fight with bourgeoisie states . . . not for the seizure of other’s goods, but for the victory of communism, for dictatorship of the working class’.34

Some Soviet jurists (notably Evgeny A. Korovin and Evgeny B. Pashukanis) developed an elaborate theory to justify ‘revolutionary intervention’. For them, intervention was a projection of the class struggle across state boundaries: thus, any specific case of intervention should be judged by whether it served to run the wheel of history forwards or backwards. Korovin described intervention as a ‘manifestation of the class struggle on an international level’. In his view, intervention had the potential to be an instrument of progress, ‘a surgical instrument to ease the birth of the labours of the new world.’ But in the hands of imperialists this instrument was profoundly regressive; reactionary intervention is an absurd attempt to stop the wheel of history.35 As an illustration of progressive intervention Korovin appealed for support to be rendered by the Red Army to countries of the Baltic region and in the Caucasus in order to establish socialism.

In his turn, Evgeny B. Pashukanis distinguished between Soviet and all other forms of intervention. Soviet intervention was said to have a progressive character never before seen in history; on the contrary, interventions by bourgeois states were motivated by the desire for exploitation and territorial aggrandisement.36 It meant that the actions of the Soviet state were to be judged by qualitatively different standards from those of other states. It should be mentioned that the theory of double standards for judging intervention elaborated by Soviet jurists during the first years of the Soviet state was used during Brezhnev’s time in the 1960s to justify Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia (disguised as ‘fraternal mutual aid’), but in the 1930s both Evgeny A. Korovin and Evgeny B. Pashukanis were forced to repudiate their early theories of international law that were out of kilter with Stalin’s trends of Soviet foreign policy.37

Despite all hopes and appeals to proletarian solidarity a socialist revolution abroad was not forthcoming. At the beginning of the 1920s it became clear that the idea of immediate world revolution had failed. The first attempt to spread it by military force did not succeed. It was a failure by the Red Army to impose the Soviet regime on Poland in 1920 and not the Decree on Peace of 1917, that gave birth to the serious pursuit of ‘peaceful coexistence’.38

3.2 Stalin’s Foreign Policy: The Doctrine ‘Socialism in One Country’

The second stage, from the 1920s until the 1950s, roughly corresponds to Stalin’s rule in the Soviet Union. He proposed concentrating the Bolsheviks’ efforts on the establishment of a socialist system in one country. Stalin’s words at the 16th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union – ‘We do not want a single bit of foreign land; but at the same time not an inch of our land shall ever be yielded to anyone else’ – are the exact expression of the official foreign policy of the Soviet Union.39

The consolidation of the Stalinist regime was followed by the repression of those who stood proudly in the first rank during the ‘heroic’ days of the Revolution; at the same time, the victory of Stalin’s doctrine ‘socialism in one country’ in the theoretical battle was provided by cleansing Soviet theory of law of ‘anti-Marxist’ theories. The names of the victims from the first group are well-known, taking into account their political role. Regarding the radical transformation that overtook the Soviet government since Lenin’s death, Paul Scheffer concludes:

Of the ‘old timers’ really near to Lenin nobody has survived either in spirit or in power – neither Rakovskiy, an extraordinary personality; nor Radek, world celebrated intellectual; nor the truly faithful and rather primitive Rykov, Lenin’s immediate successor in the presidency of the Sovnarkom; nor Sokolnikov, perhaps the most brilliant of Lenin’s closest friends. All have at last been eliminated, if not liquidated . . . it seems that Stalin . . . has been evolving a premeditated scheme to seal the doom of all these men – slowly and cautiously, yet inexorably.40

Virtually every leading figure associated with October 1917 and the early years of the Soviet state fell victim to Stalin’s purges. However, there were also thousands of lesser-known victims, including Soviet legal scholars whose ideas and theories appeared to be inconsistent with Stalin’s doctrine of ‘socialism in one country’.

It should be noted that during the pre-Stalinist period there was a free-ranging discussion in the Soviet legal theory focused mainly on the categories ‘state’ and ‘law’. Some authors discerned at least four Marxist legal schools: (a) sociological (P. Stuchka, A. Stalgevich, E. Pashukanis, N. Krylenko, M. Dotsenko, I. Razumovskii and others); (b) psychological (M. Reisner, I. Ilinskii, Ya. Berman, M. Rezunov, A. Popov and others); (c) social function (A. Goikhbarg, S. Raevich, E. Kelman, S. Asknazii and others), and (d) normativist (D. Magerovskii, I. Podvolotskii, I. Voitinskii and others).41 The fact that these schools advanced conflicting legal theories (despite their claims to be ‘purely’ Marxist), proves that Soviet writers were free in their interpretation of ‘Marxist’ teaching, and Soviet legal studies of the early years could be conducted without political pressure and interference.

One of the most controversial questions in the Soviet legal theory concerned the problem of the withering away of law and state as bourgeois institutions. Based on Marx-Lenin’s teachings many Soviet jurists of the post-revolutionary time sincerely believed that in the nearest future the new Soviet society would form a special communist morality and that revolutionary consciousness of justice would replace formal bourgeois legality and law.42

Practice failed to confirm these expectations. In the latter half of the 1920s, some writers began to argue that a new type of law – Soviet law or proletarian law as distinct from its bourgeois predecessor – had emerged to serve the consolidations of the proletarian revolution. In the 1930s, this view became an ‘official’ view of Soviet legal theory. Different interpretations of Marx’s statement of the withering away of the state became incompatible with Stalin’s doctrine of ‘socialism in one country’ and his announcement that socialism had been achieved in the Soviet Union, yet the apparatus had to be strengthened, not relaxed.43

Thus, the theoretical puzzle of the Soviet jurisprudence had been solved at the highest level. Stalin’s doctrine of ‘socialism in one country’ gave a signal to start the great ‘cleansing’ of the Soviet legal theory from ‘anti-Marxist’ ideas. In 1937, A. Vychinsky, the leading Soviet lawyer of that time who is also known as a state prosecutor of Stalin’s Moscow trials, published an article ‘On the Situation on the Legal Theory Front’,44 in which he strongly criticised theories of ‘withering away’, ‘blowing up’ the state, and labelled their authors as ‘deviationists’, ‘Trotskyists’, ‘degenerates’, ‘double-dealers’, ‘traitors’, ‘wreckers’, ‘foes of the people’, etc. The article (less than twenty pages) seems more of a capital sentence rather than a scientific publication – almost all the Soviet legal scholars mentioned in it became victims of Stalin’s regime.45 Stalin’s repressions against Soviet lawyers put the creative evolution of Marxist legal theory to an end. The period of the ‘passionate legal debates’46 in the Soviet jurisprudence was over.

An explanation of Stalin’s foreign policy based on the doctrine ‘socialism in one country’ was offered to the outside world by Karl B. Radek. In an article published in Foreign Affairs he stated:

The main object for which Soviet diplomacy is fighting is peace . . . Why is the struggle for peace the central object of Soviet policy? Primarily because the Soviet Union – to use the expression of Lenin – has everything necessary for building up socialist society . . .

Even at the moment when we were particularly ill-equipped to undertake the building-up of socialism, immediately after we had assumed governmental responsibilities, we readily accepted the heaviest sacrifices in order to give peace to the country . . .47

Radek’s main conclusion concerning Soviet foreign policy was that ‘the Soviet Union follows the policy of peace because peace is the best condition for building up a socialist society’.48

On the one hand, the doctrine of ‘socialism in one country’ downgraded the importance of world revolution. Stalin was so constant in pursuing the ‘socialism in one country’ policy that Trotsky, who was in exile, accused him of betraying the ideas of Marxism-Leninism. Indeed, during the period of the first two Five Year Plans (1928–1938) Soviet foreign policy could have given the impression that the ussr had no ambitions beyond its borders. It sought international recognition from the West as ardently as it had sought world revolution in the early years of the regime.49 The Soviet Union joined the League of Nations and signed defence pacts with European states. There was only one piece of evidence that the ussr had not rejected the idea of world revolution – its meddling in the Spanish Civil War.

The situation dramatically changed with outbreak of the Second World War. Theoretically, the ussr after signing a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany on 23 August 1939 could follow a path of ‘peaceful coexistence’. But the plans were different. As a secret Protocol to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact showed, the Soviet Union had strong intentions to participate in territorial and political rearrangements in Europe. The Soviet record from 1939 to 1941 – a period when the Soviet Union was officially neutral in the Second World War and followed the doctrine ‘socialism in one country’ – includes military invasion of Poland, Romania, the Baltic states and Finland. The expansion of the Soviet Union was in line with the idea of world revolution, but by participating in a secret treaty with Hitler the Soviet Union walked away from the principles proclaimed by the October Revolution.

Thus, Stalin’s doctrine of ‘socialism in one country’ did not mean a complete renunciation of the idea of world revolution. The possibility for the further spread of socialism was left open, should a favourable situation emerge at some future date.

3.3 Khrushchev’s Foreign Policy: The Doctrine of ‘Peaceful Coexistence’ and First Challenges to Soviet Regional Hegemony

The third stage of the history of Soviet foreign policy began in the middle 1950s with the consolidation of power in the ussr by Nikita S. Khrushchev. The main doctrine that served Soviet international relations during Khrushchev’s time, was the doctrine of peaceful coexistence proclaimed by the Soviet leader who realised that in a nuclear age the military methods of Soviet attempts to spread communism would be self-defeating.50 A nuclear weapon gave birth to the fear of total destruction that prevented events from moving in its usual way, as had happened twice in the 20th century with the World Wars. The interest of self-preservation made the two powerful opposing military-political blocs stop and remain satisfied with a ‘Cold War’ instead of a ‘Hot War’.51

The essence of the doctrine of peaceful coexistence was the renunciation of an all-out military struggle against capitalist countries. As Khrushchev stressed:

The states which decided to adopt the path of peaceful coexistence repudiate the use of force in any form and agree on a peaceful settlement of possible disputes and conflicts, bearing in mind the mutual interest of parties concerned.52

The doctrine of peaceful coexistence was not represented in one document. It gradually evolved and consisted of a number of provisions. First, it required the renunciation of the threat or use of force against other states and the renunciation of polices that could lead to war and international tension. It included an obligation of the state to pursue policies that would contribute to the strengthening of international peace and security and developing international co-operation. Secondly, it included the obligation to recognise and respect different socio-economic systems existing in various states. It meant that a state had an obligation not to impose its own system on another state with the aid of force. The principle of peaceful coexistence also included the obligation of states to cooperate with one another irrespective of the differences in their socio-economic and political systems. Finally, as was stressed many times by the Soviet leaders and scholars, the principle of peaceful coexistence did not exclude an ideological struggle between capitalistic and socialist states.53 But, according to the doctrine of peaceful coexistence, socialism should overthrow capitalism peacefully, because it would win the economic, political and ideological struggle. As Khrushchev stated: ‘We, Communists, believe that the idea of Communism will ultimately be victorious throughout the world, just as it has been victorious in our country, China and many other states’.54

According to the teachings of Marxism-Leninism, the development of world history would be completed by the worldwide triumph of communism. Therefore, in the Soviet theory of international law the principle of peaceful coexistence was considered a temporary principle called upon to serve international relations of the ‘transitional’ period from capitalism to communism. According to Soviet ideology, in the near future the world capitalist system as a whole would ripen for the socialist revolution of the proletariat. Then, inter-state relations would be socialist and as such, they would be based on a set of new socialist principles different from the principle of peaceful coexistence.55 On one hand, the doctrine of ‘peaceful coexistence’ was an attempt to protect the Soviet Union from nuclear attack, but on the other hand, it was still committed to spreading communist ideology and revolution throughout the world.56

‘Coexisting peacefully’ in the nuclear era, the two irreconcilable enemies – the ussr and the usa – had to avoid a direct conflict while expanding their influence and pursuing their political goals (the Caribbean Crises of October 1962 showed how dangerous a direct conflict between superpowers could be). Over the decades, traditional war has been on the decline, but has been replaced by proxy wars.57 The superpower states considered themselves ideologically obliged to influence the internal affairs of other states in order to prevent or minimise the influence of rival powers. Thus, proxy war was an inherent part of the Cold War strategies of the superpowers. For the Soviet Union, the doctrine of peaceful coexistence combined with the principle of socialist internationalism was a theoretical base to justify its permanent participation in the proxy wars to support communist or pro-communist governments around the globe.

Expounding the doctrine of peaceful coexistence Nikita S. Khrushchev challenged the West and particularly the usa:

You disagree with us? Prove by facts that your system is superior and more efficacious, that it is capable of ensuring a higher degree of prosperity for the people than the socialist system, than under capitalism man can be happier than under socialism.58

It is interesting that Khrushchev’s call for peaceful competition coincided in time with a crisis within the socialist camp. Although Soviet ideology and Soviet publicists usually described relations inside the socialist commonwealth as a ‘haven’ of peace and progress, in fact, Soviet regional hegemony was challenged by several political crises, such as the revolt of East German workers in 1953, and the Hungarian and Polish rebellions against Soviet dominance in the bloc in 1956. Events that followed after the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union showed that it was not possible to exercise a de-Stalinisation policy without damaging Soviet regional hegemony. Khrushchev could control the situation inside the ussr where the power of the cpsu remained unchallenged, but not outside it.

The Polish crisis was overcome by political means: Moscow and Warsaw reached a compromise on the assignment of Wladyslaw Gomulka to the position of First Secretary of the Polish United Worker’ Party.

But in Hungary the Soviet Union had to use military force to restore the ‘socialist rule of law’ and keep the communist government in power. The use of military force needed to be justified. The Soviet Union had to prove that its policy in Hungary was an act of ‘fraternal support’. In doing so, the Soviet theory of international law put forward several arguments using both the norms of international law and principals of Soviet ideology. In particular, it used the ‘invitation’ argument (Soviet military interference took place after a request from the Hungarian government) and treaty obligations (reference was made to the Soviet-Hungarian mutual assistance treaty of 1948 and the Warsaw Pact).59 The ideological justification of Soviet military interference in Hungary was based on the following arguments: first, that the sovereignty of socialist countries differs from the sovereignty of capitalist countries and as such should not be judged by the standards of bourgeois law;60 second, that the socialist camp was characterised by organic unity – under socialism there were not and could not be contradictions between the national interests and the interests of international cooperation;61 and finally, the most important, that the main principal of international law that regulated relations between the socialist countries was the principle of socialist internationalism.

The Soviet Foreign Minister Dmitriy T. Shepilov connected the ‘attempted putsch’ in Hungary with the forces of international reaction that had used nationalist elements to detach Hungary from the socialist camp. According to him, the ussr had to act drastically to prevent a ‘domino effect’, otherwise the other socialist countries might follow the same fate in turn. Supporting Hungarians, the Soviet Union fulfilled its international duty not only to Hungary, but to all socialist countries.62 According to the official interpretation, the Soviet Union’s actions in Hungary were in accordance with socialist international law They were inspired not by the national self-interest of the ussr but by its international duty to protect the interests of all socialist states.63 It should be stressed that the Hungarian episode, used by the founders of the Brezhnev Doctrine in 1968 as the main determinant of Soviet reaction to the Czechoslovakian crisis, was seen as a ready-made ideological justification.

3.4 Brezhnev’s Foreign Policy: the Principle of Socialist Internationalism and the Doctrine of Limited Sovereignty

In the late 1960s a new term – the ‘Brezhnev Doctrine’ – entered the vocabulary of Western politicians and scholars. Over the next twenty years (fourth period), the Brezhnev Doctrine defined the direction of Soviet foreign policy. The doctrine admitted that there were some weak places in the socialist camp that could result in the restoration of capitalism. To prevent this, the doctrine declared it was the duty of all socialist countries to protect the integrity of the socialist system. The key points of the doctrine were proclaimed in Leonid I. Brezhnev’s speech before the Polish Communist Party Congress in November 1968. Brezhnev said:

It is common knowledge that the Soviet Union has done much for the real strengthening of the sovereignty and independence of the socialist countries. The cpsu has always advocated that each socialist country determine the specific form of its development along the road of socialism with consideration for the specific condition of its nationals. However, it is known, comrades, that there also are common natural laws of socialist construction, deviation from which could lead to deviation from socialism as such. And when the internal and external forces hostile to socialism seek to halt the development of any socialist country to restore the capitalist order, when a threat to the cause of socialism in that country, or a threat to the security of the socialist community as a whole emerge, this is no longer only a problem of the people of that country but also a common problem, concern for all socialist countries. It goes without saying that such an action as military aid to a fraternal country to cut short the threat to the socialist order is an extraordinary enforced step, it can be sparked only by the direct actions of the enemies of socialism inside the country and beyond its boundaries, actions creating a threat to the common interest of the socialist camp.64

The widely known exposition of the Brezhnev Doctrine (or doctrine of limited sovereignty) was set out in ‘Sovereignty and International Duties of the Socialist Countries’, published in the central Soviet newspaper Pravda on 26 September 1968, following the events in Czechoslovakia. Its author, Sergey Kovalev, gave a very clear justification of the socialist bloc’s invasion of Czechoslovakia:

There is no doubt that the peoples of the socialist countries and communist parties have and should have the opportunity to determine the development of their countries. However, their decisions should damage no socialist system of their own country, neither the fundamental interests of other socialist countries, nor the worldwide labour movements, struggling for socialism. The sovereignty of any socialist country should not be in conflict with interests of world socialism and world revolutionary movement.65

According to Kovalev, sovereignty was a delicate matter that could be implemented only in the special (socialist) environment; otherwise it would develop into a mutation of nationalism that is far from being sovereignty. Thus, the five socialist countries whose military forces entered Czechoslovakia had scrupulously respected the sovereignty of the Republic and acted in favour of the Czechoslovak peoples’ right to determine their future without ‘counter-revolutionary threats, revisionist and nationalist demagoguery’.66 It was especially stressed that:

Nobody interferes in the measures aimed to improve the socialist system in the different countries of socialism. But this approach will be radically altered when there is a danger to socialism in one country or another. World socialism, as a social system, is a common achievement of the working people of all countries, it is indivisible; its defence is a common cause for all Communists, all progressive people of the world, and, especially, for the working people of the socialist countries . . . Communists of the fraternal countries, certainly, could not remain inactive, standing by abstractly understood sovereignty, seeing that a country [Czechoslovakia] was in danger of an anti-socialist rebirth.67

The article concluded that the allied action had been a struggle for the sovereignty of Czechoslovakia against those who had sought to destroy it.68

The central tenets of the article were to be obsessively repeated in Soviet comments on the invasion. In the newspaper Kommunist it stated that national sovereignty cannot be opposed to the class solidarity of workers.69 The newspaper Krasnaya zvezda argued that for Marxism-Leninism the sovereignty concept had a class content, and for a socialist state sovereignty meant independence from capitalism.70 These arguments received the stamp of authority after having been reiterated in Brezhnev’s Warsaw speech on 12 November 1968.

In 1979 the Brezhnev Doctrine was extended to justify a Soviet military presence in Afghanistan. This case demonstrated that the doctrine could be applied outside Europe and the usual sphere of Soviet interests. It could also be applied to regimes that were outside the category of socialist states, to states with a socialist orientation. The precarious stability of many of these regimes meant that the possibility of Soviet interventions in the future could not be ruled out.71

Obviously, Soviet theory of international law could not use terms such as ‘Brezhnev Doctrine’ or ‘doctrine of limited sovereignty’;72 instead, it referred to the principle of socialist internationalism that was proclaimed to be the main superior principle in the relations of socialist states. In 1977, Soviet theory of international law received a further push towards the intensive development of this principle – the ‘new’ Soviet Constitution included the principle of socialist internationalism in article 30.73 In Critique of the Bourgeois, Reformist and Revisionist Falsifications of Proletarian Internationalism, Vyacheslav S. Kulikov gives very long list of publications devoted to this issue.74

Moreover, in the view of the Soviet doctrine of international law the principle of socialist internationalism was closely linked to the right of self-determination. This principle was considered to be very important for the liberation struggle against colonialism and racial discrimination. The common interests of socialist countries and oppressed peoples, nations and races were one of the aspects of the principle of socialist internationalism. It implied that the Soviet Union had a right and a moral obligation to support the national liberation movements and struggle against all forms of national oppression in any part of the world.75

3.5 Gorbachev’s Foreign Policy: ‘Perestroika’, ‘New Thinking’ and the Collapse of the ussr

Finally, the fifth period in the history of Soviet foreign policy is called ‘perestroika’ (the reconstruction) and ‘new thinking’. It was a desperate attempt to reform internal and external policies of the ussr. The need for reforms resulted not only from a deep socio-economic crisis, but also from a crisis of the communist ideology. In simplified form, the core of communist ideology was a promise of inevitable worldwide victory of communism. The communist ideology was aimed at maintaining the idea of building communism, which, in its turn, was necessary to legitimise and preserve the Soviet regime. But in fact, the Soviet Union was a totalitarian state, pushing its parts into the rigid framework of communist ideological censorship. The myth of communism expanding in the Soviet Union was the biggest hoax of the 20th century.

It was impossible to exploit the idea of building communism indefinitely. Soon or later this recourse would be exhausted. It was noted that:

Over the years, Soviet ideology looked more like an incredible narcotic potion, the country looked like a drug addict . . . the size of ideological doses increased, approaching suicidal, but the effect of communist nirvana could be achieved less often.76

Paradoxically, Khrushchev was one of the originators of the failure of the Soviet system. In 1961 he insisted on the cpsu’s Programme, which was adopted for next 20 years, including a clear promise that communism would have been built in the ussr by 1980. Thus, after 1980 there was only one thing – the established communism – which could legitimise the Soviet state. But the plans, which had been announced worldwide, were not fulfilled. Mikhail S. Gorbachev, who came to power in 1985, was forced to proclaim a new programme – restructuring (‘perestroika’). The attempts to reform the ideology and democratise society resulted the collapse of communist ideology and the collapse of the state which was rallied by this ideology.

In foreign policy the doctrine of new thinking was based on the following principals: the insufficiency of military power as a means to ensure national security and the link between national and mutual security (no national security can be achieved at the expense of another country);77 the refusal to divide the world into two political systems (socialist and capitalist); the recognition of world unity and interdependency (the struggle between two social system should no longer create the core dynamics of international politics); the recognition of the priority of human values over any other values (class, national, ideological); the non-use of force or a threat of force; that negotiations and dialogue should be the universal means of solving international disputes and conflicts.

In addition, the doctrine of new thinking changed the principles of relations between the ussr and other socialist countries. It recognised that each nation, each country, had a sovereign right to define the direction of its social and political development.78 In the doctrine of new thinking socialist international relations were no different from those of any other type of polity. Based on this assumption the doctrine concluded that socialist international law and capitalist international law did not exist; but instead there was universal international law.

Robert A. Jones distinguished more than ten differences between ‘old thinking’ and ‘new thinking’. In particular, ‘old thinking’ emphasised class and ideological struggle, struggle and competition between two systems; ‘new thinking’ emphasised inter-state cooperation, internationalisation and interdependence within and across the boundaries of the two systems, downplayed ideological differences; in ‘old thinking’ the main threat for the Soviet Union was military aggression, in ‘new thinking’ the Soviet Union was threatened by economic exhaustion from a new arms race and the failure of reform; ‘old thinking’ predicted a rapid decaying of capitalism, ‘new thinking’ acknowledged its resilience; ‘old thinking’ considered positive changes in international law as result of Soviet initiatives only, ‘new thinking’ admitted progress to be a ‘dialectical’ process of dialogue, etc.79 The changes in the Soviet doctrine of international relations were conceptual; it gave a reason to call them ‘the revolution in Soviet foreign policy’.80

The doctrine of the new thinking, which rejected the class approach to international law and principle of socialist internationalism, replaced the principle of peaceful coexistence by the principle of balancing interests and finding compromise and normalised relations between the ussr and the West; the Cold War was over. Based on the doctrine of new thinking the ussr withdrew its troops from Afghanistan. It remained neutral towards political processes of democratisation in the socialist camp which radically changed the political map of Europe. In 1989–1990, the ‘velvet’ revolutions in the socialist countries of Eastern Europe (except Romania) peacefully moved power from the communists to the national-democratic forces. In 1990 there was the unification of Germany. By the early 1990s, the Soviet Union, which had been left without old allies and failed to accrue new ones, found itself in a difficult economic situation and lost the status of superpower.

4 Conclusion

Soviet international law was in fact a law of the strong. For Lenin and his followers, the main question of internal and foreign policy was the question: ‘kto kogo?’ – who whom? Meaning: who beats whom? Who takes advantage of whom? Who uses whom? After the October Revolution, the answer to this question was moved to an international level, permeating the 20th century’s world history.

Bolshevik foreign policy aimed to fulfil the idea of communism and communist revolution was limited rather by physical impossibility than by international law. The main task of the Soviet theory of international law was to justify the ussr’s foreign policy, its acts and claims. The principle of peaceful coexistence was used by Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev as a pragmatic means for achieving political goals. ‘Peaceful coexistence’ was not an inherent belief of Soviet international law, as the state ideology tried to convince everyone; on the other hand, ‘world revolution’ was immanent for communist ideology. When the historical situation was favourable for Soviet expansion, the principle of socialist internationalism supplanted the principle of peaceful coexistence to legitimise the use of force and Soviet intervention.

The history of the Soviet Union and, in particular, the history of Soviet foreign policy and Soviet theory of international law proves the rule that the strongest cannot be strong enough to always be strong. Force and violence, in contrast to the law, is an exhaustive resource. Accordingly, relations built on force do not have a long historical perspective; they are doomed.

An understanding of Soviet foreign policy is a key to understanding contemporary international processes, and, in particular, modern Russian politics, which are rooted in the Soviet past. In particular, it can explain Russian attempts to revive the Brezhnev Doctrine in its relations with former Soviet republics and former socialist countries.

1 For a detailed analysis of the impact of the October Revolution on international law see: § 5. ‘The Great October Socialist Revolution and Origins/Emergence of Contemporary International Law’, in Chapter i: ‘A Brief Essay on the History of International Law’, in Ф. И. Кожевников (ред.), Курс международного права (М.: Изд-во ‘Междунар. Отношения’ 1966). [F. I. Kozhevnikov (ed.), Course of International Law (M. 1966)]; § 1 ‘The Great October Socialist Revolution and Contemporary International Law’, in Chapter iii: ‘Essence of Contemporary International Law’, in Г. В. Игнатенко/Д. Д. Остапенко (ред.), Mеждународное право: Учебник для вузов (М.: Изд-во ‘Высшая школа’ 1978). [G. V. Ignatenko/D. D. Ostapenko (eds.), International Law: Textbook for High School (M. 1978)].

2 Ф. И. Кожевников (ред.), Международное право: Учебник для юрид. высших учеб. заведений (М.: Гос. изд-во юрид. лит. 1957). [F. I. Kozhevnikov (ed.), International Law: Textbook for Law Schools (M. 1957)].

3 Here are some quotes from Soviet textbooks and monographs on international law: ‘The Great October Socialist Revolution shook the entire structure of world capitalism to its very foundations; the world split into two opposing systems – socialist and capitalist. The Soviet State started to implement new principles in the relations between peoples and nations . . . In the international sphere, the Soviet State reveals a lot of creative energy. It denies the institutions of international law which are inconsistent with the policy of the socialist state (e.g. regime of capitulations, colonial oppression and intervention), and builds new institutions of international law . . .’ See: В. И. Лисовский, Международное право: Учебник для экономических институтов и факультетов (М.: Изд-во ‘Высшая школа’ 1970), 32–33. [V. I. Lisovskii, International Law (M. 1970)]. ‘The formation of contemporary international law started under the influence of socialist revolutions, first of all, the Great October Socialist Revolution. Classes, who won, brought to the sphere of international relations their political and moral principles, which evolved into international-law norms as a result of the international practice and law-making policy of the socialist states . . .’ See Г. Б. Старушенко, Мировой революционный процесс и современное международное право (M.: Междунар. отношения 1978), 47–48. [G. B. Starushenko, International Revolutionary Process and Contemporary International Law (M. 1978)].

4 G. I. Tunkin, ‘Peaceful Coexistence and International Law’, in G. I. Tunkin (ed.), Contemporary International Law: Collection of Articles (Moscow: Progress Publishers 1969) 5–35, 27–30.

5 Ibid., 30.

6 Программа Kоммунистической партии Советского Союза (М. 1976), 12 [The Programme of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (M. 1976)].

7 Д. М. Володихин/С. В. Волков (ред.) Гражданская война в России: энциклопедия катастрофы (М.: Сибирский цирюльник 2010), 43 [D. M. Volodihin/S. V. Volkov (eds.), Civil War in Russia: Encyclopedia of Catastrophe (M. 2010)].

8 Г. И. Тункин (ред.), Международное право: Учебник (М.: Юрид. лит. 1994), 44. [G. I. Tunkin (ed.) International Law: Textbook (M. 1994)].

9 Tunkin, ibid.. 44–45; А. Н. Талалаев/Г. И. Тункин/Л. Н. Шестаков (ред.), Международное право: Учебник (М.: Юрид.лит 1999), 43–48. [A. N. Talalaev/G. I. Tunkin/L. N. Shestakov (eds.), International Law: Textbook (M. 1999)].

10 See Г. В. Игнатенко/О. И. Тиунов (ред.), Международное право: Ученик для вузов (М.: Изд. Группа НОРМА-ИНФРА-М 1999) [G. V. Ignatenko/O. I. Tiunov (eds.), International Law: Textbook (M. 1999)]; Ю. М. Колосов/Э. С. Кривчикова (ред.) Международное право: Учебник (М.: Междунар.отношения 2000) [Ju. M. Kolosov/E. S. Krivchikova (eds.) International Law: Textbook (M. 2000)]; Н. А. Ушаков, Международное право: Учебник (М.: Юристъ 2000) [N. A. Ushakov, International Law: Textbook (M. 2000)].

Igor I. Lukashuk distinguishes the following periods in the history of international law: prehistory, from the ancient world to the Middle Ages; classical international law (from the late Middle Ages to the Charter of the League of Nations); transitional stage – from classical to contemporary international law (from the Charter of the League of Nations to the un Charter) and, finally, modern international law. See И. И. Лукашук, Международное Право. Общая Часть: Учебник (М.: Изд-во БЕК 1996), 81 [I. I. Lukashuk, International Law: General Part: Textbook (M. 1997)].

11 For example, in International Law (1999), edited by Gennady I. Ignatenko and Oleg I. Tiunov there are only a few sentences devoted to the October Revolution: ‘The October Revolution had an impact on international law, first of all, because of the Decree on Peace with its proposal addressed to all warring peoples and their governments to at once begin negotiations leading to a just, democratic peace. . . . This provision made an important contribution to the development of new ideas, concerning the prohibition of aggressive war’. See Ignatenko/ Tiunov (eds.), International Law: Textbook (n. 10). The textbook International Law (2000), edited by Nicolay N. Ushakov, just admits that the revolution ‘influenced the development of international law’. See Н. А. Ушаков, Международное право: Учебник (М.: Юристъ 2000), 39 [N. A. Ushakov (ed.), International Law: Textbook (M. 2000) 9].

12 И. И. Лукашук/Г. Г. Шинкарецкая, Международное право: Элементарный курс (М.: Юристъ 2000) [I. I. Lukashuk/G. G. Shinkaretskaia, International Law: Essential Course (M. 2000)]; Е. В. Софронова, Международное публичное право: теоретические проблемы: Монография (М.: РИОР: ИНФРА-М 2013) [E. V. Safronova, International Public Law: Theoretical Issues: Monograph (M. 2013)].

13 В. И. Кузнецов (ред), Международное право: Учебник (М.: Юристъ 2001). [V. I. Kuznetsov, International Law: Textbook (M. 2001)].

14 Ibid.

15 For example, the textbook International Law (2014), edited by S. Yegorov, states: ‘According to the Russian Foreign Policy Concept, approved by the President on February 12, 2013, the impact on global processes to establish a just and democratic system of international relations based on collective decision-making in addressing global issues and on the primacy of international law is one of the most important goals of our foreign policy, the achievement of which corresponds to the highest priority objective of the national security policy – to ensure the protection of an individual, society, and the state. Russia consistently advocates that the norms of international law should be truly universal in terms of their understanding and application’. See С. А. Егоров (ред.), Международное право: Учебник (М.: Статут 2014) 13–14 [S. A. Yegorov (ed.), International Law: Textbook (M. 2014)]. Here is an additional example. In the textbook International Law (2016), edited by K. Gasanov: ‘The quality indicator, which confirms that the principle of rule of law has been implemented in Russia, is an effective cooperation between the legislative, executive and judicial powers. The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russian Federation and its leadership represented by R. Nurgaliev, the Minister of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation and General of the Army, sequentially and essentially pursues the course on maintenance of international law and order, precisely defined by the President of the Russian Federation, Dmitry Medvedev’. See К. К. Гасанов/Д. Д. Шлягин (ред.), Международное право: Учебник для студентов вузов (М.: ЮНИТИ-ДАНА: Закон и право 2016) 3 [K. K. Gasanov/D. D. Shlyagin (eds.), International Law: Textbook (M. 2014)].The language and style of these quotations are worthy of attention: with a reference to ‘consistency’ and ‘integrity’ of the political course sanctified by the state’s power they give classic examples of phrases from the Soviet era.

16 Adam Bromke, ‘Ideology and National Interest in Soviet Foreign Policy’, International Journal 22 (1967), 547–562, 547.

17 For a systematic analysis of this view, see: S. L. Sharp, ‘National Interest: Key to Soviet Politics’, in Alexander Dallin (ed.), Soviet Conduct in World Affairs (New York: Columbia University Press 1960).

18 R. N. Hunt Carew, ‘The Importance of Doctrine’, in Dallin, ibid.

19 J. T. Murphy, ‘Russia on the March: A Study of Soviet Foreign Policy. Part One: Introduction’, available online at:

20 Karl Radek, ‘The Bases of Soviet Foreign Policy’, Foreign Affairs 12(2) (1934), 193–206, 193.

21 В. И. Ленин ‘Заключительное слово по докладу о мире 26 октября (8 ноября)’ в: О внешней политике Cоветского государства (М.: Гос. изд-во полит. лит. 1960), 7–9, 8 [V. I. Lenin ‘Concluding Remarks on the Report on Peace, 26 October (8 November)’, in On the Foreign Policy of the Soviet State (M. 1960)].

22 В. И. Ленин ‘О революционной фразе’ в: О внешней политике Cоветского государства, 39–47 [V. I. Lenin, ‘On Revolutionary Phrase’, in On the Foreign Policy of the Soviet State (n. 21)].

23 В. И. Ленин, ‘Декрет о мире’ в: О внешней политике Cоветского государства), 3–6, 3 [V. I. Lenin, ‘Decree on Peace’, in ibid.].

24 Ibid., 5.

25 Ibid., 5.

26 According to the Treaty, Soviet Russia defaulted on all of Imperial Russia’s commitments to the Triple Entente alliance. Historian S. Tucker says: ‘The General Staff had formulated extraordinarily harsh terms that shocked even the German negotiators’. See S. C. Tucker/P. M. Roberts (eds.), The Encyclopedia of World War I: A Political, Social, and Military History (Santa Barbara, abc-clio 2005), 225.

27 Коммунистическая партия Советского Союза в резолюциях и решениях съездов, конференций и пленумов ЦК (1898–1986). Т. 2 (1917–1922). (М.: Изд-во политической литературы 1983), 43–45. [Communist Party of the Soviet Union in Resolutions and Decisions of Congresses, Conferences and Plenary Sessions of the Central Committee (М. 1983)].

28 Lenin ‘Concluding Remarks on the Report on Peace’ (n. 21), 91].

29 Communist Party of the Soviet Union in Resolutions and Decisions of Congresses, Conferences and Plenary Sessions of the Central Committee (n. 27), 27].

30 Lenin ‘Concluding Remarks on the Report on Peace’ 1960 (n. 21), 9.

31 В. И. Ленин, в: О внешней политике Cоветского государства (М.: Гос. изд-во полит. лит. 1960), 173–174 [V. I. Lenin, in On the Foreign Policy of the Soviet State (M. 1960)].

32 R. F. Jones, The Soviet Doctrine of ‘Limited Sovereignty’ from Lenin to Gorbachev: The Brezhnev Doctrine (Basingstoke: Macmillan 1990), 31–32.

33 Ленин, О внешней политике Cоветского государства 1960 (n. 31), 173–174 [Lenin, On the Foreign Policy of the Soviet State 1960 (n. 31), 173–174].

34 Н. И. Бухарин, Е. А. Преображенсткий, Азбука коммунизма (М.: Гос. изд-во 1920), 69 [N. I. Bukharin, E. A. Preobrazhensky, A.B.C. of Communism (М. 1920)].

35 E. A. Коровин, Международное право переходного времени (М.: Гос.изд-во 1924), 61 [E. A. Korovin, International Law of the Transitional Period (М. 1924)].

36 Е. Б. Пашуканис, ‘Интервенция’ в: П. Стучка (ред.), Энциклопедия государства и права, Т. 2, (М. 1930), 622–626, 626 [E. B. Pashukanis, ‘Intervention’, in P. Stuchka (ed.), Encyclopedia of the State and Law, Vol. 2 (M. 1930)].

37 J. N. Hazard, ‘Cleaning Soviet International Law of Anti-Marxist Theories’, American Journal of International Law 32(2) (1938), 244–252.

38 W. Lerner, ‘The Historical Origins of the Soviet Doctrine of Peaceful Coexistence’, Law and Contemp. Probs 29 (1964), 865–870, 868.

39 Политический отчет Центрального комитета xvi съезду ВКП(б) \\ xvi съезд Всесоюзной коммунистической партии (большевиков): Стенографический отчет (Москва-Ленинград: Госуд.изд-во 1930) 24 [‘Political report of the Central Committee addressed to the xvi Congress of the Communist Party (Bolsheviks)’, in The XVI Congress of the Communist Party (Bolsheviks): Stenographical Report (Moscow-Leningrad 1930)].

40 Paul Scheffer, ‘From Lenin to Stalin’, Foreign Affairs 16 (1937–1938), 445–453, 450.

41 M. Jaworskij (ed.), Soviet Political Thought: An Anthology (Baltimore, md: John Hopkins 1967) 50–51.

42 Concerning the place and role of law in the Soviet state M. Reisner wrote: ‘We remain completely bewildered: we do not know whether and to which extent we need law, and whether we should put up with the fact that proletarian dictatorship and class interest have been recoloured in some mysterious legal images and forms’. See М. Рейснер, Право. Наше право, чужое право, общее право, (M: Госиздат 1925), 83 [M. Reisner, Our Law, Another’s Law, Common Law, (M. 1925)]. E. Pashukanis was even clearer on this issue: ‘Soviet law – the law of transitional period – is withering away precisely as the proletarian state is withering away; the beginning of the process of their “withering away” must be dated from the moment of the proletarian revolution itself – from the moment of the final triumph of the proletarian revolution’. See Е. Б. Пашуканис, Общая теория права и марксизм, (М.: Изд-во Коммунистической Академии 1929), 83. [E. B. Pashukanis, The General Theory of Law and Marxism, (M. 1929)].

43 According to Stalin: ‘The abolition of classes is achieved by the intensification – and not by the abatement – of the class struggle. The dying out of the state will come not through the weakening of state authority, but through intensifying that authority to the outmost – as is essential for finishing off the remnants of the dying classes and organising the defence against capitalist encirclement, which is still far from having been destroyed in the near future’. See И. Сталин, Вопросы ленинизма, (М.: Издательство: Партиздат ЦК ВКП(б) 1935), 510 [I. Stalin, Issues of Leninism (M. 1935)].

44 А. Я. Вышинский, ‘К положению на фронте правовой теории’ в кн.: A. Я. Вышинский, К положению на фронте правовой теории, (М.: Юридическое изд-во НКЮ ссср 1937), 3–19 [A. Vychinsky, ‘To the Situation on the Legal Theory Front’, in A. Vychinsky, To the Situation on the Legal Theory Front (M. 1937)].

45 The main ideas of this article were repeated in A. Vychinsky’s report The Fundamental Tasks of the Science of Soviet Socialist Law addressed to the 1st Congress on Problems of the Science of Soviet State and Law (Moscow 1938). The report is a typical example of Soviet functionaries’ official speeches of the Stalin era. Here are some quotations: ‘Over a series of years a position almost of monopoly in legal sciences has been occupied by a group of persons who have turned out to be provocateurs and traitors – people who knew how actually to contrive the work of betraying our science, our state, and our fatherland under the mask of defending Marxism-Leninism . . . To all of us who are working in our soviet law . . . the despicable names of these betrayers are well known . . . These contemptible traitors now stand revealed as agents prostituted by the fascist bourgeoisie which resorts to their aid – and to the aid of “scholars” and “professors” and other similar traitors – in the effort to disunite our ranks and to disorganize a factor of socialist building as mighty as is Soviet science in general and the science of Soviet law in particular. The basic purpose of these gentlemen is to try to poison our consciousness with the venom of anti-Marx, anti-Lenin “theories”, and to take from us the capacity to become properly oriented in the practical matter of building socialism . . . One of the objectives of the people’s foes who busied themselves in the theoretical arena in the domain of law and state was to disarm the proletariat in respect of a part of law and legality through discrediting Soviet law and the Soviet statute – through cultivating a nihilist attitude toward Soviet law, the Soviet state, and the Soviet statute’. See А. Я. Вышинский ‘Основные задачи науки советского социалистического права’, в кн.: А. Я. Вышинский, Вопросы теории государства и права, (М.: Гос.изд-во юридической литературы 1939), 54–123, 54, 63; English translation by Hugh W. Babb see Soviet Legal Philosophy, (Cambridge, ma: Harvard University Press 1951), 303–341.

46 The term ‘passionate legal debates’ was used by Michael Head. See M. Head, ‘The Passionate Legal Debates of the Early Years of the Russian Revolution’, Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence 14 (2001), 3–27.

47 Radek, ‘The Bases of Soviet Foreign Policy’, (n 20) 196–198.

48 Ibid., 206.

49 W. Lerner, ‘The Historical Origins of the Soviet Doctrine of Peaceful Coexistence’, Law and Contemp. Probs 29 (1964), 865–870, 869.

50 Bromke, ‘Ideology and National Interest in Soviet Foreign Policy’ (n 16) 547–562, 556–557.

51 Ю. Н. Смирнов, ‘Холодная война как явление ядерного века’ в: Н. И. Егорова, А. О. Чубарьян (ред) Холодная война. 1945–1963 гг: Историческая ретроспектива: Сборник статей (М.: ОЛМА_ПРЕСС 2003), 597–621, 597 [Y. N. Smirnov, ‘The Cold War as a Phenomenon of the Nuclear Era’, in N. I Egorova/A. O. Chubar’yan (eds.), Cold War. 1945–1963: Historical Retrospective: A Collection of Articles (M. 2003)].

52 N. S. Khrushchev ‘On Peaceful Coexistence’, Foreign Affairs 38 (1959–1960), 1–18, 4.

53 Г. И. Тункин; Н. М. Минасян, Социализм и международное право (Саратов: Изд-во Саратовского ун-та 1975) [N. M. Minasian, Socialism and International Law (Saratov 1975)]; Г. Б. Старушенко, Мировой революционный процесс и современное международное право (M.: Междунар. отношения 1978) [G. B. Starushenko, International Revolutionary Process and Contemporary International Law (M. 1978)]; И. П. Блищенко, Антисоветизм и международное право (М.: Изд-во ‘Международные отношения’ 1968) [I. P. Blishenko, Anti-Soviet and International Law (M. 1968)].

54 Khrushchev, ‘On Peaceful Coexistence’ 1959–1960 (n. 52), 5.

55 Blishenko, Anti-Soviet and International Law (n. 53), 105–106.

56 Bromke, ‘Ideology and National Interest in Soviet Foreign Policy’ (n 16) 547–562, 547.

57 For detailed analysis of proxy war see: Andrew Mumford, Review of Proxy Warfare: War and Conflict in the Modern World (Cambridge, Polity Press 2013).

58 Khrushchev, ‘On Peaceful Coexistence’ 1959–1960 (n. 52), 1–18, 6.

59 These two international documents were used for justification despite the fact that, under their provisions, military assistance could be rendered in the case of external aggression by other states; domestic conflicts were not mentioned as grounds for military support.

60 Е. А. Коровин, ‘Уважение суверенитета – незыблемый принцип внешней политики’, Международная жизнь 11 (1956), 121–125. [E. A. Korovin, ‘Respect for Sovereignty – an Unchanging Principle of Soviet Foreign Policy’, International Life 11 (1956), 121–125].

61 E. A. Коровин, ‘Советский интернационализм и международное право’, Советский ежегодник международного права (1958), 50–73, 56–57 [E. A. Korovin, ‘Soviet Internationalism and International Law’, Soviet Yearbook of International Law (1958), 50–73, 56–57].

62 Н. Васильев, ‘Против извращения принципа пролетарского интернационализма’, Известия (9 марта 1957), 3–4, 4 [N. Vasil’ev, ‘Against the Distortion of the Principle of Proletarian Internationalism’, Izvestia (9 March 1957), 3–4, 4].

63 Правда (13 февраля 1957), 3–5 [Pravda (13 February 1957), 3–5].

64 Л. И. Брежнев, ‘О внешней политике КПСС и Советского государства’ в: Речи и статьи (М.: Политздат 1972), 70–80 [L. I. Brezhnev, ‘On International Policy of the cpsu and Soviet State’, in Speeches and Articles (M. 1975)].

65 С. Ковалев, ‘Суверенитет и интернациональные обязанности социалистических стран’, Правда (26 сентября 1968), 4 [S. Kovalev, ‘Sovereignty and International Obligations of the Socialist States’, Pravda (26 September 1968), 4].

66 Ibid., 4.

67 Ibid.

68 Ibid.

69 ‘Под знаменем пролетарского интернационализма’, Коммунист 18 (1968), 3–7 [‘Under the Banner of Proletarian Internationalism’, Communist 18 (1968), 3–7].

70 Н. Черняк ‘Незыблемые принципы социалистического содружества’, Красная звезда (1 декабря 1968), 3 [N. Chernyak, ‘Immutable Principles of Socialist Community’, Krasnaya Zvezda (1 December 1968), 3].

71 Jones, Limited Sovereignty 1990 (n. 32), 190.

72 As stated: ‘Bourgeois propaganda tries to slander the principle of socialist internationalism, artificially opposing it to the principles of independence, sovereignty and equality of the national detachments of working class and communist movements. For these purposes the imperialist propagandists fabricated and put into circulation the notorious theory of “limited sovereignty”’. See Г. В. Вельяминов, Социалистическая интеграция и международное право (М.: Международные отношения 1982), 54 [G. V. Velyaminov, Socialist Integration and International Law (M. 1982)].

73 ‘The ussr, as a part of the world socialist system and socialist community, promotes and strengthens friendship, cooperation and comradely mutual assistance with other socialist countries based on the principle of socialist internationalism’ (art. 30, the Constitution of the ussr 1977).

74 В. С. Куликов, Критика буржуазных, реформистских и ревизионистских фальсификаций пролетарского интернационализма: Дисс. . . . канд. философ. наук (М. 1984), 8 [V. S. Kulikov, Critique of the Bourgeois, Reformist and Revisionist Falsifications of Proletarian Internationalism: PhD thesis (M. 1984)].

75 И. Лук, Социализм и международное право (М.: Междунар. отношения 1977), 45 [I. Luk, Socialism and International Law (M. 1977)].

76 И. Б. Чубайс, ‘Советский социализм – неисследованное: Опыт теоретического анализа’, Мир России 4 (2005), 162–191, 185 [I. B. Chubais, ‘Soviet Socialism – Unexplored: Experience of Theoretical Analysis’, Russian World/Mir Rossii 4 (2005), 162–191, 185].

77 ‘We can never be secure so long as the United States feels itself insecure’, M. S. Gorbachev.

78 ‘We have become convinced that unity does not at all mean identity and uniformity. We have also become convinced that socialism does not and cannot have any ‘model’ that everyone must measure up to’, M. S. Gorbachev.

79 Jones, Limited Sovereignty 1990 (n. 32), 244.

80 R. Legvold, ‘The Revolution in the Soviet Foreign Policy’, Foreign Affairs 68 (1988–1990), 82–98.

  • 5

    Ibid., 30.

  • 16

    Adam Bromke, ‘Ideology and National Interest in Soviet Foreign Policy’, International Journal 22 (1967), 547–562, 547.

  • 20

    Karl Radek, ‘The Bases of Soviet Foreign Policy’, Foreign Affairs 12(2) (1934), 193–206, 193.

  • 24

    Ibid., 5.

  • 25

    Ibid., 5.

  • 37

    J. N. Hazard, ‘Cleaning Soviet International Law of Anti-Marxist Theories’, American Journal of International Law 32(2) (1938), 244–252.

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  • 38

    W. Lerner, ‘The Historical Origins of the Soviet Doctrine of Peaceful Coexistence’, Law and Contemp. Probs 29 (1964), 865–870, 868.

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  • 40

    Paul Scheffer, ‘From Lenin to Stalin’ , Foreign Affairs 16 (1937–1938), 445–453, 450.

  • 48

    Ibid., 206.

  • 49

    W. Lerner, ‘The Historical Origins of the Soviet Doctrine of Peaceful Coexistence’, Law and Contemp. Probs 29 (1964), 865–870, 869.

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  • 66

    Ibid., 4.

  • 80

    R. Legvold, ‘The Revolution in the Soviet Foreign Policy’, Foreign Affairs 68 (1988–1990), 82–98.

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