AN evaluation of any legal system in the course of active development is a hazardous undertaking. This is particularly true as regards the impingement of Communism upon international law. Previous experiments in Communism, although not without international repercussions, have been either on too small a scale, or of too short duration, seriously to affect the settled course of international relations. In Russia, however, Communism has been embraced by a nation of more than a hundred and sixty millions, and the state thus established has endured for over fifteen years. Although these factors assure an international rôle for the Soviets, sufficient time has not yet elapsed for the historian to write with the proper perspective. Moreover, the attitude of the Soviets has not yet crystallized, but is still undergoing fundamental changes, which are reflected in the altered position which they hold in the eyes of the rest of the world. For these reasons the present study makes no pretense at approbation or censure of the Soviet attitude towards international law. Its object is rather to discover as far as possible the bases underlying the Soviet interpretation of the principles involved, and to disclose the degree and the fashion of their actual application in the international life of the U.S.S.R. For this double purpose an examination of the purely political aspects of the international conduct of the Soviets does not suffice, since the foreign as well as the domestic policy of a nation is all too frequently merely an irrational, even opportunistic, attempt at adjustment to transitory but compelling conditions.
The materials on which the present study is based may be divided broadly into the following four groups: (1) The works of Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, and Nicolas Lenin, (2) Soviet national laws, regulations and departmental instructions, (3) International treaties entered into by the Soviets, and (4) Works of Soviet authorities on international law. Whereas the theoretic