Russian Legal Culture and the Rule of Law

By Wirtschafter, Elise Kimerling | Kritika, Winter 2006 | Go to article overview

Russian Legal Culture and the Rule of Law


Wirtschafter, Elise Kimerling, Kritika


Historians suspicious of absolutist political models have in recent decades drawn attention to the effectiveness of legal institutions in Muscovite and imperial Russia. This attention has produced a compelling corrective to widespread images of Russian government as arbitrary, corrupt, and generally dysfunctional. More often than not, liberal historians in late imperial Russia and Euro-American scholars in the era of the Cold War stood ready to paint Russian government with the broad brush of despotism, a readiness that led them to overlook the social dynamism and nuanced political relationships characteristic of Muscovite, imperial, and even Soviet Russia. (1) Nancy Kollmann and Jane Burbank count among the most influential voices that have been calling for a reappraisal of Russian government and legal culture. (2) In the articles presented here, as well as in previously published work, both historians document the beneficial effects of legal institutions and judicial practices over several centuries of Russian history. Both see in the Russian system of justice a source of social integration and political legitimacy. Bolstered by years of archival research, the conclusions of Kollmann and Burbank derive from deep knowledge of legal prescriptions and, more important, judicial practices. Through their descriptions of how tsarist subjects from a range of social statuses successfully employed judicial institutions to address everyday needs, it becomes clear that law played a central role not only in government policy but also in the functioning of society. The strengths of the approach taken by Nancy Kollmann and Jane Burbank are easy to identify; however, the whole is the sum of the parts, and I remain uneasy with the broad implications of the discussion.

Across Western and Central Europe--in Britain, France, Austria, and even Germany--limited monarchy, and eventually parliamentary government and the rule of law, arose from the cumulative effects of institutional competition and juristic posturing among recognized corporate bodies. In need of resources but short of effective power, early modern monarchs who asserted a divine right to absolute sovereignty had little choice but to mobilize their nations through cooperation with, or opposition to, these bodies. In a study of the cameralist Policeystaat published some 20 years ago, Marc Raeff drew attention to the absence in Russia of corporate bodies--guilds, diets, parlements, provincial estates, Estates General, and the English Parliament--and to the consequences of that absence. (3) In Russia, the monarch did not need to compete for social and political authority with historically sanctioned and legally constituted bodies that exercised either local territorial or translocal authority. Lordship in Russia carried no administrative or judicial powers beyond the boundaries of the individual noble's private estate, and the "self-government" of peasants and townspeople did not extend to any territorial or national body outside the immediate community. Nor did local customs and practices become codified as customary law on the model of the provincial coutumes in France. (4) Except for the Church, which the reforms of Peter I (1689-1725) effectively separated from the sphere of secular government, Russia's corporate bodies and civic institutions came to life by order of the cameralist Policeystaat. Monarchs decreed the creation of these bodies, which tsarist subjects then were called upon to fill. Historians seeking to situate Russia within the broad spectrum of European history cannot attach enough importance to the absence of corporate bodies.

No matter how historians ultimately define Muscovy's Assembly of the Land (zemskii sobor) or Boyar Duma, there is no evidence that these bodies exercised legislative, administrative, or judicial authority indepen dent of the monarch--a state of affairs that stood in stark contrast to the role of corporate bodies further west. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Russian Legal Culture and the Rule of Law
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.