Crime and Punishment in Russia: A Comparative History from Peter the Great to Vladimir Putin

By Lalande, J. -Guy | Canadian Journal of Sociology, Winter 2020 | Go to article overview

Crime and Punishment in Russia: A Comparative History from Peter the Great to Vladimir Putin


Lalande, J. -Guy, Canadian Journal of Sociology


Daly, Jonathan. Crime and Punishment in Russia: A Comparative History from Peter the Great to Vladimir Putin. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018, pxx-236, $30 paper (9781474224352).

How did the Russian criminal justice system evolve from the reign of tsar Peter the Great to the rule of president Vladimir Putin? This is the question that Jonathan Daly (University of Illinois, Chicago) answers in this well-crafted and well-written monograph. In a nutshell, dramatic change and striking continuity characterized the evolution of criminal justice in that country; furthermore, unlike in the rest of Europe, reform occurred mostly from the top down rather than from intellectual and political movements sponsored by influential nongovernment elites.

Crime and Punishment in Russia is based on a wide array of secondary sources and proceeds chronologically, starting with the pre-Petrine period. The absence of legal theorizing, of a legal profession, of permanent judges, of the possibility of appeal, and of a system of courts best described criminal law before Peter the Great (1682-1725). Instead, officials of the prince presided over judicial proceedings that, given the arbitrariness of the political power, often resulted in bodily mutilation, flogging, branding, and death sentences. Chapter I surveys the Russian criminal system in the eighteenth century. Both Peter I and Catherine II (1762-1796), the key figures of this period, shared the same priorities--to Europeanize their country by inculcating respect for the law and creating a uniform hierarchy of courts. Their efforts were only partially successful, largely because the power of social elites (nobles and merchants) and the bureaucracy was hardly constrained by administrative or constitutional rules. Huge backlogs, the lack of trained jurists, and the absence of an up-to-date law code were further obstacles to the triumph of the rule of law. Chapters 2 and 3 outline the judicial developments in the nineteenth century. Here, the author rightly emphasizes the major judicial reform introduced by tsar Alexander II in 1864 - new judicial institutions, trial by jury, equality before the law, public court proceedings, and irremovable judges. These innovations were all important steps on the path toward the rule of law.

The Russian revolution that ultimately brought the Bolsheviks to power in 1917 resulted in the introduction of even more radical changes. The early Soviet regime "viewed prerevolutionary criminal law as hopelessly integrated with structures of class exploitation" (79), hence the need to jettison it. Furthermore, Lenin's conviction, as outlined in State and Revolution, that under communism the conscious proletarian masses would replace the police, lawyers, the law courts, criminal investigators, and prisons of tsarist Russia, was soon confronted with the harsh reality of a bloody civil war. Indeed, repressive agencies, like the Cheka, emerged, "endowed with far more unchecked power than their prerevolutionary counterparts" (80). Thus, the very idea of the rule of law was rejected. Stalin, for his part, engineered a break toward almost complete lawlessness, as evidenced in the collectivization drive and the Great Terror--a time period when the justice system was used to provide a coerced labour force and to punish presumed enemies of Soviet power. With the dictator's death in 1953, however, state terror ended and, subsequently, criminal justice became more predictable and more lenient--a process facilitated by the institution or revival of mechanisms for popular participation in the administration of justice, a tighter supervision of the Procuracy, and an enhancement of the independence of the judicial system. The amnesty decree of March 27, 1953, for example, that released millions of prisoners from the Gulag illustrated this commitment to legality on the part of the Communist Party. …

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
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 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 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.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Crime and Punishment in Russia: A Comparative History from Peter the Great to Vladimir Putin
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
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
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.”

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 8, MLA 7, 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." (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.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    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.