THE study of the principles of international law relative to diplomatic representation, as followed by non-communist nations, is based on materials derived from three main sources: custom, national legislation, and treaty provisions. An analysis of the Soviet practice reveals only one difference: as a logical result of the class differentiation between capitalists and proletariat, preached by the communists, custom loses its importance in shaping the Soviet law on diplomatic agents. This leaves national legislation and treaties the most important sources when the Soviet law on the subject is analyzed.
In the beginning, the Soviet laws dealing with diplomatic agents were merely attempts to discontinue the practices of the preceding governments in Russia. Such was the Decree of the People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs of November 26, 1917, which, while not containing any general provisions, recalled the ambassadors, ministers and other members of the Russian Foreign Service abroad who did not respond to the Soviet offer to continue their work under the direction of the new Régime.1
Legislation of the R.S.F.S.R.
Of much greater moment was the Decree of the Council of the Peoples' Commissaries of the R.S.F.S.R. of June 4, 1918, by which the centuries old traditional division of diplomatic agents into different ranks was disavowed by the Soviets as obsolete and not in conformity with the generally recognized principle of the equality of states. This decree is of great importance from the point of view of the historical development of Soviet international law. Having abolished the principles of the Congress of Vienna, embodied in the old imperial laws of Russia, it introduced the new principle of equality of diplomatic agents as regarded not only
Abolition of Diplomatic Ranks