The Practice of Law and Justice in Russia (from the 18th century to the present)

The Practice of Law and Justice in Russia (from the 18th century to the present)

Deutsches Historisches Institut, Moskau; Centre franco-russe en sciences humaines et sociales de Moscou; Juliette Cadiot; Sandra Dahlke; Tanja Penter; Michel Tissier
INION, Moskau
Russian Federation
Vom - Bis
26.05.2011 - 28.05.2011
Sandra Dahlke

The three-day workshop examines the importance and functioning of the law and justice in the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union and post-Soviet Russia. Russia has always seemed to possess a particular relationship between the law, the state and society. The political legitimacy of law is weakly developed and always under threat from state intervention. In the past, the legal and judicial history of Russia has, therefore, often been interpreted as a deviation from the ideal type of European legal development. Judged in terms of modernisation theories it seemed to be incomplete. The question of Russia's ability to integrate into a pan-European legal culture became topical following the collapse of the Soviet Union and has recently been discussed again in connection with the trial of Khodorkovskii. The workshop organisers hope to break free of this normative approach, placing instead the history of Russian law in its political, cultural and social contexts and thereby reveal long-term continuities as well as changes in its development over the centuries. This focus on the cultural and social history of law and justice as well as an examination of individual and group experience will offer the opportunity to supplement and perhaps to re-evaluate the findings of the history of legal thought and the institutional history of the judicial system.

There are numerous possible ways of approaching this: on the one hand, the mediation and stage-managing of law and justice, and their roles in the legitimation of state-power, could be investigated; on the other, one could analyse legal practice, i.e. the actors (members of the legal professions, politicians, average citizens) who interact in the realm of law and justice. This would enable us to confront the different concepts and definitions of law "from above" with the various ways in which law has been implemented and received at the micro-level of the multi-national Russian state. On a third level we could focus on the changing or even competing understandings and semantics of law and social justice, not only in the writings of scholars, writers and politicians, but also in the eyes of average citizens (for example, the understanding of law and justice found in memoirs, letters, diaries etc.)

Of particular concern are law and justice in Russia during the periods of political and social transformation brought about by revolutions, wars and political upheavals (for example, the revolution of 1917, the end of the Stalin era or the collapse of the Soviet Union). The workshop will therefore discuss the complex relationship between state, justice and society in moments of historical upheaval and the role of law and justice in processes of transformation and reform, as well as their part in legitimising rule. No less important is the relationship between extralegal forms of rule and the attempts to achieve legal normalisation, a study of which would also facilitate a better understanding of the inner functioning of the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union and post-Soviet Russia.

We invite contributions from ongoing projects based on original source-based research. Suggested themes include, but are not limited to:

- Multiple legal regimes and cultures: town and country; Russians and non-Russians; centre and periphery; multiple processes of conflict resolution; competing and parallel concepts of citizenship.

- The reform of the judicial system in Russia: the concept and practical realisation of reforms; the (reciprocal) transfer of legal ideas and models.

- The judicial system and political change: the judicial system as an instrument of political and social change and for legitimating rule in moments of historical upheaval.

- Legal practices and state violence: the relationship between lawful and extralegal forms of rule (the influence of the autocrats and his circle, the influence of parties; the function and significance of prison regimes).

- Actors in law and the judicial system: members of the legal professions, their professionalisation, organisation and social position; corruption; formal and informal networks (politics, journalists, the police, the criminal world).

- Law, justice and the daily experience of the population: the population's attitude to and use of law and justice; the judicial system and trade unions; administrative jurisdiction; the resolution of disputes at the workplace; the role of witnesses in court.

- Justice as theatre: the pedagogical functions of legal practices; the performance of law and justice; communication via the media; the relationship between the judicial system and the public.

- The semantics of law and justice: competing understandings and semantics of law and social justice in politics, academia, the media, literature and art; the understandings of law and justice held by individuals and social groups.

The conference will be held in English and in Russian.

Proposals for papers in English and Russian (500 words) with a brief CV should be submitted by 25 November 2010 to the following address: Your proposal should include your email address and institutional affiliation, the title of your intended paper and an abstract.

We will inform participants by 20 December 2010. Conference papers in English or Russian (maximum length: 7.000 words) will be circulated beforehand and should be submitted by 1 May 2011 to the following address: Paper presentations at the conference will be limited to 20 minutes.

A publication of the revised conference papers is planned.

The German and French institutes in Moscow will assist with visas. Pending approval for funding, costs for travel and accommodation will be covered.

We look forward to receiving your abstract!

Sandra Dahlke (
Juliette Cadiot (



Sandra Dahlke

Helmut-Schmidt-Universität / Universität der Bundeswehr, Holstenhofweg 85, 22043 Hamburg

040 6541 2550