Russian Legal Culture Before and After Communism

Criminal Justice, Politics and the Public Sphere

By Frances Nethercott

© 2008 – Routledge

224 pages

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About the Book

Following the emancipation of the serfs in 1861, and again during the Gorbachev and Yel’tsin eras, the issue of individual legal rights and freedoms occupied a central place in the reformist drive to modernize criminal justice. While in tsarist Russia the gains of legal scholars and activists in this regard were few, their example as liberal humanists remains important today in renewed efforts to promote juridical awareness and respect for law. A case in point is the role played by Vladimir Solov’ev. One of Russia’s most celebrated moral philosophers, his defence of the ‘right to a dignified existence’ and his brilliant critique of the death penalty not only contributed to the development of a legal consciousness during his lifetime, but also inspired appeals for a more humane system of justice in post-Soviet debate. This book addresses the issues involved and their origins in late Imperial legal thought. More specifically, it examines competing theories of crime and the criminal, together with various prescriptions for punishment respecting personal inviolability. Charting endeavours of the juridical community to promote legal culture through reforms and education, the book also throws light on aspects of Russian politics, society and mentality in two turbulent periods of Russian history.


"Nethercott's book demonstrates how contemporary legal thinkers and reformers have found theoretical and practical inspiration from their imperial predecessors, while always acknowledging the inherent difficulties…In the end, this is a well-researched and thoughtful analysis of law in two vibrant eras of Russian history. This is a welcome addition to the literature on Russian law and legality useful for the student and scholar alike." - William B. Whisenhunt, The Russian Review (October 2008, Vol. 67, No. 4)

'Nethercott’s book is successful on several fronts. It may be of equal interest to historians, philosophers of law and jurists. It provides a rich discussion of the reception and adaptation of theories of crime and punishment by several generations of Russian legal thinkers. And it tracks the changing relationship between law and morality in Russian legal thought and practice.' - Stefan Kirmse, Humboldt-Universitat zu Berlin, H-Soz-u-Kult, June 2009

Table of Contents

Introduction 1. Fathers and Sons of Legal Reform 2. Reforming Criminal Justice (1864-1903) 3. Theorizing Crime and Punishment 4. Solov’ev as a Philosopher of Law 5. Criminal Justice in the Age of Revolution (1900-1917) 6. Rehabilitating Law: Criminal Justice after Communism. Afterword: Post-Soviet Legal Culture and Pre-Revolutionary Models

About the Author

Frances Nethercott is a Lecturer in Russian history at St Andrews University, UK. She specializes in intellectual and cultural history. Her previous publications include Une Rencontre Philosophique: Bergson en Russie, 1907-1917, and Russia's Plato: Plato and the Platonic Tradition in Russian Education, Science and Ideology, 1840-1930.

About the Series

BASEES/Routledge Series on Russian and East European Studies

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Europe / Russia & the Former Soviet Union
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Criminology
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General