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Article

Sovereignty and Russian Resistance to Human Rights

European Yearbook of Human Rights. 2020. P. 529-550.

This contribution analyses the features of Russian legal culture that – in the author’s opinion – prevent this culture from acceptance of human rights in their liberal reading. These features are examined through the lenses of the conceptual history. The positivist intellectual tradition of conceptualising law in terms of state power led to the priority of state commands over natural rights: the former define the extent to which the latter are legal. With this, human rights defined by the international community or by civil society cannot work as checks and balances against the state and its arbitrary power. This perception of rights fits the political autocracy very well, which is conceptualised in Russian legal scholarship in terms of sovereignty. The author argues that sovereignty, as it is perceived in the epistemic community of Russian lawyers, conceptually excludes the priority of human rights. Because of this, the argument of sovereignty unsurprisingly became one of the cornerstones of the current ideology in Russia, and continues to feed interpretative controversies about human rights between Russian and other epistemic communities.