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Article

Государство и право: метаморфозы российской законности за 300 лет

The comparative analysis of different legal cultures and traditions is an important

target of jurisprudence in the epoch of globalization regarding such

issues as common and original aspects of various legal systems, norms and

institutions, their evolution in history and cross-cultural influences. The substantive

part of this research strategy includes clarification of value-systems,

legal stereotypes, and even prejudices of different nations as represented in

a long-term historical evolution and modes of its evaluation by domestic

and foreign observers in contested narratives. The book under review demonstrates

an interesting and controversial approach to this subject by using a

de facto anthropological reconsideration of the Russian legal tradition covering

the significant historical period from Peter the Great to Vladimir Putin.

The author postulated the original character of the Russian legal tradition

describing its essence as the eternal reproduction of a very specific form of

legality, namely, functional or administrative-legal regulation of society by

the state. He argues that this functional paradigm codified in the soviet theory

of state and law, in reality, reflects the genuine structure of legal thinking,

mechanism of power and ideological ground of the Russian statehood

during the periods of Empire, Soviet dictatorship and Post-Soviet government.

Thus, for the author of the book, it seems to be a formula of power

symbolizing the historical continuity of the Russian legal culture as well as

its main difference from the Western law-based state. The author of this review

demonstrates the positive and the negative sides of this scheme of the

Russian legal tradition: while it is a logical explanation for the evident and

undisputable priority of the state over society in Russian history, this theory

of functional legality leads to the apparent oversimplification of country’s

complex legal evolution and its place in comparative perspective. From the

anthropological point of view, this concept provides a very clear image of

the dominant Anglo-Saxon narrative of the Russian legal past and present

with all its stereotypes, shortcomings, and beliefs. Reconsideration of these

historically formed mental stereotypes on a neutral and value-free base

could be helpful for the reliable understanding of the paths of Russia’s legal

transformation in the new globalized world.