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Working paper

The Concepts of Fundamental Laws and Constitution in the 18th Century Russia

In this article, we attempt to trace the semantic changes two key concepts of the Modern period - fundamental law and constitution underwent at the 18th century and investigates how these European concepts were adapted and used in the Russian political language. The concept of the constitution and fundamental laws in eighteenth-century political discourse had differing connotations: while the constitution was used mainly to describe the form of government, the concept of fundamental laws referred to historically developing legal traditions which have been adopted as norms of political law. The most radical vision of constitution in the 18th century went further than identify it with the fundamental law, demanding that the latter should enshrine the principles of civil rights and liberties of the Nation, and the legal guarantees thereof. However, this radical view, arising at the end of the century, was far from universal, and the discussion around various understandings of this concept was still to continue for many years.