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Legislation as a Source of Law in Late Imperial Russia

This article analyzes the usage of legislation as a legal source in the Russian Empire through the phenomenon of the publication of law. The author argues that the absence of separation of executive, legislative and court powers had definite negative effects for lawmaking and enforcement. The legislative politics of Russian emperors could be analyzed using Jürgen Habermas‘ concept of ―representative publicness‖ (representative öffentlichkeit): to a large extent, the tsars considered law as both an assertion of authority and a means of governing. Their actions towards strengthening legality in the state (i.e. the compulsory publication of legislation) were in essence symbolic or theatrical. In fact, since the separation of laws from executive acts did not exist in imperial Russia, the legislation was published (or stayed unpublished) exclusively for state administrators. The conflict in conceptions of legality between state and civil actors in the second half of the nineteenth century was not of a merely political nature. The article demonstrates that there was a public demand for publication of legislation; insufficient accessibility of legal information negatively influenced social and economic development in imperial Russia.