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The Bolsheviks and the Law: The Legacy of Arbitrary Justice

(The first Soviet Constitution, published in 1918)

Analyzing the law through the prism of a revolution is inherently paradoxical. Revolutions, after all, are made to overhaul existing orders.

Of course, not all revolutions are the same. The Glorious Revolution of 1688 led to a rebalancing of power between monarch and parliament in England, as well as the codification of fundamental rights, including free elections. The American Revolution was largely a conservative reaction to British arbitrariness: after winning independence, the founding fathers took control of making and enforcing laws, but they built the American legal system on a foundation of British common law. The French Revolution was more genuinely revolutionary in that it replaced a monarchy with a republican form of government.

Although different in their motivations and aims, the revolutions of the 17th and 18th centuries catalyzed the maturation of a fundamental concept – the rule of law – that today constitutes the foundation of Western societies.

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Dmitry Dubrovsky holds a PhD in Cultural Anthropology. From 2004-2015, he was a lecturer and founder of the first BA program in Human Rights at the Smolny Department of Liberal Arts and Science, St. Petersburg State University. Dmitry has also held appointments at Columbia University's Harriman Institute, Bard College, the Kennan Institute of Advanced Russian Studies, the National Endowment for Democracy, Helsinki University and the University of Johannesburg (South Africa). He is currently affiliated with the Center of Independent Social Research in St. Petersburg.

The Bolsheviks and the Law: The Legacy of Arbitrary Justice

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