- A Woman’s Kingdom: Noblewomen and the Control of Property in Russia, 1700–1861, and: Pravovoe regulirovanie imushchestvennykh otnoshenii v Rossii vo vtoroi polovine XVIII veka [The Legal Regulation of Property Relations in Russia in the Second Half of the 18th Century], and: In Search of Legality: Mikhail M. Speranskii and the Codification of Russian Law
The "Bologna Process" may be an unusual vantage point from which to approach a review of the two Western works under consideration here. Each originated as a dissertation at a distinguished university in the United States for the degree of doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.). Each makes a contribution in its own way to the advancement of scholarship, but the differences in the measure and quality of contribution are so immense as to create wonderment that the same degree could be conferred on the authors within the same system of higher education. Of course, different universities, different standards, different examiners, perhaps different circumstances. But I remain more persuaded than previously that a two-cycle doctorate, as exists in the United Kingdom (e.g., in law: Ph.D. or D.Phil., LL.D.) and the Russian Federation (e.g., kandidat and doktor of legal sciences), should be introduced in the United States.
The field of legal history in Russia is enjoying a renaissance as never before. The "civilian" legal historians (the term used by Russian lawyers for [End Page 657] historians of Russian law not trained as lawyers—on whose shoulders rested the immense documentary achievements of the Soviet era, by the way: the definitive texts of the Russkaia pravda, Sudebniki, Sobornoe ulozhenie, and others)—are belatedly being joined by the legal community in producing important works. The lawyers are mostly using their legal history as a source for contemporary law reform, and rightly so. Naturally their focus is on the normative substance of Russian rules and institutions—real law and legal reasoning—and less on the socio-economic dimension.
Russian legal publishing houses (especially IurinfoR, Statut, and Zertsalo) have, with the support of the Russian Federation and the major legal commercial computer data bases, Garant and Konsul´tantplus, produced impressive series of reprints (not, as a rule, facsimile) in modern orthography and with substantial introductions (many translated in Sudebnik). These deserve notice in this journal in their own right. They are collectively changing the modern face of Russian legal history.
Turning to the works under review, I begin with Dr. Whisenhunt's monograph on the role of Mikhail Mikhailovich Speranskii in the codification of Russian legislation, namely—and let us not understate the measure of achievement—the greatest systematization (Polnoe sobranie zakonov Rossiiskoi imperii [hereafter PSZ]) and codification (Svod zakonov Rossiiskoi imperii [hereafter SZ]) of legislation, in its day, on this planet and far ahead of anything commensurate in continental Europe, England, or the United States. I reviewed this work in isolation elsewhere,1 so it is perhaps slightly unfair for the author to have to endure the scalpel twice. Kritika, however, enjoys a different readership with different concerns. I also have reflected more on the work, having reread it for this review and had the benefit of seeing it against the other two books being considered here.
Whether, as Whisenhunt undertakes to demonstrate, Marc Raeff was correct in characterizing the "compilation of the PSZ and SZ in the 1830s [sic]" as the "fullest expression of Speranskii's political ideas" sounds preposterous to a lawyer and is certainly bereft of any redeeming value as a dissertation thesis. Raeff will have had his own...