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  • Crime and Punishment in Russia: A Comparative History from Peter the Great to Vladimir Putin by Jonathan Daly
  • Curtis Richardson (bio)
Jonathan Daly, Crime and Punishment in Russia: A Comparative History from Peter the Great to Vladimir Putin (London and New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018). 236 pp., ills. Works Cited. Index. ISBN: 978-1-4742-2435-2.

Jonathan Daly's Crime and Punishment in Russia is a welcome addition to the literature on the history of criminal justice in Russia. The monograph is part of The Bloomsbury History of Modern Russia Series, which promotes short, accessible studies on major themes of Russian history, for an audience including not only scholars and experts but also students. This book thus represents a synthesis of much of the author's earlier work and the broader literature in the field.

The book is organized chronologically into seven chapters with an introduction and conclusion; a useful nine-page chronology of important events connected to Russian history and criminal justice precedes the introduction. The introduction is a brief survey of the pre-Petrine seventeenth century with a discussion of the legal code or Ulozhenie of 1649, the prominence of inquisitorial procedure and of customary law. Chapter 1 covers the eighteenth century and the role of Westernization introduced by Peter the Great and most of his successors, with the copying of Western institutions in criminal justice. Yet the continued significance of administrative measures and personal authority limited their effectiveness, and Elizabeth's and Catherine's reforms limited applications of corporal and capital punishment. In chapter 2, Daly notes the expansion of limitations on capital punishment and the significance of the codification of Russia's laws, in addition to some application of fairness to the criminal justice system under Nicholas I. Chapter 3 is dominated by the Great Reforms and the first part of the revolutionary era. Daly cites a genuine effort toward establishing the rule of law with the Judicial Reform, but this was partially undermined by terrorist attacks that led to a major reaction. The 1905 Revolution led to expanded rights, and the March Revolution saw the end of most of the repressive apparatus. Chapter 4 focuses on the era of Lenin, during which the Bolsheviks renounced the rule of law and used "revolutionary consciousness as the foundation of the criminal justice system under a political dictatorship. Yet the Bolsheviks had a dualism found in new laws endorsing social liberalization, for example, concerning marriage and nonpolitical crimes. In chapter 5, Daly asserts that "Stalin … engineered a radical break toward almost complete lawlessness" (P. 7). [End Page 336] The criminal justice system became a tool for regime rule and the leader's power. In chapter 6, the author highlights a more rational and predictable criminal justice system during the last four decades of the Soviet era. The state even offered a modicum of due process. In chapter 7, Daly analyzes the post-Soviet era with its major liberalization of the system, but a growing crime wave and the rise of Vladimir Putin led to a criminal justice system that was less arbitrary and strict but also less fair.

In the very first sentence Daly asserts that, contrary to a common view that the various Russian governments failed to modernize and the country was simply backward, Russia "developed as one of the most successful states in human history" (P. x). He does note, however, the many contradictions over the past three centuries of efforts to build a law-based society and the adoption of numerous practices for humaneness, but with a ubiquity of despotism, arbitrariness, corruption, and the lack of such a law-based society. To analyze these contradictions and to seek to discern the continuities in these problems in contemporary Russia, Daly poses a series of questions in the preface, two of the most critical of which are: "How can one explain historically both the striking harshness and humanity of Russia's criminal justice system over the past three centuries? In general, does one find clues in specific historical developments in the evolution of criminal justice in Russia to understanding the domestic and geopolitical successes of the Stalin and Putin regimes?" (P. x). To answer...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2164-9731
Print ISSN
2166-4072
Pages
pp. 336-338
Launched on MUSE
2019-12-17
Open Access
No
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