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date: 10 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

In the early twentieth century Russia embarked on one of the most radical legal experiments ever undertaken in a modern state. The chapter describes this experiment, paying particular attention to the role of Bolshevik ideology in shaping the new socialist legal order. It then goes on to assess the fit between this legal order and the three institutional pillars of socialism (rule by a Leninist party, a predominance of state ownership of productive property, and a top-down system of bureaucratic coordination), suggesting that it was these pillars that gave Soviet law its most distinctive and enduring characteristic: a tendency for agencies of justice to be subsumed within an overarching system of central management. Finally the chapter considers the transplantation of socialist law to the states of Eastern Europe after the Second World War, examines efforts to reform the socialist legal system and assesses its legacy today.

Keywords: Communism, Socialism, law, ideology, Russian Revolution, socialist law, Soviet law, legal experiments

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