Russian law: a new book in an expanding collection

By | 20 April 2009

One of the great pleasures of working for the Bodleian Law Library is having at one’s fingertips a collection of such size and scope that, for anyone with a serious interest in law and related subjects, it is difficult not to find something that is fascinating in unexpected ways.

I have long been aware that our USSR collection is very large and that our collections devoted to the former Soviet republics are rapidly expanding.  (As the USSR was seen as the successor state after the downfall of the Russian Empire, the USSR collection also includes Russian imperial legislation and other literature going back into the 19th century.)  However, I was not aware until last week of the large volume of literature published in English in the post-Soviet period.

What brought all this to mind was noticing among our new acquisitions a book titled Russian Law by William E. Butler (3rd ed., Oxford University Press, 2009) (Law Library shelfmark:  Russia 510 B987j3).  This is a major work, covering both the substance and the history of Russian law to the maximum extent possible in a single (large) volume.  The historical discussion includes medieval origins and Roman influences, and takes us through the attempts at modernization under Peter the Great and Catherine the Great, the reforms of the 19th century, the introduction of socialist principles after 1917, and the recent shift towards a free-market economy.

I then noticed that our Russian collection includes thirteen other books by the same author.  There are also quite a few books in English by other authors.  Some are textbooks and some are compilations of the main legislation in particular areas of law.  The emphasis on industry, finance, investment and similar subjects perhaps illustrates the extent to which Russia is percieved as a place where profits can be made, which itself is an interesting phenomenon.

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