The legal system of the USSR and the RSFSR

In 1917, a communist experiment began in Russia – the construction of a socialist society. This experiment entailed an attempt, unprecedented in size, to fundamentally change society through law. Paradoxically, any immutable values were outlawed. Pre-revolutionary Russian law was officially abolished, its theories debunked, its values rejected.

For more than seventy years, the ideological foundation of law has repeatedly changed; a new legal dictionary and legal terminology appeared; a demand was put forward for the development of a new and higher type of law, qualitatively different from that existing in the non-socialist world.

The creation of the Soviet legal system meant the appearance in world history of:

1 new historical type of law;

2 one of the possible varieties of this type;

3 first concrete socialist legal system.

In the first years after the 1917 revolution, Soviet law was formed as a sui generis law, the source of which was not so much legal norms as the discretion of law enforcers, who were guided by “proletarian legal consciousness”. Accordingly, in Russian law and the practice of its application, the tendency prevailed not to converge legal norms with the legislation and legal practice of its application in other countries, but to separate them. Such an ideological attitude was especially consistently implemented in the sphere of criminal repression.

The transition in 1922 to the New Economic Policy (NEP), an integral feature of which was the restoration of commodity-money relations, required the adoption of new laws that would take into account the needs of the development of these relations. For this purpose, the Civil Code (CC) of the RSFSR was adopted, the structure and most important provisions of which were based on the pandet system.

The law of the RSFSR was characterized by the following features:

1. It was ideological through and through: the previously dominant Orthodox ideology was replaced by the dominance of Marxism-Leninism, which was assigned the role of a new state religion, protected by the entire arsenal of legal means. This brought it closer to religious legal systems, which are also based on ideology (only religious) and depend on official interpreters of its truths and provisions. In the Soviet legal system, ideologization found its expression in a strictly class approach, rather than a legal one, as in the Romano-Germanic or Anglo-American legal families, approach to the subjects of law.

In organizational terms, the ideologization of the legal system was reflected in the direct intervention of the Communist Party in legal practice – in law-making, law enforcement, legal education, and in the legal corps.

2. Monoideology created monoproperty for itself. Considering private property as an absolute evil, the dominant ideology determined the main difference between the law of the RSFSR and other legal systems of the 20th century: it was based on the socialization of means

production, and in some periods – and the entire economy as a whole. The absolute primacy of the interests of the state over the interests of the individual was noted.

Legislation and judicial practice treated personal property with indifference, providing state and public property with all possible encouragement and protection. As a result, the existence of neither private property nor private law was recognized in the RSFSR. The concept of private law was destroyed.

For 70 years there was only public law in the Russian state. The life of people was built according to the orders and orders of party and state officials. People lived under conditions not only of the dictatorship of the party, but also of the dictatorship of the right of power.

Law was seen as a phenomenon subordinate to the state. Naturally, state bodies did not consider themselves bound by the rules of law, which created the basis for the growth of arbitrariness and infringement of human rights.

The legal system was based on the idea of a person’s obligations to the state. A citizen could only do what the state allowed him to do. And the state could prohibit everything that it considered unnecessary for the construction of socialism. If in the field of socio-economic legislation (the right to work, the equalization of the legal status of men and women, the right to free education and medical care), Soviet law remained the world leader until the 70-80s, then the political and personal rights of citizens were constantly violated. International human rights standards were denied.

In the first years of socialist construction in the RSFSR , the need for law was generally denied, which was considered an unnecessary legacy of capitalist society. This led to legal nihilism in society. The law was assessed as even more dangerous than religion, a drug, like an opium for the people (G.A. Goykhbarg, M.A. Reisner). However, over time, the doctrine of the gradual “withering away of law” under communism arose.

Hence the emergence of the concept of “socialist legitimacy”: everything that contributes to the building of a communist society is legally and legally justified. Unlike Western countries, legality acted not as a framework limiting the arbitrary actions of an individual or the state, but as a means of achieving the goals that society sets for itself. This was the fundamental position that determined the difference between the structure under consideration and the Western ones.

Soviet law revealed an extraordinary dynamism of legal norms. During the years of Soviet power, the legal regime changed at least seven times, and every time – during the years of the civil war and intervention, NEP, Stalinism, the Great Patriotic War, the “thaw”, stagnation, perestroika – significant changes were made in the legal system.

The law of the RSFSR was characterized by declarativeness. In 1917–1918 in the struggle for the support of the masses, the Bolsheviks used the decrees as a means of agitation and propaganda. Knowing in advance that certain legislative promises were unrealistic, the revolutionary authorities used them as proof of the implementation of their programmatic intentions. But even in subsequent decades, this line can be easily traced in the five-year plans, in the Constitution, civil and criminal legislation.

The declarative nature of the legislation of the RSFSR was caused not only by domestic and foreign policy considerations, but also by tasks of a purely educational nature. The state ideology used legal norms in order to destroy selfish and antisocial attitudes of behavior in people. In doing so, she succeeded in suppressing private initiative.

Soviet law was distinguished by an important feature – its federalism. Since the union republics were recognized as sovereign subjects of the Soviet federation, in the USSR since the late 50s there were formally at least 16 (15 + 1) legal systems, and in each of the republics the dualism of legal norms – union and local – had to be expressed. In 1918–1920, when Soviet federalism was taking shape, the dualism of Soviet law did indeed take place. Even autonomous entities could have significant differences in legal norms and institutions.

However, already at the end of the 1920s, this practice was abandoned and the federalism of Soviet law acquired a semi-fictitious character. The dominance of union legislation and the extreme degree of unification of republican legal norms (by their nature designed to take into account local conditions) reached a peak during the Stalinist period in the late 1930s and early 1950s. Then this trend weakened, but Soviet law did not achieve true federalism before the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The dualism of the legal system of the RSFSR arose for a different reason: it was a product of the parallel existence of two structures of state administration – the party (which masked its public legal role) and the Soviet (which served as a facade for the omnipotence of party committees from top to bottom).

The judicial system was completely dependent on the party-state leadership, and its activities were characterized by a punitive orientation.

The role of law in the system of sources of law was reduced to almost nothing. At the center of the legal system were the “guiding” party directives. And most of the issues of everyday life of people were resolved in numerous acts of government.

The legal system of the RSFSR went through several stages in its seventy-year evolution, and the listed features were inherent in these stages to varying degrees.

The first stage in the formation of the legal system is characterized, on the one hand, by the breakdown of the old legal system and legal institutions, maximum revolutionary “creativity” and arbitrariness, and on the other hand, by the desire to build a new legal system (the adoption of the Constitution of the RSFSR in 1918, Civil, Criminal, Land, Code of Civil Procedure, Code of Criminal Procedure, Code of Labor Laws, construction of a new judicial system).

At the second stage of the development of the legal system of the RSFSR, from the beginning of the 30s to the mid-50s, a totalitarian regime operated in the country with the almost complete destruction of true legal realities, despite fictitious demonstrative actions to adopt a mass of legislative acts.

The third stage – the mid-1950s – the end of the 1980s – the era of liberalization (with its ups and downs), which led to a change in the socio-political system, the collapse of the USSR and a change in all guidelines for political and legal development, the fundamental values of the social system as a whole. This stage was characterized by some technical and legal achievements in the legislative sphere (all major branches of law were codified – the Criminal Code, the Civil Code, the Criminal Procedure Code, the Civil Procedure Code, the Labor Code, the Code of Civil Procedure, etc.), the Constitution of the RSFSR of 1978 was adopted, a number of laws of a declarative-democratic orientation.

Rebuilt since the late 1980s. began a radical alteration of the Russian legal system. It is accompanied by very painful factors: a “war of laws”, sharp contradictions between legislative and executive authorities, a “parade of sovereignties” of national-state and administrative-territorial units in the former Soviet Union, and then in the Russian Federation, an increase in crime, corruption in the state apparatus and violations of the rights of entire strata and groups of the population, etc.

What legal family did the legal system of the RSFSR belong to? In Western comparative law, the law of the RSFSR was attributed to the family of legal systems of socialist countries. But often the former socialist law was interpreted as a kind of Romano-Germanic law. The socialist revolutions have transformed these countries, but their legal resemblance to Western Europe remains.

The relationship of Russian law with Romano-Germanic law is beyond doubt. Russian law is based on the received norms of Roman law, the subsequent lasting influence of the German and French legal schools is obvious, all branches of law in Russia are codified. One of the signs of the independence of the branch of law is the presence of a codification act. The principle of the rule of law has always operated in the Russian legal system. And no matter how important judicial practice is, it has always played a role subordinate to the law.

With the proclamation of the state independence of the Russian Federation, a new stage in the development of the legal system began. The establishment of the rule of law in the new Russia was declared for the first time in its entire history. There was a sincere desire to accept the positive legal models of foreign countries. The legacy of the proletarian revolution, a deep negative attitude towards law, an absolutely undemocratic administrative-command system cannot be eradicated by decrees alone. The true legal heritage of the past can really be appreciated and used by the state to find ways to introduce market-oriented democratic values into the way of thinking, legal language and the concept of a new, democratic legal system in Russia.

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