Russia is often portrayed as a regressive, even lawless, country, and yet the Russian state has played a major role in shaping and experimenting with law as an instrument of power. In Law and the Russian State, William Pomeranz examines Russia's legal evolution from Peter the Great to Vladimir Putin, addressing the continuities and disruptions of Russian law during the imperial, Soviet, and post-Soviet periods. The book covers key themes, including:

* Law and empire
* Law and modernization
* The politicization of law
* The role of intellectuals and dissidents in mobilizing the law
* The evolution of Russian legal institutions
* The struggle for human rights 
* The rule of law
* The quest to establish the law-based state

The work also analyzes legal culture and how Russians understand and use the law. With a detailed bibliography, this is an important text for anyone seeking a sophisticated understanding of how Russian society and the Russian state have developed in the last 350 years.


1. Law and Empire under Peter the Great
2. The Expansion of Russian Legality
3. The Judicial Reforms of 1864 and the Modernization of Imperial Law
4. Law, Politics, and Revolution
5. Filling in the Blanks: The Creation of Socialist Law
6. Socialist Legality and Illegality
7. Russia's Long Constitutional Crisis: 1985-1993
8. The 1993 Constitution: A Framework for Reform
9. Vladimir Putin and the Restoration of State and Law


“A lively and engaging account of law and legal development in Russia, past and present. It is unique in its emphasis on how law throughout Russian history has served the state.”  – Peter H. Solomon, Jr., Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto, Canada

“Most Westerners consider the Russian state lawless, but William Pomeranz shows the great importance Russians attribute to law. This is a scholarly and thoughtful guide to law, a little understood but crucial aspect of Russia's long history. It should become the standard work on its subject.”  – Geoffrey Hosking, Emeritus Professor of Russian History, University College London, UK

About the Author
Image of William E. Pomeranz
William E. Pomeranz

William E. Pomeranz is Deputy Director of the Wilson Center's Kennan Institute. Read More