Reclassifying Russian law: Mechanisms, outcomes, and solutions for an overly politicized field

This Article will demonstrate how, throughout the 20th century, American scholarship on Russian law has not progressed as a steady accumulation of facts, but instead has been driven by changing American political anxieties and hopes regarding Russia's political place in the world. Although such politicization might have been excusable when Russia lay closed to the West, it is unacceptable today, as there are now unprecedented opportunities to engage in empirical research on Russian law. To facilitate a more empirical and accurate understanding of Russian law, this Article will propose the creation of an ideal type model for Russia law that will operate much the way the civil law and common law ideal types do in classifying and comparing Western European and North American legal systems. Scholars should begin the construction of this ideal type by exploring whether Russian law is sufficiently different from the civil law family to merit another ideal type. This ideal type approach will normalize our understanding of Russian law, encouraging us to ask the same questions of Russia's legal system as we do of other European legal systems. Such normalization will also help us better understand contentious debates surrounding Russian law, including whether it is a Western style legal system, the effectiveness of rule of law promotion, and suitability of western legal transplants in the region.
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