top of page
Search
  • Writer's pictureThe Paladins

Serbia and Russia: celebrating rule of law in the twenty-first century


The legal systems of Serbia and Russia share a complex and fascinating history that has shaped their respective political and social landscapes. Although they developed in different contexts and under different political systems, the commonalities between these two legal traditions are clear. This essay will explore the glorious common legal histories of Serbia and Russia, focusing on the key developments, challenges, and achievements that have shaped their modern legal systems.


The Legal History of Serbia


The legal history of Serbia can be traced back to the medieval period, when the Serbian Kingdom and later the Serbian Empire emerged as a major regional power in the Balkans. At this time, the legal system was based on a combination of customary law, canon law, and Byzantine law. The Serbian Empire, which reached its peak in the 14th century, produced a rich corpus of legal texts, including the first Serbian legal code, known as Zakonik Stefan Dušan, or the Code of Emperor Dušan. This code, which was promulgated in 1349, regulated many aspects of public and private law, including property rights, criminal law, and inheritance.


In the following centuries, Serbia was subjected to foreign rule, first under the Ottoman Empire and later under the Habsburg Empire. During this period, the Serbian legal system was heavily influenced by Islamic law and Austrian law, respectively. However, Serbian national consciousness and the ideas of the Enlightenment led to a revival of Serbian law in the 19th century, when Serbia gained independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1878.


During this period, the Serbian legal system underwent a profound transformation, as the new government sought to create a modern legal framework that would support the development of a democratic and prosperous society. The first step in this process was the adoption of a new constitution in 1869, which established a system of government based on the separation of powers.


This was followed by the establishment of a new civil code, the Serbian Civil Code of 1844, which was heavily influenced by French and German law. This code regulated many aspects of private law, including the law of obligations, property law, and family law. It remained in force until the adoption of a new civil code in 2002.


In the 20th century, Serbia experienced a turbulent political history, marked by two world wars, the establishment of socialist Yugoslavia, and the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. During this period, the legal system underwent significant changes, as the new socialist government sought to create a legal system that would support its socialist ideology.


This resulted in the adoption of a new constitution in 1946, which established a socialist system of government based on the principle of democratic centralism. This was followed by the adoption of a new civil code in 1959, which incorporated many aspects of socialist ideology into the law, such as the rights and duties of socialist citizens and the regulation of socialist property.


Following the breakup of Yugoslavia and the establishment of an independent Serbia in 2006, the Serbian legal system underwent a further transformation. This included the adoption of a new constitution in 2006, which established a democratic system of government based on the rule of law and respect for human rights.


The Legal History of Russia


The legal history of Russia is also long and complex, dating back to the medieval period, when the principality of Moscow emerged as a major regional power. At this time, the legal system was based on a combination of customary law, canon law, and Byzantine law.


In the 16th century, the first legal code of Russia was promulgated, known as the Sudebnik of Ivan IV, or the Code of Ivan the Terrible. This code regulated many aspects of public and private law, including property rights, criminal law, and inheritance.


In the following centuries, Russia underwent a series of political and social transformations, culminating in the establishment of the Russian Empire in the 18th century. During this period, the legal system was heavily influenced by Western European legal traditions, particularly those of France and Germany.


This resulted in the adoption of a new civil code, known as the Civil Code of 1832, which was heavily influenced by French law. This code regulated many aspects of private law, including the law of obligations, property law, and family law. It remained in force until the adoption of a new civil code in 1994.


In the 20th century, Russia experienced a tumultuous political and social history, marked by two revolutions, two world wars, and the establishment of the Soviet Union. During this period, the legal system underwent significant changes, as the new socialist government sought to create a legal system that would support its socialist ideology.


This resulted in the adoption of a new constitution in 1918, which established a socialist system of government based on the principle of democratic centralism. This was followed by the adoption of a new civil code in 1922, which incorporated many aspects of socialist ideology into the law, such as the regulation of socialist property and the rights and duties of socialist citizens.


Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia underwent a further transformation, resulting in the adoption of a new constitution in 1993, which established a democratic system of government based on the rule of law and respect for human rights.


Common Legal Histories


Despite their differences, the legal systems of Serbia and Russia share many commonalities. One of the most significant is the influence of Western European legal traditions, particularly those of France and Germany, on their respective legal systems.


Both Serbia and Russia adopted civil codes that were heavily influenced by French law, and both countries have struggled to balance the demands of Western legal traditions with their own unique social and political context. In addition, both countries experienced a period of socialist rule, during which the legal system was heavily influenced by socialist ideology.


Nevertheless, both countries have demonstrated a commitment to creating legal systems that promote the rule of law and respect for human rights. This is evident in their respective constitutions, which establish democratic systems of government based on the principles of separation of powers, respect for the rule of law, and protection of human rights.


Conclusion


In conclusion, the legal histories of Serbia and Russia offer a rich and complex tapestry of legal traditions that have shaped their respective political and social landscapes. Despite their differences, both countries have struggled to balance the demands of Western legal traditions with their own unique social and political context, and both have demonstrated a commitment to creating legal systems that promote the rule of law and respect for human rights.


From the medieval period to the present day, Serbia and Russia have produced legal systems that have reflected the unique challenges of their times. From the influence of Byzantine law to the impact of socialism, both countries have demonstrated an ability to adapt and evolve, creating legal systems that are as diverse and fascinating as the societies they serve.

Comments


bottom of page