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Jonathan Daly is a professor of History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His newest book Crime and Punishment in Russia: A Comparative History from Peter the Great to Vladimir Putin (Bloomsbury, 2018), provides a comprehensive overview of the development of the criminal justice system in Russia from the 1700s to the present. Rather than following the typical narrative of Russia being a backwards, Asiatic state that struggled to modernize, Daly begins the book noting that “Russia developed as one of the most successful states in human history.” He highlights the achievements of the Russian state, such as the 1649 Ulozhenie, (which was one of the most detailed and elaborate law codes devised in the early modern world), Empress Elizabeth’s curtailment of capital punishment, the 1864 judicial reform (in which Russia became the first non-Western country to establish an independent judiciary functioning largely according to Western best practices), early Bolshevik criminal justice for regular (as opposed to “political”) offenders aimed at a level of humaneness rare in the world in the early 1920s and post-Soviet Russia’s enormous efforts to develop law according to international best practices. At the same time he rightfully notes Russia’s reputation as a despotic power with a weak rule of law tradition and asks how these contradictions evolved within Russia’s criminal justice system. In seeking to answer this question, Daly focuses on the continuation of strong personal, informal factors in Russian governance and the Russian preference for the rule of authoritative persons rather than of law to unify the practices of three ideologically disparate regimes. Crime and Punishment in Russia provides a clear, concise, and informative historical look at the evolution of criminal justice in Russia.

Samantha Lomb is an Assistant Professor at Vyatka State University in Kirov, Russia. Her research focuses on daily life, local politics and political participation in the Stalinist 1930s. Her book, Stalin’s Constitution: Soviet Participatory Politics and the Discussion of the Draft 1936 Constitution, is now available online. Her research can be viewed here.




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