UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)


Russia's Global Legal Trajectories: International Law in Eurasia Past and Present

16 February 2018–17 February 2018, 9:00 am–5:00 pm

Filonov Ships

In Europe and the United States, it is common for public discourse to frame Russia as a state 'outside' international law. However, when we consider the evolution of international law since 1800, we see that Russia was both the source and the object of many international juridical innovations. Perhaps most famously, the 1899 Hague Convention on the Laws of War was initiated by Nicholas II and his ministers, while émigré Russians were central to the evolution of legal doctrines regarding statelessness after 1918. At the same time, refugees from the Soviet Union were the object of the first attempts at an international passport system in the interwar period. Soviet lawyers and diplomats consistently engaged with international law after 1945, helping to shape crucial articles in the Nuremberg Charter and proposing influential formulations of economic and social rights in the early United Nations. Meanwhile, Soviet international legal scholars elaborated theories of international law that attempted an (often uneasy) reconciliation of Marxist scepticism of law as a tool of imperialism and a belief that in the era of 'peaceful coexistence' international law could further both Soviet foreign policy goals and the struggle against global capitalism.

Event Information

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Room 347

As the above brief summary demonstrates, a global history of international law cannot be told without Russia. This workshop will gather both senior and early career scholars from UK, Russian, US, and European academia to reconsider the role of Russia and the Soviet Union in the history of international law. Uniting specialists in the histories of international criminal law, international humanitarian law, private international law, the international law of intellectual property, human rights, and global migration management, the workshop will ask whether there was a distinctive imperial Russian or Soviet approach to international law and if so, how did changed, developed and evolved over the past two hundred years.

Confirmed speakers include: Vladislav Starzhenetskii (Higher School of Economics Moscow), Peter Holquist (University of Pennsylvania), Tatiana Borisova (Higher School of Economics St Petersburg), Bill Bowring (Birkbeck), Kristy Ironside (McGill), Lauri Malksoo (Tartu), Greg Afinogenov (Georgetown), Julia Leikin (Exeter), Valentyna Polunina (Munich), Franziska Exeler (Berlin), Devika Hovell (LSE) and more.

Conference Programme:


* Friday 16 February 2018 *

10:00am: Registration and Coffee

10:15am: Welcome and Introduction (Philippa Hetherington)

10:30am-12:15pm: Panel 1. Empire of Law

Gregory Afinogenov (Georgetown), Julia Leikin (Exeter), Tatiana Borisova (HSE St Petersburg). Chair: Simon Dixon (UCL SSEES)

12:15pm-1:15pm: Lunch

1:15pm-2:45pm: Panel 2. Jus ad bellum/Jus in bello

Peter Holquist (University of Pennsylvania), Lauri Mälksoo (Tartu), Vera Rusinova (HSE Moscow). Chair: Gerry Simpson (LSE)

2:45pm-3:15pm: Afternoon Tea

3:15pm-5:00pm: Panel 3. Property, Immunity, Jurisdiction

Kristy Ironside (McGill), Scott Newton (SOAS). Chair: Diane Koenker (UCL SSEES)

6:30-8:00pm – Public Forum at Pushkin House (Bloomsbury Square) ‘Russia as Maker and Breaker of International Law’


* Saturday 17 February 2018 *

10am-11:30am: Panel 4. Sovereignty

Bill Bowring (Birkbeck), Philippa Hetherington (UCL SSEES). Chair: Matthew Craven (SOAS)

11:30am-12:00am: Morning Tea

12:00am-1:30pm: Panel 5. Soviet Law and the New Global Justice

Franziska Exeler (Freie Universität/Cambridge), Valentyna Polunina (Heidelberg). Chair: Scott Newton (SOAS)

1:30pm-2:30pm: Lunch

2:30pm-4:15pm: Panel 6. Surveying the 20th Century from the 21st

Devika Hovell (LSE), Marianna Muravyeva (HSE Moscow/Tampere), Vladislav Starzhenetsky (HSE Moscow). Chair: TBC

4:15pm- 4:45pm: Afternoon Tea

4:45pm-5:45pm Roundtable and culminating discussion, featuring Prof. Geoffrey Hosking (UCL)

6:00pm- Drinks Reception (Masaryk Room, SSEES)

This event has been kindly sponsored by the British Academy