chapter  7
12 Pages

Prerevolutionary New Thinking

Legal theorists in nineteenth-and early twentieth-century Russia struggled with the idea of setting up a rule-of-Iaw state, pravovoe gosudarstvo-which is a translation of the German liberal concept of Rechtstaat. The term Rechtstaat is often used to mean a state based on law, but its defmition varies depending on the theorist using the term. For liberal lawyers in Russia at the turn of the century, it was a state based on a constitution, but it did not necessarily mean that the constitution would protect civil liberties or that it would be based on popular sovereignty. For others, it indicated a democratic constitutional form based on popular sovereignty. The difficult discussions on the need for a legally based state took place in a Russian empire where law was an ambiguous concept and the attitude to it was ambivalent.