"Socialist interpretations of legal history" workshop

12.3.2019
"Socialist interpretations of legal history. The histories and historians of law and justice in the GDR, Poland and the Baltic states under the reign of communism" workshop, 22-23 March 2019, The Institut für neuere Privatrechtsgeschichte, University of Cologne

Read the abstracts of the presentations here!

The aim of the workshop at hand is to concentrate on the interaction between historians and communist regimes, but rather than investigating the control exercised by the communist states, we focus on the position of legal historians and their representations of history. How did the historians see the recent past, and how did that affect their vision on the future? What elements remained from the era preceding communism, and with what means did the scholars find leeway between strict ideological preconditions and their scholarly identity?

After the Second World War, the Soviet occupied Eastern part of Germany, Poland and Baltic States all experienced – in a varying thoroughness – a drastic reorganization of higher education, which was purported to root socialist worldview to their respective academia. Consequently, in the following years also legal scholars advertised the anti-fascist, peaceable and democratizing characteristics of socialist law as an antidote to all what the western legal system supposedly encouraged and embodied.  At the same time western continental legal science concentrated on the long lines of legal history, constructing its view as an exact opposite to what started to take shape as the socialist legal science.

Rather than treating legal history and jurisprudence as mere political tools of the communist regimes, our workshop at hand focuses on the history of the scholarly representations of legal history and jurisprudence. We presume that writing the history of a community or a legal system left free space for scholars to express themselves as scientists, citizens and temporal subjects, even in communist regimes. Furthermore, we argue that this space for personal interpretation becomes evident in the works of the legal historians and legal scientists.  

The workshop is being arranged in a cooperation by the Centre of Excellence 'Law, Identity and the European Narratives'  at the University of Helsinki and The Institut für neuere Privatrechtsgeschichte, University of Cologne. The workshop attempts to bring together scholars and approaches from variety of disciplines and fields of study. Our confirmed key-note speakers are Michal Kopecek (Jena/Prague), Marianna Muravyeva (Helsinki) and Lauri Mälksoo (Tartu). In order to analyze the ‘socialist interpretations of legal history’ in different times and regions across the Eastern Central Europe and former USSR, our workshop concentrates on (but is not restricted to) the following characteristics of socialist legal science and historiography.

The Past, the Present and the Future in socialist legal history. What kind of narratives did the scholars reconstruct to their respected legal orders, or in general to European legal culture? How did they posit their narratives vis-à-vis the western story of European legal history, or which parts they rebuked in that narrative of the West? What were the foundational periods or agents in the socialist reconstructions and why so?

Concepts and tropes. Where there key-concepts, tropes and metaphors in socialist legal history, and if so, where they transnational in nature or did they remain as local inventions of a national legal discipline? By whom and when they were introduced?

The Networks and Schools in the jurisprudence of the GDR, Poland and Baltic states of the former USSR. How did the legal scholars of the former communist regimes organized themselves? Where there competing approaches to and paradigm shifts within the discipline of legal history?

Continuities and discontinuities in socialist legal historiography. In what ways did the legal historical scholarship “started from the scratch” after 1945, distinct from bourgeois worldview and previous historical narratives? What stayed over from the inter-war period and what was rejected? How the further change in political and social conditions of the communist regimes affected legal historiography?

March 22, 2019

13.45–14.00 Ville Erkkilä, Hans-Peter Haferkamp: Opening remarks

14.00–15.00 Keynote speech, Michal Kopecek (Jena/Prague): The Socialist Conception of Human Rights and its Dissident Critique. East Central Europe 1960s-1980s

15.00–15.30 Martin Otto (Hagen): We few, we happy few? Legal History in the GDR

15.30–16.00 Adolfo Giuliani (Helsinki): Eastern Europe and the legal historian. Changing images of the Eastern legal tradition: Roman law, canon law, Pandektism and anti-Pandektism

16.15–17.15 Keynote speech, Marianna Muravyeva (Helsinki): Is there a Communist Legal tradition? East European Legal Histories before and After Communism

17.15–17.45 Marju Luts–Sootak (Tartu): Strategies of covert resistance in teaching and studying legal history at the University of Tartu in the Soviet era

March 23, 2019

10.30–11.30 Keynote speech, Lauri Mälksoo (Tartu): The Concept of Human Rights in the Soviet Legal and Political Thinking

11.30–12.00 Sanita Osipova (Riga): Valdemars Kalnins (1907-1981) – the founder of the Soviet legal history in Latvia

13.30–14.00 Adrian Schmidt-Recla (Jena): Getaway into the Middle Ages? Topics, methods and results of socialist legal historiography in Jena

14.00–14.30 Marta Bucholc (Bonn): Juliusz Bardach (1914-2010) and The Agenda of Socialist History of Law in Poland

14.30–15.00 Anton Rudokvas (St.Petersburg): Roman law studies in the USSR

15.15–15.45 Ville Erkkilä (Helsinki): Law, Land and Community. Historicizing the socialist land reform in East Germany