Post-doctoral thesis on the transformation of the Russian system of property ownership

March 05, 2019

Modern Russian law reflects a conflict in Russian society between two competing models: a traditional model of society that is largely shaped by socialism and a liberal (individualistic) basic order. This conflict can also be seen in the two concepts of property that exist alongside one another. Dr. habil. Eugenia Kurzynsky-Singer, former research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Private Law, examines the tense parallel existence of liberal and collectivist approaches in the Russian concept of property, and the competition between these approaches, in her post-doctoral thesis. Entitled “The Transformation of the Russian System of Property Ownership: A Comparative Analysis from the Perspective of German Law” [„Transformation der russischen Eigentumsordnung – Eine vergleichende Analyse aus der Sicht des deutschen Rechts“], the thesis has been honoured with an award from the German-Russian Lawyers’ Association and is now available as a published volume.

The collapse of the Soviet Union gave rise to expectations that Russia would swiftly incorporate itself into the economic, social and value system of the Western world. But conditions in Russia have not in fact aligned themselves with the social and economic systems of Western countries to the extent expected. Rather, developments in Russia have in many regards followed a unique path, which Kurzynsky-Singer traces using the example of the transformation of the concept of property.

The starting point for her considerations is the idea that every legal system has an immanent cultural dimension, which is informed by the society’s value judgments and crucially shaped by its social model. In her analysis, Kurzynsky-Singer relates Russian property dogmatics to the country’s legal culture, highlighting and investigating the continuities in legal thinking that extend from the Tsarist empire to modern Russia. She devotes particular attention to the relics of the Soviet understanding of property and their embedding in modern Russian property law. A comparison with the German understanding of property offers insight into the dynamics and logic of the transformation of a post-socialist legal order.

As Kurzynsky-Singer demonstrates, the development of the Russian concept of property is an unfinished process. Rather, she understands a new kind of property law to be emerging: a synthesis of the Soviet legal tradition and the continental European concept of property, based, however, on different values and principles than the liberal concept of property in continental European law.

Eugenia Kurzynsky-Singer, Transformation der russischen Eigentumsordnung – Eine vergleichende Analyse aus der Sicht des deutschen Rechts, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2019, Habilitation, Universität Hamburg 2018, 470 S.

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