Berman Tells Forum Soviet Law Is Still Changing Shape

Russia's culture, especially her legal system, is still in the transition stage, Ralph J. Berman, visiting professor of law, told his Law School Forum audience last night. In the second of a series of three lectures on the "Spirit of Soviet Law," Berman concentrated on the Marxian element in USSR jurisprudence.

In line with Marxian theory, Berman said, the Russians tried to do away with law until well in the 1930's in hopes that law would not be necessary. In 1936 the Soviets realized, he went on, that the state would not wither away, and a legal system was demanded.

The development of a Soviet judicial system, which was undertaken that year is still in progress, Berman explained. Andrei Vishinsky, present chief Russian delegate to the UN, has been instrumental in the construction of the Soviet law.

Borrow From West

The Soviets borrowed extensively from British, French, Swiss, and German law in formulating their own legal code, Berman continued. Therefore Soviet law curiously contains bourgeois terms such as contract and inheritance, even though its nature is decidedly socialistic. It does not bother with individual rights but has been set up as a means to administer the socialistic plan.


Berman referred to a passage in Sumner Welles' book, "Where Are We Heading?" in which the late President Roosevelt expresses the feeling that Russian law is growing more like ours, and ours more like Russia's, but that the two shall always remain somewhat different.

Next Monday Professor Berman will end his series with a discussion of the more technical aspects of Soviet criminal law.