by Oleg OMELCHENKO, Dr. Sc. (Law), Moscow Industrial University
The Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) has always prized the historic role of Empress Catherine II (1729 - 1796)-it has been publishing her works, including those on state governance. Speaking of that, we should make special mention of Alexander Lappo-Danilevsky, full member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences. An outstanding organizer, he enlisted the aid of a cohort of prominent historians and legal experts of the day (early 20th century), such as F. Taranovsky, P. Lyublinsky and Ya. Barskov, in the job of publishing materials penned by Catherine II. This publication was to see print in 1917 to 1919, but the revolutionary events of 1917 interfered with the project. In the Soviet years, however, Catherine II became a target of social critique, quite in keeping with the "social class approach". Meanwhile her manuscripts, sorted out and systemized, are priceless documents in the legal sense above all. They offer a new dimension of Catherine the Great and her lifework for Russia's benefit.
Unlike other Russian czars and czarinas, Catherine II wrote or edited with her own hand the greater part of legal documents issued during her reign. The Russian State Archives of Old Acts have a special section with her personal files ("Catherine II's Study"), with scores of MS folders and volumes.
Count Friedrich Grim, an eminent French writer, critic and diplomat who corresponded with the Russian sovereign, asked her how she was going to celebrate the 12th anniversary of her reign (1782); and her reply was: "When I issue some good law, that will be a proper occasion for my celebration." It was not an empty, hollow phrase. The czarina was awake to the utmost importance of lawmaking, she had a zest for this job.
The age of Catherine II saw a good many administrative reforms most of which were carried out along essentially new legal lines. As a matter of fact, legislation had a special role to play ... Читать далее