In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Russian Approaches to International Law

  • Introduction
  • Textbooks
  • Periodicals
  • Theory and Philosophy of International Law
  • History of International Law and Russian Doctrine
  • Norms and Sources of International Law
  • The State and Other Subjects of International Law
  • Law of International Treaties
  • International Economic Law
  • International Law of the Sea
  • International Law of Human Rights
  • International Humanitarian Law
  • International Criminal Law
  • Diplomatic and Consular Law
  • International Air Law
  • International Law of Outer Space
  • Law of International Responsibility
  • International Ecological Law
  • European Law
  • Other Branches of International Law

International Law Russian Approaches to International Law
Alexander Merezhko
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 October 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 March 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199796953-0043


Contemporary Russian doctrine of international law has grown out of the Soviet school of international law. In this respect it would be correct to say that the contemporary Russian doctrine of international law continues the basic traditions of the Soviet school, and for this reason, works on international law published in the Soviet era still have importance and are often referred to in the works of contemporary Russian authors. In the Soviet school, pursuant to a positivistic approach, the emphasis was on the will of states as a determining factor in the process of creating international legal norms. Nowadays, in Russian doctrine, international law is defined as a system of legal norms (rules) and principles regulating relations between subjects of international law, first of all between states and international intergovernmental organizations. In Russian literature the subject is more often called “international law,” and only rarely is the term “public international law” used. Regarding the word “international,” it is mostly understood as meaning “interstate,” thereby highlighting that states are the primary and most important subjects of international law.


In most cases, Russian textbooks on international law have a similar structure. They are divided into sections featuring “general” and “specific” subjects. “General” sections are devoted to issues such as the concept and definition of international law, its history, the major principles of international law, the subjects of international law, the sources of international law, the state in international law, the succession of states, the responsibility of states, the territory and population of states, and the recognition of states. “Specific” sections consist of branches of international law, such as law of international treaties, international diplomatic and consular law (sometimes referred to in the Russian legal literature as “law of international relations”), law of international organizations, international law of human rights, international humanitarian law, law of international security, international economic law, international criminal law, international law of the sea, international ecological law, international air law, and law of space. Dozens of textbooks have been published in Russia in recent years, among which the following deserve special attention. Biryukov, et al. 2011 deserves attention because it puts international law in the context of Russian foreign policy. Bekyashev 2004 broadens the scope of international law by including new developing branches of it. Usenko and Shinkaretskaya 2005 takes into account practical needs in the field of foreign policy and foreign economic activities. Kolosov and Krivchikova 2005 considers recent trends in the development of international law that might lead to the appearance of new branches of international law. The strong side of Ignatenko and Tiunov 1999 is its emphasis on the relationship between the Russian legal system and international law. Kuznetsov and Tuzmukhamedov 2007 strives to give a balanced account of theoretical and practical issues of contemporary international law. Lukashuk 2000 is perhaps the most profound from a theoretical perspective. Tolstykh 2009 is the most case-law-oriented textbook in the Russian international legal literature.

  • Bekyashev, K. A., ed. Mezhdunarodnoe publichnoe pravo. Moscow: Prospekt, 2004.

    This textbook explains concepts, principles, sources, and subjects of contemporary international law. It also covers the traditional institutions and branches of international law, and looks at “international legal fundamentals of struggle against terrorism,” “international cooperation in scientific and technological fields,” and “international procedural law.”

  • Biryukov, M. M., V. D. Bordunov, S. A. Egorov, B. M. Ashavskiy, A. A. Kovalev, and S. V. Chernichenko. Mezhdunarodnoe pravo. 4th ed. Moscow: Omega-L, 2011.

    Most of the authors of this textbook work at the Diplomatic Academy at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This textbook elucidates major concepts, branches, and institutions of international law and shows their evolution, based on recent materials and legal documents.

  • Ignatenko, G. V., and O. I. Tiunov, eds. Mezhdunarodnoe pravo. Moscow: NORMA-INFRA, 1999.

    Besides the traditional issues of international law, specific attention is given to the relationship between national and international law. International treaties are considered in connection with the Russian constitution and Russian legislation. It also analyzes the mechanisms of realization of international legal norms, including their implementation by courts and other state organs.

  • Kolosov, Y. M., and E. S. Krivchikova, eds. Mezhdunarodnoe pravo. 2d ed. Moscow: Mezhdunarodnye Otnosheniya, 2005.

    Textbook written by professors at the Moscow Institute of International Relations (MGIMO). It covers recent trends and developments in international law. It also touches upon such issues as international legal aspects of mass media, religion, and international nuclear law.

  • Kuznetsov, V. I., and B. R. Tuzmukhamedov, eds. Mezhdunarodnoe pravo. 2d ed. Moscow: NORMA, 2007.

    The contributors to this textbook are leading Russian theorists of international law. It covers all major issues of contemporary international law, and combines scientific explanations of the major concepts and institutions of international law, and explains the practical needs of those organizations which are involved in foreign political and foreign economic activities.

  • Lukashuk, I. I. Mezhdunarodnoe pravo. 2 vols. Moscow, 2000.

    Among these textbooks, this is one of the most comprehensive and original. It is written by one of the most outstanding specialists on international law in Russian doctrine.

  • Tolstykh, V. L. Kurs mezhdunarodnogo prava. Moscow, 2009.

    Considers the major branches, institutions, norms, and sources of International law. One of the chapters is devoted to the history of International law in Russia. The author uses numerous examples of international courts’ decisions, as well as contemporary approaches of Russian specialists to International law.

  • Usenko, Y. T., and G. G. Shinkaretskaya, eds. Mezhdunarodnoe pravo. Moscow: Yurist, 2005.

    Looks at all the main issues of international law. Explanations of international legal concepts and institutions are adapted to the practical needs of the organizations involved in international and foreign economic activities.

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