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The Legitimacy of the Bolshevik Order, 1917-1918: Language Usage in Revolutionary Russian Law

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For more content, see Review of Socialist Law.

This article describes and analyzes the legislative politics of the revolutionary regimes in Russia in 1917-1918. The author aims to demonstrate the political meaning of the form of early Soviet legislation and its legitimizing effect. Revolutionary legislators often used specific language in new laws as a vehicle for legitimacy, i.e., as a means of making the people comply with those laws. The two main types of legal language used by the Bolsheviks can be interpreted from the perspective of different types of legitimacy. The revolutionary strategy used propagandistic legislation, written in the language of lay people, which urged them to act according to the new law. This can be seen as a request for the people to take certain actions and thus to legitimize the soviets. On the other hand, they also used the traditional strategy by employing old bureaucratic means of writing and distributing legislation to the local soviets. The language used by this strategy could not be easily understood by a lay audience and implied a tradition of obeying the law written in familiar legal language, which in turn implied rational/legal legitimacy. The second strategy had already become dominant after the first months of the Bolshevik Revolution. This observation demonstrates that, from the very beginning of their rule, Soviet leaders approached legislative policy from a technocratic point of view, which determined the further development of Soviet legal theory and practice.


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