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Lenin, (Just) Wars of National Liberation, and the Soviet Doctrine on the Use of Force

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Today, the prohibition of the use of force is universally accepted as a norm of customary international law. Nevertheless, several exceptions are discussed in international law scholarship. One of them, wars of national liberation, originates in Lenin’s socialist war theory and was subsequently maintained by the former Soviet doctrine of international law. Little known in western academia, this Soviet argument of national liberation struggles to be ‘just wars’ is still alive in Russian international law scholarship today, and, therefore, a lasting legacy of Lenin’s theory of wars of national liberation in international legal discourse as developed around the time of the Russian Revolution (even if sometimes ignored) may be conceded.

Affiliations: 1: German Research Institute for Public Administration BerlinGermany

* Where English translations of Russian works were not available, German translations are cited instead and used as intermediates. These, as well as all ‘direct’ translations from German and Russian into English are the author’s. I would like to thank Bill Bowring, Lauri Mälksoo, and Marija Peran for providing equally helpful comments. My gratitude also goes to Bruno Simma for discussing the topic with me and reading an earlier draft of this article. Any mistakes or inaccuracies are, of course, solely my own.

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