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The Soviet Union and the Rule of Law

Courtesy Reuters

Mikhail Gorbachev and the Soviet leadership have recognized the need for fundamental legal reform in the U.S.S.R., and their emphasis is well placed. Law is the lifeblood of any democratically organized polity. It shapes social and economic structures and relationships, and provides normative rules for private and public conduct. Moreover, given the tradition of Russian absolutism and some seventy years of Soviet totalitarianism, a requisite component of democratization in the U.S.S.R. must be the development of some form of limitation on government power. This suggests, among other things, a legal system independent of government control.

Last fall I participated in a historic meeting between representatives of the U.S. Department of Justice and Soviet government, party and law enforcement officials.1 The unprecedented candor with which Soviet officials were willing to discuss the ills plaguing their society was certainly refreshing. It reflected the leadership's apparent

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