In This Review

Everyday Law in Russia
Everyday Law in Russia
By Kathryn Hendley
Cornell University Press, 2017, 304 pp.

Law in Russia has long been viewed by outsiders as a tool used arbitrarily by those who rule—an image strengthened in the Putin era. Hendley, one of the most seasoned students of Russian law, would not deny that any country where the law is twisted to serve the political and venal interests of those with power does not live under the rule of law. However, she estimates that in Russia, only three percent of all instances of law enforcement involve such perversions. She does not question the damage done to democracy by such abuses, but she is more interested in the ways in which most citizens typically engage with the law: divorce proceedings, personal-injury suits, common misdemeanors, and so on. After two decades of close study, a good deal of it conducted in courtrooms, she paints an authoritative picture of how the law works for ordinary Russians and what they think of it. Russians normally try to resolve their problems out of court. But when they do seek legal recourse—and they increasingly do—they do so without misgivings. Hendley provides a fine example of how Russian reality is often much more complicated than those on the outside believe.