Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


The Theory and Practice of Soviet Inheritance Law, 1941-1953




College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



This paper examines the legal and social dimensions of inheritance in the Soviet Union in the late Stalinist period, challenging the notion that the Soviet Union was defined by a lack of individual property rights. It contributes to the global history of the institution and practice of inheritance that has largely ignored socialist societies precisely because of this perception. It also contributes to an understanding of the practice of civil law in the Soviet Union, an area of law which has not been examined nearly as much as the role of criminal law. It uses archival materials from the State Archives of the Russian Federation, in particular USSR SupremeCourt cases and letters exchanged with Ministry of Justice officials. It further draws upon Soviet legal treatises and laws and demonstrates that officials made accommodations that allowed and even promoted property rights. This paper situates Soviet inheritance law within developments in Soviet legal theory as well as the accommodations made due to the realities of historical circumstances such as the Great Patriotic War. It thus places the developments to Soviet inheritance law within the particular political and social contexts of Soviet history. This allows an examination of both the law and practice in addition to the role of law in civil law inheritance matters. Furthermore, this paper explores the interaction between Soviet citizens and officials within the civil law system, allowing for a view of the attitude of citizens to and the use of law and justice in civil law matters.

Conference Name

The Practice of Law and Justice in Russia (from the 18th century to the present)

Conference Location

Moscow, Russia

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