Spring 2000

Fall 1999

A Message from the Dean

Cities at the Horizon
Communities at the Horizon
Eastward from Our Horizon: U.S., China & Russia
Beyond the Horizon: Innovation and Technology

ILE Lecture: Charles A. Heimbold, Jr. L'60
Profile: Richard E. Rosin L'68
Profile: Pamela Daley L'79
Profile: Professor Jason Johnston
Profile: Howard Chang
Profile: Robert A. Gorman
Oral Legal History Project

Snippets of History
Faculty Notes
Alumni Briefs
In Memoriam

Penn Law

Professor Kim Lane Scheppele teaches Post-Communist Law and Society that focuses on the legal changes that have come with the end of the Communist empire throughout Central and Eastern Europe.  Her recent publications include “The Inevitable Corruption of Transition” in 14 University of Connecticut Journal of International Law (1999), and “The New Hungarian Constitutional Court” in 8 East European Constitutional Review 509 (1999).

The Money Melee

Contrary to general American opinion, I hope that many of the changes that have happened in Russia over the last ten years don’t hold.   During that time Russia has gone from an economy in which very few people lived in poverty to one where more than half of the population is below the poverty line.

In the name of democratization, massive impoverishment has been produced in Russia.  In the name of reform, a bunch of people stole the state and what was left of the economy on their way out the door leaving hardly anyone investing in the Russian economy for the long term.  Russia has become a “kleptocracy” with people who had connections to the old party apparatus who took what they could as they headed for foreign banks, leaving this mass population in a destitute condition.

If what happened in Russia happened in the U.S., Americans would have revolted not only against the president but also against the whole form of government.  And the fact that Russians haven’t, and that there’s no sign of that on the horizon, is very interesting.  The Russian constitution, even though it is far from perfect, has managed to still govern Russian politics, by and large.  I’m not sure whether that is a sign of its strength or its irrelevance.

But a lot of ordinary Russians hold the view that having a constitutional regime is important. The change of power from Boris Yeltsin to Vladimir Putin, the recent elections to parliament, and the Russian election for the presidency are all examples that show everyone’s complaints and discontents are framed now in the context of electoral politics. That’s remarkable. Russians believe that electoral politics can fix this, if it can be fixed at all.  There aren’t a whole lot of people arguing to go outside that system. Whoever is going to be the next Russian president cannot squander that resource.

Steps Toward Stability

The model for Russia should be the model of German constitutional law and German legal and economic order that was built out of the moral and political collapse  after the Second World War.  The U.S. model has never had to cope with fixing the complete destruction of public life.  So, looking to America is probably not the best idea for Russians right now.  It’s not that we don’t have a well functioning system ourselves, but rather we haven’t been through anything like what Russia has been through.  I hope Putin can hold together this con-stitutional structure.

Putin may be the perfect person to ease this transition along, but we don’t know enough about him yet.  There’s something in his background that might provide a basis for a kind of new regime.  He’s fluent in German, down to the regional dialects.  He’s lived outside of Russia for some time, so I think he has the resources not to be totally insular.  He was deputy mayor of St. Petersburg in charge of luring foreign investors and he did a wonderful job. 

But Putin could be instead the worst thing that’s happened to Russia.  Depending on how you read the start of the Chechen War, Putin was the great, strong hero that saved Russia from everyone who’s trying to attack them, or he was someone who was willing to sacrifice his own population (both civilian and military) in this war.  Some people in Russia even say that he was behind the bombings in Moscow that killed several hundred Moscovites because these people believe that the Federal Security Service (the successor to the KGB, his organization) planted the bombs.  At the moment, rumors swirl around Putin, and it will take a while before it is clear who he is and what he means for Russia.  Unfortunately, it is likely that we will know only after the election, which may be too late.

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