Lauri Malksoo

University of Tartu School of Law, Estonia
Paris IAS
10 months

Research interests: History and theory of international law

Research Project

Soviet Union and International Law: A Retrospective

This project examines the legacy of the Soviet Union in the context of international law and reexamines international legal questions and debates which were connected with the ideology and practice of the Soviet Union. The project draws on both Western and Russian language sources and aims at understanding how much of the Soviet legacy is still visible in international law and institutions as well as in the core Soviet country, Russia.

The United Nations Charter as well as the Russian constitution (as amended in 2020) both refer to the Soviet Union. Russia started its aggression against Ukraine in 2022 by referring to the mismanaged Soviet legacy. But what did the Soviets actually contribute to international law and how did they understand it? While the interest in the history of international law is nowadays very common in academia, several aspects of the Soviet legacy have surprisingly been neglected in the study of international law, at least recently. Perhaps the Soviet period is still too close to us time-wise; on the other hand, it is already too far away in the past. The aim of this project is to revisit and to some extent reinterpret what the Soviet Union was all about in the context of international law. It is a project in the history of international law, at the intersection of law and history. The concrete aim is to write a monograph on the topic. It will both focus on international legal theory as well as diplomatic practice of the Soviet Union, and inevitably uses comparative method as well as we can understand the Soviet legacy and practice mainly in comparison with Western ideas and practices.


Lauri Mälksoo is Professor of International Law at the University of Tartu in Estonia. He is interested in the history and theory of international law, particularly in East European, Russian and Eurasian contexts. He is member of the Institut de Droit International and the Estonian Academy of Sciences. He has published widely on international law.