Volume 33, 1998
Philosophy of Law
Alexander S. Fesenko
Hegel and the Russian Constitutional Tradition
This paper advances the idea that Russian constitutionalism developed through a reinterpretation of Russian history in terms of Hegel's concept of the World Spirit. Russians implicitly viewed their nation as the embodiment of Hegel's World Spirit, which would have a unique messianic mission for humanity. However, the specifics of Russia's historical development diverged from Hegel's critical stage of ethical development, in which individuals would be mutually recognized as free beings. For this reason, the rights of the individual in Russia were seen until recently as originating exclusively in the state and valid only insofar as a given individual constituted an organic part of the whole or collective. I give examples from all six Russian and Soviet constitutions. I also demonstrate how the 1993 post-Soviet constitution represents a major breakthrough in the advancement of individual rights in Russia.