Martin Aust "Jurists from the late Russian Empire: Self-Descriptions and Contributions to the Advancement of International Law"
On November 2, 2017, the guest of the regular international scientific seminar "The Boundaries of History" was Prof. Dr. Martin Aust (Universität Bonn), who presented his paper “Empire and International Law – Loyalties in the Life of Fedor F. Martens (1845-1909)”. The paper was devoted to the Jurists from the late Russian Empire Fyodor Martens and Andrei Mandel’shtam, emphasizing their representation as Russian imperial subjects and international experts and their contributions to the international law as well. Aust indicated that both these themes are related to the recent debates in historiography and cover such questions as: to which degree were self-descriptions by subjects in late Imperial Russia shaped by the notions and experiences of the empire? How to interpret Russia`s jurisprudence in the framework of the history of international law? How is it possible to globalize historiographically the Russia`s imperial past?
In order to answer these questions Aust placed them to four debates. The first one – subjectivity, to be more precise, autobiographical practices in late Tsarist Russia. With the dawn of modernity in XIX century Russia religious and service autobiographies declined giving place to the new models of self-description, such as intelligentsia or revolutionary autobiographies. According to recent studies, subaltern autobiographical practices with the focus on peasant life could also be examples of such practices. Aust emphasized the need of studies which explore the degree to which people attached significance and meaning to imperial ideologies. On the examples of Martens and Mandelstam it was demonstrated the links between the imperial history and autobiographical practices.
The second issue concerned the history of human rights. There is a huge debate on when history of human rights begins: some consider the contemporary concept of human rights to be yet secularized visions of protection of human beings; others give the predominant role to the enlightenment. A number of historians claim that the global history of human rights appeared only in the 1970s. Taking into consideration these accounts it was important to highlight the significance of Andrei Mandel’shtam in the field of legal history and his assistance to advance the cause of human rights in the middle of the XX century.
The third debate related the significance of empires as contributors to XIX century internationalization and to the issue of human rights as well as to the history of international law and human rights. Fedor Martens’ writings and agencies allowed deep insights into how advancing international law and using it as an imperial toolkit were very closely linked to each other.
The forth one – globalizing the Russian past: the case of international law, focuses on the question whether Martens and his followers represented Russia in European international law or rather European international law in Russia. According to Martens, the history of Russian international lawyers is not only Russians adopting European innovations or vice versa, but also multiple transfers of knowledge and its circulation both between Europe and Russia as well as in globalizing world. According to Aust, the role of Russian international lawyers should not be undermined; rather they should be acknowledged as agents who contribute to globalizing the world at the turn of the XIX-XX centuries.
Despite getting a degree at St. Petersburg University in 1868 and staring career at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Martens was well connected with international law community, both academically and diplomatically, which contributed to the transfer of law knowledge. As a diplomat of the Russian Empire Martens attempted to advance international law on international humanitarian law and international arbitration fields. Through Martens`s efforts and his will to institutionalize international arbitration, in 1899 it was established a Permanent Court of Arbitration by the Hague Conference.
Aust also payed attention to the way Martens switched between academic and diplomatic role (in terms of different dresses and attributes as well), which he combined not only within the mentioned above positions, but also in a global scale. Martens considered that his two affiliations reinforce each other.
The dispute between Martens and John Westlake, professor of international law at Cambridge University, on the issue of Russian expeditions to Kabul had taken place on the pages of a journal which was dedicated to the cause of international law. In this case, two renowned international lawyers lost initial common point and spoke out in favor of their countries. Martens had given insight into his loyalty to the Russian Empire, which however was not mutual. After assisting the credit process of France to Russia in 1906, Martens was not even invited to a great ceremony to open the Duma in the Winter Palace. Being frustrated, Martens turned to his diary.
Aust stressed that Martens’s diary was strictly confined with his professional issues, being a bright representation of loyalty to the Tsar and the Empire. Meanwhile these such kind of diary can be characterized as an extended version of the service autobiography. Martens’s diary is a striking depiction how Russia offered opportunity to link one’s hopes and loyalty to the empire.
Martens regularly got revues of his books, which was highly appreciated among his colleagues from abroad. His textbook on international law translated into many languages was broadly received in many countries. The role of Martens’s figure was literally a global, because his scholars were perceived beyond the borders of Europe.
Andrei Mandel’shtam was Martens’s student, who received his academic training as a jurist at St. Petersburg University. By authoring plan for an Armenian province in the Ottoman Empire under joint international supervision by the Sultan and the European Great Powers, which however was not materialized, Mandel’shtam’s marked his interest onto the field of minority rights and minority protection. His book on the fate of the Ottoman Empire: Le Sort de l’Empire Ottoman emphasized the atrocities against Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. However, in the 1920-s after the emigration to Paris being a member of an international group of jurists, Mandel’shtam concluded that minority protection caused conflicts between states and that is why it would be better to move from minority protection to a general protection of human rights.
In 1929 Mandel’shtam’s contribution was inspired to a declaration by the Institut de Droit International at its meeting in New York, which stressed the idea of rule of law in a civilized world. The declaration stipulated: the guarantee of the rights of life, freedom and property, equal protection of rights for all human beings regardless of sex, language, religion, nationality and race and the individual freedom to choose religion and language. States shall be prohibited from discriminating their citizens.
To sum, intellectual heritage of Mandel’shtam contributed a lot to the international law scholarship. Thus, Mandel’shtam’s work as a jurist is considered to be a link between legal scholarship and diplomatic agency of late Imperial Russia, contributing to global human rights protection by the United Nations in the middle of the XX century as well.
Report: Margarita Pavlova
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