The Problem of the Judicial Reform of 1864 in the Publicism of Nikita Gilyarov-Platonov and Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The article reviews publicist speeches of N. P. Gilyarov-Platonov and F. M. Dostoevsky on the trial jury in Russian legal proceedings practice. The conservative writers of the XIX century, reflecting this theme, demonstrated the fallacy of the approach to public life reformation, which neglects the influence of the customs and traditions and ignores the features of the national character. From their point of view, many features of the Russian mentality can hinder the harmonious introduction of the Western European legal models in Russia. Among them they called so-called “legal nihilism” of Russians; the typical for the Orthodox consciousness unwillingness to trial fellowmen as well as the widespread desire to avoid the execution of public errands and civic obligations by all means. Thoroughly analyzing these features of the Russian character, origins of their appearance, historical and socio-cultural factors influenced their formation as well as the first experiences of a new court, the publicists came to the conclusion that tracing the Western European model of justice in Russia without its preliminary adaptation to the specifics of traditional public relations would lead not to the harmonization of the judicial sphere, but to chaos and would be a waste of social forces. The analysis of the trial jury work practices in Russia in the 19th century reveals the validity of this view — indeed, the numerous cases of evasion from the duties of the sworn were recorded, the trial jury universally acquitted even in case of indisputably proven and accepted by the defendant guilt in serious criminal offenses. Publicist performances of N. P. Gilyarov-Platonov and F. M. Dostoyevsky on the subject of judicial reform have attracted wide public interest, but sounded warnings and recommendations have not been taken into account in practice.

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