Russian legal anthropology: From empirical ethnography to applied innovation

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This chapter traces the development of legal anthropology in Russia from imperial times to the present. The authors suggest an innovative research agenda based on thorough consideration of Russia’s long history of legal ethnography, a strong applied orientation, and interdisciplinary cooperation between legal scholars and anthropologists, which ideally would start from the conception of a research project and would include joint fieldwork. They provide a brief overview of the different types of studies of law and society in Russia that claim the name ‘legal anthropology’ (iuridicheskaia antropologiia, antropologiia pravo), but which in fact come out of different disciplines; have different approaches, aims, and orientations; and are not in conversation with one another. On the basis of their fieldwork, the authors identify two contrasting types of societies that exist among the Indigenous peoples of Russia: non-state societies (on the example of the Nenets in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug) and almost-state societies (on the basis of the Sakha in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia)). The examples illustrate why, in one society, non-state legal activity is pragmatically geared towards ‘getting things done’ and solving internal questions, while in the other there is a quest to contribute to legislative processes on a more general, countrywide level. Doing so also means mapping the cultural diversity of the current social life of legal systems that coexist within one state. This has both scholarly and practical value and can lead to wider recognition of legal anthropology as a unified field within and beyond academic scholarship.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Law and Anthropology
EditorsMarie-Claire Foblets, Mark Goodale, Maria Sapignoli, Olaf Zenker
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9780191876226
ISBN (Print)9780198840534
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2022
MoEC publication typeA3 Part of a book or another research book

Publication series

SeriesOxford Handbooks


  • Russia
  • legal anthropology
  • applied anthropology
  • Sakha (Yakuts)
  • Yamal Nenets
  • egalitarian societies
  • state-like societies
  • interdiscplinary study, comparative law

Field of science

  • Other social sciences
  • Other humanities
  • Law


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