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The Sukhovo-Kobylin Case
The Sukhovo-Kobylin case is a representative example of nineteenth-century Russian jurisprudence which did not allow persons suspected of a crime to defend themselves but did allow judicial institutions to accept bribes. The story of the case reads like a murder mystery, with all the ingredients of a real thriller: the main character is a rich nobleman...
The Sukhovo-Kobylin case is a representative example of nineteenth-century Russian jurisprudence which did not allow persons suspected of a crime to defend themselves but did allow judicial institutions to accept bribes. The story of the case reads like a murder mystery, with all the ingredients of a real thriller: the main character is a rich nobleman with two mistresses. A French milliner was the victim of a gruesome murder on a winter evening in Moscow in 1851. The other mistress--from the highest social circles--left Russia for Paris shortly after the murder. Then there were the serfs who had no status whatsoever and who were initially accused of the murder because they had no rights to speak of. Finally there was the Russian police and judicial system, which was not focused on discovering the truth, but on protecting itself by treating persons suspected of a crime according to their social status. This was class justice in all its glory. Corruption was rampant. The desired verdict could always be arranged through bribes and patronage. These complex entanglements made it extremely difficult to piece together the precise course of events. The original files obviously contain no mention of bribery or corruption. But we can more or less reconstruct the case with the help of Sukhovo-Kobylin's literary works and other sources. This book is not a dry juridical treatise, but an entertaining description of a criminal case, which has fascinated not only lawyers but also literary critics in Russia to this day. "Anne Pries" studied Slavonic languages and literature at Leiden University (the Netherlands). After graduating in the Faculty of Languages and Literature she worked as a translator of Russian literature into Dutch. The Sukhovo-Kobylin trilogy was among the many works she translated. From 1980 to 2001 she served as chief librarian of the Institute of East European Law and Russian Studies at Leiden University. She defended her Ph.D. thesis on Sukhovo-Kobylin in 1988. After leaving the university she continues to work as a translator of Russian literature.
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