Research & Studies

Eastern Europe’s Imprint on Modern International Law – Lecture by Stefan Troebst

’The history of the development of international law should not be left exclusively to international lawyers or jurists, but also to research by historians’ – so says Professor Stefan Troebst, Professor of East European Cultural Studies at the University of Leipzig, Germany and Deputy Director of the Leibniz-Institut für Geschichte und Kultur des östlichen Europa (GWZO). All the more so, he says, because the development of international law was never an ’indigenous process leading into the bright future, but a thorny meandering path critically shaped by oppression, occupation, wars’ and, generally speaking, by crimes against humanity.

Speaking online on May 11 in the iASK lecture series ’Future of Europe in a Global Context’ from his home, Troebst asserted that the shift of important international activities from Western to Eastern Europe in the 20th century had a significant influence on shaping international law.

He cited many examples: the International Red Cross, established to ease the plight of wounded soldiers of the Crimean War or the European Danube Commission to oversee the international utilization of the river, brought – perhaps inadvertently – the first regional and global organizations to life. He explained how the Soviet Union divided international law into distinct ’circles’ of socialist, and bourgeois international law and where the two overlapped; how the Brezhnev doctrine turned into the ’Sinatra’ doctrine, the latter giving way to today’s Putin doctrine: as exemplified by the aggression against the Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea; how the forced exchange of ethnic, religious and other minorities which was a perfectly legal practice in the 1920s has become a war crime by today, how outstanding lawyer-activists succeeded in strengthening minority rights, how the separation of Czechoslovakia and the breakup of both the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia ’amplified’ the legal principle of ’uti possidetis’ into modern European practice, how humanitarian law evolved to include wartime rape into an act of genocide – to list but a few examples of the significant impact Eastern European history had on international law as we know it today.

To listen to Professor Troebst’s fascinating 55 minute lecture, please click the icon below:

Eastern Europe’s Imprint on Modern International Law – Lecture by Stefan Troebst (historian, deputy director of GWZO Leipzig)

iASK Lecture Series – The Future of Europe in a Global Context – Spring 2020

Date: 11th May 2020 at 3 p.m.