Legal culture and integration

Summer break is almost here! It is time to relax a little bit before we start preparing for our next field work trip to Moscow.

On the 13th-15th of May, Prague hosted the third European Summit ( in the beautiful Lobkowicz Castle. In this third gathering of academics, think tank experts, civil servants and politicians, topics included also migration. The panels gave unanimous support to successful integration as the key to societal security in the EU, where member states have different political and social histories with regard to migration.

Our project deals with one dimension of integration in Russia, which is micro level integration to a new legal culture. A simple definition of legal integration at this level sees it as a learning experience in which new arrivals accept and follow new norms and regulations. We also use this definition in our effort, as we look at the rules, which govern migration and Russian labour market, and examine what these rules are, how they are enforced and followed. However, we are also looking beyond the fast changing surface by examining how migrant communities contribute more generally to the shaping of the legal environment in Russian communities and institutions.

This is also a reason for our interdisciplinary approach. As we examine ‘living law’ vis-á-vis ‘law in books’, we do not separate different ways of looking at the law, often used in academic studies. The perspectives of ‘law in’, ‘law and’ and ‘law as’ will be included in our analysis. Examination of migration to Russia  would be articifial without taking into account the historical legacies of the post-Soviet regions. Our key methods include ethnography which is  connected to the empirical tradition of legal-sociology. It underlines the relationship between law and society and utilizes both social and legal theories in analysis. In addition, we try to understand how migrants, who live in the intersection of different legal cultures, construct the meaning of law  in their new Russian surroundings. This implies that we try to find out what kinds of understandings of societal life their legal thinking includes.

This brief description may already give you an idea of the intellectual and practical dimensions of this project. This spring we have had the chance to talk about our work to different audiences and to get feedback on important points. We will continue this part of our project in the fall, with plans to visit Germany and Spain. Then – back to Moscow!