Civil Code

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Civil Code


the law that contains in a certain systematic order the basic rules of civil law of the country on whose territory it is in force. The first Soviet civil code, the draft of which was prepared under the direct supervision of Lenin, was adopted in the RSFSR on Oct. 31, 1922, at the fourth session of the ninth convocation of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee. Civil codes based on the model of the Civil Code of the RSFSR of 1922 were adopted in the other union republics in the 1920’s. In the Civil Code of 1922 the basic provisions of Soviet civil law were consolidated, including exclusive state ownership of the land, natural resources, forests, and bodies of water and the concentration of the most important means of production under state ownership. Because the code was issued under the New Economic Policy (NEP), it included a number of rules associated with elements of private capitalism, including the legal forms of organization of private enterprises, which became obsolete with the building of socialism. The Civil Code of 1922 did not regulate a number of property relations that are important for socialist society—above all, the contractual relations among socialist organizations under the planning system. These omissions required a new codification of Soviet civil law.

According to the Constitution of the USSR of 1936 the issuing of a civil code fell within the competence of the USSR. In 1957, in accordance with the tendency to broaden the rights of the union republics, the USSR was authorized to issue the Basic Principles of Civil Legislation, but the issuing of civil codes was reserved to the competence of the union republics.

New civil codes were adopted between 1963 and 1965 (for example, in the RSFSR on June 11, 1964). They are similar in all their most important provisions. Particular differences are conditioned by national characteristics or involve secondary details. The new civil codes are based on the Basic Principles of Civil Legislation of 1961 and implement, develop, and apply its rules. In addition, the new civil codes regulate in detail many relations that are not provided for in the Basic Principles of Civil Legislation (for example, gratuitous use of property, gifts, and safekeeping).

The civil codes are arranged in a systematic order that includes sections on general provisions on legal subjects (individual citizens and juridical persons), legal acts, representation, and the limitation of actions. This is followed by sections on the law of ownership, the law of obligations, copyright law, the law of patents for inventions and discoveries, and the law of inheritance. (There is also a section of rules concerning the legal capacity of citizens of foreign countries and stateless persons and the application of foreign civil law, international treaties, and agreements.)

There are civil codes in most of the capitalist countries, with the exception of those that are under the Anglo-Saxon legal system (the USA and Great Britain), where the law of precedents prevails. The first bourgeois civil code was the French Code of 1804—the so-called Napoleonic Code—in which, according to Engels, “the Great French Revolution annihilated the last vestiges of feudalism and . . . masterfully adapted the old Roman law to modern capitalistic conditions” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 22, p. 312). The French Civil Code exerted great influence on the civil codes of numerous capitalist countries in Europe and Latin America. The most important civil code in the age of imperialism is the German Civil Code of 1896, which is in force today in the Federal Republic of Germany and had great influence on the civil codes of Austria, Switzerland, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, and Japan.


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