Constitutionalism in Central Europe: from Ruritania to Borduria (and Back?)

Special Workshop co-organised by the Centre for Legal Education and Social Theory (CLEST) as part of the international conference of the Fontes Association on “Law and Populism”, hosted by Lazarski University in Warsaw.

14-15 September 2019

Ziemowit Szczerek, one of the most interesting Polish writers of the middle generation, has recently recalled, in his novel Międzymorze (Intermarium) the two ways of perceiving Central Europe in the eyes of the West – Ruritania and Borduria. Ruritania is a mythical, rustical and backward Central Europe, which is docile towards Western influence, but at the same time sheepishly naive. Borduria is Central Europe which has rejeced ‘Western values’, and went down the track of nationalism and authoritarianism. ‘Regardless of what it was, Ruritania did not want to be Ruritania – writes Szczerek. – It is understandeable, who would want to be.’ As a result, the ‘Bordurias returned’, and in the Intermarium region ‘a great escape from the West is taking place.’

When back in 2002 Radoslav Procházka entitled his book on constitutional courts in the region with the characteristic phrase Mission Accomplished (suggesting that Ruritania is addressing the Western big Other) nobody expected that the idyllic picture of Westernized Ruritanian neophites, where legal transfers from Western Europe – constitutional courts, judicial independence, ‘rule of law’ functioned ideally – would soon be disrupted by the rise of old Bordurian demons. What happened during these almost two decades which changed the feelings of Central Europeans about following the model of liberal democracy and the rule of law? Are the changes in the region part of a global trend, symbolised by the rise of Trump and by Brexit, or is there a regional specificity to it? In other words, are we facing only a local variation of a global neoauthoritarian, populist trend, or is it Borduria knocking on the doors of Ruritania?

In the 1980s, Central European intellectuals described their region as civilizationally and culturally consistent with the West, temporarily controlled by the uncanny alien East only because of historical misfortune Their manifesto was expressed by Milan Kundera in his famous essay The Tragedy of Central Europe published in The New York Review of Books in 1984. At the same time, as described by Larry Wolff in his Inventing Eastern Europe (1994), western scholars, including Eric Hobsbawm and Robert Brenner, met at conferences such the topics as ‘Origins of Backwardness in Eastern Europe’, where Central European countries were included to the backward East. Therefore, Western imaginaries of Central Europe and Central European imaginaries of itself differed severely. Certainly, this has had an influence on differences in mutual expectations after 1989, and, in consequence, upon the course of processes that have been shaping the contemporary political landscape of Central Europe.

The orientalist imaginaries of Central Europe in the West, the appreciation of the West and will to imitate it (and the eternal sense of belonging to it) in Central Europe encountered the moment of liberation of the region’s countries from the influence of the Soviet Union. Therefore, can it be concluded that Central Europe after 1989 found itself in a post-colonial and neo-colonial situation at the same time?

During our Special Workshop, organised as part of the international conference on Law and Populism, we intend to take a step back from the on-going struggles between politicians and lawyers in Central Europe and try to answer the most fundamental questions from a broad historical and cultural perspective:

  • are Western instiutions of constitutional justice, rule of law and judicial independence merely foreign imports, which have been rejected in Central Europe, or are they part of our legal heritage too?
  • is the trend towards concentration of power in the hands of the executive a return to the authoritarian traditions of pre- and post-World War II ‘Borduria’, or rather a general trend observed globally?
  • are the perspectives of critical legal theory of a Marxist pedigree, such as represented by Stanisław Ehrlich or Jarosław Ładosz, a source of inspiration for the changes in Central Europe?
  • are the reasons behind the rule of law crisis attributable, at least partly, to their weak social legitimacy? have the Central European constitutional courts, at the time when they enjoyed immense law-making powers, use those powers to the benefit of vulnerable social groups (workers, pensioners, unemployed), or rather promoted the agenda of neoliberalism?
  • are there any perspectives for rebuilding constitutional justice and rule of law in Central Europe, and if yes – on what foundations? in other words, is the transition from ‘Ruritania’ to ‘Borduria’ a one-way road, or is there a way back?
  • what were the expectations of Central Europe towards the West in the first period of political transformation, and what were the West’s expectations towards Central Europe? What were the differences between Western imaginations of Central Europe and Central European imaginations about itself?
  • how does the adoption of a post-colonial and neo-colonial perspective (or neo-post-colonial, which is a combination of both these situations simultaneously) affect the assessment of the contemporary politics in Central Europe?

Deadline for submitting abstracts: 19 June 2019. We will inform about the acceptance of papers by 25 June 2019. In order to submit your abstract no longer than 500 words, please use EasyChair.

There is no conference fee. Materials and meals will be provided by the organisers. The organisers are unable to offer any scholarships to cover the costs of tickets and hotels. If you have any organisational questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at: ceenels@ceenels.org

Updates and further information will be published at this website. Full Call for Papers in PDF format can be downloaded here.

Convenors: Dr. habil. Rafał Mańko, Dr. Michał Stambulski, Piotr Eckhardt

Cover photo: Wiktor Baron / baronphotography.eu, CC-BY-SA-3.0


CEE forum conference in Bratislava

open call for papers

CEE Forum Conference in Bratislava

Central and Eastern Europe as a Double Periphery? 

25-26 April 2019

Professor Tomáš Gábriš is organising the 2019 CEE Forum conference, which is to take place at the premises of the Comenius University in Bratislava, Faculty of Law (https://www.flaw.uniba.sk/en/), on 25-26 April, 2019. The overarching topic of the conference is going to be the “Central and Eastern Europe as a Double Periphery?” Suggested subtopics have been specified further within the Call for Papers. Additional


Photo by Miroslav Petrasko - Creative Commons License. https://www.flickr.com/photos/theodevil/7041320699/

Photo by Miroslav Petrasko – Creative Commons License. https://www.flickr.com/photos/theodevil/7041320699/


“open session” will be included. For more information, please visit the official website of the CEE Forum: http://www.cee-forum.org/2019, or see the attached CfP. The registration period ends on December 31, 2018, shortly thereafter the organisers shall confirm the accepted papers and will send out additional information on the payment of the conference fee (EUR 60,-). Accommodation and travel costs are to be borne by the conference participants themselves. 

Please, submit your registrations in the form of an email with your proposed topic and an abstract of 500-700 words, to be sent to: tomas.meszaros@flaw.uniba.sk
Here is a link to the call for papers in PDF. 

Call for papers: 4th Annual CEENELS Conference

UPDATE: Deadline extended until 1 March! You can still submit your abstract!


4th Annual CEENELS Conference


hosted by the National Research University “Higher School of Economics”, Faculty of Law in Moscow

in collaboration with the University of Graz, Faculty of Law

under the patronage of the Review of Central and Eastern European Law

14-15 June 2019

Central and Eastern Europe is a cultural site which has been described mainly as being a recipient of legal theories, concepts, doctrines and institutions originating in Western Europe and, more recently, also the United States. This process of legal transplanting started arguably at least in the 19th century alongside a process of modernisation, as evidenced by the reception of Western European codes of law, starting from the Code civil, and Western European forms of legal scholarship, such as the German Pandektistik or the French School of Exegesis. This phenomenon did not stop in the 20th century, and it can even be shown to have only intensified after the fall of actually existing socialism, with all Central and Eastern European countries joining the European Convention of Human Rights and many of them also joining the EU. Moreover, the reception of Western-centric, especially Anglo-American legal theories has also become visible in the field of jurisprudence, with H.L.A Hart and Ronald Dworkin being the standard references for legal theorists in the region. These changes in the understanding of legality as well as the appropriations of the ways of practicing and conceptualising law have more often than not taken place with little attention being paid to either the historical trajectory of the region or to the inner grammars of the respective legal traditions existing within this space.

Against this backdrop, the aim of the 4th CEENELS conference is to revisit and react to these trends by bringing to the fore original legal and jurisprudential constructions stemming from our region responding to the particular conditions of Central and Eastern Europe. We invite papers discussing any original legal developments within the region, covering either a historical dimension or the contemporary legal landscape. Thus, we are particularly interested in original legal institutions, as well as original concepts in legal theory, sociology of law or doctrinal legal research (‘legal dogmatics’). Papers dealing with the interaction of Central and Eastern European legal cultures with international and supranational legal orders are also welcome. 

Potential topics of interest could include the following:

  • analyses of original innovations in legal theory or a specific branch of law (private law, administrative law, criminal law, constitutional law etc.), in a historical and comparative perspective;
  • specific legal institutions that developed locally in Central and Eastern Europe in response to specific social, economic and political dynamics;
  • originality of Central and Eastern European countries in their appropriation of legal institutions from abroad (phenomenon of legal acculturation);
  • analyses of the interaction of Central and Eastern European legal cultures with supranational and international legal orders;
  • innovative developments in legal theory, philosophy of law and sociology of law, originating in the region;
  • alternative legal methodologies, e.g. using literary arguments in the courtroom or using cognitive science to explain legal concepts;
  • revolutionary and other radical critiques of law in Central and Eastern Europe
  • analyses of the current constitutional changes in Central and Eastern Europe against the backdrop of the broader comparative and historical context: towards a ‘new constitutionalism’?
  • Central and Eastern European contributions to the development of public international law (related, for instance, to the concept of crimes against humanity, human rights protection, etc.)
  • the legal order and the state of exception: traditions of Central and Eastern Europe and global trends
  • regulations versus the rule of law: regional genealogy of a global issue;
  • positivism (legal formalism, normativism) as a legal lingua franca for Central and Eastern Europe?
  • legal dialogue between Central and Eastern European states and other legal actors (especially supranational legal orders of the EU and ECHR);
  • the legal identity of Central and Eastern Europe and legal innovations in the region
  • law and new technologies in Central and Eastern Europe: how do CEE legislatures, judges and legal academics coping with these new challenges? are they original and innovative in the solutions proposed, or mainly rely on what their colleagues in the West are doing
  • challenges for the legal profession and legal professionalism in Central and Eastern Europe.

Confirmed plenary speakers include

  • Professor Matyas Bencze (University of Debrecen)
  • Professor Adam Bosiacki (University of Warsaw & Hoover Institution)
  • Professor Krystyna Chojnicka (Jagiellonian University)
  • Professor Roger Cotterell (Queen Mary University of London)
  • Professor Anton Ivanov (Higher School of Economics, Moscow)
  • Docent Zdeněk Kühn (Charles University, Prague)
  • Professor Josef Marko (University of Graz)
  • Professor Jiří Přibáň (University of Cardiff)
  • Professor Alan Uzelac (University of Zagreb)

We invite submissions originating from all areas of legal scholarship, including legal theory, philosophy of law, history of legal ideas and the broader intellectual history, legal history, comparative law, as well as from legal dogmatics, covering all branches of positive law (civil, criminal, constitutional, administrative, etc.).

The conference is open to all scholars who research Central and Eastern European law and legal culture. It is possible either to submit an individual paper (abstract up to 500 words), or to submit an entire panel (of 3-4 papers, with a moderator and discussant) devoted to a specific aspect of this year’s CEENELS conference theme.

Deadline for submitting abstracts: 1 March 2019.

We will inform about the acceptance of papers (including panels) by 15 February 2019. There is no conference fee. Materials and meals will be provided by the organisers.

Convenors: Dmitry Poldnikov, Vladislav Starzhenetskiy, Bulat Nazmutdinov

NEW! The University of Graz – co-organiser of the conference – will offer a limited number of full scholarships (travel and accomodation) to selected young scholars (PhD candidates and post-doctoral researchers, who have received their PhD not earlier than in 2016). If you wish to receive a scholarship, please send your application to ceenels@ceenels.org along with your CV and list of publications.

  • In order to submit your paper, please use Easychair 
  • If you have any organisational questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at the conference email: ceenels2019@yandex.ru

By submitting your paper to the conference you acknowledge that you personal data, contained in the submission, including your name, title, position, affiliation and email address will be processed by the Higher School of Economics in Moscow in accordance with the laws of the Russian Federation. 

Download the  Call for papers in PDF version

About the Higher School of Economics (HSE University)

The Higher School of Economics (HSE University) is a leader in Russian higher education and one of the preeminent economics and social sciences universities in Eastern Europe and Eurasia. Consistently ranked as one of Russia’s top universities, HSE sets itself apart with its international presence and international cooperation. The University steadily promotes its competitiveness among leading educational and research centers in social sciences and economics. The Faculty of Law of HSE, being nowadays an integral part of the University, was founded in 1997. Young and rapidly growing, the Faculty of Law has already got into the top three among the Russian Law Schools (according to QS Rankings by Subject). Around 2 000 bachelors’, masters’, PhD students and over 160 professors and researchers from Russia and abroad study and work at the Faculty. Graduates of the Faculty pursue careers as in-house lawyers, legal advisers, arbitrators and scholars in business and public administration. International recognition and cooperation is an important part of the Faculty development and educational process. Leading law professors from top-universities worldwide come to the Faculty to deliver guest lectures and master-classes. Teams of HSE Faculty of Law regularly participate in various international moot court competitions and show outstanding performance (Phillip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition, International Criminal Moot Court, the ELSA Moot Court Competition on WTO Law, etc). In March, 2018, HSE team became a world champion in the Annual Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot. Since 2008, the Faculty has been issuing the journal “Law. Journal of the Higher School of Economics” where articles in Russian and English are published. In 2012, the Faculty of Law of HSE became one of the founders of Law Schools Global League which unites more than 25 universities all over the world. Together with its international partners the Faculty of Law holds several important international law events every year. One of the major and most recent ones, The European Court of Human Rights in East-West Relations: Norms, Values and Legal Politics, took place in May, 2018 and gathered more than 100 participants from 30 universities from all over the world.


3rd Central European Forum on Law & Administration

CEENELS is delighted to assume patronage over the the 3rd Central European Forum on Law and Administration on ‘Public Law in Central and Eastern Europe: Traditions, Legacies and Perspectives’. The Forum will be held on 18-19 October 2018 at the University of Wrocław, Poland, and is co-oranized by the Jan Długosz University in Czestochowa and the University of Opole.

Having considered the wide range of issues raised during the Conference, the Organizing Committee have divided into its main panels: constitutional law, administrative law and financial law, European law, comparative public law and the history of law. The Organizing Committee is convinced that the Conference will contribute to the exchange of views and reflections on the particularly important, current problems of public law in Central and Eastern European countries, inter alia:

  • historical and legal heritage and the current legal order
  • political and legal traditions and cultural heritage
  • legislative activity for promoting of culture and art, protection of cultural goods and traditions
  • public law and the past – the significance of politics and history
  • directions and tendencies in public law
  • public law and the citizen
  • civic activity undertaken for the common good and supporting sense of responsibility for public affairs
  • development and promotion of active cooperation within local communities, entrepreneurship and civil society
  • legal comparative studies on public law
  • legal transplants in public law
  • mutual interaction between branches of public law
  • transfers of working methods / legal tools / institutions between different branches of public law
  • problems of privatization of public law and publicizing private law

Deadline for submitting abstracts: 25 September 2018. Please use the online form that is available on the Conference website: http://www.sefpa.ajd.czest.pl/en/welcome/


1st Critico-Juridical Symposium (13-14 April 2018)

On 13-14 April 2018 CEENELS organised, in collaboration with the University of Opole, the 1st Critico-Juridical Symposium devoted to the topic What kind of critique of law in Central and Eastern Europe? The Symposium was attended by 23 invited scholars from 6 countries (Bosnia and Herzegovia, Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Russia and the United Kingdom), representing inter alia the following universities: Jagiellonian University (Kraków), University of Warsaw, University of Wrocław, University of Amsterdam, University of Nottingham, University of Middlesex (London), University of Kent (Canterbury), National Research University “Higher School of Economics” (Moscow),  West University (Timișoara), University of Iași, University of Târgu Mureș, Masaryk University (Brno) and University of Sarajevo. 

The symposium was kindly supported by Professor Piotr Stec, Dean of the Faculty of Law of the University of Opole. 

Click here for the final programme. 


Call for papers: Theory, organisation and practice of the law-making process


7th Congress of the “Fontes” Association for Research on Sources and Functions of the Law

Theory, organisation and practice of the law-making process

22-23 September 2018

hosted by
Łazarski University in Warsaw

under the patronage of the
Central and Eastern European Network of European Scholars (CEENELS)


The principle of the rule of law requires the setting of impeccable standards from the perspective of the objectives of legislation. The first level of law creation is the formal conditions for the creation of a law-making act (legislative procedure, conditions for the legality of normative acts, promulgation). The second one is expressed in the selection of measures of legal impact from the perspective of the assumed objectives of the legislati

Palace of Culture in Warsaw. Photo by: Dena Flows (Creative Commons)

ve initiative. In turn, the last level consists of the rules determining the effectiveness of including the legal act in the institutional order accepted in a given society. On the other hand, the analysis of the law-making process concerns three aspects, i.e. theoretical, organisational and practical. In particular, the aim of the conference will be to try to identify the relations between the concepts presenting the theoretical model of law creation and the organisation of the law-making process functioning in real socio-economic conditions, surrounded by formal and informal institutional solutions that enable the realisation of the objectives and functions of law.

Click here for the PDF version of the call for papers.

Please submit your abstract (500-1000 characters with spaces) accompanied by information about your affiliation, to the official email address of the Fontes Association: fontes@wsiz.rzeszow.pl.

Deadline for submitting abstracts: 1 May 2018

Convenor: Professor Adam Sulikowski, President of the Fontes Association, professor of legal theory at the University of Wrocław, head of Department of Legal Theory and Philosophy of Law, University of Opole

Secretary of the conference: Dr. Dobrochna Minich

Scientific board: Professor Leszek Bielecki, Professor. Tadeusz Biernat, Professor Andrzej Bisztyga, Dr. Mieczysław Błoński, Professor Paweł Chmielnicki, Professor Bolesław M. Ćwiertniak, Professor Wojciech Dadak, Professor Dorota Dąbek, Professor Piotr Dobosz, Professor Agata Jurkowska–Gomułka, Professor Andrzej Korybski, Professor Adam Lityński, Professor Marian Liwo, Professor Marek Mączyński, Professor Sławomir Patyra, Professor Piotr Ruczkowski, Professor Adam Sulikowski, Professor Andrzej Szplit, Professor Mariusz Załucki, Professor Halina Zięba–Załucka, Professor Maria Zrałek.


Call for papers: 1st Critico-Juridical Symposium (13-14 April 2018, Opole)

City of Opole. Photo: Karolina Lubryczyńska – under Creative Commons (Flickr)

The Central and Eastern European Netework of Legal Scholars is organizing, in collaboration with the University of Opole, the 1st Critico-Juridical Symposium on the topic “What kind of legal critique for Central and Eastern Europe?”


The call for papers is now closed.

The symposium will be a small event  intended for scholars working in critical theory (especially critical legal studies, critical political theory, critical sociology) and wishing to present a methodological paper on legal critique in Central and Eastern Europe.

The formula is of an intensive methodological seminar and is open, in principle, to  

Opole City Hall. Photo: Cameron Lucida – under Creative Commons license (Flickr)

Organizing committee: Prof. Adam Sulikowski (University of Wrocław); Dr. Cosmin Sebastian Cercel (University of Nottingham); Dr. Rafał Mańko (University of Amsterdam); Dr. Jacek Srokosz (University of Opole); Dr. Paulina Bieś-Srokosz (Jan Długosz Academy in Częstochowa), Mgr. Piotr Eckhardt (Jagiellonian University)