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Author: Stephan Heidenhain, based on the module originally written by Alina Christova
Instructor: Stephan Heidenhain
Credits: 8

Main goals

  • Conveying basic knowledge of East European law based on the studies of four model East European countries: Czech Republic, Estonia, Macedonia (FYROM) and the Russian Federation.
  • Identifying the main sources of law in the model East European countries and conducting research on East European law.
  • Acquiring working knowledge of the constitutional law in the model countries.
  • Getting acquainted with the legal approach towards political and social developments.
  • The goal of the module is not only the conveyance of knowledge of East European law, but also of the skill to process individually legal information and broaden the acquired knowledge of East European law. In a case study students can practice the application of law.

General topics

  • International law and international organizations
  • Basic principles of state organization
  • Administrative Structure of the Model Countries
  • Legislative, executive, and judiciary branches
  • Constitutional courts, amendments and review
  • European Union law and reform
  • Protection of Minorities Rights


Students will write essays on current law issues, summarize and analyze court decisions, discuss different problems of East European law and compare the law of the four model countries.

Example tasks from the Law Module

Choose one of the following questions and answer it (500 words):
1. How can East European law be defined? Give reasons why you think that it still makes sense to use this term or why the use of this term is not sensible anymore.
2. Pick one of the four constitutions of the model country and describe how this constitution was adopted.

Please submit your answer via the assignment function.

1. Chapter
Introduction to the Law Module

The Law Module deals with the general function of law (unit 1) and provides an introduction to the principles of legal order (unit 2 and 3). Subsequently (beginning with unit 4), an introduction to the legal systems will follow – with a main focus on constitutional law – of the four model countries which were chosen as examples: Russian Federation, Estonia, the Czech Republic and Macedonia (or FYROM, as internationally, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) has to use this name because of a conflict with Greece over the name of the country). Later on, the law of the European Union is presented (unit 10 and 11). Further, there will be an overview on minority protection in Europe (unit 12) and an overview on asylum and refugee law (unit 13). Units 14, 15 and 16 are case studies, to be completed by you at the end of this module. This module is a bold overview on law – and on the one side, it is too little, as we deal with four national legal orders, and international and European law. On the other side, for students who are not trained in law, this module is quite intensive and full of new information. It is essential that you read the module carefully and try to get an idea of the legal methods applied to understanding the law and solving actual cases.

However, before giving an introduction to the particularities of the four model countries, it is necessary to illustrate the legal and historical framework within which the legal orders of these countries are embedded. Further, it will be shown how they are interrelated and, possibly to a certain extent, interdependent. A framework of international law and organizations, including European regional international law and organizations, will be introduced in unit 2. Unit 3 will provide an introduction to the basics of the organization of states.

The four model countries (the Russian Federation, Estonia, the Czech Republic, and Macedonia) were selected for closer study for various reasons. Two of them are relatively new members of the European Union (the Czech Republic and Estonia have become members of the EU in 2004). Membership in the EU required the implementation of the so-called European acquis communautaire and, in consequence, the democratization of the political system of the country in question. Macedonia was chosen because of its status as a candidate country for the EU. On the other hand, the Russian Federation was chosen for its explicit attitude not to join the EU (thus neither being even a potential candidate for membership in the EU, nor for benefitting from the European Neighborhood policy). Therefore it developed its own dynamics and thus serves as another pole of attraction in Europe with its own – at least aspired, but also factual – sphere of influence. Thus, the Russian Federation is a special partner of the EU within greater Europe, and since 2013, and even worse in 2014, when the Russian Federation annexed the Ukrainian autonomous republic of Crimea, even an adversary of Europe. Further, the Russian Federation is – unlike Estonia, the Czech Republic and Macedonia – a federation, whose specifics can be shown exemplarily.

Juxtaposing these four countries is an interesting way to elucidate the influence the EU law has on their respective constitutional development. The comparison with the Russian Federation specifically as a non-member will be of value here. The present module aims to convey a basic knowledge of the function of law, especially of constitutional law. Thus, it cannot deal in depth with all questions of law, e.g. civil, administrative or criminal law.

In this and the two following units (units 2 and 3), you should gain an overview on law as such, including its sources and fields. In the later units (from unit 4 onwards), this knowledge will be enlarged and focused on the four model countries: the Russian Federation, Estonia, the Czech Republic, and Macedonia.

Stephan Heidenhain, based on the units by Alina Christova: Introduction to the Law Module. 1st Chapter of Unit 1 of the Law Module. © East European Studies Online; 2015.