• Robert A. Jones


Surveys of the genealogy of the sovereignty principle have generally exposed the vagueness and inconsistency with which the term has been used.l The fact that sovereignty is a laudatory political word as well as a legal concept has doubtless contributed greatly to this confusion. Nevertheless, it may still be possible to identify a common core of meaning amid the ‘quagmire’2 of definitions. Both Western and Soviet writers agree that a seminal contribution to the development of the concept was made by Bodin in 1576, although, in keeping with the Soviet penchant for attributing laudible inventions and discoveries to Russian figures, the Soviets have also acknowledged the contribution to sovereign statehood made by fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Tsars, such as Ivan the Great and Ivan the Terrible.3 In Bodin’s theory, sovereignty is ‘the absolute and perpetual power of the state’ — i.e. the supreme power of the state within a specific territory. Bodin recognised that this supreme power was limited by divine law and by obligations to, and agreements with, other states.4 Bodin’s conception, therefore, identifies the two central elements in modern definitions: i.e. the internal aspect of sovereignty — meaning ‘supremacy’, ‘exclusive competence’ or ‘domestic jurisdiction’ and the external aspect — meaning political and juridic independence, or autonomy, from any other authority (although it was Grotius who explicitly recognised the international imvlications of the vrinciple5).


Soviet Regime Interwar Period Soviet State Democratic Centralism Bolshevik Revolution 
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© Robert A. Jones 1990

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  • Robert A. Jones

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