Justice of the peace in the Russian Empire as a mass judicial institution had to provide growing economic activity and protection of personal and property rights of citizens regardless of their class, ethnic and religious affiliation. Justice of the peace was also endowed with the mission of rapprochement of imperial center and borderlands, ethnic, confessional and estates groups. The integration of legal and cultural norms of heterogeneous population was to take place through the new judicial institutions. A degree of realization of the tasks of justice of the peace in the Russian Empire is estimated in historiography differently. To clarify the issue, new regional studies and interregional comparisons are required. The practice of justice of the peace courts was based on the Judicial Statutes of 1864, but in fact it varied under influence of various factors. The functioning of the courts in Bessarabia is particularly important due to a number of features of the region in the economic, social, ethno-confessional and legal fields. The article presents the results of a study of justice of the peace in Bessarabia in a comparative perspective. Based on the materials of ministerial and zemstvo statistics, periodicals, court cases, and narrative sources, it is proved that Bessarabia province was one of those regions where the idea of justice of the peace as a general civil local court was most implemented. The leadership of Bessarabia among other regions of the empire in the activity of the population in addressing justice of the peace to resolve civil cases is revealed. A variety of factors have been identified — features of economic and trade activity and traditional land tenure, a relatively developed infrastructure and high quality of staff, organization of work and accessibility of justice of the peace courts. An assessment of the significance of the ethno-confessional factor is also given. Based on the statistical analysis of court cases, it was concluded that representatives of both major faiths of the region -Orthodoxy and Judaism — equally actively appealed to the justice of the peace. The study confirmed the importance of a more differentiated approach to assessing the results of the functioning of the justice of the peace. It is incorrect to say that the Institute of the justice of the peace courts effectively performed its tasks only in large cities. The example of Bessarabia shows that the justice of the peace here was able to adapt to the peculiarities of the region and to advance far in the implementation of the overall mission that was entrusted to it by the developers of judicial reform. During the restoration of justice of the peace at the beginning of the 20th century, the experience of Bessarabia and the arguments of its representatives in the State Duma played a significant role.
Source: Verniaev I. (2020). Justice of the peace in the Bessarabia province: a comparative analysis in the imperial context. Tomsk State University Journal of History. № 63: 5-15