1. A century before Vitoria
One of the most defining and contentious features of international legal thought is the centring of certain figures as disciplinary ‘founding fathers’. Through this sensibility, the field has constructed an identifiable canon where ‘classical’ natural law publicists such as Francisco de Vitoria, Alberico Gentili, Hugo Grotius, Samuel Puffendorf, and Emer de Vattel paved the way for the positivists of the nineteenth century who paved the way for the institutionalists and pragmatic reformers of the twentieth century. Footnote 1 Only with the critical ‘turn to history’ have international lawyers begun questioning ‘founding father’ narratives, both individually and as a general concept. The problems with this approach now appear to be legion. For one, fixation on the texts of classical publicists produces an ‘inbuilt disciplinary historiography’ that marginalizes alternative means of historicizing international law. Footnote 2 Furthermore, this canonical restriction separates those ‘belonging’ to international law from historical figures believed to either be irrelevant or ‘belong’ to other disciplinary canons (such as political thought) despite substantial convergences of context and insight. Footnote 3 Yet perhaps most importantly, and intimately linked to the other concerns, there is the way in which ‘founding father’ mythologies define the field as a product of elite white men. This prevents the emergence of more critical and inclusive accounts of the persistent, yet unanswerable, question of what international law is – an essential a priori task for any history of international law. Footnote 4 In other words, ‘founding father’ mythologies preserve racialized and gendered hierarchies in the name of ‘disciplinary identity’ long after such constructs have been formally discredited. Footnote 5
However, despite (and perhaps because of) these issues, ‘founding father’ questions remain worthy of attention – albeit from a critical perspective. As debates on the ‘correct’ methodology for historicizing international law continue in force, though long-standing knowledge production practices need to be perpetually reconsidered, recognizing recurring patterns of thought such as ‘founding father’ mythologies continues to be relevant. The task here is not simply to replace the ‘wrong’ founders with the ‘right’ ones, but to critically assess how the impulse to cast certain individuals as ‘founding fathers’ reveals much about the character of disciplinary thought. On this point, a vital consideration is how the history of ‘legal thought’ might demand a different methodological treatment from the history of ‘political thought’ – the latter being the grounds on which the context-focused, anti-anachronistic ‘Cambridge School’ (an approach often counterpoised to the ‘genealogical’ pursuits of international lawyers Footnote 6 ) was originally developed. Footnote 7
While accounts of the history of political thought have much to gain by deferring to the uniqueness of political situations, since law proves time and time again to be a resilient survivor of political rupture, decline, and renewal, historicizing legal thought must account for the transmission of, amongst other things, the key authorities that define it across varied spatial and temporal contexts. Footnote 8 However, to acknowledge these limits of context is to simultaneously acknowledge the compounded distance between texts and the original meaning intended by their authors as authorities are translated into different languages and transplanted into different socio-legal environments. Footnote 9 This is especially true in the domain of international law which, by virtue of its universal aspirations, seeks to provide a common medium of meaning for speakers of different languages and adherents of different legal systems on a global scale. Footnote 10 While it is through cumulative transmissions of authorities that ‘founding father’ mythologies are made, by more consciously mapping these multifaceted processes of transmission and reception, contingencies can be exposed, contexts can be multiplied, and reigning truth narratives can be destabilized. Footnote 11 Cumulative mistranslation and distortion are themselves endemic parts of this process and uncovering them provides vast insights into otherwise hidden patterns of hierarchy and contestation. Footnote 12 Thus, rather ironically, distinguishing political from legal historiography provides international legal thinkers with new avenues of political engagement that actively resist any definitive account of ‘context’ from acting as a new iteration of politics-denying legal formalism. Footnote 13
Against these premises, I argue that this critical approach to ‘founding fathers’ can be applied not only to those who currently occupy the international legal canon, but those who failed to be venerated as such, despite efforts to include them. My focus here concerns Paulus Vladimiri (1370–1435), a late medieval Catholic priest and rector at Cracow University in the Kingdom of Poland who made strikingly similar arguments to Francisco de Vitoria (1483–1546) on the rights of non-Christians a full century before Vitoria. Footnote 14 However, despite their similarity, Vladimiri is virtually unknown outside Poland and the Baltic states, yet Vitoria, in both celebratory and critical accounts, is widely hailed as the ‘first international lawyer’. Footnote 15 This particular ‘non-globalisation of ideas’ demands an explanation. Footnote 16 After all, if international lawyers pride themselves on rigorously evaluating ideas based on their substance, how does such a misidentification of origins stand? The problem here is not a dearth of information. Numerous scholars have persistently made the case that Vladimiri, and his juridical approach to the question of infidel rights, very much belongs within the international legal canon. Footnote 17 Moreover, Vladimiri’s key writings on issues of international legal significance were comprehensively compiled by the Polish scholar and priest Stanislaus Belch in the 1960s. Footnote 18 Why then have they remained untranslated from their original Latin? In deciphering this particular ‘founding father failure’, my primary aim is not to provide a close reading of Vladimiri’s (con)texts, or even traditions of studying him. Rather, I seek to explain the curious non-reception of Vladimiri despite efforts to include him within the international legal canon – and consider what his present-day inclusion might look like despite this long-standing non-reception.
However, before undertaking this exploration, it is helpful to understand how Vladimiri and Vitoria lodged similar, but nevertheless distinct, arguments as shaped by their divergent positions within a shared world-historical scheme. While there are a multitude of nigh-unanswerable questions on ‘when the law of international society was born’, Footnote 19 a critical facet of this boundless genealogy concerns Medieval legal relations between Christians and Non-Christians, especially in the domains of war and conquest. Footnote 20 As a doctrinal matter, the defining rivalry within Latin Christendom occurred between the followers of Pope Innocent IV (1195–1254) and the followers of his onetime student Henry of Segusio (1200–1271), commonly known as Hostiensis. Footnote 21 For the former, war against non-believers (as with wars between Christians) required an identifiable offence that would furnish the just cause essential to a just war of rectification. Footnote 22 For the latter, all wars against non-believers, and claims over their lands, were justified to recover the universal dominion that manifested upon the divinity of Christ. Footnote 23 Though centred on the fabled Holy Land Crusades (themselves involving far more actors beyond Latin Christians and Muslims Footnote 24 ), these debates were of the utmost importance in two additional religious-cum-cultural fault lines that defined the respective contexts of Vladimiri and Vitoria – the Baltic and the Iberian Peninsula. Footnote 25
Home to Europe’s last remaining pagans, the Baltic region emerged as a site of various medieval wars of conquest and conversion waged by Germanic and Scandinavian lords as well as religious military orders, most famously the Teutonic Knights. Footnote 26 Occupying something of a liminal space between crusaders and pagans, the consolidating Kingdom of Poland, largely Christianized in the tenth century, had resisted subjugation by the German-speakers of the Holy Roman Empire through a close relationship with the Catholic Church. Footnote 27 While initially joining with crusaders, ensuing contention led the Poles to align with the most powerful of the pagan communities, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, who together delivered a devastating defeat against the Teutonic Order at the Battle of Grunwald in 1410. Footnote 28 However, this Polish-Lithuanian alliance raised the legal question of whether Christians aligned with infidels against other Christians could ever claim the just cause needed to justify a just war. Footnote 29 Defending the Polish position at the papal Council of Constance (1414–1418), Vladimiri mobilized a vast array of sources and doctrine to denounce the Teutonic Order as cynically using faith as a pretext for conquest in a manner he directly contrasted to a Polish approach whereby recognizing the land rights and legal subjectivity of pagans provided a more virtuous and effective means of converting them. Footnote 30 Though not explicitly endorsed by the Council, implicit acceptance of the alliance between the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania laid the foundations for the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, one of the most important polities of Early Modern Europe. Footnote 31 Officially converted to Roman Catholicism, Lithuania’s lingering pagan ethos (an object of much ethnographic fascination Footnote 32 ) allowed these lands to function as a mediation zone between Latin Christendom and Eastern Orthodoxy due to a lack of deeply rooted influence by this religious schism. Footnote 33
Regarding the Iberian Peninsula, questions of Christians/non-Christian relations were of a profoundly different character. Rather than pagans, the Iberian non-Christians were Muslims and Jews. While the former assumed the role of defining Other via the Holy Land Crusades, the latter were the original model for navigating the status of non-Christians in relation to a normative order premised on the universal truth of Christianity. Footnote 34 Moreover, unlike the Baltic where pagans formed a buffer between Latin and Orthodox worlds, Catholicism in the Iberian Peninsula possessed a monopoly over Christian subjectivity, yet its subjects were far more communally integrated with non-Christian communities. Footnote 35 Relatedly, when it came to justifying war by Christians against non-Christians, the Iberian once again differed dramatically from the Baltic. While pagan lands in the Baltic were never part of Christendom, and thus strained justifications for conquest, Footnote 36 the Iberian Peninsula’s iconic eighth-century conquest by the Moors provided the identifiable offense that gave rise to a just war via Reconquista. Footnote 37 As these battles raged, a similarly important site of Iberian legal development concerned long-distance sea voyages that posed the question of what claims could be asserted over hitherto unknown lands. Footnote 38 These logics of Reconquista and discovery infamously crossed paths as the final expulsion of Jews and Muslims from the Iberian Peninsula via the Spanish Inquisition and the ‘New World’ Encounter both occurred in the fateful year of 1492 which ushered in a conjoined regime of spatial purification coupled with presumptively limitless expansion. Footnote 39 However, as Spanish brutality in the Americas generated shock, horror, and a new vocabulary of transgression, Footnote 40 Vitoria, from a vast distance to the subjugated non-Christian Others unshared by Vladimiri, dissentingly reformulated natural law theory through a qualified defence of native rights whereby reason was universally discoverable and religious difference was not in itself grounds for exclusion from subjectivity under this universal scheme. Footnote 41 This in turn demanded responses based on earlier formulations including the profoundly anti-Vitorian justification of Spanish conquest by Juan de Solórzano Pereira (1574–1655), perhaps the purest embodiment of centuries of preceding Catholic legal thought. Footnote 42 This history leaves modern scholars with much to debate on whether the intervention of Vitoria (and the tradition of the law of nations he is deemed to have ‘founded’) was either true progress or a self-serving reformulation of the Eurocentric colonial gaze. Footnote 43
In delineating the reception gap between Vladimiri and Vitoria in light of these contexts, structurally and methodologically, my account draws inspiration from Rose Parfitt’s monumental text The Process of International Legal Reproduction. Employing a ‘shadow box’ technique, Parfitt arranges different aspects and perspectives of her account at different levels of scale and depth as a means of highlighting the complexities that inform an overarching theory of the materiality of international law. Footnote 44 As such, broad world-historical accounts coexist alongside detailed micro-histories from varied vantage points. Similarly, though less extensively, my account employs a visitation of themes and issues in differing measures while nevertheless building an overarching narrative of the non-reception of Vladimiri. Eschewing linear chronology, I seek to reverse engineer international legal consciousness in a manner that begins with the question of ‘Eastern/East-Central Europe’ as a distinctly constructed ‘region’ within the field. Footnote 45 This provides a basis for interpreting and contextualizing the works of writers from the region about the region in a manner framed by the greater contexts that led to their non-reception. Through such an interpretation, it is possible to show how the historic conditions that accompanied the development of the discipline left imprints on international legal thought that stunt the field’s consciousness of itself. Such exposure shifts attention to the broader questions of why now is the right time for a reception that has hitherto never occurred.
In searching for Paulus Vladimiri against these presumptions, Section 2 frames the absence of Vladimiri around the broader issue of Eastern/East-Central Europe’s ambiguous place within the consciousness of international law(yers). Section 3 then examines the efforts of two prominent, yet very different, Polish lawyers to include Vladimiri within the international legal canon in the early postwar era – Kazimierz Grzybowski and C. H. Alexandrowicz. In examining the ‘non-reception’ of Vladimiri despite these efforts, Section 4 considers the broader factors informing Soviet, Third World, and Western conceptions of international law as a means of assessing why a medieval Polish jurist failed to gain disciplinary influence against these backdrops. Finally, Section 5 explores the ongoing crises of international legal thought and argues that, especially in light of current realities, there is scarcely a better time to consider the thoughts of Eastern European jurists and their contexts – an intellectual turn that would bring Vladimiri and his legacy to the forefront.
2. The lands of Vladimiri
Owing largely to the influence of Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL), it is currently difficult to make any claims on the nature of international law without mentioning European overseas colonialism. Even the most recent editions of mainstream treatises now highlight such realities. Footnote 46 While this newfound focus is a most welcome development, it raises a host of questions. For instance, how might this critical empire-focused narrative best account for regions that, while very much European culturally and historically, did not expand through overseas colonization and themselves possess long histories of similar, but nevertheless distinct, experiences of imperial domination? Footnote 47 Correspondingly, what is this same narrative to make of appeals to European identity by those on Europe’s margins as a means of vindicating experiential memories of subjugation by empires that were less European in character? Footnote 48 These are the issues posed by ‘Eastern’ and/or ‘East-Central’ Europe, an indeterminate region generally depicted as beginning at the Elbe River and (depending on whether one chooses to include Russia) ending at the Ural Mountains. Footnote 49 Though many events of profound international legal significance occurred in this region, and some of history’s most influential international lawyers hailed from these lands, its place within international legal thought seemingly defies categorization. Footnote 50
Against a backdrop where ‘Eurocentrism’ has emerged as a defining critique of international law, its usages remain varied and there is thus no clear answer on how ‘Eurocentrism’ applies to Eastern Europe. Footnote 51 In light of this, I adopt the method advocated by Ntina Tzouvala that international lawyers would be well-served by returning to the original understanding of Eurocentrism as a mode of accumulation centred in Europe. Footnote 52 Towards this end, while there is considerable scholarship on Eastern European ‘backwardness’ in relation to the West, any such account of material conditions must also account for the ideological presumptions embedded within reigning discourses of law, sovereignty, and the state. Footnote 53 While the origins of East/West European divergence in social and economic development have a much deeper lineage, it was only during the Enlightenment that the unified spatial imaginary of ‘European Christendom’ became secularly split along an East/West axis. As Larry Wolf has shown, this production of ‘Eastern Europe’ by Enlightenment publicists centred on how the idea of the ‘West’ (and its presumptions of liberty, rationality, and progress) occurred not only through it construction of the ‘East’ as the Orientalized Other, but also through the depiction of Eastern Europe as a hybrid liminal space for navigating this ‘East/West’ binary. Footnote 54 Giving ideological form to material difference, this new imaginative geography presented tremendous implications for the ‘law of nations’ – and its successor regime of ‘international law’.
In assessing these implications, a suitable starting point is the impact of the ‘age of revolutions’ on the global legal order – a phenomenon garnering surprisingly minimal attention from international lawyers. Footnote 55 Occurring alongside new understandings of the law of nations critical of empire, these revolutions were driven by the ideal that ‘popular will’ formed the basis for sovereign legitimacy, a development that raised deep questions concerning the nature of the international system. Footnote 56 However, the geographically uneven character of this transformation is an essential consideration for any narration of it. While unfurling in varied measures in the Americas and Western Europe, the lands of Eastern Europe remained domains of imperial rule. Footnote 57 Formalized through the 1815 Concert of Europe system convened after the defeat of Napoleon, the region’s imperial powers, Russia; Prussia; and Austria, not only wielded supreme authority (along with a considerably less interventionist Britain) within a structure of ‘legalised hegemony’, but actively sought to suppress popular revolution under the aegis of their ‘Holy Alliance’. Footnote 58 Though national movements in the region attracted sympathy from abroad, imperatives of post-Napoleonic security took precedence in a process aided by new understandings of international law that elevated great power treaties over formulations of independence as a matter of natural right. Footnote 59
Perhaps nowhere was this truer than in the lands of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, a polity extinguished via Partitions in 1772, 1793, and 1795, orchestrated by the three members of the Holy Alliance. Footnote 60 Notably unrestored despite the Concert’s reversal of Napoleonic era conquests, continued resistance within these partitioned lands enabled the discourse of self-determination to persistently challenge an order that, in the name of ‘positivism’, sought to exclude such considerations from international legal concern. Footnote 61 However, there was one question raised by the partitioning of the Commonwealth that was highly significant within the nineteenth-century legal mind – whether a nation’s destruction by one lower on the ‘civilisational’ hierarchy was in breach of the ‘Standard of Civilisation’? In the words of Thomas Jefferson, a figure of neglected international legal significance:
A wound indeed was inflicted on the character of honor in the eighteenth century by the partition of Poland. But this was an atrocity of a barbarous government [Russia] chiefly, in conjunction with a smaller one still scrambling to become great [Prussia], while one only of those already great, and having character to lose [Austria], descended to the baseness of an accomplice in a crime. Footnote 62
Yet rather than the powers who partitioned the Commonwealth, the great focus on this issue of civilization, sovereignty, and the margins of Europe was the Christian subjects of the Ottoman Empire. As the great powers condemned Ottoman suppression, yet remained sceptical of local populations ruling themselves, these lands proved a variable laboratory for international legal techniques of intervention and conditional sovereignty justified by minority protection. Footnote 63 Here, the emergence of an independent, yet condition-laden, Montenegro, Serbia, Romania, and Bulgaria following the 1878 Russo-Turkish War was an effective precursor to the greater proliferation of new states (and efforts to impose conditions upon them) with the breakup of the three empires of the old Holy Alliance following the First World War. Footnote 64 Captivating both liberal and romantic imaginaries, post-First World War Eastern Europe was ‘ground zero’ for projects of law and governance now possible within a new order where sovereignty was substantially qualified and (European) self-determination was now a consequential concern for international lawyers. Footnote 65 Importantly, some of the most iconic cases to come before a highly expanded realm of international adjudication via the Permanent Court of International Justice concerned novel projects, namely minority rights treaties, that called for a close scrutiny of Eastern Europe’s social realities. Footnote 66 Through these means, a Eurocentric international legal order constructed a distinct ‘Other within Europe.’ Footnote 67
As the interwar system of conditional sovereignty and minority protection broke down, largely as a result of its appropriation by the Third Reich, the Second World War rendered Eastern Europe a vast ‘bloodland’ hosting some of history’s greatest acts of violence. Footnote 68 What followed was an international legal response where, through developments that included the Nuremberg judgment; the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the Genocide Convention; and the Fourth Geneva Convention, this violence was portrayed in universal and individualistic terms in a manner that sought to transcend regional specificity and its politics. Footnote 69 Regional conceptions of international legal order were too closely associated with fascism. Footnote 70 Soon after came the descending of the Iron Curtain where a perceived Cold War ‘hiatus’ of international law went hand-in-hand with a general failure in the West to comprehend the agency of Eastern Bloc states on the greater world stage. Footnote 71
Within this meta-narrative, Eastern Europe re-entered the realm of international legal significance with the 1989 ‘End of History’. Footnote 72 Once again, the region became an implementation site of a triumphant liberalism that merged cosmopolitan philosophy with efforts to transcend politics through increasingly comprehensive legal and institutional techniques. Yet, when it came to this integration of Eastern Europe into Western orders of security, governance, and economic management, despite the proclaimed ‘apolitical’ character of relevant interventions, a familiar politics of ‘backwardness’ was, however implicitly, nevertheless all-pervasive. Footnote 73 Nowhere was this truer than in this era’s one great site of armed conflict, the former-Yugoslavia, where imaginations of innate barbarism (and blindness to the complicity of external meddling) were invoked to justify numerous experiments in the region on questions of statehood, intervention, and international criminal justice. Footnote 74 While dashed hopes in post-socialism has been a common refrain amongst regional experts, Footnote 75 as the twenty-first century progresses, Eastern Europe has received broader renewed attention as the space where the ‘liberal international order’ is under grave threat both internally from ‘populist backlash’ and externally from aggression by Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Footnote 76 Yet, when making sense of such developments, as the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War has shown, Western distortions of the region continue to frame the terms of knowledge production. Footnote 77
Identifying this status of Eastern Europe as a liminal space restrained in its ability to either fully embrace or fully contest reigning Western notions forms a grounding for understanding why consciousness of Vladimiri, a figure of this region, has not upended reigning narratives of international legal origins. While much of this exclusion can be traced to a perceived divide between ‘medieval’ and ‘modern’ in international theory, this explanation remains limited. Footnote 78 Varied attempts to connect legal modernity to its pre-modern foundations have been united in their exclusion of Vladimiri. For Harold Berman, a Soviet law expert and explorer of the depths of legal history, Vladimiri is nowhere to be found in his monumental account of the medieval origins of European legal thought. Footnote 79 Additionally, the recent collection Christianity and International Law, a work concerned with deep foundations and a seemingly fitting place to showcase Vladimiri, makes no mention of him. Footnote 80 Moreover, Martti Koskenniemi’s recent large-scale effort to stretch the wellspring of global legal thought back to the Middle Ages continues this pattern of absence. Footnote 81 While broader geopolitical and ideological presumptions go great distances when explaining Vladimiri’s non-reception, it is first necessary to detail efforts to include him within the canon.
3. The uses of Vladimiri
Largely unknown in the English-speaking world, the Northern Crusades against Europe’s last pagans in the Baltic were very much part of the greater era of the Crusades – and far more successful than the famed Holy Land Crusades in permanently extending Christendom. Footnote 82 With this lack of knowledge comes Anglophone ignorance as to how these events inform conflicting political identities/mythologies amongst German, Scandinavian, Slavic, Baltic, and Finno-Ugric populations. Given the Baltic’s status as an arena of conflict between religiously, ethno-linguistically, and ideologically diverse forces over many centuries, Footnote 83 contentions that reached their nigh-apocalyptic apotheosis during the twentieth century, there was virtually limitless occasion to cast and recast the Northern Crusades when making sense of constant rounds of unimaginable violence. Footnote 84 When it comes to the production of international legal knowledge, the region plays a vital, if grossly under-acknowledged role. Highlighting the characteristic liminality of Eastern Europe, it was largely through jurists from the region (especially Estonians) that Western conceptions were introduced to Russia and Russian conceptions were introduced to the West. Footnote 85
An important vector of this translation, and one that showcased its political valence, concerned the strategic desire of Westerners to learn the intricacies of Soviet international law – an objective proving the indispensable worth of Eastern European jurists intimately familiar with Russian language, culture, and history. Footnote 86 While these efforts were underway during the early years of the Soviet Union, the general value of exiled intellectuals was perhaps most profoundly displayed through their contribution to the Allies’ war effort against Nazi Germany. Footnote 87 However, as the previously aligned Soviets became a new enemy with the dawning of the postwar order (and Nazi-Soviet similarities fell increasingly under the unifying rubric of ‘totalitarianism’ Footnote 88 ), the currency of exiled scholars only increased against this new Cold War backdrop. Footnote 89 When it came to analysing Soviet international law in this capacity, few were more prolific than Kazimierz Grzybowski, a Polish jurist who escaped the Soviets and found an American academic home at Duke University. Footnote 90 While Grzybowski produced numerous studies on Soviet law and institutionalism that closely focused on the realities of his day, his journey back to the Middle Ages in an attempt to place Vladimiri (and fifteenth century Polish contributions more generally) within the international legal canon can be very much read within this pattern of engagement. Footnote 91
In accounting for the lost influence of Vladimiri and his contemporaries, Grzybowski, in a deeply anachronistic exercise in ‘juridical thinking’, provides a reading of this past through a distinct lens of Cold War politics. Footnote 92 When depicting the defence of the Polish alliance with pagans against the Teutonic order, Grzybowski draws heavily upon Western tropes about the ‘uncivilised’ East as a means of showcasing the Poles’ virtue in performing a judicious appraisal of the legality of their alliance. Footnote 93 In his account:
[t]here was considerable concern over the possible hardships which might be suffered by a peaceful population as a result of the presence of barbarians in the Polish armies. The problem of moral responsibility for the suffering of the innocent was uppermost in the minds of many. Footnote 94
Continuing this mode of argument, Grzybowski depicts a consequence of the defence of the Polish-infidel alliance to be the recognition of a ‘right to self-determination’ for, in Vladimiri’s purported understanding, ‘[a]ny governmental power on earth … is legal if it is derived from the institution of God or by the choice of the people’. Footnote 95
Through this portrayal comes a rejection of any notion of supra-national authority by the Holy Roman Empire, an entity Poland did not belong to, but possessed full rights as a sovereign regardless of this exclusion. Footnote 96 However, this lack of hierarchical authority did not preclude the force of peacefully resolving international disputes as a demand of a universal, and non-hierarchical, regime of natural law. In synthesizing his points in reference to natural law as a force above and beyond (and therefore capable of directly bypassing) the institutions of Church and Empire, Grzybowski claimed that:
Peaceful settlement of disputes … was designed in the Polish doctrine to take the place of a settlement by imperial or ecclesiastic authority representing the centralised Christian community of nations. This new concept … was also directly linked to the rights accorded to pagans and their states. Neither the pope nor the emperor could claim any special rights in relations with them, nor could the law of the Church or the empire apply. Footnote 97
Through such a merger, Grzybowski’s Vladimiri connects the premises of sovereign equality and autonomy to a transcendent, yet horizontal, duty to settle disputes that self-interested hierarchical entities would only impede.
While this account raises numerous issues of historical accuracy, when read through the lens of its time, it can be seen as a wide-ranging critique of Soviet international legalism that fits well within Grzybowski’s greater body of work. Though he did not explicitly say so, the Soviet Union would seem to occupy a similar position to the old Holy Roman Empire as a mode of hierarchical authority that dominated those within its structure while antagonizing those outside of it. Moreover, this presence of ideologically fuelled hierarchy coupled with the logic of sovereignty had great potential to disrupt any attempt to build a unified international legal order based on shared principles. This sentiment is especially present in Grzybowski’s study of the approach of socialist judges on international courts. Here, insistence by these judges upon the primacy of sovereignty, especially on state discretion over matters of interpretation, perpetually impedes the purpose of international courts in explicating universal standards that can then be generally applied in a horizontal capacity. Footnote 98 This is to say nothing of how any such theory was ultimately incompatible with a genuine right of nations to self-determination, despite the Soviet emphasis upon self-determination in their diplomatic rhetoric. Tracing this issue to the origins of the Soviet Union, Grzybowski claims that this usage simply amounted to a ‘right’ to be subjected to the Soviets and their ideological whims; a fate diametrically opposed to ‘true’ self-determination. Footnote 99
However, despite his critiques, Grzybowski nevertheless remained hopeful that the influence of international law and institutions would come to progressively manage Soviet challenges. Here, he remarked that conforming to the institutional parameters of postwar international legalism had stemmed the radicalism of early Bolshevik endeavours – a reality demonstrated by the demise of the Comintern and its explicit purpose of revolutionary export. Footnote 100 Moreover, he placed great hopes in the acceptance of the Helsinki Final Act and the possibilities it might conform diverse invocations of self-determination towards the version of this concept aligned with liberal visions of human rights. Footnote 101 This progressive hope in the international legalist containment of the Soviet agenda can be viewed as dovetailing with his earlier proclamations on fifteenth century Polish contributions to international law, especially if his anti-Soviet agenda is read into this account. Sceptical of theories that international law could have only begun with Grotius, Grzybowski welcomed early twentieth-century efforts to deepen the narrative by depicting Vitoria as the field’s ‘founding father’. Footnote 102 Yet, in his reckoning, this history could go even deeper since ‘… Polish scholars have opened a new vista in the historical aspects of the science of international law … and [thus] new elements dating from an even more remote past … modify our understanding of how international law as a separate discipline has come into existence’. Footnote 103 Thus, for Grzybowski, constraining Soviet radicalism and expanding the timescale of international legal history to include Eastern Europe appeared to be two progressive developments that went hand-in-hand.
Grzybowski showed how it was possible for a Polish jurist in the immediate postwar era to draw upon Vladimiri, and through him, mobilize the liminality of Eastern Europe when advancing a position in the era’s ideological struggle of East vs. West. However, within this same timeframe, a very different Polish jurist showed how it was possible to mobilize this same liminality in relation to a connected, but nevertheless distinct, axial tension – ‘North vs. South’. Footnote 104 This jurist was none other than C. H. Alexandrowicz, an exiled professor at the University of Madras and later the University of Sydney. A pioneer of international legal history, and global history more generally, Alexandrowicz played a pivotal role in including Asia and Africa within the international legal meta-narrative, both in relation to their historic agency and contemporary independence claims. Footnote 105 Though much of his writing concerned the past and present of the Afro-Asian world, the boom in recent scholarship on his work-life nexus has revealed the importance of his formative Polish background on this theories of sovereignty, empire, and international law. Footnote 106 Of particular importance here is how the historic Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth represented a configuration of sovereign divisibility that, for Alexandrowicz, had more in common with Afro-Asian patterns of sovereignty than it did with the sovereign absolutists who partitioned it. Footnote 107 However, though he did consider whether the resurrection of a Polish state following the First World War could serve as a precedent for the emergence of new states in Asia and Africa, deeper histories of Europe were rarely the main focus of his narrative. Footnote 108 However, one important exception did exist – and the protagonist was Vladimiri. Footnote 109
For Alexandrowicz, the nineteenth-century invention deemed ‘international law’ was an exclusionary regime that must not be confused with the richer and more inclusive tradition of the ‘law of nations’ that preceded it. Whereas ‘international law’ drew unjustified divisions based on a ‘standard of civilisation’, the ‘law of nations’ was non-discriminatory and facilitated egalitarian cross-cultural interaction – patterns Alexandrowicz sought to show most prominently through his study of the European encounter with the East Indies. Footnote 110 While a Eurocentric ‘founding father’ narrative would have been anathema to Alexandrowicz’s meta-project (where the depth of origins was much greater Footnote 111 ), Vladimiri’s defence of the Christian-pagan alliance between the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania is taken as evidence for his theory of a universal non-discriminatory law of nations. Footnote 112 For Alexandrowicz, formulations similar to Vladimiri’s on Christian-infidel coexistence were very much present in Vitoria and Grotius. Footnote 113 Moreover, when it came to the question of why this ‘law of nations’ was displaced by ‘international law’, Alexandrowicz claims this to be a result of the emergence of absolutist great powers via the Concert of Europe who, through their self-referential doctrines of ‘positivism’, could not abide the historic rights of neither Poles nor Afro-Asians. Footnote 114 According to Alexandrowicz:
the period of the collapse of the independent Asian State system in the East Indies at the end of the eighteenth century witnessed also the collapse of Poland, to a great extent under the pressure of those intransigent dynastic forces which stood in the way of a liberal and non-discriminatory conception of the family of nations. Footnote 115
While Alexandrowicz’s Vladimiri certainly differed from Grzybowski’s Vladimiri, both drew upon the liminality of Eastern Europe, and the susceptibility of international lawyers to ‘founding father’ narratives, to advance their particular normative visions of the world. For Grzybowski, the liminality and marginalization of Poland, both historically and at present, enabled a particular relationship to universal principles of law that could be deployed against those who claimed authority on the basis of some self-created hierarchy, be it the fifteenth-century Holy Roman Empire or the twentieth-century Soviet Union. For Alexandrowicz, this same liminality and marginalization spoke not to contention, but to unity. Eschewing any focus on the political divisions of the Cold War in favour of a juridical vision that denied non-consensual historical conquest as a basis for title, Alexandrowicz sought to return the world to a state of fluidity and flexibility unburdened by a hierarchical supremacy of undivided sovereigns over divided sovereigns. Footnote 116 Yet despite their difference, both accounts were part of richer projects by scholars who attained a significant degree of acclaim in their time. Why then did both of their attempts to include Vladimiri within the international legal canon fail as they did? While they spoke to different audiences, non-reception occurred with a profound degree of uniformity. What possible explanations could there be?
4. The non-reception of Vladimiri
When considering the non-reception of Vladimiri despite efforts from Grzybowski and Alexandrowicz, it is helpful to frame the development of postwar international law around three major poles: the Western Bloc, the Eastern Bloc, and the broader Third World movement. After all, this rough tripartite division arguably globalized and entrenched the foundational concepts of sovereign equality and non-intervention as set forth by the UN Charter. Footnote 117 Beginning with the Soviet-led Eastern Bloc, the non-reception of Vladimiri is rather easy to theorize – even if we can presume the Soviets could account for such history in their largely positivist Cold War international legal thought. Footnote 118 Seeking a unified victimhood narrative, an effort of great importance to their international legal engagement, the Soviets could not readily tolerate dissenting formulations – especially those of a disharmoniously nationalistic variety. Footnote 119 As Vladimiri’s advocacy spoke most directly to Polish and Baltic experiences of victimization, it is not difficult to see why the Soviets would not welcome such a narrative. Footnote 120 Moreover, there is the issue of how the religious character of Vladimiri’s legal engagement would be incompatible with Soviet atheism. While the Soviets certainly possessed a just war tradition, it was constituted along distinctly Marxist-Leninist lines, and thus far removed from Vladimiri’s Catholicism. Footnote 121
The question of the broad Third Worldist movement in relation to the non-reception of Vladimiri is substantially more complex. Though largely outside Western narratives about Eastern Europe, the Eastern bloc members had substantial involvements with states throughout the Global South – a reality not lost on contemporary Western experts on Soviet Law. Footnote 122 However, such engagement was not without its tensions. As exemplified by Tito’s Yugoslavia and its place within Third Worldism via the Non-Aligned movement, this involvement showed how perceptions of comparative Yugoslav racial similarity led to a differentiated treatment by the West compared to their African and Asian counterparts. Footnote 123 This was especially troubling to China who viewed Yugoslavia as detrimentally interfering in Afro-Asian affairs. Footnote 124 From such a perspective, there remained a division with the Global South whereby Europeans, however peripheral within Europe, nevertheless retained features of their European character (and its historic ‘civilising’ mission) that complicated efforts to build Third World solidarity. Footnote 125 Moreover, the violent historical realities of Eastern Europe very much impacted consciousness in numerous locations throughout the Global South. Footnote 126 This was especially true regarding state partition, a practice that defined post-First World War Europe and deployed with similarly disastrous effects in Palestine and British India after the Second World War as a method for preserving imperial aims despite the formal departure of imperial rule. Footnote 127 Such associations would be deeply suspect given that a key pillar of anti-colonial international legal argument was the condemnation of partition as imposed by outgoing colonial powers. Footnote 128
While the above realities certainly speak to the non-reception of Vladimiri amongst Third World actors, especially those concerned with building good relations with the Soviet Union, reasons for his resonance also existed. Of great importance here is the way in which many in the Global South feared that, despite its rhetoric, the Soviet Union would act as a new manifestation of imperial rule – a fear the Soviets’ rivals in the Peoples’ Republic of China used to great strategic advantage. Here one could point to Soviet actions against weaker Eastern bloc states as undermining their proclaimed commitments to national liberation in the name of the right to self-determination. In addition to condemnations of Soviet interventions in Hungary (1956) and Czechoslovakia (1968), an issue that spoke to the experience of the Global South (and one that directly spoke to Vladimiri’s context and its legacies) concerned Soviet claims over the Baltic states. Footnote 129 After all, the proclaimed annexation of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania directly invoked Third World fears over the recently banned ability to gain territorial title by conquest. Footnote 130 This explains condemnations of illegal Soviet occupation of the Baltic states throughout the postcolonial world. Footnote 131 With these factors in mind, the applicability of Vladimiri’s influence in the Third World was not inconceivable. Moreover, there was already an approach to linking him to a new anti-colonial international legal history as demonstrated by Alexandrowicz.
However, there was a deeper issue when considering what did or did not influence the legal consciousness of the rising Third World movement. With the end of formal empires, serious questions were posed as to whether, given their status as tools of the old imperial order, existing regimes of international law were even binding on newly decolonized states in any capacity. Footnote 132 On this reading, it was the suppressed traditions and ideas of newly liberated peoples that would supply the normative groundings of a radically new order. Footnote 133 While certainly a sweeping proposition, it rested ontologically upon a binary division of the world between colonizers and those they colonized. As such, there was minimal occasion to consider the role of liminal spaces such as Eastern Europe, especially given the multitude of complicating factors produced and reproduced by Cold War politics. This being the case, there was not exactly substantial room to embrace the present significance of a medieval jurist from this subsequently constructed liminal space who spoke to realities of marginalization, but against a backdrop fundamentally definitive of the idea of ‘Europe’.
However, perhaps the most revealing aspect of Vladimiri’s non-reception concerns the West. There were certainly a number of reasons why, in theory, invoking him would have seamlessly fit within Western strategic models in this era of the Cold War and decolonization. To begin, the US-led Western bloc rarely failed to attack Soviet conceptions of self-determination by turning attention to their actions in Eastern Europe – and correspondingly using this as a basis to assert the superiority of their own approach to this concept. Footnote 134 Therefore, it would seem intuitive that invoking a centuries old jurist could be used depict the region as an arena of longstanding struggle between freedom and domination that the US-led West was uniquely poised to intercede upon in the name of liberty and justice. This argument would be all the more fitting if invoked by modern jurists such as Grzybowski whose regional knowledge and experience were essential in shaping Western consciousness of the largely alien world of Soviet legalism. Moreover, though Western jurists were weary of the notion of just war in the decolonization context, the religious aspect of Vladimiri’s arguments could certainly have its place. Footnote 135 As both a defender of pagans and a proponent of their conversion, Vladimiri could very much be adapted to a particularly American conception of religious liberty as a fundamental human right forged in a context of expanding missionary activity. Footnote 136
However, incorporating Vladimiri into the international legal cannon could present a profound issue for the West; it would destabilize an origin narrative compatible with the placement of the US at the centre of world-historical progress. Through casting the ‘New World’ encounter as the birthplace of international law, this is precisely what Vitoria and his legacy enabled. Grounded here was the possibility that the newness of the Western Hemisphere would ultimately give rise to a messianic power embodying the best of the Old World, but cleansed of its retrograde qualities and tasked with the mission of uplifting humanity writ large. Footnote 137 This was precisely what the early twentieth century project of James Brown Scott (1866–1943) enabled as he proclaimed Vitoria the ‘founding father’ of international law against a backdrop of American ascendence on the global stage. Footnote 138 It was at this moment with the closure of the continental frontier, victory in the 1898 Spanish-American War, and creation of an overseas American Empire that the US cast itself as a ‘universal nation’ tasked with worldly improvement, a mission it anachronistically read back into its late eighteenth-century founding. Footnote 139 Through a narrative that began with Vitoria, an elaborate interplay of domestic and international political factors allowed the US to present itself as a ‘legalist empire’ uniquely capable of fulfilling a distinctly modern regime of order that could never have existed without the providential ‘discovery’ of the Western Hemisphere. Footnote 140
At the moment the US cast itself as the saviour of Eastern Europe following the First World War via the efforts of Woodrow Wilson, Footnote 141 it had already developed a distinctly hemispheric order of international institutionalism premised on the infamous Monroe Doctrine. Footnote 142 Though concerted challenge both outside and within the US during the interwar period mollified US interventionism in Latin America, the inter-American system became universalized a model for global order. Footnote 143 It was this parochialism that lurked behind moments celebrated by international lawyers for their universality. Footnote 144 During the Second World War, the joint declaration by Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill to reverse Nazi conquests via the Atlantic Charter occurred at a time when the post-war international system was envisioned to lack any overarching multilateral institution and thus be jointly dominated by American and British imperial power. Footnote 145 Moreover, once such an institution was envisioned via the United Nations (a concession to an American public sceptical of empire Footnote 146 ), its collective self-defence regime effectively preserved the function of regional alliances such the one that defined the inter-American system. Footnote 147 Throughout this shift, the function of the myth of Vitoria as international law’s ‘founding father’ remained intact. Footnote 148 As such, no matter how functionally similar they happened to be, conceding that any jurist, let alone an Eastern European one, preceded Vitoria would upend the foundations upon which this narrative was erected. Thus, while Grzybowski imagined that the Spanish recasting of international legal history paved the way for an acknowledgment of earlier Polish contributions, his hopes were grossly misplaced.
This process only continued in force with the end of Europe’s overseas empires in Asia and Africa. As more radical assertions in this greater moment of decolonization failed for a variety of reasons, it was the US and its particular approach to global legality that filled the voids left by the old empires. Footnote 149 Accompanying this turn was, in a manner that expanded features of the inter-American system, an export of American nation-building projects aimed at having every person on earth configure themselves as the subjects of a sovereign state. Footnote 150 Even radical anti-colonial movements sceptical of such logics nevertheless embraced key features of American legal and political order, namely federalism, while simultaneously failing to consider how the material (and colonial expansionist) conditions of American consolidation and growth hardly applied to them. Footnote 151 Relatedly, as the greater world revolution declined (an outcome accelerated by external interventionism Footnote 152 ), forces of rebellious discontent were prone to capture by American interests in a manner that replaced broad unifying fronts seeking universal emancipation with movements based on parochial ethnic or religious interests. Footnote 153 Regardless of how conscious all those involved were of international legal history, the basic Vitorian premise was very much compatible with these occurrences and the modality of power they upheld. Footnote 154
If there was a distinct moment that truly eclipsed the possibility of any Eastern European recasting of international legal origins against this backdrop, it was the 1989 end of the Cold War as the lands of the old Eastern bloc now fell under the ‘Global Monroe Doctrine’. Folded into a narrative of universal history, any regional particularity was thoroughly disclaimed as a relic to be transcended by this widely invoked prophecy that history itself was now at an end. Instead, at least from an international legal perspective, the region came to embody transcendent liberal truths and the task was now the implementation of technical measures based on transcendent liberal paradigms. Footnote 155 Since history had ended, there was no longer political occasion for asserting origin narratives that questioned the foundations of the now-achieved normative order. On this point, the narrative of international legal origins that triumphed was the narrative of Vitoria as shaped by James Brown Scott – a vision directly tailored to an American mission of building a virtuous world in its image that now seemed fulfilled through incorporating the lands of the vanquished ‘Evil Empire’ within its orbit. Against this backdrop, any question about how Vladimiri might displace Vitoria in the international legal origin story would likely be preceded by a more fundamental question of why anyone would bother to raise such a point in the first instance. While knowledge of Vladimiri might exist as a curiosity, the possibility of recasting foundations through him was not readily comprehensible within international legal thought. Despite international lawyers’ claims to objectivity, given the pervasive force of geopolitical-cum-ideological conditions, the fact that Vladimiri made strikingly similar arguments to Vitoria a century beforehand simply did not matter.
5. Why Vladimiri matters today
The widely proclaimed ‘end of history’ proved to be as premature as it was grandiose. As the attacks of 9/11 inaugurated a new era of conflict via the ‘Global War on Terror’, and crises of finance; food supply; and climate became unavoidable, international lawyers, no longer as confident in their field’s ability to progressively uplift humanity writ large, began ‘turning to history’ in an effort to make sense of an increasingly uncertain present and future. Footnote 156 Within this newfound focus on the past, Carl Schmitt, a figure long maligned for his association with the Third Reich, came to occupy a particular place amongst the more critically minded. Footnote 157 Through Schmitt came a theory where, stripped of its superficial performance of altruism, the essence of international law was the justification for colonialism and domination that had built the Eurocentric world order over the past several centuries. In his telling, a stable European core where the logic of absolute sovereignty enabled strategic restraint amongst mutually recognized ‘just enemies’ came at the expense of European imposition against ‘unjust enemies’ in the world beyond Europe where no restraint could be abided. Footnote 158 Such is a common frame for new radical re-interpretations of international legal history. Footnote 159
Through Schmitt, one could purportedly find the ‘real meaning’ of Vitoria and, by extension, James Brown Scott’s mobilization of him to aid in proclaiming the messianic force of the US. Footnote 160 Rather than the benevolently inclusive figure asserted by Scott, Vitoria, in Schmitt’s telling, was the first great illustration of how vast spatial appropriation claims are what international law evolved to enable. Footnote 161 Scott, in claiming a normative and historical pedigree for his nation’s efforts to conflate its parochial self-assertions with universal morality, was simply, to use a Schmittian dictum, an invoker of humanity who wanted to cheat. Footnote 162 Moreover, the fact that Scott’s veneration of Vitoria was strikingly similar to dutiful servants of fascism in Franco’s Spain would only seem to affirm a Schmittian position on his endeavours as sanctimoniously fraudulent. Footnote 163 On this view, Scott, and the world he helped enable to exist, fits well within the larger genealogy of the hidden compatibility between fascism and international law. Footnote 164
Of profound relevance here is Schmitt’s particular interpretation of the Monroe Doctrine. Contra the Americans (such as Scott) who framed Latin American interventions as justified measures to build and uphold universal precepts of law and order (and the Latin Americans who viewed the Monroe Doctrine as originally intended to uphold their marginalized sovereignty), Schmitt claimed the Monroe Doctrine was a self-interested exercise in asserting order over a ‘greater space’. Footnote 165 In other words, by proclaiming a regional regime beyond its borders, and excluding intervention by alien competitors (i.e., the old European dynastic powers), the US pioneered a system whereby an ordering power (Reich) maintains its particular conception of order over an extended ‘sphere of influence’ (Großraum). Footnote 166
Within the confines of this account, the problem was not that the US had proclaimed the Monroe Doctrine, but that it believed that such a model could be globalized as a basis for liberal world order. For Schmitt, this amounted to a dysfunctional ‘spaceless universalism’ that ignored the overwhelming truth of regional particularity and could justify hitherto unwitnessed violence against those who dissented from this mode of domination. Footnote 167 Thus, in Schmitt’s account, there was hardly a legitimate basis to deny a similar German assertion over Eastern Europe. Footnote 168 While tarnished by Nazi associations, Schmitt’s sentiment has been resurrected as a relevant act of counter-hegemonic contestation whereby rising powers, namely Russia and China, are poised to challenge the faltering US-led ‘liberal international order’ that emerged after the Second World War and triumphed after the Cold War. Footnote 169 For some, this is a harbinger of what international legal analysis must become in a new era of normative contestation between great power blocs – a turn to ‘comparative international law’ is necessary to navigate juridical relations in the fundamental absence of shared interests and values. Footnote 170
While such observations certainly speak to the truths of a changing global system, there remains the risk that ‘comparative international law’ will become the latest apology for the ‘tragedy of great power politics.’ Footnote 171 As Anne Orford has argued, in this new age of multipolarity, relevant perspectives must include more than just rival would-be hegemons; those caught in their margins and borderlands must be heard. Footnote 172 This is especially true when considering the historical experiences of the ‘buffer states’ trapped between great power rivalries who, empirically, are at the greatest risk of having their sovereign personality extinguished. Footnote 173 Since one of the great consequences of rising multipolarity is declining respect for the territorial integrity norm, the differentiated process through which states justify, and resist, acts of conquest will be a key task for (comparative) international lawyers. Footnote 174
On this point, it is vital to recognize how Schmitt’s ‘counter-hegemonic’ argument for a ‘German Monroe Doctrine’ was underpinned by a fundamentally colonial understanding of German superiority over Eastern Europeans that existed long before Schmitt – a history that Eastern European liminality largely excludes from the Western mind. Footnote 175 For Schmitt, claims that incorporating Eastern Europe within Germany’s sphere of influence to guarantee the unique destinies of its unique peoples (spatially alienated Jews not withstanding Footnote 176 ), displayed a type of false benevolence strikingly similar to how American proponents of the Monroe Doctrine imagined Latin America. Footnote 177 Eventually recognizing this, abandoning the harshest of their intervention practices enabled Americans to rebut Nazi claims that the Monroe Doctrine stripped them of their standing to legitimately judge German expansionism. Footnote 178
However, abandoning such interventionism was hardly the sole result of an inevitably progressive American conscience – critical Latin American reformulations of international law were of the utmost importance. Footnote 179 As a present day parallel to these twentieth-century Latin Americans, the insights of Eastern European legal thinkers are similarly axiomatic in this present era of Russian interventionism. Since jurists from the region possess a wide-array of opinions (even within shared national contexts Footnote 180 ), serious engagement with their varied insights offers a profound opportunity to resist the stunting legal formalism that acts as a tool of geopolitical contestation in a manner that prevents its adherents from seeing it as such. Footnote 181 For the perspective these jurists bring is one from a borderland whose populations, ruled by successions of waxing and waning empires, had to negotiate continued identity and existence under variable patterns of authority. Footnote 182 Such circumstances are not readily intuitive to Westerners accustomed to the fixed border nation-states, built and sustained through overseas expansion (and property-based unilateral continental expansion in the case of Anglo settler colonies Footnote 183 ), that arose as an alternative to the terrestrially fluid imperial frontiers persisting in the eastern regions of the Eurasian landmass. Footnote 184 Embracing this perspective allows for a substantially more sociologically-grounded approach to historically-shaped questions of international law and order than anything offered by the geopolitical fetishization that defines Schmitt’s international thought. Footnote 185
The importance of this alternative is precisely why Paulus Vladimiri matters today. For better or worse, a canon of ‘founding fathers’ remains a default presumption of international legal consciousness and, if it is ever to be transcended, perpetual reappraisal-cum-pluralization of who can be considered within this canon is perhaps the best available tool towards this end. Contextualizing Vladimiri turns our attention to a historical backdrop where the consolidation of expanding land empires in the Eurasian borderlands cyclically raised legal questions on the rights and duties of clashing hierarchical powers – and those caught both under and between them. These are the issues the tradition of Western international law (developed through proximity-removed overseas colonization) has perpetually had difficulty addressing given how its idealized premise of an egalitarian ‘world of states’ masked the reality of a hierarchical ‘world of empires’. Footnote 186 This borderland influence was present in diverse attempts to apply Vladimiri’s insights centuries later. For Grzybowski, it was an implicit analogy for Soviet imposition in Cold War Eastern Europe – the latest regional manifestation of empire. For Alexandrowicz, the divided sovereignty that existed in the region exemplified a forgotten, but inextinguishable, ‘law of nations’ that (after its long suppression) returned to demand an end to European colonialism in Asia and Africa. Though accounts of Vladimiri guided by such presumptions went unreceived in their own times, revisionist efforts such as Grzybowski’s and Alexandrowicz’s have reached a new era of relevance as the normativity of a Vitoria-centric account of international legal origins now lies in ruins.
As a concluding matter, it is worth restating the ways in which Vladimiri’s context fundamentally differed from Vitoria’s despite their generally congruent conclusions on the rights of non-Christians. While Vitoria’s articulation of natural law occurred through a distanced moralizing appraisal of an unprecedented colonial encounter, Vladimiri’s articulation was concerned with the immanent task of surviving invasion and occupation from multiple directions. Thus, while Vladimiri’s arguments were partially sustained through an imperative of missionary conversion (Vitoria’s reluctant, but ultimate, justification for Spanish colonization Footnote 187 ), unlike in Vitoria’s context, it was also an act of resisting the harshest and most destructive aspects of this practice. Footnote 188 Vladimiri’s contribution is thus perhaps the perfect embodiment of the Eastern European liminality that international law has struggled to comprehend given a persistent Vitorian influence premised on a dynamic of colonizing ‘Self’ against colonized ‘Other’ – a stark binary that cannot abide the liminal. Footnote 189 When considering political possibilities of rupturing this binary, given the profoundly Eurocentric character of international law, perhaps it is this unspoken, yet constitutive, liminality that enables the lost Vladimirian legacy to act as a bridge to contexts further removed from the idea of ‘Europe’ when further expanding and disrupting the canon of ‘founding fathers.’ Footnote 190 We are then left to imagine what new, and politically consequential, narratives of international legal origins might come to be if translations of Vladimiri’s most relevant insights existed across major world languages – not just in English, French, and German, but also in Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, Arabic, Hindi, Japanese, Indonesian, Urdu, Korean, Swahili, Farsi and, especially, Russian.