Following the end of the Cold War, it became a widely held belief that, after more than 70 years in exile, Russia would finally “return” to Europe—a sphere to which it had belonged since the time of Peter the Great—politically as well as normatively. Quite early on, however, it became clear that the country was choosing its own way, in ideological terms but also, by extension, in its understanding of international law—what the law of nations is for and what it is about. Lauri Mälksoo’s, Russian Approaches, is, particularly considering its heuristic value, the most informative, interesting and innovative book written to date regarding (i) what the philosophy of international law in Russia is and how it has evolved over time, and (ii) how international law has been reflected in post-Soviet Russian state practice. The essay presents some of the weaknesses in Mälksoo’s answers to these questions, including the disproportionate weight given to some explanatory factors and, by extension, the omission of others. It also argues, inspired by Martti Koskenniemi, for the importance of acknowledging “international law as a political project” in order to enable it to function both as an instrument for advancing various claims and as a relatively autonomous formal technique.

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