After the emancipation of the peasants in Russia, the government gave them economic self-government, which made them, unexpectedly for many, politically mature, and an own court, where, to some extent, the judges who were elected by the peasants are authorized to resolve disputes and punish criminal offences as well. And it was here that the peasants came up with the humane principle, according to which to punish severely those who had committed wrongs of a more minor nature, and to punish lightly or not at all those who were guilty of offences of a more serious type. The peasants’ term for this is: “According to the individual person.” No rigid law was formed (such as in Roman law – especially JUS STRICTUM!), but rather an utterly flexible and democratically free form that is not determined by outward appearance, HOWEVER exclusively by the INNER MIND.
When it comes to imposing a penalty on the offender, then the district court frequently considers whether the culprit has become delinquent for the first time, or whether he has frequently come in conflict with the law, WHAT SORT OF PERSON HE IS AT ALL, and whether he has made or denied a confession.
Roman law that captivated me by the keen, conscious, highly refined construction, but could not, the Slav, ultimately satisfy me as a much too cold, overly rationalized, rigid logic; the history of Russian law and peasant law, which, as the opposite to Roman law, put me in great admiration as the liberation and fortunate solution to the fundamental law, and which won my profound love.
It gives me infinite joy, when I think that I based the principle of art on inner necessity: after my “The Spiritual” had already appeared as a book, I remembered this legal principle and noticed that my entire idea of art had grown out of the ground of the people’s soul. The insignificant demands which I made on art, gradually went away. They were dropped in favor of only one single demand: the demand of inner life of the work. To my surprise, it was at this point that I noticed that this demand had grown on the basis that Christ set up as the basis of moral evaluation. I noticed that this view of art is Christian and that at the same time it contains the necessary elements to receive the “third” revelation, the revelation of the spirit.
In this sense, the above-mentioned Russian peasant law is also Christian, and should be set against the heathen Roman law. Keen logic may explain its inner qualification as follows: In the case of this person, this action is not a crime, even if generally speaking it would be regarded as a crime in the case of other people. Therefore: In this case, a crime is not a crime. And further: Absolute crime does not exist. (What a contrast to NULLA POENA SINE LEGE! = No punishment without law!) Still further: It is not the deed (the real), but its root (the abstract) that forms evil (and good). And finally: Every deed is indifferent. It is balanced upon the edge. It is the will that gives it a push – it falls to the right or to the left. Outward flexibility and inward exactitude is, in this instance, highly developed in the Russian people, and I do not think I am exaggerating when I say I recognize a marked ability for this development in Russians generally.
Thus, it is no wonder that peoples who have developed according to the often valuable principles laid down by the formal, outwardly most precise Roman mind (think of the JUS STRICTUM of the early period) either shake their heads over the Russian way of life, or else reject it with contemptuous censure. In particular, superficial observation allows the unfamiliar eye to recognize in this remarkable form of life only its softness and outward flexibility, which is taken for instability of character, because its inner exactitude lies in the depth. As a result, freethinking Russians exercise far more patience with regard to other peoples than is shown them. And in many cases this patience turns into enthusiasm.”
In heartfelt gratitude, I remember the truly friendly and warm-hearted support of Professor A.N Filippov, through whom I heard for the first time of the humane principle of “According to the individual person”, which is taken as the basis by the Russian people in sentencing criminal offences and applied by district judges. At sentencing, this principle is based less on the outer fact of the offence than on its INNER source – the soul of the perpetrator.
--- From: “Rückblicke”, in: Kandinsky, Die Gesammelten Schriften, Band 1. Herausgegeben von Hans K. Roethel und Jelena Hahl-Koch. Benteli Verlag Bern, 1980. --- Translated from the original German into English by Roland F. Lukner, Nashville, Tennessee, Trinity 2017.