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Until the nineteenth century, the Russian legal system was subject to an administrative hierarchy headed by the tsar, and the courts were expected to enforce, not interpret the law. Richard S. Wortman here traces the first professional class of legal experts who emerged during the reign of Nicholas I (1826 – 56) and who began to view the law as a uniquely modern and independent source of authority. Discussing how new legal institutions fit into the traditional system of tsarist rule, Wortman analyzes how conflict arose from the same intellectual processes that produced legal reform. He ultimately demonstrates how the stage was set for later events, as the autocracy and judiciary pursued contradictory—and mutually destructive—goals.