Encounters with Law: Russian-speaking Israelis in Court

Larisa Fialkova, Maria N. Yelenevskaya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This essay is part of a project in legal anthropology investigating external legal
culture—the perceptions of the law by members of the lay public. Material is
drawn from in-depth focused interviews with FSU immigrants of the 1990s in
which the subjects relate their courtroom experiences in Israel. On the whole, exSoviets are reluctant to bring their problems to court. This paper attempts to
show that partially this attitude stems from deep distrust of the law and
authorities bred in pre-emigration life and reinforced by experience in Israel. It
also reflects legal incompetence: immigrants have to adjust to the legal system
markedly different from the one in their origin country. Stories about various
legal offences, morality, rights, and civil responsibilities, as well as cheating and
swindling, are a common item in the immigrants’ narratives. Our goal is to reveal
mental structures related to the concepts of “law”, “justice”, “rights”, etc., and
analyze how they contribute to the feelings of social integration or alienation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-87
JournalSociological Papers
StatePublished - 2007


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