Division of sovereignty in a federal state: theory and historical background

  • Nikolai V. Razuvaev Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration


The article studies the problems of sovereignty as one of the basic characteristics of a state and reveals the special features of sovereignty in connection with federations. The author relies on the post-classical understanding of the state according to which the latter is examined as a special legal construction. Accordingly, the characteristics of the state, including sovereignty, are also constructed representing a number of elements (powers) which may be divided between different entities of power. Based on the above, the author makes the conclusion about the possibility to divide the state sovereignty. This property is manifested already in unitary states many of which represent relatively complicated political formations integrating administrative and territorial units which possess the elements of sovereignty. It is manifested even more clearly in the federations constituent units of which possess the limited sovereignty derived from the sovereignty of a federative state. Thus, there is a distribution of sovereignty between the federation and its constituent units which appears to be a basis for the so-called vertical separation of powers. A similar distribution of sovereign rights between the center and constituent units, in the author’s opinion, is one of the most important characteristics of the federation which distinguishes it from the unitary state, on the one hand, and from the confederation where the state sovereignty is derived from the sovereignty of the constituent units, on the other hand. The author assumes that the right of split land ownership which was the basis of the legal order and political power in the traditional society is a prototype of the division of sovereignty, typical for modern federative states.


state, sovereignty, unitary state, federation, vertical separation of powers, territory, suzerainty, right of split land ownership


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Author Biography

Nikolai V. Razuvaev, Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration

candidate of legal sciences, professor


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How to Cite
Razuvaev, N. V. (2016). Division of sovereignty in a federal state: theory and historical background. Pravovedenie, 60(4), 64-91. Retrieved from https://pravovedenie.spbu.ru/article/view/6986
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