Patrick Monson

Graduate Student

Dissertation Title:
"Imperializing Pluralism: Legal Reform, Language Rights, and Shifting Pluralities in Imperial Russia's Baltic Provinces, 1860–1917"

My dissertation, "Shifting Pluralities in Imperial Russia’s Baltic Legal Landscape, 1860-1917," analyzes the interplay of law and empire, metropole and periphery, through a study of legal reform and interpretation. Russia’s progressive judicial reform, announced in 1864, incited acute tensions over the issue of legal homogenization in the Baltic provinces, where German elites controlled a distinctive Romano-Germanic civil law and legal system. In the 1860s and 1870s, some central officials and Baltic German jurists sanctioned the use of Estonian, Latvian, and Russian in lower courts, fostering a more linguistically inclusive legal system and likely sparking shifts in traditional meanings of local law.
My project then examines why, in 1889, central officials decided to centralize the courts and replace German with Russian as the only official language of upper courts. Since many of these jurists were educated in Roman law, and some ardent proponents of individual rights, my research may contradict previous claims that they arbitrarily and incompetently interpreted Baltic civil law. Yet in analyzing Russian speaking jurists’ interpretations of Baltic civil law, which remained in use, the project may reveal that further changes occurred in interpretations and understandings of Baltic law, resulting in a novel form of non-local pluralism. Since few empires in history have assumed the responsibility to interpret local law, this study will contribute unique perspectives on the history of law, empires, and legal pluralism.

My dissertation research has been supported by the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies' Stephen F. Cohen-Robert C. Tucker Dissertation Research Fellowship (2021-22), and several awards from Princeton University. I received half of my M.A. credits and a number of awards while studying East European Jewish history at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I am currently teaching paleography as an adjunct faculty member at BYU-Idaho. I also serve as a content strategist at FamilySearch, where I help lead efforts to digitize documents in dozens of Ukrainian and other East European archives. My greatest pride and joy is my family, especially my beautiful wife and five rambunctious children.


M.A., Estonian History, University of Tartu, 2015
B.A., Family History-Genealogy (emphasis Eastern Europe), Brigham Young University, 2012

Degree Year
Year of Study
Eighth Year
Area of Interest
Imperial History
Jewish History
Legal History
Social History
Home Department & Other Affiliations
17th & 18th Centuries
19th Century
20th Century
Russia and Eurasia