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The Westphalian Myth and Westphalian Sovereignty
Analysis and Forecasting. IMEMO Journal

The Westphalian Myth and Westphalian Sovereignty

DOI: 10.20542/afij-2019-4-11-23
© 2019 .       Aleksei V. KUPRIYANOV 
Received 17.11.2019
Alexei V. KUPRIYANOV (,Cand. Sci. (Hist.), Senior Researcher, Sector of International Organizations and Global Political Government, Department of International Political Problems
Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences, 23, Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow, 117997, Russian Federation.

The article focuses on the origin of so-called Westphalian sovereignty. There was a popular idea among many IR scholars, that Europe had hierarchical state system before the Westphalian Peace Congress built on the model of the feudal order. It was argued that as a result of the signing of the Peace Treaty of Westphalia, a new international order was created based on the interaction of numerous sovereign states that treated each other as equals. The author analyzes the evolution of the medieval state system and concludes that it went through several stages.  The barbarian kingdoms, having full sovereignty, were fragmented into various polities (duchies, counties, baronies, etc.) due to the weakening of royal power. However, this process was completed by the 14th century, and sovereign kingdoms that did not recognize the suzerainty of the Emperor or the Pope, n became the main players on the political stage again. Moreover, there was a concept of precedence among nations, which determined the status of the state in the European state system. It did not oblige politicians of lower status to obey their superior, but at the same time, high status was perceived as a value in itself. The author also examines the text of the Westphalian Treaty and demonstrates that there is no mention of sovereignty there. Those formulas that can be interpreted as a reference to sovereignty, repeat the text of previous treaties or are a consolidation of existing practices. The author demonstrates that after the conclusion of the Peace of Westphalia, the concept of priority remained until the end of the Ancien Régime. To demonstrate how complex the concept of sovereignty was in the Early Modern Europe, the author explores the process of independence by the Netherlands and Switzerland, showing that none of them was formally enshrined in the Westphalian Treaty. 

For citation:

Kupriyanov A. The Westphalian Myth and Westphalian Sovereignty. Analysis & Forecasting. Journal of IMEMO, 2019, no 4, pp. 11-23.

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