Socialist Law in Transition 2007

 ***THIS is an ARCHIVED guide. It may contain BROKEN links. Its value is HISTORICAL only.***

Current Research Guides 

Legal Research Guide for Socialist and Former Socialist Countries



Written for Professor Frances Fosters, Seminar of Socialist Law in Transition, by Wei Luo, Director of Technical Services and Lecturer in Law, Washington University School of Law Library [Last updated 2007 January]

I. Introduction



Currently, only China, North Korea, Cuba, and Vietnam still label themselves socialist countries while thirty states of East Europe and ex-USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) no longer claim socialism. Except North Korea and Cuba, most of these countries are undergoing drastic political and economic reform. Unavoidably, their laws and legal systems are in post-socialist transition.
Because the job is too big for me to cover every socialist or former socialist country, this research guide only intends to cover some basic research skills for a scholarly paper, to discuss the foreign law collection strength in the Washington University Law Library, and point out some helpful research resources.  Also please be aware that because the legal institutions and publishing in some of these countries, such as North Korea and Cuba, are still not well established, it is not easy to locate their legal materials.

II. Basic Research Skills for a Scholarly Paper



If you have never received training in library research for preparing a scholarly paper, I highly recommend you take 30 minutes to one hour to go through a presentation called Researching Your Scholarly Paper, prepared by my colleagues, at /Library/Guides/JQppt/index.htm.
First, you should know what literature is available on the topics in which you are interested. To find what books, subject specialized journals, and electronic databases, you could run some keyword searches on the Washington University Libraries Online Catalog at Please note, the WU Law Library has very good legal collections on China and Russia but because the other libraries of WU might collect literatures about socialist countries, you don’t want to limit your search to the WU Law Library Catalog. Then, try some keyword searches on the WorldCat listed under “Other Catalog” at The WorldCat is the biggest online bibliographic utility in the World.
Second, you should know what articles have been written on the topics in which you are interested. To search the law review articles, you could use Index to Legal Periodicals, LegalTrack SearchBank, and Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals via the Online Database of the Library’s Homepage at /library/pages.aspx?id=1585.  Index to Legal Periodicals and LegalTrack SearchBank are also available on both Westlaw and Lexis. To search non-law review articles, you could try the Online Journal Indexes subscribed by the WU Main Library at

III. Legal Research Guides to Individual Countries


If someone has written a legal research guide or pathfinder to the country in which you are interested, locating one would save you a lot of time in the research process. The following is a list of legal research guides that you could access via the Internet:

1. China: How To Find Laws of the People's Republic of China: A Research Guide with Selective Annotated Bibliographies at /library/pages.aspx?id=1368 

2. Russia:

3. An Overview of Polish Law at 

4. Doing Legal Research in Romania at 

5. An Overview of Estonia Law and Web Resources at 

6. Cambodia:

7. Vietnam: or 

8. Cuba: or 

9. North Korea:
If you could not find the country that you are interested in from the above list, please try the following comprehensive two lists of legal research guides to foreign countries:

1. The Comparative and Foreign Law Guides of LLRX at 

2. The Legal Research Guides for Nations by the Law Library of Congress at

IV. Important Website


1. Legislationline at 

Legislationline is an internet-based free-of-charge legislative database published and maintained by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. Many of Eastern European countries’ laws are translated into English and list at this website.

2. Chinalawinfo at for Chinese legal materials in Chinese and for Chinese legal materials in English

Our library subscribes to this database. For the password, ask a reference librarian.

V.  Lexis and Westlaw



Lexis: Lexis has three mini libraries respectively for three former socialist countries. They are China, Hungary, and Russia.  Westlaw has also news and legal databases for Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Ukraine, Yugoslavia (formerly), Cambodia, China, and Vietnam. Before you use any of these databases, check their source descriptions to make sure their coverage and currency.

VI. World News Connection



World News Connection is an extremely valuable research tool to search important foreign news and sometimes legal documents.  This is one of the databases subscribed by the Library. To access it, point your web browser to (your computer needs to connect with the Law School’s network).

VII. Still Need Help



Please email or call me to set up an appointment to discuss your research needs. My email address and phone:, 935-8045 and my office is Room 257A.