This review was prepared by Professor S. F. Udartsev, Doctor of Law, Astana Kazakh State Law University
(abridged, a full version of the review was published in the YURIST magazine No. 10, 2005)
Yuri Grigorievich Bassin was born on 28 March 1923 in Artemovsk, Ukraine.
During the Great Patriotic War of 1941–1945, he served in the Soviet Army and fought at the front. Yuri was a cadet at the Rubtsovsk Infantry School (Rubtsovsk, Altai Region, Russian Federation) and served as a commander of a rifle company at the Baltic Front, a commander of anti-tank guns company and machine-gun company at the Leningrad Front. He was three times wounded and ended the war as a deputy battalion commander at the Leningrad Front; was discharged in 1946 in the rank of a captain.
After the army, Yuri Grigorievich worked and studied by correspondence at the Alma-Ata State Law Institute (1947–1949). In 1949, he graduated cum laude from the Institute and qualified as a lawyer. It was the legal profession that all his subsequent multifaceted activities as a professor, scientist, legislator and legal practitioner were dedicated to.
In 1954, he defended his candidate’s thesis “Capital Construction Contract” in a meeting of the academic council of the Institute of State and Law of the USSR Academy of Sciences, in Moscow. The research advisor for the thesis was Professor G. M. Stepanenko (JD) and his official opponents were Professor I. L. Braude (JD) and Professor B. S. Antimonov (JD).
11 years later, in 1965, Yuri Grigorievich defended his doctoral thesis in legal sciences before the academic council of the Faculty of Law of the Leningrad State University. He was 42 years old, at that time, a fairly young age for a Doctor of Law, despite the fact that the author of the thesis spent several years of his life at the front and embarked on the legal profession and teaching of law later than some others. His will, character, military experience and talent accelerated the maturation of the new big legal scholar.
The scientific specialty code remained the same – 12.00.03. The subject of doctoral thesis was “The Problems of Soviet Housing Law” and the official opponents for the thesis were renowned jurists: Professor S. N. Bratus (JD), Professor V. A. Ryasentsev (JD) and Professor O. A. Krasavchikov (JD), the lead organization being the Kharkov State Law Institute.
In 1966, he was awarded the title of professor. Before that, he was teaching law for about 17 years.
After graduation, Yuri Bassin worked as a researcher and teacher: acting head teacher of the Almaty Branch of the All-Union Institute of Law Study by Correspondence (1949–1950), teacher of Almaty Law School under the Ministry of Justice of the Kazakh SSR (1950–1952), teacher and assistant at Almaty State Law Institute (1952–1955) and then at the Kazakh State University (1955–1995) where he went all the way from assistant to professor and Head of the Civil Law Chair of the Law Faculty (headed the chair for more than thirty years, from 1969 to 1990); and served ten years as the Dean of the Law Faculty (1975–1985). In 1990–1995, Bassin was a Professor of the Civil Law Chair of the Law Faculty at the Kazakh State University (Kazakh State National University). In 1994–1997 – Professor of the Civil Law Chair at the new Kazakhstan’s legal higher education institution – the Kazakh State Law Institute (later – the University).
Since the 60’s, he was actively partaking in law-making, his ideas, developments and concepts being gradually integrated into the regulatory legal system that existed during the economic, social, political and legal evolution of Kazakhstan.
In that time, Bassin participated in the drafting of the Civil Code of the Kazakh SSR (1963), Code on Marriage and Family of the Kazakh SSR (1969), Housing Code of the Kazakh SSR (1983), and drafted the All-Union laws on property (1990) and the Fundamentals of Civil Legislation of the USSR and the republics (1991). This law-making experience came in useful for him especially in the 90’s, when his experience and knowledge was sought after to form the new sovereign state’s legislation, especially the economic legislation.
Bassin was especially active in his legislative activity during the first decade of the formation of the independent state of the Republic of Kazakhstan. He was the deputy chairman of the working group to draft more than 40 laws (1992–1998), 38 of which were adopted as laws or decrees of the Kazakhstan President having the force of law. Usually working in close and constant cooperation with M. K. Suleimenov and some other colleagues, he participated in the development of about 60 draft laws, Codes and the Constitution. It is known that Bassin’s role was of key importance when developing the concept and structure, analyzing, criticizing, revising and substantiating these laws, of which the most are: the Civil Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan (General and Special Parts), Law on Protection and Promotion of Private Enterprise, Foreign Investment Law, Law on Land, Law on Petroleum, Law on Subsoil and Subsoil Use, Law on Privatization, Law on Bankruptcy, Law on Mortgage, Law on Registration of Immovable Property; Law on Housing Relations, Law on Limited and Additional Liability Partnerships, Law on Individual Entrepreneurship, and other.
In 1995, in the period of development of the currently effective Constitution, the Kazakhstan President’s Decree No. 2292 of 22 May 1995 appointed Yuri Bassin together with other lawyers, such as V. Kim, K. Kolpakov, A. Kotov, B. Mukhamedzhanov , Ye. Nurpeisov, G. Sapargaliyev, M. Sulejmenov and N. Shaikenov, as members of the Advisory Board under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan set up to draft the new Constitution. This body was to examine and summarize the comments and proposals made in the course of the public discussion of the draft new Constitution. The same Decree of the President appointed the following foreign experts: S. Alekseev (Russia, a famous theoretician of law, former head of the USSR Constitutional Supervision Committee, scientific advisor to N. Shaikenov), Jacques Attali (original thinker, a prominent statesman and public figure, Advisor to the French State Council) and Robert Dumas (Chairman of the Constitutional Council of France). Constitutional themes in Bassin’s creations were tied to his key interests in civil law, and in 2000, he spoke on “Constitutional Ideas in Civil Law” at a conference devoted to the Constitution’s 5th anniversary. This report was included in the Plan of Actions in connection with the Anniversary Conference, approved by the Government Resolution No. 1105 of 25 July 2000.
Yuri Grigorievich was an endlessencyclopedia of legal knowledge and legal practice, the bearer of living civil law, the finest connoisseur of legislation with all its possible meaning’s intersections, parallels, dead ends, forks and junctions. As the immediate author of many laws, witness of innumerable discussions and “brainstormings” over various problems in the law-making process, he could tell the story of creation in detail, explain the meaning, possible interpretation and inherent links between the multiple institutions and norms of the civil law.
A person living through a historical time rupture, not just comprehends, but sometimes reflects the era contradictions. And then it becomes clearer and clearer that no matter how the emerging reality is shaped by the thoughts of a law scientist, life and the infinite number of factors determining this reality would always be more multifaceted and broad, and the legislation often embodies different social interests significantly correcting them, passing various stages of argument testing, compromise, approval, criticism and control. Therefore, even the eminent civil law expert, involved to the maximum in the legislative process, often cannot physically incarnate much of what he may justly consider the most reasonable and optimal. Often in history, something has not yet ripened in the economy, in politics, in public consciousness, in legislator’s mind, in legal culture, and is being affected by a variety of external and internal factors, the resultant of which is somewhat different from the legal scholar’s ideas. But he is aware of all this, stores it and puts it to practice at subsequent instances bestowed on him by fate, in lawmaking, lectures, or in research reports.
Yuri Grigorievich was not afraid to voice his opinion on various controversial scientific issues, but he always did it tactfully and in an elegant manner. Bassin’s pragmatic lectures were always very instructive and helped see the right measure and logic of freedom in law, creative conceptualization and design of fact, and a reasonable arrangement of the real social relations by all possible legal means within the framework of a multi-level system of rules, legal concepts, evaluation criteria, and general legal principles and values.
One of the highest forms of his research and teaching, along with lectures and preparation of educational programs, textbooks and teaching aids setting the teaching vector, was the raising of the research and professor staff. Yuri Grigorievich was a happy person in this, because he managed to rear a galaxy of talented students.
For many years Bassin served as a permanent member on academic (specialized or dissertation) councils for the defense of theses in civil law at a number of universities, and was a member of the Dissertation Council at Tomsk State University (1970–1992). In his later years, Yuri Grigorievich was a member of Joint Dissertational Council for doctoral dissertations set up by the Kazakh Humanities and Law University, Academy of Jurisprudence – Adilet Higher Law School and Kazakh Academic University based at Kazakh Humanities Science and Law University, and later a member of the Joint Council of the Kazakh Humanities and Law University and Academy of Jurisprudence – Adilet Higher Law School for the same specialties, and a member of one of the dissertation councils in Bishkek.
Yuri Bassin also worked as a scientific advisor to the Kazakhstan Parliament and Government and was a member of many scientific advisory boards: for the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Supreme Courts of the Kazakh SSR and the Republic of Kazakhstan, Higher Arbitration Courts of the Kazakh SSR and the Republic of Kazakhstan and other governmental agencies.
In 2000–2002, Yuri Grigorievich was a member of the expert council of the Supreme Attestation Commission of Kazakhstan and was its most respected lawyer, who would always critically and at the same time friendly perform expert evaluation, present and discuss dissertations on civil law and some related subjects and matters, and partake in the discussion of other theses.
Yuri Grigorievich was an active member of many international, All-Union and republic’s scientific conferences on various issues of civil law and related areas of law, law reform in the transition period, legal policy, legal education, etc. Bassin participated in the formation of legal policy in different forms: these were scientific and popular publications, presentations at scientific conferences, participation in law-making work, speaking at meetings of scientific advisory boards at various governmental agencies, etc. He was on the group of men of science and culture who met with the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, to discuss the topical issues of Kazakhstan development (April 2002).
The scholar was constantly involved in various public activities. In 1996, Yuri Grigorievich was a member of attestation commission formed by the Kazakhstan Government (Resolution No. № 591 of 13 May 1996) for attesting of senior officials of ministries, state committees, departments, oblast and Almaty City akims and their deputies, heads of departments and other officials of the Kazakhstan Government officials. Among the factors that shaped his scientific interests – spacious mind, comprehensive and deep vision of various legal issues – you cannot but mention the rich experience of getting familiar with the legislation, judiciary, legal education and culture of a number of foreign countries. He often went abroad not just as a tourist or for leisure, but also for different international conferences, to the Federal Republic of Germany and the Netherlands (1993), Sweden (2002), and to Russia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey and the Netherlands (1991–1999) as a member of the model laws drafting groups.
As a very authoritative Kazakh lawyer, Yuri Grigorievich many times acted as Kazakh law expert in the Paris Court of International Arbitration (twice in 1998), Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce (1999) and arbitration court in Washington, DC (2000).
Bassin was a member of the editorial boards of Adilet Proceedings (1997) and Pravo i Gosudarstvo (1997) magazines, and a member of the editorial council of the Predprinimatel i Pravo magazine (1999).
One of his most important, yielding and successful endeavors was the establishment in 1992, together with several other prominent lawyers of the Republic (P. Ya. Greshnikov, A. G. Didenko, A. A. Matyukhin, M. K. Suleimenov, A. I. Khudyakov) of the first private law college, now named as the Academy of Jurisprudence – Adilet Higher Law School. Bassin was also a member of its Board of Trustees (starting 1992), Scientific Council of the Academy and Dissertation Council, and worked as a professor of civil law and civil procedure at Adilet Academy. Yuri Grigorievich was traditionally one of the most influential advisors on all matters relating to the Academy. He would repeat that he considers the creation of Adilet and the work at the Academy as one of his most successful and, probably, the principal deed of his life.
As a lawyer with a constant and natural for a major civil law scholar focus on practice, Bassin became a co-founder of a successfully practicing Aequitas law firm.
Yuri Grigorievich was awarded the Red Star Order and the 1st class Order of the Patriotic War, and more than 15 medals, including for military valor and bravery. For his grand service to the Republic of Kazakhstan, significant contribution to the establishment and development of the Kazakhstan legislation and the development and implementation of the constitutional reform, Mr. Bassin was awarded the Kurmet Order by the Presidential Decree of 27 August 1999. He also received numerous letters of commendation and other marks of distinction. Yuri Bassin is the Honored Worker of Science of the Kazakh SSR (1984).
As an active member of society, creative and enterprising man, he was always in the limelight and always kept his honor and dignity – when working as a member of the university committee of the communist party (which he joined in the fiery war years) and as a dean of the Law Faculty, and in the years of romantic perestroika when was being revived and seemed to be coming to reality the belief in justice, active democracy, private initiative, cooperation, at the time of publicity, of laying the foundations for the future theoretical and constitutional concepts of law and human natural rights and freedoms, and a variety of new legal structures.
Due to his liberal views, Yuri Grigorievich would avoid sharp criticism, trespassing the limits of a critically thinking scientist’s loyalty towards the government. But at the same time, apologetics of the existing situation, ignoring the obvious shortcomings and failures, was to him. In his assessment of legislation, particular cases, trends in the development of phenomena he would try and hold an objective position of a scientist, who can see the pluses and minuses of what is observed and discussed. His views and estimates were always sober and pragmatic.
Yuri G. Bassin was a patriot of Kazakhstan, who knows and loves other countries and places as well. His patriotism was not against others, but a sort of desire to do the best for the country where he lived, and thus to benefit both the country and the world. Almost all of his adult life was determined by the notion of “motherland” where he was in demand, where he had a favorite work, students, friends, and colleagues. Without all this, he could not imagine his life...
Yuri Bassin is a renowned organizer of higher legal education in Kazakhstan. He is one of the chief architects of the modern national school of civil law, which has two bright and distinctive wings headed by his students – scientific (led by Professor M. Suleimenov, Doctor of Law, Director of the Private Law Research Institute of the Kazakh State Law University, member of Kazakhstan National Academy of Sciences) and academic (led by Professor A. Didenko, Doctor of Law, head of the Civil Law and Civil Procedure Chair of the Kazakh State Law University).
Bassin is one of a few Kazakh legal scholars who is world-known. It is thanks to his personality, scientific research and books that over the recent years Almaty has formed and developed into one of the civil law science centers of the USSR, and then of the CIS.
Today we can say that the deeds and ideas of the legal scholar continue to create life and consciousness, and live in the Kazakhstan’s developing legal system, in the laws, books, textbooks and manuals he wrote, and articles which are being studied by the new generation of lawyers, scholars and practitioners, pupils and students, whose professional consciousness germinated with the exact and vivid maestro’s word, which served as the North Star to guide in the legal sphere; in his family, children and grandchildren, in the minds of all who knew the man and to whom cherished memory of him will keep helping in life, give strength and energy...