Article title General Theory of Criminal Law Science: Substantiation and Formation Issues

Doctor of Law, Professor, Full Member (Academician) of the National Academy of Legal Sciences of Ukraine.  Head of the Criminal Law Department No.2 of Yaroslav Mudryi National Law University (Kharkiv, Ukraine) ORCID ID:


Name of magazine Legal journal «Law of Ukraine» (Ukrainian version)
Issue 2/2020
Сторінки [31-51]

The article focuses on the elaboration of the general theory of criminal law science which, in the author’s opinion, should be understood as the theory of criminal liability and which still remains an unexplored issue. The article examines the empirical and theoretical foundations underlying this theory, which at the same time are the constituents forming its content. The author emphasizes the important methodological meaning of criminal liability theory as general theory, for individual (special or private) theories of criminal law and for the science of criminal law generally, and thus determines its potential impact on the criminal law practice – criminal lawmaking and law application.

The purpose of the article is to substantiate and form the general theory of criminal law science (which is seen as the theory of criminal liability) as the methodological basis of individual (special or private) theories of criminal law science in general, and to clarify its impact on criminal lawmaking and the application practice of current criminal legislation.

The science of criminal law is a rather complex but at the same time an orderly system of knowledge in the area of criminal law regulation. The centrepiece of this knowledge is scientific theories as the most developed and perfect forms of its organization, since they within their content comprise such essential and necessary elements of cognition attributable to the subject matter of the science as ideas, hypotheses, concepts, methodology, the set of concepts, etc., integrate them and provide for the whole picture of the essential connections and regularities of the systemic and coherent object of knowledge.

The science of criminal law has developed a number of specific theories concerning various topical issues: causes for criminal liability, concept of crime, corpus delicti and its elements, punishment, inchoate crime, complicity in crime, specific institutions provided for by the Special Part of criminal law etc. These theories aim at resolving the issues which are undoubtedly important but, nevertheless, individual, and therefore have a special (isolated or private) nature. Moreover, they did not rest upon the general theory of criminal law science which has not and still is not in the focus of research. The mentioned methodological limitation of these private theories undoubtedly had a negative impact on their completeness, substantiation and the results obtained.

The author suggests that the general theory of criminal law science be understood as the theory of criminal liability which is organically linked to almost all institutions and categories of criminal law and the set of concepts of the science on the whole. This theory is developed by the analysis of empirical (the system of criminal law provisions making up the content of the institute of criminal liability) and theoretical (the category of “criminal liability” and the system of concepts and legal terminology subordinated to it) grounds as the prerequisites necessary for forming it. In this context, these grounds are regarded as essential components of the theory’s content which are in dialectical unity.

Based on the study, the author determines the main features of the criminal liability theory which represent its content as the general theory of criminal law science, highlights its methodological meaning for individual (special or private) theories of the science, and explores its impact on the science and practice of criminal law – criminal lawmaking and law application.


Keywords criminal law science; general theory of criminal law science; individual (special or private) theories; substantiation; forming of the general theory of criminal law; methodological meaning of the “criminal liability” theory as the general theory of criminal law science


Authored books

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7. Grjaznov B i Dynin B i Nikitin E, Teorija i ee ob’ekt [Theory and Its Object] (Nauka 1973) (in Russian).

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14. Poznyshev S, Osnovnye nachala nauki ugolovnogo prava. Obshhaja chast’ ugolovnogo prava [Fundamental Principles of Criminal Law Science. General Part of Criminal Law] (Izd-e A A Karceva 1912) (in Russian).

15. Ruzavin G, Filosofija nauki: uchebnoe posobie dlja studentov vuzov [Philosophy of Science: Study Guide for Students of Higher Educational Institutions] (JuNITI-DANA 2005) (in Russian). 16. Ruzavin G, Metodologija nauchnogo poznanija: uchebnoe posobie dlja studentov i aspirantov vysshih uchebnyh zavedenij [Methodology of Scientific Cognition: Study Guide for Students and Postgraduates of Higher Educational Institutions] (2005) (in Russian).

17. Serdiuk P, Teoretychni i metodolohichni problemy suchasnoho kryminalnoho prava [Theoretical and Methodological Issues of Modern Criminal Law] (Aktsent In Vest-treid 2012) (in Ukrainian).

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21. Trajnin A, Uchenie o sostave prestuplenija [Doctrine of Corpus Delicti] (1946) (in Russian). 22. Utevskij V, Vina v sovetskom ugolovnom prave [Guilt in Soviet Criminal Law] (1950) (in Russian).

23. Veresha R, Poniattia vyny yak element zmistu kryminalnoho prava Ukrainy [The Concept of Guilt as the Content Element of Ukrainian Criminal Law] (2005) (in Ukrainian).

24. Vinberg A i Malahovskaja N, Sudebnaja jekspertologija (obshheteoreticheskie i metodologicheskie problemy sudebnyh jekspertiz) [Forensic Expert Science (General Theoretical and Methodological Issues of Forensic Examinations)] (1979) (in Russian).

25. Zelenec’kij V, Obshhaja teorija bor’by s prestupnost’ju [General Crime Combating Theory], t 1: Konceptual’nye osnovy [Conceptual Foundations] (Osnova 1994) (in Russian). Edited books 26. Kurs rossijskogo ugolovnogo prava: Obshhaja chast’ [Course of Russian Criminal Law: General Part] (Kudrjavcev V i Naumov A red, 2001) (in Russian).

27. Kurs sovetskogo ugolovnogo prava [Course of Soviet Criminal Law], t 1: Chast’ Obshhaja [General Part (Beljaev N i Shargorodskij M otv red, Nauka 1970) (in Russian).

28. Kurs sovetskogo ugolovnogo prava [Course of Soviet Criminal Law], t 1: Chast’ Obshhaja [General Part. Crime] (Beljaev N i Shargorodskij M otv red, Nauka) (in Russian).

29. Kurs ugolovnogo prava [Course of Criminal Law], t 1: Uchenie o prestuplenii [Doctrine of Crime] (Kuznecova N i Tjazhkova I red, 2002) (in Russian).


Encyclopaedias and dictionaries

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Journal articles

33. Ekzarhopulo A, ‘Kriminalisticheskaja teorija: sushhnost’, struktura, komponentnyj sostav’ [‘Criminalistic Theory: Essence, Structure, Components’] (2015) 11 Kriminalist» pervopechatnyj 10–29 (in Russian).

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35. Piontkovskij A, ‘O ponjatii ugolovnoj otvetstvennosti’ [‘On the Concept of Criminal Liability’] (1967) 12 Sovetskoe gosudarstvo i pravo 40 (in Russian).

36. Zagorodnikov N, ‘O predelah ugolovnoj otvetstvennosti’ [‘On the Limits of Criminal Liability’] (1967) 7 Sovetskoe gosudarstvo i pravo 39–40 (in Russian).

37. Zhuravel V, ‘Zahalna teoriia kryminalistyky: deiaki problemy formuvannia’ [‘General Theory of Criminalistics: Some Issues of Formation’] (2015) 11 Kriminalist» pervopechatnyj 30–44 (in Ukrainian).



38. Brajnin Ja, ‘Osnovanie ugolovnoj otvetstvennosti i vazhnejshie voprosy uchenija o sostave prestuplenija v sovetskom ugolovnom prave’ [‘Cause of Criminal Liability and Topical Issues of the Corpus Delicti Doctrine in Soviet Criminal Law’] (avtoref dis dok jurid nauk, 1963) (in Russian).

39. Serdjuk P, ‘Teorіia krimіnal’noi vіdpovіdal’nostі v suchasnomu krimіnal’nomu pravі: porіvnial’no-pravove doslіdzhennia’ [‘Theory of Criminal Liability in Modern Criminal Law: Comparative Law Study’] (avtoref dis d-ra jurid nauk, 2013) (in Ukrainian).

40. Zelenec’kij V, ‘Konceptual’nye osnovy obshhej teorii bor’by s prestupnost’ju’ [‘Conceptual Foundations of the General Crime Combating Theory’] (avtoref dis d-ra jurid nauk, 1989) (in Russian).