Friedrich Martens

Friedrich Martens

Friedrich Fromhold Martens, or Friedrich Fromhold von Martens, [Friedrich Martens should not be confused with Georg Friedrich von Martens (1756–1821) who was incidentally also an international lawyer, born in Hamburg. He was professor of international law at the University of Göttingen (1783–89), a state councilor of Westphalia (1808–13), and the representative of the king of Hanover in the diet of Frankfurt (1816–21).] also known as Fyodor Fyodorovich Martens (Фёдор Фёдорович Мартенс) in Russian and Frederic Frommhold (de) Martens in French (OldStyleDate|27 August|1845|15 August — OldStyleDate|20 June|1909|7 June) was a diplomat and jurist in service of the Russian Empire who made important contributions to the science of international law. He represented Russia at the Hague Peace Conference, (during which he drafted the Martens Clause), and helped to settle the first cases of international arbitration, notably the dispute between France and Great Britain over Newfoundland. As a scholar, he is probably best remembered today for having edited 15 volumes of Russian international treaties (1874-1909).


Born to ethnic Estonian ["Martens was of Estonian ethnic origin, an issue thoroughly researched recently in Estonia on the basis of complicated church and orphanage records." Richard B. Bilder & W. E. Butler, "Professor Martens’ Departure by Jaan Kross", Book Review, American Journal of International Law (1994), No. 4, page 864. ] [Death notice in Postimees daily, page 3 of the 8 June 1909 (O.S.) issue, image available in an online [] . ] [ [ Suur rahuehitaja] ] [cite book
title=Our Martens
author=Vladimir Vasilevich Pustogarov, William Elliott Butler
publisher=Kluwer Law International
] [Estonian Soviet Encyclopedia, 1973, (volume 5)] parents at Pärnu (Pernau) in Estonia, then part of the Russian Empire, Martens was later raised and educated as a German-speaker. He lost both parents at the age of nine and was sent to a Lutheran orphanage in St. Petersburg, where he successfully completed the full course of studies at a German high school and in 1863 entered the law faculty of St. Petersburg University. In 1868, he started his service at the Russian ministry of foreign affairs. In 1871, he became a lecturer in international law in the university of St. Petersburg, and in 1872 professor of public law in the Imperial School of Law and the Imperial Alexander Lyceum. In 1874, he was selected special legal assistant to Prince Gorchakov, then imperial chancellor.

His book on "The Right of Private Property in War" had appeared in 1869, and had been followed in 1873 by that upon "The Office of Consul and Consular Jurisdiction in the East", which had been translated into German and republished at Berlin. These were the first of a long series of studies which won for their author a worldwide reputation, and raised the character of the Russian school of international jurisprudence in all civilised countries.

First amongst them must be placed the great "Recueil des traités et conventions conclus par la Russie avec les puissances etrangeres" (13 volumes, 1874-1902). This collection, published in Russian and French in parallel columns, contains not only the texts of the treaties but valuable introductions dealing with the diplomatic conditions of which the treaties were the outcome. These introductions are based largely on unpublished documents from the Russian archives.

Of Martens’ original works his "International Law of Civilised Nations" is perhaps the best known; it was written in Russian, a German edition appearing in 1884-1885, and a French edition in 1887-1888. It displays much judgment and acumen, though some of the doctrines which it defends by no means command universal assent. More openly biased in character are such treatises as:
*"Russia and England in Central Asia" (1879)
*"Russia's Conflict with China" (1881)
*"The Egyptian Question" (1882)
*"The African Conference of Berlin and the Colonial Policy of Modern States" (1887)In the delicate questions raised in some of these works Martens stated his case with learning and ability, even when it was obvious that he was arguing as a special pleader. Martens was repeatedly chosen to act in international arbitrations. Among the controversies which he helped to mediate were those between Mexico and the United States – the first case determined by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague – and the dispute between Great Britain and France over Newfoundland in 1891.

He played an important part in the negotiations between his own country and Japan, which led to the peace of Portsmouth (August 1905) and prepared the way for the Russo-Japanese convention. He was employed in laying the foundations for the Hague Conferences. He was one of the Russian plenipotentiaries at the first conference and president of the fourth committee – that on maritime law – at the second conference. His visits to the chief capitals of Europe in the early part of 1907 were an important preliminary in the preparation of the programme. He was judge of the Russian supreme prize court established to determine cases arising during the war with Japan.

He received honorary degrees from the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh and Yale; he was also one of the runner-up nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1902. In April 1907, he addressed a remarkable letter to "The Times" on the position of the second Duma, in which he argued that the best remedy for the ills of Russia would be the dissolution of that assembly and the election of another on a narrower franchise. He died suddenly in June 1909.


The date and circumstances of his ennoblement are not clear. While it is undisputed that he called himself and was referred to as "von" or "de" Martens in publications since the early 1870s, this title might have been bestowed upon him either with one of the more distinguished Russian Orders, or with the title of a Privy Councillor (according to the Table of Ranks), or simply with his appointment as a full professor. He was never registered in the matricles of the knightage of Livonia ("Livländische Ritterschaft") or one of the other three Baltic knightages (that is of Estonia, Courland and Ösel/Saaremaa). His social advancement was the more remarkable, as it was exclusively based on his professional merits.

Popular culture

* Friedrich Martens is featured as the main character in the novel "Professor Martens' Departure" ("Professor Martensi ärasõit", 1984) by Estonian author Jaan Kross.


*Pustogarov, Vladimir V. " [ "Fyodor Fyodorovich Martens (1845-1909) — A Humanist of Modern Times] ", International Review of the Red Cross (1996), No. 312, pp. 300-314

Further reading

* Vladimir Pustogarov. (English version 2000) "Our Martens: F.F. Martens, International Lawyer and Architect of Peace". The original,"С пальмовой ветвью мира" was published in 1993.

*Fleck, Dieter. " [ Friedrich von Martens: A Great International Lawyer from Pärnu] ", 2 Baltic Defense Review (2003), pp. 19-26
*Staff, " [ Fedor Fedorovich Martens (1845-1909)] ", website of Peace Palace Library, Hague

* [ The Martens Society]


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