Disciplinary and interdisciplinary research on all aspects of Central and Eastern Europe: history, society, politics, economy, religion, culture, literature, languages and gender, with a focus on the region between the Baltic and the Adriatic in local and global context.
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This introduction to the special issue on Electoral Politics and Policy under Putin presents the central arguments of the contributors and situates those within the broader relevant literatures. Collectively, the articles cover a sweeping constellation of electoral issues that have become hallmark considerations of the Putin era, such as opposition party performance in a consolidated dictatorship, the election of women and minority candidates, corruption, electoral malfeasance, and cancelled elections. Many of the manuscripts address two central themes in the Russia-specific and comparative literature – first, how dictatorships coordinate machine politics, and second, explanations for why authoritarian regimes may struggle to capture electoral support, even when engaging in blatant and conspicuous forms of manipulation. The contributions shed light on the multifaceted challenges that the Putin regime faces today and suggest that the regime may be experiencing a type of widespread decay that is ultimately insurmountable.
After the 2021 State Duma elections, the Communist Party of Russia Federation (KPRF) re-appeared on the Russian political landscape as a new political force with new faces and creative local campaigns. How and why were the communists being treated by most of the analysts and voters as systemic and rather passive opposition successfully accumulated political resistance and grievances at the polls in September 2021? In this study, we argue that mobilization against the pension reform in 2018 proved to be the crucial determinant of the electoral outcomes three years later. The latter provides evidence that protests bring about long-term consequences on voting behavior not only in democracies, but also in autocratic states. We rely on the original dataset on protests in 381 large Russian cities (more than 20,000 residents) that took place in Summer-Fall 2018 merged with the electoral data of the Duma elections in 2016 and 2021.
How do citizens’ experiences of corruption affect their political trust and voting behavior? By analyzing a nationally representative survey of Russian citizens conducted a few months after the 2018 presidential election, we find that citizens who engaged in street-level bureaucratic corruption in the preceding two years assess the national leadership as more corrupt and express lower trust in them. This association between corruption engagement and a worsening of people’s views remains even when citizens gained benefits by providing officials with an incentive. We also show that higher perceptions of elite corruption and lower trust in the political leadership are important factors in reducing pro-Kremlin voting. Our findings indicate that even in an authoritarian country citizens’ negative experiences with bureaucracy reduce political support for the national political regime.
Elections to the Russian State Duma provide a unique context to study the representation of women and ethnic minorities in a national legislature. Russian elections have witnessed dramatic institutional variation, including a shift from semi-democratic contestation to competitive authoritarianism and the use of different electoral systems. Moreover, ethnic federalism has produced political and demographic conditions that promote the representation of titular ethnic groups in ethnic republics. Finally, the transition from a fragmented party system to one controlled by a single dominant party potentially has important potential ramifications for women and minority representation. We use a unique dataset that codes the ethnicity and sex of individual legislators for each election from 1993 to 2021 to examine how regime type, electoral rules, demographic conditions, and party affiliation have affected descriptive representation in Russia. Using similar data on selected states from Eastern Europe, we compare Russia’s experience with that of other postcommunist states as well as the United States.
Over the 2000s Russian elections have become increasingly unfree and unfair, characterized by suppression of electoral competition, rising levels of administrative interference and drastic growth of electoral frauds. In this paper I propose that the pattern of fraudulent elections in Russia can be explained by combining an idea about federalism with a game-theoretic model of the relationship between the Kremlin and a single regional governor. Specifically, election fraud becomes a basic signaling mechanism of regional bosses’ loyalty and of their ability to control the administrative resources to the Kremlin’s benefit. If electoral signaling occurs, data manipulation is most likely to take place with 0s and 5s in the last digit of rounded percentages of turnout and electoral support, which is the easiest and most readily detected way to report basic information to superiors. Based on the Russian electoral and financial data for 2000-2018, my analysis shows strong evidence of election fraud associated with the post-electoral interbudgetary transfers.
This paper explores the impact of vote mobilization and economic performance on gubernatorial appointments in Russia. Previous research has demonstrated that governors are more likely to be reappointed when the regime is performing well at the polls in the region. By contrast, there is inconsistent evidence that regional economic performance affects a governor’s reappointment chances. We revisit this topic by updating and extending quantitative analyses of these key questions. We find consistent evidence that governors are more likely to be reappointed when regime vote shares are high in the region, a finding that extends from 2005 through 2020 and is robust to various model specifications and measurement approaches. In an update to existing research, we also show that this finding holds for multiple types of elections – regional legislative, State Duma and presidential – and we also find that high turnout is positively associated with governor reappointment. With respect to economic indicators, we find some suggestive evidence that governors are more likely to be reappointed when regional unemployment is decreasing, and investment and tax revenue are increasing, but these results are not robust. By evaluating governors on the basis of their ability to mobilize votes the center risks disincentivizing good governance. It may also give governors additional incentive to engage in electoral manipulation.
Local executives in electoral authoritarian regimes can perform important regime-sustaining functions, including by delivering votes to the ruling party at election-time. Furthermore, when local executives are themselves elected, regimes can benefit from improved legitimacy and efficiency in local government. Yet elected local executives can create principal-agent problems and increase the risk that opposition groups gain office. How do authoritarian governments manage this tension? Prior research on Russia shows that elections are used to co-opt strong local mayors, while weak mayors are replaced with appointed managers. This paper argues that strong mayors are more likely to see elections canceled if their local machine is not delivering manufactured electoral support to the national party, while weak mayors are unlikely to be targeted. This hypothesis is supported using data from 207 Russian cities, including election-forensic estimates of election manipulation. The findings improve our understanding of cooptation of local leaders in electoral authoritarian regimes.
This article introduces the Special Section dealing with conflict related missing persons in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. It examines the context to the conflicts in the region and brings to the fore the fact that the breakup of the Soviet Union has had a massive legacy in terms of the conflicts it spawned, over identity matters and various territorial claims, and how that vestige lingers today. The article examines why the three countries are useful to analyse comparatively, what we can learn from them and how these issues are also reflective of the democratic and human rights status in each. This article ends by discussing the general problems relating to missing persons in the three countries, and why the law and the processes to deal with missing persons in these and many other countries around the world need to be reformed. The focus of each of the three country articles is then more inward-looking. They explore the situation in each country concerning missing persons, the institutions that have been established to deal with those matters, the laws that deal with missing persons, and what is needed to make progress on all the issues relating to missing persons.
This article deals with missing persons in Armenia. So far around 5,000 people from all sides in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict have been reported as having gone missing. This article contextualises the democratic and human rights situation in Armenia and argues that if progress is to occur, there needs to be a coordinating mechanism involving all conflict parties to search, recover, and identify the missing. One sign of progress is that a new Commission – the Inter-Agency Commission on POWs, Hostages and Missing Persons – was established in Armenia in 2019, and a new decree adopted. However, it needs to be reformed to allow it to be better suited to achieve the necessary goals. The study examines the law on the missing and finds that there is much confusion about the legislation, as it is scattered and often vague and unclear. The laws are aimed at, and applicable to, criminal cases, and not the humanitarian nature of such instances. It therefore argues that a new law ought to be adopted. A variety of recommendations are made in the article such as the need to enhance information collection, to find potential burial sites, and to systematically map and protect possible burial sites to ensure that future recovery and identification processes are not hindered.