BASEES Annual Conference 2022

Bromances and Authoritarian Learning? The Cases of Belarus and Russia

Fri8  Apr05:00pm(20 mins)
Umney Theatre


Stephen Hall


Authoritarian regimes have been learning from one another for a while. Existing literature has found that this is the case that there is an 'authoritarian international' where authoritarian regimes collaborate and take lessons from one another. Analysis has tended to focus on learning from failure, such as Russian regime reactions to the Colour Revolutions between 2000 and 2005. 

However, existing literature has not assessed in detail the networks that exist between authoritarian regimes which allow these regimes to learn, share best practices and even train in methods to maintain control have so far not been addressed. It is these networks that help authoritarian regimes to learn from each other. 

These networks occur at different levels in an authoritarian regime and across different state institutions, thereby allowing a regime to share best practices and keep control. 

Through an analysis of Belarus and Russia, I find that the networks that induce learning are extensive, and that they occur at relatively low levels of the state. Much of the learning occurs during discussions at football matches or in the banya, although regional organisations also play a significant role. 

Understanding these networks also provides greater explanation for how authoritarian regimes learn and the practices that are shared to maintain control.