Friday, 31 March 2023 to Sunday, 2 April 2023

Russia’s Development from Electoral to Closed Authoritarianism: Implications for Research

Sun2  Apr09:00am(90 mins)
Gilbert Scott Room 251


Matthew Blackburn3; Bo Petersson2; Geir Flikke1; Derek Stanford Hutcheson2; Karen-Anna Eggen4
1 University of Oslo, Norway;  2 Malmö University, Sweden;  3 University of Warsaw, Poland;  4 Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies, NDUC, Norway


For many years, the prevailing orthodoxy in the political science literature has been to classify Russia as hybrid authoritarian system, a halfway house between authoritarianism and democracy. The model of hybridity argues that such states operate within certain outer boundaries, which include the use of selective law enforcement, and informal ways to curtail and derail opposition forces, whilst maintaining the superficial trappings of democracy. The roundtable discusses that this perspective is no longer valid, given the path of development that Russia has taken during the last few years. First, Russia’s opposition is not only derailed, but in some cases exiled or jailed. Second, even if elections still take place with regular intervals, they are becoming increasingly perfunctory, fully predictable and in some recent cases with barely even an attempt to maintain a façade of legal legitimacy. Finally, the repression of democratic and human rights is undeniable and rule of law has turned into the dictatorship of the laws that President Putin, albeit perhaps with different connotations, called for   in the early 2000s. The traits of a closed authoritarian political system emerge at an accelerated pace. The roundtable discusses the consequences for academic research on Russia of dissociating itself from the academic classifications of recent years, and how to approach the study of Russian politics in 2023.