Research Workshop “Democracy in Reverse"

June 12, 2018 news

Democracy in Reverse: Patterns of Autocratization in Eastern Europe and Eurasia
- Research Workshop -
Friday, 19 October 2018
University of Tartu, Estonia

In what ways can we compare and better understand patterns of autocratization in the post-communist world? Autocratization can be seen as a process, in which democratic institutions, rights and practices are curtailed or undermined – to the point, of course, where an autocratic regime takes hold. However, because this phenomenon is defined as a continuum, it may also involve only incremental steps away from democratic rule, therefore allowing us to view this phenomenon in greater detail. 

This one-day workshop will feature papers from scholars, doctoral candidates as well as other guests, who are interested in comparing the processes and structures of democratic decline in the post-communist region. It is designed to look at both the more visible pathways of autocratization in areas such as Central Asia, Russia or Belarus as well as more recent cases in countries like Hungary and Poland. While many of the temporal and contextual factors driving these processes may be different, there is clearly a growing need within the study of post-communist politics to understand how democratic orders can be weakened and how increasingly impervious autocratic regimes are built up in their place. 

*** Preliminary programme ***

Introductory Welcome

Vello Pettai, Director, V-Dem Regional Center for Eastern Europe and Russia Piret Ehin, Coordinator, UPTAKE Consortium


Keynote presentations

Anna Lührmann, “Measuring Varieties of Autocracy with V-Dem Data”

Vello Pettai, “Varieties of Autocratization in Eastern Europe and Eurasia”


Panel 1: Regional analyses

Leonid Polishchuk, Kharis Sokolov (Uppsala), "Post-Communist Transition as a Critical Juncture: Political Origins of Institutional and Cultural Bifurcation"

Kazushige Kobayashi (Geneva), "People’s Autocracy? The Democratic Drivers of Autocratization in Post-Communist Europe"

Natasha Wunsch (ETH Zürich), "Democratisation in Doubt: Comparing Democratic Backsliding Before and After EU Accession"


Panel 2: Poland/Hungary

Baiba Witajewska-Baltvilka (Institute for Structural Research, Warsaw), “Can Political and Economic Inequality Explain the Backlash of Democracy in Hungary and Poland?”

Clara Moder, Tina Olteanu, Joachim Pranzl (Vienna), “Civil Society and the State in Times of Populist Authoritarianism”

Aleksei Gridnev (Scuola Normale Superiore, Florence), “Churov's distribution going global? Testing allegations of electoral fraud and partisan gerrymandering during Hungarian parliamentary elections of 2018”

Klaudia Hanisch (Institut für Demokratieforschung, Göttingen), “Populist Mobilization and Partisan Polarization in Poland”


Panel 3: Euroasia

Sofya Omarova (Oxford Brookes Univ.), “Authoritarian Legitimation and Ideology in modern Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan”

Aleksei Semenov (Perm), “Does Coercion Demobilise Protesters in Autocracies? Evidence From Russia”

Aleksandra Yatsyk (Uppsala), “Biopolitics of ‘Illiberal democracies’ in Europe and beyond: the cases of Poland and Russia

Maryna Rabinovych (Odessa National University), “The EU Neighbourhood Policy Under The Crisis Of International Liberal Order: Implications For Democracy-Autocracy Dichotomy In Ukraine, Moldova And Georgia”


CONCLUDING PANEL: Are we in a new era of autocratization?


The workshop is sponsored by the UPTAKE research consortium (funded from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme) and the V-Dem Regional Center for Eastern Europe and Russia.

There is no participation fee. Participation of researchers from Uppsala, Tartu and Kent – the UPTAKE partners – is fully funded by UPTAKE, subject to the eligibility criteria (this includes travel, meals and accommodation). External participants are warmly welcome, but will be expected to secure their own funding for travel, meals and accommodation. UPTAKE will host a joint dinner for all participants.

For more information, contact Vello Pettai,

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