Post-Soviet Authoritarianism: The Impact of International Actors and Alliances
52 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011
Date Written: 2011
After the demise of the Soviet Union and the Communist-dominated regimes of central and eastern Europe, democratic polities were created and consolidated in a number of post-Communist countries. But in others, the process of democratization never started or, if it did, stalled at some point and the countries evolved into hybrid regimes that combined, in varying mixes, elements of democratic and authoritarian politics. A good deal of scholarly attention has been devoted to analyzing the role played by transnational linkages and international actors – most notably, the European Union – in the establishment and consolidation of democratic polities in the post-Communist countries of central and eastern Europe. But surprisingly little attention has been devoted to the role played by such actors in the establishment and consolidation in other formally-Communist countries – most notably, the non- Baltic states of the former Soviet Union – of polities that are either authoritarian or combine elements of democratic and authoritarian politics. This paper considers the extent to which and ways in which Russia, the successor state of the Soviet Union and by far the largest and most powerful of the post-Soviet states, may have influenced the consolidation of increasingly authoritarian polities or, in the case of hybrid polities that combine authoritarian and democratic elements, the erosion of their democratic elements in the other non-Baltic post-Soviet states. Building on the pathbreaking work of Levitsky and Way (2010a), the paper suggests that, while national actors pursuing their own interests no doubt played a major role in the perpetuation of authoritarian politics and erosion of democratic elements in those states, Russia’s exceptional trade, energy, security and military linkages with those states provide it with ample leverage to influence the balance of authoritarian and democratic elements in most if not all of them. In particular, it suggests that Russia’s extensive economic, collective security and military linkages with the other non-Baltic post-Soviet states, coupled with the erosion that has occurred over the past two decades of the democratic elements of its polity, may have facilitated and legitimized a strengthening of the authoritarian elements and a weakening of the democratic elements of the polities of most if not all of those states.
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