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Affect and Autocracy: Emotions and Attitudes in Russia after Crimea

October 31, 2019 @ 4:00 pm - 5:15 pm

Graeme Robertson, Professor of Political Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Location: 206 Ingraham Hall

Our understanding of modern authoritarianism lacks a satisfying explanation for the genuine popularity of autocrats. While most of the literature on authoritarianism focuses on coercion, institutional manipulation or clientelism, many contemporary autocrats clearly enjoy enthusiastic support even in times of economic stagnation or decline. We argue that part of the solution lies in unpacking the role of emotions in building support for rulers. Drawing on a unique panel survey conducted shortly before and after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, we discover that the resulting “rally” around the authoritarian flag involves much more than simply support for the leader or a simple increase in nationalism. Rather, we witness a broad shift in respondents’ emotional orientation. Driven by the shared, mediated experience of the Crimean “moment”, this shift improves people’s evaluation of their social, political and economic surroundings in the present, the future – and even the past. The result is a new explanation of the non-material means through which autocrats may succeed in bolstering their legitimacy.

Graeme Robertson is a Professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Director of the Center for Slavic, Eurasian and East European Studies. His work focuses on political protest and regime support in authoritarian regimes.

Graeme’s new book (with Samuel A. Greene) is Putin v. The People, published by Yale University Press in June 2019. The book presents a fresh new look at the social bases of support for and opposition to authoritarian rule in Russia. Graeme is also the author of Revolution and Reform in Ukraine, published by PONARS Eurasia (with Silviya Nitsova and Grigore Pop-Eleches) and The Politics of Protest in Hybrid Regimes: Managing Dissent in Post-Communist Russia, published by Cambridge University Press. He has published articles in many academic journals including the American Political Science Review, the American Journal of Political Science, The Journal of Politics and the British Journal of Political Science, as well as contributing regularly to the media on Russia and Ukraine. Graeme currently serves as the Associate Editor for Comparative Politics for the American Journal of Political Science.


October 31, 2019
4:00 pm - 5:15 pm


Center for Russia, East Europe, and Central Asia (CREECA)
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