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Annus Mirabilis? The Lessons and Legacies of 1989

March 5, 2020 @ 4:00 pm - 5:15 pm

Barbara J. Falk, Associate Professor of Defense Studies, Canadian Forces College/Royal Military College of Canada

Location: 206 Ingraham Hall

After the fall of communism, regardless of debates on the nature of systemic change, most agreed on the importance of non-violence. In this paper, I argue that the year 1989 represented a revolution in the very idea of revolution—self-limiting, non-violent, and yet far reaching in impact. However, Cold War triumphalist narratives and Western liberal mis-readings have together misrepresented the lessons and legacies of 1989, generating a “recipe-based” approach to regime change. Yet today multipolar great power politics, the soft power decline of the United States and liberal democracy more generally, an international legal regime that dis-incentivizes unpopular authoritarians to step away from power, and the moral hazard associated with the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect, have made non-violent or “1989-type” revolutions far less likely.

Barbara J. Falk is an associate professor in the Department of Defence Studies at the Canadian Forces College/Royal Military College of Canada, and author of The Dilemmas of Dissidence: Citizen Intellectuals and Philosopher Kings (2003) and Political Trials: Causes and Categories (2008). Her primary research interest is political trials, particularly in the persecution and prosecution of domestic dissent. She is currently writing a book on comparative political trials across the East-West divide during the early Cold War. Prior to her academic career, she worked in the both the private and public sectors in human resources, labour relations and women’s issues.


March 5, 2020
4:00 pm - 5:15 pm


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