Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Regime and Opposition in Russia: Engaging Society in a Semi-Authoritarian System


Political Science Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Social and Behavioral Sciences


Accusations of electoral fraud in Russias December 2011 Duma elections ignited a wave of urban protests in Moscow and smaller demonstrations in St. Petersburg and other major cities. Facilitated by online social networks and opposition-friendly internet publications, these demonstrations appear to have energized a level of civic activism not seen since waning days of the Soviet Union. The ability of the unofficial opposition to mobilize people in the thousands to demand clean elections and accountability from the Kremlin have raised serious questions about the invincibility of the regime and hopes for meaningful political reforms. Building on the scholarship of competitive authoritarian regimes, this paper shows how both the Russian regime and the opposition face significant structural challenges in confronting one other, setting the stage for a prolonged struggle. The regimes weakened organizational power and the oppositions greater mobilizational capacity make severe repression less likely. Yet at the same time, the absence of high-level regime defections and weak opposition unity produces a situation in which both sides seek to increase their public support for the purpose of gaining advantage over the other. Such strategies of engaging society have thus far been underemphasized in research on competitive authoritarian regimes.

Conference Name

Annual Conference

Conference Location

San Francisco, CA

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