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Conference
Finding Authoritarianism in Putin’s Russia

This seminar by Dorothy Horsfield, PhD Candidate at The Australian National University, will take place at the Australian National University in Canberra on September 18, 2012. Drawing on research in Russia during the March 2012 presidential elections, the presentation takes a critical look at these analyses of Putin’s authoritarianism through the lens of international indices and rankings.

One of the Cold War’s commonplaces about Russia was its abiding embrace of authoritarianism. From Catherine the Great’s savage massacre of the peasants following the Pugachev rebellion in the 1770s, to the slaughter by Tsar Nicholas I of the Decembrist sons of the nobility in 1825, to Stalin’s gulags, successive regimes have been characterised as a highly-centralized, personalized power structure, with an intolerance of dissidence that readily descended into barbaric brutality. Living beyond Europe’s farthest edge, Russia’s peoples are said to have been bypassed by Enlightenment modernity, the rise of liberal constitutionalism in the West and the gradual entrenchment of concepts of individual rights and democratic freedoms.

For many writers and scholars, from Russia’s sympathisers to its severest critics, this history of despotism is at the heart of centuries of tragedy. It has meant that  generations of would-be liberals have had no homegrown experience of the ideas and institutions that might have fostered a path to a future other than that of twentieth  century totalitarianism and its aftermath. Instead its legacy is said to be a toxic mix of Slavic exceptionalism; a defensive, isolationist nationalism based on the alleged communalism of Mother Russia’s children; and, paradoxically, a Russian love of strong leadership that is ‘written into their genetic code’.

For those Western commentators inspired by such Cold War thinking, it is a legacy that continues to shape Russia’s contemporary politics. The assumption is that Putin’s reclaiming of the presidency in March 2012 is part of his decade-long reversion to authoritarianism. In further consolidating this ‘power vertical’ he is simply drawing on his country’s traditions, in which there has been little room for liberal voices, or indeed for opposition of any kind.

Drawing on research in Russia during the March 2012 presidential elections, the presentation takes a critical look at these analyses of Putin’s authoritarianism through the lens of international indices and rankings.

Presenter: Dorothy Horsfield - PhD Candidate, The Australian National University

Dorothy Horsfield is a writer, journalist and a doctoral candidate in the ANU Centre for European Studies at the Australian National University.

Humanities Research Centre Seminar 2012

Convenors: Ken Taylor & Alastair MacLachlan

All welcome

For more information:

administration.rsha@anu.edu.au

02 6125 6674

Organization

Australian National University, Research School of Economics

The Research School of Economics was created in 2010 by merging the former School of Economics, the Economics Program in the Research School of Social Sciences and the Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis. Uniting these institutes has created an outstanding group of scholars with expertise...

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