In this post, Communist and Post-Communist Studies Editor-in-Chief J. Paul Goode discusses the ongoing protests surrounding the contested election in Belarus, and provides some background reading from the journal.
When do ruling autocracies survive popular challenges, and what are the sources of their durability?
Not for the first time in Belarus, the future of Aleksandr Lukashenka’s regime hinges on its response to mass protests following fraudulent elections. Not surprisingly in the case of Belarus, where election protests have repeatedly failed to topple Lukashenka’s regime, there is far more research on the sources of regime survival than on the success of election protests. Yet despite its location, ties to Russia, and the shared legacies of Soviet rule, the situation in Belarus is not clearly analogous to protests and electoral revolutions in other post-Soviet states. In considering which outcome is more likely to result from the popular challenge to Lukashenka’s regime in 2020, neither the example of Russia’s authoritarian retrenchment after the Bolotnaya protests of 2012 nor regime collapse in Ukraine’s “Revolution of Dignity” in 2014 seems likely.
This virtual issue brings together some of the recent research on Belarus featured in Communist and Post-Communist Studies, focusing on the country, national identity, its media environment, and comparative analyses of regime dynamics. For some background on the role of nationalism in Belarus, Anna Zadora (2019) examines Belarusian national identity through the prism of food cultivation and consumption. Joanna Szostek (2015) assesses the influence of Russian media in Belarus, focusing on the 2010 information war. She concludes that aggressive propaganda risks alienating viewers and undermining integration. Comparisons with previous election protests are inevitable, for which David Marples’ (2006) examination of the 2006 presidential elections and the underlying reasons for lack of regime change is informative. Beyond single country studies, there is much to be learned from research that includes Belarus as a case in considering the nature of state strength and regime durability from a comparative perspective. Lucan Way and Steven Levitsky (2006) examine the sources of autocratic regime stability in post-Soviet states, including the effectiveness of low intensity coercion in Belarus. Vitali Silitski (2010) considers the evolving list of preemptive measures taken by post-Soviet autocrats to maintain power. Finally Stanislav Shkel (2019) looks at informal, neopatrimonial practices that sustain autocratic rule in post-Soviet states.
Daily identity practices: Belarus and potato eaters
Anna Zadora, Strasbourg University, Strasbourg, France
–Anna Zadora provides some background on the role of nationalism in Belarus, examining Belarusian national identity through the prism of food cultivation and consumption.
Russian influence on news media in Belarus
Joanna Szostek, School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London, United Kingdom
–Joanna Szostek assesses the influence of Russian media in Belarus, focusing on the 2010 information war. She concludes that aggressive propaganda risks alienating viewers and undermining integration.
Color revolutions: The Belarus case
David R. Marples, Department of History and Classics, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada
–Comparisons with previous election protests are inevitable. Here, David Marples examines the 2006 presidential elections and the underlying reasons for lack of regime change.
The dynamics of autocratic coercion after the Cold War
Lucan A. Way, University of Toronto, Canada
Steven Levitsky, Harvard University, USA
–Lucan Way & Steven Levitsky examine the sources of autocratic regime stability in post-Soviet states, including the effectiveness of low intensity coercion in Belarus.
“Survival of the fittest:” Domestic and international dimensions of the authoritarian reaction in the former Soviet Union following the colored revolutions
Vitali Silitski, Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies (BISS), Belarus
–Vitali Silitski considers the evolving list of preemptive measures taken by post-Soviet autocrats to maintain power.
Neo-patrimonial practices and sustainability of authoritarian regimes in Eurasia
Stanislav N. Shkel, Perm State National Research University, Center for Comparative History and Politics, Russia
–Internal cohesion is crucial to regime maintenance. In a recent study, Stanislav Shkel looks at informal, neo-patrimonial practices that sustain autocratic rule in post-Soviet states.
Communist and Post-Communist Studies (CPCS) is an international, peer-reviewed scholarly journal featuring comparative research on current and historical developments in the communist and post-communist world. Post-communist states and societies encompass Central and Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin America, for which the term “post-communist” remains analytically useful as a temporal or geographical frame. The journal broadly covers domestic politics and societies, foreign policy and international relations, ideology and identities, political economy, political and human geography, and law.