Legitimation Functions and Legitimacy Resources

A typology for the analysis of post-Soviet countries, presented at the Joint Bavarian-Russian Conference on Interdisciplinary Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Bayreuth, 7-8 June 2018

Recent studies of legitimation patterns in authoritarian and democratic regimes have used a variety of classifications. Reviewing these approaches, I presented an integrative typology of legitimation functions and legitimacy resources based on David Beetham’s concept of political legitimacy.  According to Beetham, the legitimate exercise of power must conform to established rules, the rules need to be justifiable by reference to shared beliefs, and the given relations of power require the express consent of subordinates. read more

Key to Implementing Minsk: the OSCE

An interview with Kateryna Ivanova, Deutsche Welle, Russian language service, 19 May 2017

In September 2014 and February 2015, the Ukrainian government and the Russia-backed separatists in Eastern Ukraine agreed on a cease-fire and a set of measures to transform the conflict into a territorial autonomy settlement for the occupied Russian-speaking region inside Ukraine. The implementation of these so-called Minsk Agreements is, however, blocked by the conflicting parties’ unwillingness to negotiate a sequence of steps for holding free and fair elections in a secure environment. Kyiv insists on re-establishing Ukraine’s control over the border between Russia and the separatist-controlled areas in order to stop the inflow of weapons and fighters and to guarantee the security of local voters. In contrast, Moscow and the separatists prefer to hold elections first.

Initially both Kyiv and the separatists had accepted the monitoring role assigned to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). In May 2017, the separatists increasingly hindered the work of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission, while the cease-fire was more frequently violated than during 2016. These worrying developments prompted more intense diplomatic efforts to reinforce the role of the OSCE. In my interview with Deutsche Welle, I stressed the salience of the OSCE Mission for both sides of the conflict:

“To facilitate future elections in Donbass, the OSCE must perform its stabilizing function. This role has been severely constrained by the separatists who prohibited the free movement of OSCE observers in the occupied territory. A stronger role of the OSCE is indispensable for the elections to be taken seriously.”


Trump’s Foreign Policy, Russia and the Balkans

An interview with Aleksandra Nenadović, Voice of America, 9 November 2016http://pescanik.net/corax-2-2/Drawn by Corax for the Serbian daily Danas

What does the electoral victory of Donald Trump mean for US foreign policy in the Balkans? Any prediction is fraught with high uncertainties because no one knows the extent to which Trump’s populist demagoguery from the electoral campaign will become official US policy.

However, many observers concur that American foreign policy will be more inward-looking and realist. The realist notion of a balance of power would resonate with the ideas of Russia as a great power and a new Jalta-order shared by Russia’s current political leadership. A balance-of-power orientation would imply conceding zones of influence to other great powers and deemphasizing concerns for universalist ideas such as democracy or political freedoms.

A more realist and inward-focused US government will probably refrain from a further enlargement of NATO in the Balkans, mainly to avoid taking additional international commitments and increasing the costs for joint defence. Moreover, such a presidential administration would be less intrinsically  committed to promoting multinational state projects such as Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia. Russian policymakers would perceive such policy stances as converging with Russia’s interests in the region. This could open windows of opportunity for local separatist/ irredentist mobilization.

Download the VOA analysis (in Serbian):voa_161109


Serbia between EU/NATO and Russia

An interview with Aleksandra Nenadović, Voice of America, 27 October 2016

Nikolai’ Patrushev, Secretary of Russia’s National Security Council, met with Serbia’s President, Prime Minister and other ministers in Belgrade on 25/26 October 2016. The official aim of this visit was to discuss the security situation and options for a military-technical cooperation between Serbia and Russia. Patrushev also proposed a memorandum of understanding on a security cooperation between Serbia and Russia.

The visit coincided with the news that Montenegrin and Serbian police arrested two groups of Serbian citizens who are suspected of preparing a coup against the government of Montenegro.  Montenegro’s decision to join NATO has become a major controversy between the government and several opposition parties. Following a series of mass protests, the opposition alliance “Democratic Front” (Demokratski Front, DF) tried to frame the parliamentary elections of 16 October 2016 as a vote against the NATO membership of Montenegro. The government has claimed that Russia was financing and supporting the DF. Details from the ongoing investigations against the suspected coup-plotters indicate an involvement of Russian actors.

In the interview, I noted that Russia’s current political leadership is interested in using its influence and its hybrid methods of disinformation and covert action to prevent a further enlargement of NATO and to undermine the Europeanization of the Western Balkans. A closer military-technical cooperation between Serbia and Russia would raise doubts about Serbia’s commitment to accede the EU, because the EU has just renewed its sanctions against Russia and has agreed on cooperating with NATO to address hybrid threats from Russia. If Serbia wants to join the EU, Serbia’s government has to progressively align its foreign policy with  the EU’s common positions.

NATO would not categorically oppose a cooperation between Russia and Serbia, but would probably review the extent to which it shares sensitive information with Serbia in its Individual Partnership Action Plan, particularly if the envisaged Russian-Serbian cooperation will also include security services. However, since the Belgrade government is aware of the resonance a memorandum of understanding would cause in the West, it will probably seek to dilute its content and status. Given the current tensions between the West and Russia, little space is left for balancing between the two.

Download the VOA analysis (in Serbian):voa_161027


Zur Umsetzung der Minsker Abkommen

Ein Interview zur aktuellen Lage in der Ukraine und zum Treffen der Trilateralen Kontaktgruppe, ARD Tagesschau 24, 3.8.2016

Geht es in der Ukraine voran? Reformen in Justiz, bessere Korruptionsbekämpfung, eine bessere Wirtschaftslage geben aus Sicht von Martin Brusis von der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München Grund zur Hoffnung. Sorge bereiten ihm unter anderem die Kämpfe im Osten des Landes.


Die Minsker Abkommen scheinen gescheitert, die Zivilbevölkerung im Osten der Ukraine ist in Gefahr, aber es gibt auch Hoffnungsschimmer für das Land – so schätzt zumindest Martin Brusis von der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München im Gespräch mit tagesschau24 die Situation in der Ukraine ein. read more

Politische Legitimität

Sozialwissenschaftliche Diskussion und Herrschaftsressource im postsowjetischen Raum.

Gutachten für das Zentrum für Internationale und Osteuropastudien

Ziel der Studie ist es, den Stand der sozialwissenschaftlichen Forschung zu politischer Legitimität zusammenzufassen und zu analysieren, inwieweit Legitimationsstrategien politischer Eliten und Legitimitätsauffassungen in der Bevölkerung zur Stabilisierung politischer Regime in postsowjetischen Staaten beitragen. Die Studie ist in sechs Abschnitte gegliedert. read more

Politics and Legitimacy in Post-Soviet Eurasia

New Publication


Political legitimacy has become a scarce resource in Russia and other post-Soviet states in Eurasia. Their capacity to deliver prosperity has suffered from economic crisis, the conflict in Ukraine and the ensuing confrontation with the West. Will nationalism and repression enable political regimes to survive?

This book investigates the politics of legitimation in post-Soviet countries, focusing on how political and intellectual elites exploit different modes of legitimation. Combining cross-national comparisons and country case studies, it addresses state-economy relations, pro-presidential parties, courts, ideas of nationhood, historical and literary narratives. read more

Back to the Future?

Retrograde Modernization in Russia and the Post-Soviet Region

A Cross-Disciplinary Conference Organized by KomPost and the German Association for East European Studies (DGO), Berlin 23-24 October 2015

Levels of economic development, income and education provide a firm structural basis for democracy in Russia. However, an authoritarian model of government has prevailed and has even taken stronger hold of society in recent years. This trend is all the more puzzling since the political leadership has been less able to rely on economic growth to legitimize its rule. Governing elites are essentially confined to symbolic resources of legitimacy, such as historical grievances, threat perceptions, notions of exceptionalism and imperial identity.

In employing these resources, incumbent elites evoke ghosts of a past that appears to be more present now than during Russia’s departure for democracy in the 1990s or during the prosperous 2000s. Reviving the territorial thinking of the 19th and 20th century, Crimea’s incorporation is used to demonstrate Russia’s reconstitution as a great power. Novorossiya, a historical region annexed by Tsarist Russia, serves to establish a Russian claim on Ukrainian territory. Russia is framed as subject to Western “containment” strategies, borrowing from the terminological arsenal of the Cold War. In a romanticizing fashion, political representatives assume Russian culture to harbor and cherish traditional values that are deemed to be threatened by neglect and relativism in the West. The official rhetoric of economic reform resuscitates the idea of “import substitution” from the economic development agenda of the 1960s. Contemporary notions of “conservatory modernization” and “innovatization” are reminiscent of pseudo-reform discourses shaping the Brezhnev era.

The conference analyzed how political actors use references of the past to interpret and justify their policies. How do these references and quotations fit into the official frame of Russia as a non-Western civilization and an alternative to Western moral permissiveness? Can elements of what may be termed “retro-modernization” provide a viable ideology for authoritarian rule? What do we know about their appeal among Russian elites and in Russian society? How do critics of official discourses and policies relate to the appropriation and reactivation of traditions? How do neotraditionalist ideas resonate in other post-Soviet countries?

Drawing on work from the research network ‘Institutions and institutional change in Postsocialism’, the conference panels discussed ideas and strategies of retrograde modernization in discourses about the role of the state, economic policy and Russian culture.

Program: Retro_2015

Report (in German): Tagungsbericht

Next Generation Democracy

Trends and Scenarios for Post-Soviet Eurasia

NGD Logo

Two reports for the “Next Generation Democracy” project, a multi-stakeholder process under the coordination of the Club de Madrid, the world’s largest forum of former democratic Presidents and Prime Ministers. The overall aim of NGD is to better enable democracy to meet the expectations and needs of all citizens and preserve their freedom and dignity while securing a sustainable future for generations to come.

NGD facilitates a discussion on the state and future of democracy in order to formulate both regional agendas and a global agenda, to reverse disquieting trends and advance democracy worldwide. The project progressively offers a comprehensive analysis of regional dynamics in democratic governance, a projection of relevant trends, and a compilation of transformative practices and transformative ideas to be discussed in a series of policy dialogues as well as through on-line exchanges. This will help generate collective responses, rather than fragmented and independent actions, and shape consensus around shared, forward-looking, action-oriented agendas. read more