An open access publication of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences
Summer 2016

Authoritarian Leadership in the Post-Communist World

Eugene Huskey
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A quarter-century after the collapse of the USSR, authoritarian politics dominates seven of the fifteen successor states. Placing the post-communist authoritarian experience in the broader frame of nondemocratic governance, this essay explores the origins and operation of personalist rule in the region; the relationship between time and power; and the role of Soviet legacies in shaping the agenda and tools of leadership. It also examines the efforts of post-communist authoritarians to enhance personal and regime legitimacy by claiming to rule beyond politics. Within the post-communist world, the essay finds significant variation among authoritarian leaders in their approaches to personnel policy and to the use of policies, symbols, and narratives to address the ethnic and religious awakening spawned by the collapse of Soviet rule. The essay concludes with a brief assessment of the trajectories of post-communist authoritarian leadership.

EUGENE HUSKEY is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Political Science at Stetson University. His research focuses on politics and legal affairs in the Soviet Union and the post-communist successor states of Russia and Kyrgyzstan. He is the author of Russian Lawyers and the Soviet State (1986) and Presidential Power in Russia (1999), and editor of Russian Bureaucracy and the State: Officialdom from Alexander III to Vladimir Putin (with Don K. Rowney, 2009).