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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Student Spotlight: Maria Snegovaya

When Maria Snegovaya, a doctoral candidate in Columbia’s Department of Political Science, started researching the rise of the radical and populist right in Eastern and Central Europe back in 2013, she had no idea just how globally relevant the topic would become. Then, three years later, radical and populist right movements gained unexpected prominence in both Western Europe and the United States. “On a personal level I’m horrified by the developments, but on a scholarly level I’m happy because there will be more opportunities,” she says.

Snegovaya, who is originally from St. Petersburg, had planned to go into finance. She was also in the middle of pursuing a candidate of science degree in economics at the Higher School of Economics (HSE) in Russia when she won a visiting fellowship from Harvard’s Davis Center for the 2009-10 academic year. That is when her career changed course. “I was so amazed by the intellectual dynamics at Harvard,” she says, “that sometimes I felt like my brain was overflowing with ideas just sitting in the lecture hall.” The environment stimulated her to such an extent that she decided “to pursue academia in a serious way.” Snegovaya returned to Russia, and, while completing the last year of her program at HSE, applied to U.S. doctoral programs in political science. She enrolled at Columbia in the fall of 2011, flying back to Russia a month later to successfully defend her HSE dissertation on religion in Ukraine and its impact on market labor attitudes.

After two years at Columbia, Snegovaya, by this point a regular columnist for the Russian business daily Vedomosti,* wanted to broaden the scope of her expertise beyond Russia. She and her adviser, former Harriman Director Timothy Frye, decided that for her dissertation she would investigate the political success of radical and populist right movements in Eastern and Central Europe. “Ironically enough, I discovered that the success of the radical and populist right was made possible by the earlier choices of left parties,” says Snegovaya.

After the collapse of the Communist bloc in 1989, many radical left and post-Communist parties decided to shift to the center of the political spectrum. “They became typical social democratic parties in the Western sense,” says Snegovaya, explaining that many such parties tended to weaken their ties to labor unions. They also often implemented unpopular market and austerity reforms, leaving traditional leftwing constituents to feel abandoned. “The policies ended up alienating the weaker and poorer population segments; those who were losing from globalization,” says Snegovaya.

The right-leaning parties noticed the shift, and came in to fill the void. In turn, as the economic situation for these alienated voters declined, they were more likely to adopt rightwing attitudes. “Radical right parties such as Jobbik in Hungary, played into these sentiments,” says Snegovaya. They promised to protect workers from the detrimental impacts of globalization, to create jobs, and to kick out immigrants and Western multinational companies.

In the summer of 2016, thanks to the support of the Harriman Institute’s Padma Desai Summer Fellowship, Snegovaya was able to test out her theory by running experimental surveys in Hungary and the Czech Republic. “The advantage of experimental surveys over traditional ones is that they allow you to approach the causality of an issue in a more rigorous fashion,” she explains. In an attempt to gauge whether or not frustrations with the left actually radicalized people, Snegovaya spent the summer running experiments in both countries. The results demonstrated just what she had suspected—in Hungary, where there was no radical left party, people with extreme views tended to drift to the right, while in the Czech Republic, where the radical left remained strong, extreme voters tended to drift to the left.

“I think my research has very important policy implications,” says Snegovaya. “The ability of left parties to reestablish their credibility in the face of their constituencies may substantially weaken the radicalization of these systems.”

Masha Udensiva-Brenner

* Since then, Snegovaya has become a frequent TV and radio political commentator and a contributor to news outlets such as New Republic and the Washington Post. You can listen to her discuss the recent protests in Russia in the inaugural episode of Expert Opinions, the Harriman Institute’s new podcast on EurasiaNet



Monday, May 15, 2017

Małgorzata Mazurek Awarded Lenfest Junior Faculty Development Grant

Małgorzata Mazurek (Associate Professor of Polish Studies, Dept. of History) was awarded a Lenfest Junior Faculty Development Grant for a workshop for her book manuscript, "Reconfiguring Backwardness: Polish Social Scientists and the Making of the Non-Western World." The Lenfest Junior Faculty Development Grants were established in 2015 to provide additional financial support to junior faculty to help complete projects to meet the expectations for tenure. 
Friday, May 12, 2017

Timothy Frye on NY1 Discussing Firing of James Comey

Timothy M. Frye, Marshall D. Shulman Professor of Post-Soviet Foreign Policy,  Chair of Columbia's Department of Political Science, and former Director of the Harriman Institute, discusses on NY1 the firing of FBI Director James Comey, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's visit to the White House.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Anna Frajlich to Receive Wybitny Polak Award in Recognition of Her Contributions to Polish Culture

It has been announced that Anna Frajlich (Senior Lecturer Emerita, Slavic Languages) has been named the recipient of the Wybitny Polak (Distinguished Pole) award in recognition of her many contributions to Polish culture. She will be presented a statuette at a ceremony to be hosted by the Consul General at the Consulate General of Poland in New York, on May 10, 2017, Poland's Constitution Day.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Harriman Institute Launches Expert Opinions, a New Podcast on EurasiaNet

In the inaugural episode, Masha Udensiva-Brenner sits down with three experts and a novelist to discuss the public protests that erupted all over Russia in late March, the aftermath, and the evolving state of U.S.-Russia relations.

Maria Snegovaya, a doctoral candidate in Columbia’s Department of Political Science and a columnist for the Russian business daily Vedomosti, is a frequent political commentator on TV and radio, and a contributor to media outlets such as the New Republic and the Washington Post.
Yana Gorokhovskaia is a postdoctoral research scholar in Russian Politics at the Harriman Institute. Her scholarship has appeared in Post-Soviet Affairs, among others. She recently published a piece on the Russian protests at IPI’s Global Observatory.
Maria Lipman, a Russian political analyst and commentator, currently Visiting Distinguished Fellow of Russian Studies at Indiana University, is the founding editor of the Counterpoint journal published by the Institute of European, Russian and Eurasian Studies (George Washington University). She was the editor-in-chief of the Pro et Contra journal published by the Carnegie Moscow Center, and an expert of the Carnegie Moscow Center’s Society and Regions Program. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New York Review of Books, and the New Yorker, among others.
Sana Krasikov is the award-winning author of the novel The Patriots (2017) and the short story collection One More Year (2008). In April 2017, she was one of the twenty-one U.S. novelists included in Granta’s decennial Best of Young American Novelists list.

*Photograph by Evgeny Feldman, “This is Navalny” Project