Yana Gorokhovskaia

Postdoctoral Research Scholar in Russian Politics
Columbia University
212 854-4623

Yana Gorokhovskaia completed her Ph.D. in political science at the University of British Columbia in August 2016. She is interested in the dynamics of Russia’s modern electoral authoritarian regime as well as other aspects of the Communist legacy in Eastern Europe.

Her dissertation, “Elections, Political Participation, and Authoritarian Responsiveness in Russia,” relies on both qualitative and quantitative methods to analyze subnational elections, public mobilization, and political engagement in Russia. Broadly, Yana’s dissertation makes three contributions. First, using a dataset of socio-political protest across Russia’s regions, Yana shows that Russian elites are responsive to public demand making and that elections in so-called “noisier” regions are both more competitive and more tightly controlled. On the one hand, regime-backed candidates tend to have a harder time avoiding run-off elections in regions with a recent history of protest. On the other hand, opposition candidates tend to be disqualified before the election at higher rates in these same regions. This finding suggests that electoral malpractices in electoral authoritarian regimes is tailored in such a way as to avoid damaging the perceived legitimacy of the regime. Second, using original, in-depth interview data with activists and politicians conducted in St. Petersburg and Moscow, Yana shows that the involvement of previously apolitical non-elite actors in organized politics in an authoritarian state is motivated by protest waves and facilitated by education, training, and organization provided civil society. Once in office, these opposition-minded individuals tend to rely on hyper-legalistic methods for combating small-scale corruption, a finding that contrasts with prevalent arguments in the literature on informal politics in post-Soviet states. Lastly, Yana argues for the expansion of the framework of the “uneven playing field" of authoritarian elections to include efforts by the regime to promote rather than stifle competition. Based on observations research in Moscow, she suggests that the pursuit of electoral legitimacy motivates autocrats to use administrative measures not to keep opposition candidates out of elections but rather to ensure their participation.

Yana’s two main projects at the Harriman Institute expand on her dissertation research. The first project analyzes the economic drivers of voter turnout across Russia’s regions. Voter turnout has been shown to be a powerful tool for an authoritarian regime. Recent research suggests that employees or members of sectors that are highly economically dependent on the state are vulnerable to mobilization efforts in support of United Russia (UR). Yet we do not understand the relative strategic importance of each set of vulnerable populations nor whether mobilization efforts are uniform across types of elections or over time. This projects aims to answer these questions by analyzing the variation in turnout across Russia’s regions and across different election types from 2005 to 2015. The second project uses social network analysis and draws on articles about Russian civil society that use qualitative methods published in the last ten years in leading regional study journals to analyze the structure and density of Russian civil society as well as to determine which sources scholars of Russia tend to rely when drawing conclusions about political dynamics in that country.

In addition to these projects, Yana is interested more widely in the post-Soviet region and has written about the way post-Communist states engage with their past, the annexation of Crimea, and issues of migration from the “near-abroad” in Russia. During her time at UBC, she taught courses on comparative politics, international relations and comparative political institutions. She also co-supervised the Undergraduate Honours program in the Department of Political Science for two years, during which time she received a Killam Teaching Award.