Columbia University in the City of New York

Harriman Institute




Legitimated State Repression in Authoritarian Regimes: Russia 2010-2017

This event was held virtually as a Zoom webinar and streamed via YouTube Live.

Please join us for a presentation by Seonhee Kim, Postdoctoral Research Scholar at the Harriman Institute, followed by a discussion moderated by Harriman director Alexander Cooley.

Authoritarian states deploy diverse tactics to contain dissent and to gain popular support for their rules. Especially in face of popular anti-regime movements, authoritarian regimes tend to opt for softer control over outright coercion deterring the backlash of resorting to physical violence. Likewise, Russian state responded to rising anti-regime social movements since the Bolotnaya protest with relatively moderate levels of repression primarily via preventive restrictions on collective action and freedom of press and expression. Kim unpacks Russia’s tactics in managing activities of civil society: The application of repressive laws specifically targeting a wide range of dissent movements has been concentrated to mostly the middle or low levels of severity while the overall volume of cases under the repressive laws has been on the rise. Kim argues that the Russian state’s concern for the legitimacy of rule shaped such a distinct form of state repression. Legitimizing state repression involved diverse actors whose interests do not necessarily align with those of the central elites. In this regard, the state repression is less the result of the central elites’ original design than the consequential effect of having different actors involved in the processes of lawmaking and applying the laws on the ground. Kim will discuss how the legitimated process inevitably reflects the properties of authoritarian legal institutions resulting in the moderate levels of state repression.

Seonhee Kim is a Postdoctoral Research Scholar at the Harriman Institute at Columbia University. She specializes in the politics of authoritarian and hybrid regimes in the region of Russia and Post-Soviet states. Kim’s work broadly speaks to the field of comparative politics and political economy, covering the topics of state repression, social movements, judicial politics, and authoritarian institutions. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Washington in December 2019.


Event Video