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Research Seminar | Perceptions of the past in the post-Soviet space

Monday April 4, 2022, from 13:30 to 15:00
Research seminar

Kristin Bakke (University College London). ChairLesley-Ann Daniels (IBEI)

Honing in on how citizens in the former Soviet Union find themselves in an information competition over their own past—torn between narratives put forth by political elites both domestically and in Russia—this paper explores whether and why ordinary people’s perceptions of historical events and figures in their country’s past are in line with a Russian-promoted narrative. We draw on comparative survey data across seven states and de facto states to examine whether proximity to Russia—be that geographic, cultural, or geopolitical proximity—is associated with a more favourable view on a Russian-promoted narrative about the past. We find that geopolitical proximity is associated with seeing World War II—known as the ‘Great Patriotic War’ in Russia and some former Soviet states—as a glorious Soviet victory and Stalin as a great leader—though the findings are less consistent when it comes to measures for cultural and geographic proximity.

Focusing on political violence, Professor Bakke’s research explores post-war state-building and wartime governance, states’ responses to opposition movements within their borders, the dynamics of violence in self-determination struggles, and geopolitical attitudes (see her website). She draws on multiple methods in her work—large-n cross-case analyses, public opinion surveys, and fieldwork-based case studies—and collaborates with colleagues from different disciplines. She has conducted fieldwork in Northern Ireland, India, Guatemala, Canada, and several post-Soviet states and de facto states. She is the author of Decentralization and Intrastate Struggles: Chechnya, Punjab, and Québec, which was published with Cambridge University Press in 2015 and received the Conflict Research Society’s Book of the Year Award in 2016. Her work has also been published in journals such as International SecurityInternational Studies QuarterlyJournal of Conflict ResolutionJournal of Peace ResearchPerspectives on PoliticsPolitical Geography, and World Politics. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Economic and Social Research Council, and the Norwegian Research Council.

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