Sharon Rivera

Associate Professor of Government Sharon Werning Rivera presented a paper at the 48th Annual Convention of the Association for Slavic, East European & Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 20.

“Understanding the Silovik Mindset” explored the widely-held view that Vladimir Putin’s appointment of siloviki—individuals possessing professional experience in various military and security forces—has contributed to Russia’s continuing descent into authoritarian rule. 

In the paper, Rivera asked whether Russia’s siloviki actually possess a distinctly illiberal worldview that sets them apart from other elites. 

Using an original survey of 243 Russian elites conducted in 2016, Rivera found that individuals with backgrounds in Russia’s force structures do in fact differ systematically from civilian elites in their assessments of the merits of pluralist democracy.

Rivera explored a possible source of those differences—that siloviki perceive Russia as being under dire threat from the West more than those lacking military or security experience. 

She said that these heightened threat perceptions might be an important reason that past employment in a military or security structure is associated with less support for democratic norms and institutions.  

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