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Sharon Rivera.

Sharon Werning Rivera, the Sidney Wertimer Professor of Government, recently presented a paper at the annual convention of the Association for Slavic, East European, & Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) in Chicago.

Titled “Elite Support for Political Pluralism in 2020: Comparing Civilians and Siloviki in the Survey of Russian Elites,” the paper was co-authored with Visiting Assistant Professor of Government David W. Rivera and Alexander Nemeth ’21. It is an extension of previous work by the Riveras.

The paper examines the conventional wisdom that the influx of former military and security officers (siloviki) during Vladimir Putin’s rule both accounts for the authoritarian nature of Russia’s political system and serves to undermine the prospects for democratization after Putin leaves office. This argument rests largely on the claim that Russian military and security officers possess a less liberal world­view than do civilian elites.

To test their claim, the authors used data collected in 2020 by the Survey of Russian Elites, a project directed by Sharon Rivera with support from the Levitt Center and National Science Foundation.

They analyzed the positions of influential Russians toward several core components of liberal democracy to ascertain whether attitudinal differences between siloviki and civilians have narrowed, remained the same, or widened since their last study of this issue based on 2016 data. The results showed that those with experience in the force structures remain significantly less sympathetic towards liberal democratic values than are elites in exclusively civilian employ.

The paper is based on a project derived from work completed by Sharon Rivera and her Levitt Summer Research Group in 2020.

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