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ON MY MIND

Authoritarian states become democratic for a number of reasons.

According to research conducted by UCLA political scientist Daniel Treisman (featured below), in about a third of the cases from 1800-2015, liberalization is intentional. But in the vast majority of cases, it is an accident resulting from the mistakes, miscalculations, and hubris of autocrats. And in 85 percent of the cases Treisman examined over a 205-year period, liberalization was preceded by mass unrest.

And as political commentator Leonid Bershidsky points out in his column (also featured below), Treisman's research is highly relevant today as authoritarian regimes like Vladimir Putin's appear ascendant -- and liberal democracy appears on the defensive.

Today, the Kremlin leader appears to be firmly in charge. "But even Putin, after 17 years in power, is in danger of making a miscalculation one day, perhaps finally misreading the mood of the increasingly cynical Russian public that keeps registering support for him in largely worthless polls," Bershidsky notes.

After it's heady expansion at the end of the 20th century, liberal democracy has been under assault in the 21st.

Treisman's research is recommended reading for anybody seeking to understand how the tide will turn again.

IN THE NEWS

The joint NATO-Russia Council is set to meet for a third time this year on October 26, with Ukraine and Afghanistan on the agenda.

The Moscow-based company Kaspersky Lab has acknowledged that its antivirus software took source code for a secret U.S. hacking tool from a personal computer in the United States.

Two prominent Russian journalists say they will sue their country's main security agency over its demand that Telegram hand over encryption keys enabling authorities to decipher encoded messages transmitted on the popular app.

Crimean Tatar leaders Akhtem Chiygoz and Ilmi Umerov, who were sentenced to prison by Russian courts on the occupied peninsula in September, have been released from custody and traveled to Turkey, Ukrainian officials, legislators, and lawyers said.

A court in the Russian city of Sochi has jailed two activists supporting opposition politician Aleksei Navalny's presidential election campaign.

Ilya Yashin, a prominent Russian opposition politician says that a fellow activist has died two months after an attack in which he was beaten with a metal pipe.

U.S. President Donald Trump has said that Russia is hindering U.S. efforts to rid North Korea of nuclear weapons, while China has been helpful.

The U.S. State Department says it is still "working on" steps to implement legislation that Congress passed in July in an effort to strengthen sanctions against Russia.

A Russian Orthodox priest charged with attempted pimping and human-trafficking went on trial in Belarus this week.

A bombing in Kyiv has killed two people and injured five others, including lawmaker Ihor Mosiychuk of the nationalist opposition Radical Party, Ukraine's main security agency says.

The treason trial of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in absentia has been adjourned until December 4 after his new lawyer asked for more time to prepare.

A Kazakh blogger who fled to Ukraine after criticizing President Nursultan Nazarbaev's government has been ordered held in custody amid fears she could be extradited, her lawyer says.

WHAT I'M READING

How Authoritarianism Becomes Democracy

UCLA political scientist Daniel Treisman has published research on how authoritarian regimes become democratic, examining 218 cases from 1800 to 2015.

In his column for Bloomberg, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky reviews Treisman's thesis and applies it to Vladimir Putin's regime.

Report: Global Powers In The 21st Century

The Finnish Institute of International Affairs has a new report: Fluid Dynamics: Global Great Powers In The 21st Century.

The Sobchak Campaign

In his column for Raam Op Rusland, Mark Galeotti of the Institute of International Relations in Prague, author of the forthcoming book The Vory, looks at Ksenia Sobchak and the "presidential reality show."

RBK, meanwhile, is reporting that political commentator Stanislav Belkovsky has joined Sobchak's campaign.

And Meduza breaks down Sobchak's interview on the state-controlled Channel 1.

Putin's Global Designs

In an op-ed for The Moscow Times, Dmitry Trenin, director of the Moscow Carnegie Center, explains Putin's grand design to remake the international order.

When Russian Trolls Attack

In Wired, Yulia James and Sophia Jones take a close look at what happens to somebody "when Russian trolls attack" them.

The Weinstein Scandal Through Russian Eyes

In The New Yorker, Masha Gessen, author of the recently published book The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, looks at the Harvey Weinstein scandal through Russian eyes.

Reconstructing A Massacre

Meduza has a piece looking back at the June 1962 Novocherkassk massacre in which Soviet troops opened fire on demonstrators following labor unrest, killing 26 and wounding 87.

About This Blog

The Power Vertical
The Power Vertical

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It offers Brian's personal take on emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or

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