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Presented By: Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies

CREES Noon Lecture. Making Autocracy Worse: The End of the Myth of Authoritarian Competence in Putin's Russia

Kathryn Stoner, Professor of Political Science, Stanford University

Kathryn Stoner Kathryn Stoner
Kathryn Stoner
If Ukraine has become the beachhead for European democracy and security, then Russia is the vanguard of modern autocracy. Under almost 23 years of Putin's rule of Russia, the country's political system has devolved into a repressive, personalistic and internationally aggressive form of authoritarianism. The implications for Europe and global democracy are decidedly negative, as we are seeing in Ukraine currently. But the implications are increasingly problematic also for Putin’s regime. The deepening of autocracy in Russia (making it worse or more repressive) is a result of more than a decade of declining regime performance. The war in Ukraine has now exploded the already ailing myth of competency that Putin has perpetuated since the early 2000’s and has made his regime vulnerable to elite and social pressure. Professor Stoner will use the Russian case to examine why autocracies sometimes get worse over time, and what this process tells us about regime resilience.

Kathryn Stoner is the deputy director at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University and a senior fellow at the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law, and the Center on International Security and Cooperation at FSI. She teaches in the Department of Political Science at Stanford, and in the Program on International Relations, as well as in the Ford Dorsey Master's in International Policy Program. Prior to her appointment at Stanford, she was on the faculty at Princeton University for nine years, jointly appointed to the Department of Politics and the Woodrow Wilson School for International and Public Affairs. At Princeton she received the Ralph O. Glendinning Preceptorship awarded to outstanding junior faculty. She also served as a visiting associate professor of political science at Columbia University, and an assistant professor of political science at McGill University. She has held fellowships at Harvard University as well as the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC.

In addition to many articles and book chapters on contemporary Russia, she is the author or co-editor of five books: Transitions to Democracy: A Comparative Perspective, written and edited with Michael A. McFaul (Johns Hopkins 2013); Autocracy and Democracy in the Post-Communist World, co-edited with Valerie Bunce and Michael A. McFaul (Cambridge, 2010); Resisting the State: Reform and Retrenchment in Post-Soviet Russia (Cambridge, 2006); After the Collapse of Communism: Comparative Lessons of Transitions, coedited with Michael A. McFaul (Cambridge, 2004); and Local Heroes: The Political Economy of Russian Regional Governance (Princeton, 1997). She is currently finishing a book project entitled "Russia Resurrected: Its Power and Purpose in a New Global Order" (Oxford University Press, forthcoming). She received a B.A. and M.A. in political science from the University of Toronto, and a Ph.D. in government from Harvard University.

This lecture will be presented in person in 1010 Weiser Hall and on Zoom. Webinar registration required at

If there is anything we can do to make this event accessible to you, please contact us at Please be aware that advance notice is necessary as some accommodations may require more time for the university to arrange.

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