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ECPR Futures Lab 2020

Adopt and Adapt: Authoritarian Learning in post-Soviet Kazakhstan

Comparative Politics
Adele Del Sordi
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München – LMU
Adele Del Sordi
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München – LMU

What is the role of the external context on regime stability? The literature on authoritarian learning has been trying to answer this question by studying how regimes look for examples of successful measures, whether in their past or in other countries, in moments of crisis. However, despite notable exceptions, the mechanisms of learning are still understudied and need in-depth empirical work.
This paper contributes to the debate by analysing the case of soft authoritarian Kazakhstan. Kazakhstani government elites learn from their Central Asian peers as well as from Russia and China about how to prevent and pre-empt stability threats and adopt, as a result, similar authoritarian “toolkits” of policy measures.

The paper focuses in particular on two policy areas where learning materializes. The first policy area considered is the regulation of Non-Governmental Organizations, where a number of restrictive laws and financial incentives was largely influenced by the Russian example. The second area is the severe legislation on extremism, terrorism and religious fundamentalism, for which a number of documents approved within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization constitutes the main source. The paper analyses how these authoritarian policies have been adopted and how, and perhaps more importantly, adapted to the local context.
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