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ECPR Standing Group on the European Union 10th Biennial Conference LUISS, Rome

Hereditary Grooming in Post-Soviet Authoritarian Regimes: Signalling Strategic and Demonstration Effects

Comparative Perspective
Thomas Ambrosio
North Dakota State University
Jakob Tolstrup
Aarhus Universitet
Thomas Ambrosio
North Dakota State University

As scholars of comparative politics and international relations take authoritarianism more seriously, emphasizing the sources of autocratic resilience, increasing attention has been paid to authoritarian leadership succession. While nonhereditary successions are most common, authoritarian leaders have long sought to transfer power to family members. Brownlee’s groundbreaking work on hereditary republics systematically examined these situations for the first time and several subsequent works have sought to apply his framework to specific cases. However, it is important to understand the process before the succession event: the grooming of possible successors amongst one’s family members. This paper therefore examines this grooming process by focusing on the authoritarian states of the former Soviet Union, which has already seen a hereditary succession in the form of the transfer of power from Heydar Aliyev to his son, Ihman Aliyev. In several other cases, most notably in Central Asia, sons and daughters of the leaders have appeared to have initiated this process. Thus, the former Soviet Union can serve as an excellent source of comparative analysis and for understanding regional effects of hereditary groom. In this paper, we create a unique database of all autocratic leaders of the former Soviet Union and the government positions which their children have occupied. This database is subsequently analyzed in order to look for connections between the onset and intensification of apparent grooming and a variety of factors with the purpose of better understanding this element of the authoritarian toolkit from a comparative and regional perspective.
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