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Balint Madlovics, Balint Magyar: Ukrainian Regime Cycles and the Russian Invasion

“The Russian aggression in Ukraine in February 2022 highlighted the urgency of updating general assumptions about the post-communist region,” our Junior Research Fellow Balint Madlovics and Senior Research Fellow Balint Magyar write in their CEU DI Working Paper.

In this paper, the authors dissolve three axioms of the mainstream comparative approach, and develop a conceptual framework for analyzing post-communist democracies, autocracies, and dictatorships. Understanding Russia as a patronal autocracy and Ukraine as a patronal democracy, they explore the regime-level consequences of the war in both countries. While Russia moves closer to dictatorship, the tectonic changes in the Ukrainian political-economic system present a unique opportunity for antipatronal transformation and breaking free of the trap of regime cycles that had characterized three decades of Ukraine’s history before 2022.

At the same time, the paper calls attention to the possible dangers of this transformation and argues that anti-patronal transformation – with its fundamental conditions being met – is a long-term, multi-step process that will require the joint effort of various political, economic, and societal actors in the domestic and international field.

The paper concludes that the interplay of war-induced and society-driven changes (which have been going on since the Euromaidan Revolution in 2013) make it possible for Ukraine to abandon its post-communist legacy after the war and start rebuilding on a more stable basis of democratic development as part of the West.

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