Exploring ‘Overdeveloped’ Post-Communist Autocracies

Alo Raun


This review article focuses on the phenomenon where some countries do not follow the general pattern suggested by the modernisation theory – the more developed, the more democratic. Former Soviet states like Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus appear as anomalies displaying very high level of human development, despite being fully authoritarian. Considering that divergence, this article reviews main theoretical approaches used to explain democratisation and autocratic resilience of post-communist regimes. In addition, a preliminary test is conducted to evaluate the potential of these theoretical approaches to address the fact that such countries outperform both more open neighbouring non-democracies and some democracies. While some theories imply possible explanations (patronal politics, conditional approach to resource dependence, and market social contract), none of them sufficiently discloses the hidden mechanism behind such an anomaly, implying the need for more in-depth studies.

Keywords: modernisation theory, neopatrimonialism, patronal politics, rentier state theory, market social contract.

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Tallinn University School of Governance, Law and Society

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ISSN 1736‐9541 ISBN 978‐9949‐29‐232‐5