Department of Political Science


Dr. Katerina Tertytchnaya awarded a UKRI New Investigator Grant

13 September 2021

Dr. Katerina Tertytchnaya has been awarded a UKRI New Investigator Grant worth £255,000 to support research on the politics on nonviolent repression in contemporary electoral autocracies.


The project, which will run for three years, will allow Dr. Tertytchnaya to investigate how contemporary electoral autocracies, regimes that combine authoritarian practices with multiparty elections, use legal strategies of repression, delegated to bureaucrats and courts, in order to restrict protest and hinder opposition and voter coordination. The project builds on pilots funded by the British Academy-Leverhulme Small Research Grants, and the SHS Dean’s Strategic Fund.

Iron Fists in Velvet Gloves: Nonviolent Repression in Electoral Autocracies

According to the Varieties of Democracy project, this year, 54% of the world's population live in nondemocracies. The dominant form of nondemocracy are electoral autocracies, regimes that permit opposition parties and uncompetitive elections. To manage dissent, governments in these regimes increasing rely on strategies of nonviolent repression. Using the law, for example, they reduce spaces available for protest and restrict opposition groups' access to funding.

Restrictions on protest rights, intensified in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, are according to Civicus one of the most common strategies of political repression today, affecting two thirds of the world's population. While international organisations' and advanced democracies' ability to document and condemn repressive practices is critical for defending democracy, our understanding of nonviolent repression is limited. Existing research does not adequately 1) explore strategies of repression that do not involve the use of coercion; 2) study agents of repression beyond the security apparatus; and, 3) problematize how nonviolent repression influences opposition parties and voters.

This project offers the first systematic study of how strategies of nonviolent repression influence protest coordination between different types of opposition parties and voters in electoral autocracies. I focus on one strategy of nonviolent repression in particular, the use of protest notifications. Traditionally used to facilitate negotiations between protest organisers and the authorities, protest notifications are often used as a tool of political control in order to redirect, dissuade, and prohibit demonstrations. Seldom effective at preventing protests, protest notifications and laws regulating protests also allow the authorities to fine, arrest, and prosecute the organisers and participants of unauthorised events - those that go ahead without a permit. I explore the effect of protest notifications on opposition and voter coordination through a study of Russian protest coalitions and public opinion. Russia, one of the world's most influential electoral autocracies, is an innovator in using nonviolent strategies of control at home, before exporting them abroad. This project asks:

  1. How do strategies of nonviolent repression, such as protest notifications, influence opposition and voter coordination in electoral autocracies? 
  2. What factors amplify, or undermine their effect on opposition and voter coordination in these regimes?

Drawing on insights from comparative politics and sociology to theorize the effect of nonviolent repression on opposition and voter coordination, the project aims to advance scholarship on authoritarian politics and repression. It also aims to advance methods for collecting protest notifications and event data, and for eliciting sensitive responses in electoral autocracies. Through research dissemination activities and teaching, the project also intends to increase public awareness of nonviolent repression. Finally, the project aims to impact policy and NGO monitoring of civic space developments. It will do so by delivering new data, workshops, and articles that improve understanding of nonviolent repression.

Funded Value: £255,073
Funded Period: Sep 21 - Aug 24
Funder: ESRC
Project Category: Research Grant
Project Reference: ES/V012207/1
Principal Investigator: Katerina Tertytchnaya