My research examines the role of the international system in shaping democracy and domestic reforms. I am especially interested in how global disruptions like hegemonic transitions and waves of diffusion create institutional change inside states.
This page lists my recent peer-reviewed publications. You can find an overview of my current research and papers in progress HERE. I am currently working on two long-term projects: a manuscript about the failed 1991 coup against Gorbachev, and a book examining how the global system shapes the legacies of state creation.
Seva Gunitsky and Andrei Tsygankov. The Wilsonian Bias in the Study of US Foreign Policy. Problems of Post-Communism 65.6:385-393. Dec 2018
We examine some common and in our view flawed assumptions about Russian foreign policy. We argue that it's a mistake to reduce Russia's motivations to Putin's pathologies or the country's domestic autocracy. Russian foreign policy is driven largely by pragmatism and geopolitical paranoia, focusing on two related goals of regional hegemony and peer recognition as a great power. [PDF]
Democratic Waves in Historical Perspective. Perspectives on Politics 16.3:634-651. Sep 2018
There have been a number of distinct bursts of democratization since the late 18th century (thirteen, by my count). How do we compare them to each other, and what lessons can they offer about the evolution of democracy? [PDF]
Lost in the Grey Zone: Competing Measures of Democracy in the Former Soviet Republics. In Ranking the World: Grading States as a Tool of Global Governance, edited by Alexander Cooley and Jack Snyder. Cambridge University Press, 2015
I examine measures of democracy in the former Soviet republics and find that indices often disagree about particular countries, even drawing contradictory conclusions from the same event. Measures of hybrid regimes are particularly unreliable. These differences, I argue, arise not only from incorrect specifications but from the inherent tradeoffs involved in defining a highly contested concept. [PDF]
Corrupting the Cyber-Commons: Social Media as a Tool of Autocratic Resilience. Perspectives on Politics 13.1:42-54. March 2015
Autocrats have increasingly moved beyond censoring social media to co-opting it for their own purposes. Namely, social media is increasingly being used to undermine the opposition, to shape the contours of public discussion, and to cheaply gather information about falsified public preferences. I detail the recent use of these tactics in mixed and autocratic regimes, with a focus on Russia, China, and the Middle East. [PDF]
From Shocks to Waves: Hegemonic Transitions and Democratization in the Twentieth Century. International Organization 68.3:561-97. July 2014
What causes democratic waves? I argue that abrupt shifts in the distribution of power among leading states create unique and powerful incentives for sweeping cascades of domestic reforms. These “hegemonic shocks” produce windows of opportunity for external regime imposition, enable rising powers to quickly expand networks of patronage, and inspire imitators by revealing hidden information about regime effectiveness to foreign audiences. [PDF]
Complexity and Theories of Change in International Politics. International Theory 5.1:35-63. March 2013.
I examine how principles of complex systems can explain change in theories of international relations. I apply the logic of complex systems to two puzzles in international politics — the absence of change in structural realism, and failures of democratic diffusion. In both cases, complex systems serve a limited but useful role. Though not conducive to theory creation, the approach provides a useful analytical prism for studying patterns of change in global processes. [PDF]