Recent publications

Beissinger, Mark R. 2022. The Revolutionary City: Urbanization and the Global Transformation of Rebellion. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Examining the changing character of revolution around the world, The Revolutionary City focuses on the impact that the concentration of people, power, and wealth in cities exercises on revolutionary processes and outcomes. Once predominantly an urban and armed affair, revolutions in the twentieth century migrated to the countryside, as revolutionaries searched for safety from government repression and discovered the peasantry as a revolutionary force. But at the end of the twentieth century, as urban centers grew, revolution returned to the city—accompanied by a new urban civic repertoire espousing the containment of predatory government and relying on visibility and the power of numbers rather than arms.


Using original data on revolutionary episodes since 1900, public opinion surveys, and engaging examples from around the world, Mark Beissinger explores the causes and consequences of the urbanization of revolution in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Beissinger examines the compact nature of urban revolutions, as well as their rampant information problems and heightened uncertainty. He investigates the struggle for control over public space, why revolutionary contention has grown more pacified over time, and how revolutions involving the rapid assembly of hundreds of thousands in central urban spaces lead to diverse, ad hoc coalitions that have difficulty producing substantive change. 


The Revolutionary City provides a new understanding of how revolutions happen and what they might look like in the future.

Beissinger, Mark, and Stephen Kotkin, ed. 2014. Historical Legacies of Communism in Russia and Eastern Europe. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Historical Legacies of CommunismThis book takes stock of arguments about the historical legacies of communism that have become common within the study of Russia and East Europe more than two decades after communism’s demise and elaborates an empirical approach to the study of historical legacies revolving around relationships and mechanisms rather than correlation and outward similarities.  Eleven essays by a distinguished group of scholars assess whether post-communist developments in specific areas continue to be shaped by the experience of communism, or alternatively by fundamental divergences produced before or after communism.  Chapters deal with the variable impact of the communist experience on post-communist societies in such areas as:  regime trajectories and democratic political values; patterns of regional and sectoral economic development; property ownership within the energy sector; the functioning of the executive branch of government, the police, and courts; the relationship of religion to the state; government language policies; and informal relationships and practices.

Contributors:   Stephen Kotkin, Mark R. Beissinger, Grigore Pop-Eleches, Clifford Gaddy, Béla Greskovits, Timothy Frye, Eugene Huskey, Brian Taylor, Alexei Trochev, Anna Grzymala-Busse, Volodomyr Kulyk, Jessica Pisano

Beissinger, Mark R., and Crawford Young, ed. 2002. Beyond State Crisis? Postcolonial Africa and Post-Soviet Eurasia in Comparative Perspective. Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson International Center Press and Johns Hopkins University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Beyond State cover

This book studies two world regions beset with extreme corruption, organized crime extending into warlordism, the disintegration of human services and economic institutions, and the breakdown of public institutions and the state. The contributors compare processes of state breakdown and collapse in the two world regions, as well as democratization, economic reform, ethnicity, and the status of women, comparing the consequences of post-communism with those of post-colonialism.

Contributors:  Mark R. Beissinger, Crawford Young, Achille Mbembe, Vadim Volkov, William Reno, Charles H. Fairbanks, Jr., David Holloway, Stephen John Stedman, Donald Rothchild, Lilia Shevtsova, Richard Joseph, Peter J. Stavrakis, Peter M. Lewis, Gail W. Lapidus, Francis M. Deng, Aili Mari Tripp, Ghia Nodia


Beissinger, Mark R. 2002. Nationalist Mobilization and the Collapse of the Soviet State. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Book cover Nationalist MobilizationThis study examines the process by which the seemingly impossible in 1987--the disintegration of the Soviet Union--became the seemingly inevitable by 1991, providing an original interpretation not only of the Soviet collapse, but also of the phenomenon of nationalism more generally. Probing the role of nationalist action as both cause and effect, Beissinger utilizes extensive event data and detailed case studies from across the USSR during its final years to elicit the shifting relationship between pre-existing structural conditions, institutional constraints, and event-generated influences in the massive nationalist explosions that brought about the collapse of the Soviet Union.  As Beissinger demonstrates, the "tidal" context of nationalism--that is, the transnational influence of one nationalism upon another--is critical to an explanation of the success and failure of particular nationalisms, the ability of governments to repress nationalist challenges, why some nationalisms turn violent, and how a mounting crescendo of events can potentially overwhelm states, periodically evoking large-scale structural change in the character of the state system.

Winner of the 2003 Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award, presented by the American Political Science Association for the best book published in the United States on government, politics, or international affairs; Winner of the 2003 Mattei Dogan Award, presented by the Society for Comparative Research for the best book published in the field of comparative research; Winner of the 2003 Award for Best Book on European Politics, presented by the Organized Section on European Politics and Society of the American Political Science Association.

Journal Article
Beissinger, Mark R. 2017. “‘Conventional’ and ‘Virtual’ Civil Societies in Autocratic Regimes”. Comparative Politics 49 (3) : 351-371.Abstract
In recent years many non-democracies have witnessed the rapid growth of new social media that have, in a number of instances, become vehicles for civic activism, even in the presence of anemic “conventional” civil society association.   Using evidence from Russia, Tunisia, Egypt, and Ukraine, this article explores the implications of “virtual” civil society for opposition politics in autocratic regimes.   The rise of “virtual” civil society potentially presents autocratic regimes with new challenges for control over the streets.  But a robust “virtual” civil society combined with a weak “conventional” civil society has a series of less positive consequences for oppositional politics, reinforcing weak political organization, breeding a false sense of representativeness, diluting collective identities within oppositions, and rendering mobilization over extended periods of time more difficult.
Beissinger, Mark R. 2015. “Self-Determination as a Technology of Imperialism: The Soviet and Russian Experiences”. Ethnopolitics 14 (5) : 479-487.Abstract
Self-determination is widely understood as an anti-imperial norm responsible in significant part for the global break-up of empires. But self-determination norms have been utilized as well to justify Great Power territorial expansion. This essay examines the ways in which self-determination norms have been wielded by the Soviet Union and Russia to justify overriding sovereignty norms, challenge the territorial integrity of weaker states, and rationalize an expansion of power and influence—despite opposition by a majority of inhabitants of the affected areas, the conflicting self-determination claims of indigenous populations, massive Russian settler colonization, and the opinions of the international community.
Beissinger, Mark R., Amaney Jamal, and Kevin Mazur. 2015. “Explaining Divergent Revolutionary Coalitions: Regime Strategies and the Structuring of Participation in the Tunisian and Egyptian Revolutions”. Comparative Politics 48 (1) : 1-24.Abstract
This study seeks to explain why the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions mobilized different constituencies. Using original survey data, we establish that while participants in both revolutions prioritized economic concerns and corruption over civil and political freedoms, Tunisian revolutionaries were significantly younger and more diverse in class composition than the predominantly middle-aged and middle-class participants in the Egyptian Revolution. Tunisian revolutionaries were also less likely to be members of civil society associations and more likely to rely on the internet as their source of information during the revolution. We explain these differences by reference to disparate incumbent regime strategies for coping with similar structural pressures for state contraction and political reform, which created different patterns of societal grievance and opposition mobilizing structures in their wake.
Beissinger, Mark R. 2013. “The Semblance of Democratic Revolution: Coalitions in Ukraine’s Orange Revolution”. American Political Science Review 107 (3) : 574-592. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Using two unusual surveys, this study analyzes participation in the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine, comparing participants with revolution supporters, opponents, counter-revolutionaries, and the apathetic/inactive. As the analysis shows, most revolutionaries were weakly committed to the revolution's democratic master narrative, and the revolution's spectacular mobilizational success was largely due to its mobilization of cultural cleavages and symbolic capital to construct a negative coalition across diverse policy groupings. A contrast is drawn between urban civic revolutions like the Orange Revolution and protracted peasant revolutions. The strategies associated with these revolutionary models affect the roles of revolutionary organization and selective incentives and the character of revolutionary coalitions. As the comparison suggests, postrevolutionary instability may be built into urban civic revolutions due to their reliance on a rapidly convened negative coalition of hundreds of thousands, distinguished by fractured elites, lack of consensus over fundamental policy issues, and weak commitment to democratic ends.
Beissinger, Mark R. 2011. “Mechanisms of Maidan: The Structure of Contingency in the Making of the Orange Revolution”. Mobilization: An International Quarterly 16 (1) : 25-43.Abstract
This study evaluates the validity and causal weight of competing mechanisms that purport to explain a single set of choices (and a critical turning point) within a contentious episode: the decision to participate in the Orange Revolution protests in Ukraine in November 2004. These protests were characterized by extraordinarily high levels of participation, despite freezing temperatures and the threat of violence. Using evidence from public-opinion surveys and eyewitness accounts, the study shows how causal processes unfolded and accumulated at several levels (structural, conjunctural, and endogenous). Overall, participation represented more of a short-term fluctuation than a general shift in societal values and behaviors, was fueled more by a long train of abuses than by suddenly imposed grievances, and was aided by a robust form of electoral campaigning. Events functioned as occasions for crafting together a diverse coalition of participants motivated by a variety of concerns--national, economic, and civic.
Beissinger, Mark R. 2009. “Nationalism and the Collapse of Soviet Communism”. Journal of Contemporary European History 18 (3) : 331-347.Abstract
This article examines the role of nationalism in the collapse of communism in the late 1980s and early 1990s, arguing that nationalism (both in its presence and its absence, and in the various conflicts and disorders that it unleashed) played an important role in structuring the way in which communism collapsed. Two institutions of international and cultural control in particular--the Warsaw Pact and ethnofederalism--played key roles in determining which communist regimes failed and which survived. The article argues that the collapse of communism was not a series of isolated, individual national stories of resistance but a set of interrelated streams of activity in which action in one context profoundly affected action in other contexts--part of a larger tide of assertions of national sovereignty that swept through the Soviet empire during this period.
Beissinger, Mark R. 2008. “A New Look at Ethnicity and Democratization”. Journal of Democracy 19 (3) : 85-97.Abstract
The third wave of democratization became the occasion for sharpening the engagement between ethnic identity and democracy, as democratization spread to countries that were much more fragmented along cultural lines than was true of early democratizers. Three sets of issues in particular were brought onto the agenda: whether ethnic diversity in and of itself represents a powerful obstacle to building stable democracies; whether strong ethnic identities are detrimental to the democratization process; and the causal paths by which ethnic identities are implicated in democratization and de-democratization processes. This essay examines these questions in light of the post-Soviet region, making three arguments. First, ethnic diversity is a relatively weak explanation of democratic development on its own, but ethnicity rather exercises its effects on democratization through its interaction with other factors that affect democratic development. Second, the impact of ethnicity on democratization flows through processes of ethnic mobilization, which are not a function of diversity per se, but rather revolve around how democratization affects the interests of minorities and the capacities of challenging groups. And third, ethnic nationalism is not necessarily incompatible with democracy, but rather depends on the types of objects against which ethnic groups mobilize, so that strong ethnic passions can form the basis for a mobilized path to democracy when ethnic nationalism is focused against foreign domination rather than against other ethnic groups.
Beissinger, Mark R. 2007. “Structure and Example in Modular Political Phenomena: The Diffusion of the Bulldozer/Rose/Orange/Tulip Revolutions”. Perspectives on Politics 5 (2) : 259-276.Abstract
This article develops an approach to the study of modular political phenomena (action based in significant part on emulation of the prior successful example of others), focusing on the trade-offs between the influence of example, structural facilitation, and institutional constraints. The approach is illustrated through the example of the spread of democratic revolution in the post-communist region during the 2000-2006 period, with significant comparisons to the diffusion of separatist nationalism in the Soviet Union during the glasnost' era. Two models by which modular processes unfold are specified: an elite defection model and an elite learning model. In both models the power of example is shown to exert an independent effect on outcomes, although the effect is considerably deeper in the former than in the latter case. The elite defection model corresponds to the institutional responses to separatist nationalism under glasnost', while the elite learning model describes well the processes involved in the spread of modular democratic revolution among the later risers in the post-communist region, limiting the likelihood of further revolutionary successes. The article concludes with some thoughts about the implications of the power of example for the study of modular phenomena such as democratization, nationalism, and revolution.
Book Chapter
Beissinger, Mark R. 2020. “Social Sources of Counterrevolution: State-Sponsored Contention during Revolutionary Episodes”. In Ruling by Other Means: State-Mobilized Social Movements, ed. Gregorz Ekiert, Elizabeth Perry, and Yan Xioajun. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press , p. 140-165. social_sources_of_counterrevolution.pdf
Beissinger, Mark R. 2017. “Beyond the Neo-Weberian Yardstick? Thinking of the State in Multiple Registers”. In Paradox of Power: The Logics of State Weakness in Eurasia , ed. John Heathershaw and Edward Schatz. Pittsburgh, PA: Pittsburgh University Press , p. 232-242.
Beissinger, Mark R., and Gwendolyn Sasse. 2014. “An End to Patience? The 2008 Global Financial Crisis and Political Protest in Eastern Europe”. In Mass Politics in Tough Times: Opinions, Votes, and Protest in the Great Recession, ed. Larry Bartels and Nancy Bermeo. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press , p. 334-370.Abstract
Based on an event analysis of 967 protest events, this paper explores the dynamics of economic protest across 18 countries in Eastern Europe in the context of the Great Recession. While the initial period of post-communist transition in the 1990s has been characterized as one of "patience" and quiescence, the 2008 economic crisis called this pattern into question, altering the level and nature of economic protest in the region. But there was considerable variation across the post-communist countries experiencing significant economic contraction. The countries that proved most vulnerable to high levels of economic protest were those that had been in the forefront of reform in the 1990s. They exhibited high levels of dependence on the global economy, and the transition and EU integration process generated public expectations about improving living standards that were dashed during the crisis. A number of other factors shaped protest responses among those states that experienced economic contraction: 1) levels of public sector employment; 2) IMF rescue packages; 3) public trust in government in the run-up to the crisis; and 4) political party mobilization. The essay further illustrates the causal processes underlying differential patterns of protest through paired comparisons of Latvia and Estonia on the one hand and Hungary and Ukraine on the other.