Director of the Visiting Fellows Programme
Anna Korhonen
Head of International Affairs
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Eeva Korteniemi
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Location & Connections


Visiting Fellows 2014-2015

Olga Kniazeva, University of British Columbia, Canada

“Opposition and Dissent in Petro-States: International Oil Markets and Political Mobilization"
(August-September 2014)

Olga Kniazeva (formerly Olga Beznosova) obtained a PhD degree in political science from the University of British Columbia in November 2013. Her dissertation was entitled “Opposition and Dissent in Petro-States: International Oil Markets and Political Mobilization in Russia.” She is as a sessional instructor in comparative politics at the department of political science, University of British Columbia, and also manages a portfolio of complex multifaceted projects involving federal, provincial, and First Nations governance structures and organizations. Olga’s research interests include Russia’s political economy of oil and regime transitions, Russia’s welfare state, state-society relations, Russia’s energy policy and strategy (including development of renewable energy in a petro-state), and informal institutions.

Abstract of current research:
Many observers today find themselves pondering the role of oil and gas sector in political economy and politics more generally. Oil is the fundamental force that runs underneath all political currents in petro-states. It lubricates state-society relations. It intervenes in domestic and foreign policies. What is the relationship between natural resources and democracy, and how can oil-rich countries escape the trap of oil-led development often associated with misuse of power? Are petroleum-exporting states indeed “cursed” by this abundance and doomed to remain authoritarian in the years to come?

I examine the dynamics of regime transitions between authoritarian and democratic rule in pre- and post-communist Russia. The main contribution of this project is to identify precise mechanisms of how oil rent fluctuations translate into political regime transition. Using direct evidence I test the hypotheses that external economic shocks shape the state’s behavior and mass political contention. I find that the critical (and missing) link between political economy and the resulting regime type is in state-society relations in the form of an oil-based social contract. As a result the state is seen as a provider and guarantor of public good and social benefits and hence the societal actors give up their bargaining power in order to obtain those perks. The society itself invites and approves of the state dominance. Thus political contention declines and democracy deteriorates.

Email: olga.beznosova [at]

Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen and Emma Hakala