Street-Level Autocrats: Individual Decisions with Collective Consequences

Led by Kristin M. Bakke
Oct 2018 - Dec 2021

Why do some pro-democracy movements succeed in overthrowing authoritarian regimes, while others do not? Why does the military sometimes 'shoot to kill' when faced with revolutionary movements, while in other cases they refuse to do so? And why are some post-revolutionary regimes more enduring than others? We propose that these questions are interlinked. The overthrow of an authoritarian regime is hard to explain without considering the army's decision to side with the revolutionary movement, just as it is difficult to explain the political trajectory of the new regime without considering the army's role during the revolution.

Indeed, the loyalty of the security forces is vital for understanding what happens when large-scale social movements challenge the regime. When ordered to use force, members of the police and military do not always comply. If a sufficiently large share of the military and police decide to shirk or even desert and join the protesters, the days of the regime are likely to be numbered. The actions of these 'street-level autocrats' during the revolution also matters for the new regime's legitimacy—and, as such, long-term stability. People's perceptions of whose side the members of the security apparatus were on are likely to have an enduring impact on their trust in the security apparatus and the state as a security provider.

Using both qualitative and quantitative research methods, coupled with new and unique data, including surveys in Ukraine, Serbia, and Georgia, we aim to build a better understanding of regime change and stability. By disaggregating the actors that make up the state—from the incumbent government down to the individual member of the security apparatus—and examining how they interact with civil society, we aim to explain why some pro-democracy movements succeed only in the short run but not in the long run, while others successfully bring about democratic consolidation. 

​This project is funded by the Research Council of Norway (FRIPRO).

Research Groups


Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Dahl, Marianne & Kristian Skrede Gleditsch (2023) Clouds with silver linings: how mobilization shapes the impact of coups on democratization, European Journal of International Relations. DOI: 10.1177/13540661221143213.
Rivera, Mauricio; Kristian Skrede Gleditsch & Martin Macias (2022) A Double -Edge Sword? Mass Media and Nonviolent Dissent in Autocracies, Political Research Quarterly. DOI: 10.1177/10659129221080921.
Godefroidt, Amélie; Karin Dyrstad & Kristin M. Bakke (2022) The past, Brexit, and the future in Northern Ireland: a quasi-experiment, Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties. DOI: 10.1080/17457289.2022.2090951.
Dahl, Marianne; Scott Gates; Belen Gonzalez & Kristian Skrede Gleditsch (2021) Accounting for numbers: Group characteristics and the choice of violent and nonviolent tactics, The Economics of Peace and Security Journal 16(1): 5–25.
Rickard, Kit & Kristin M. Bakke (2021) Legacies of Wartime Order: Punishment Attacks and Social Control in Northern Ireland, Security Studies 30(4): 603–636.
Cunningham, Kathleen Gallagher; Marianne Dahl & Anne Frugé (2020) Introducing the Strategies of Resistance Data Project, Journal of Peace Research 57(3): 482–491.
Nygård, Håvard Mokleiv (2020) What will the world look like after the pandemic?, Jeju Forum Journal 1(1): 64–71.
Baev, Pavel K. (2019) Revisiting the Problem of Post-Soviet Revolutions: The Armenian Revolution Makes Some Difference, International Relations and Diplomacy 7(8): 363–369.
Baev, Pavel K. (2018) What Made Russia Indifferent to the Revolution in Armenia, Caucasus Analytical Digest. DOI: 10.3929/ethz-b-000277024(104): 20–24.

Book Chapter

Baev, Pavel K. (2020) Preserving the alliance against tall odds: Armenia's Velvet Revolution as a challenge to Russia, in Ohanyan, Anna; & Laurence Broers, eds, Armenia's Velvet Revolution: Authoritarian Decline and Civil Resistance in a Multipolar World. London: I.B.Tauris.

Non-refereed Journal Article

Baev, Pavel K. (2020) Belarus Starts the Series of “Corona-Crisis Revolutions”, Panorama: 1–3.

Popular Article

Bakke, Kristin M. & Marianne Dahl (2023) Putins krig i Ukraina har forsterket vanlige folks vestlige orientering, Aftenposten, 12 January.
Bakke, Kristin M.; Gerard Toal; John O'Loughlin & Kit Rickard (2023) Putin’s plan to stop Ukraine turning to the west has failed – our survey shows support for Nato is at an all-time high, The Conversation, 4 January.
Dahl, Marianne; Hanne Fjelde; Ida Rudolfsen & Sirianne Dahlum (2022) Sivilsamfunnet jobber i motbakke for å forsvare demokratiet, Morgenbladet, 17 November.
Dahl, Marianne (2022) Noen regimer faller nærmest over natten. Det kan også skje med Putin, Aftenposten, 15 September.
Butcher, Charles & Marianne Dahl (2022) Krigen i Ukraina handler om demokrati, Aftenposten, 22 March.
Rød, Espen Geelmuyden; Marianne Dahl; Haakon Gjerløw & Hanne Fjelde (2022) Et folkelig opprør kan bli Putins skjebne, NRK Ytring, 16 March.
Bakke, Kristin M. (2022) Hva vil folket i Ukraina? [What Do People in Ukraine Want?], Aftenposten, 1 March.
Bakke, Kristin M. (2022) What Do People in Ukraine Want?, UCL Conflict & Change, 25 February.
Bakke, Kristin M. & Kit Rickard (2021) Northern Ireland: how to understand the influence of paramilitary groups, The Conversation, 12 April.
Bakke, Kristin M.; Gerard Toal & John O'Loughlin (2020) Nagorno-Karabakh: what do residents of the contested territory want for their future?, The Conversation, 12 October.
Toal, Gerard; John O'Loughlin & Kristin M. Bakke (2020) The fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh is about local territories and wider rivalries, The Washington Post, Monkey Cage, 2 October.
Baev, Pavel K. (2020) No peacemakers for the new/old Caucasian war, Order from Chaos, 30 September.
Baev, Pavel K. (2020) Dismissing European outrage, Russia turns itself into a "Great Pariah Power", Eurasia Daily Monitor, 21 September.
O'Loughlin, John; Gerard Toal & Kristin M. Bakke (2020) Is Belarus in the midst of a generational upheaval?, Global Voices, 17 September.
Baev, Pavel K. (2020) Russia Alarmed and Awed by the Belarusian Revolution, Eurasia Daily Monitor, 14 September.
Baev, Pavel K. (2020) A Chain of Poor Choices Leads Putin Into a Serious Blunder, Eurasia Daily Monitor, 8 September.
Toal, Gerard; John O'Loughlin & Kristin M. Bakke (2020) What’s driving the Belarus protests?, Washington Post, Monkey Cage, 21 August.
Bakke, Kristin M.; Hannah Smidt & Neil J. Mitchell (2020) Governments Around the World Are Restricting Rights, Using the Pandemic as Cover, Wahington Post, Monkey Cage, 6 May.
Toal, Gerard; John O'Loughlin & Kristin M. Bakke (2020) Are some NGOs really "foreign agents"? Here's what people in Georgia and Ukraine say, Open Democracy, 16 April.
Dahl, Marianne; Tora Sagård; Haakon Gjerløw & Bintu Zahara Sakor (2019) Twitterrevolusjonens vekst og fall [The Rise and Fall of the Twitter Revolution], Aftenposten, 8 December.

Conference Paper

Dahl, Marianne; Mauricio Rivera & Scott Gates (2022) Unpacking Disloyalty: Dissent Strategies and Subversive Actions Among Security Forces, presented at Securing the victory workshop, Oslo, 6 December 2022.
Dahlum, Sirianne; Marianne Dahl; Hanne Fjelde & Ida Rudolfsen (2022) The Dark Side of Mobilisation: Global Evidence on Authoritarian Protests, presented at European Political Science Association, Prague, 24 June 2022.
Bakke, Kristin M.; Marianne Dahl & Kit Rickard (2022) Women, Protests, and Defection, presented at Jan Tinbergen European Peace Science Conference, London, 21 June 2022.
Dahl, Marianne; Mauricio Rivera & Håvard Mokleiv Nygård (2021) Defection during dissent and regime transitions, presented at Securing the Victory Workshop, Oslo, 7 December 2021.
Nygård, Håvard Mokleiv (2020) Timing Matters: The Impact of Regularity of Election Cycles on Autocratic Stability, presented at Working Paper, PRIO, Oslo, 22.04.2020.
Rickard, Kit & Kristin M. Bakke (2019) Legacies of wartime institutions: Vigilantism and the state in Northern Ireland, presented at Annual meeting of the International Studies Association, Toronto, 27–30 March.
Rickard, Kit & Kristin M. Bakke (2019) Legacies of wartime institutions: Vigilantism and the state in Northern Ireland, presented at Annual meeting of the European Political Science Association, Belfast, 20–22 June.
Baev, Pavel K. (2019) The evolving phenomenon of post-Soviet revolutions: The new "velvet" impetus, presented at Caucasus-2018, Yerevan, Armenia, 21 June.
Sudduth, Jun Koga (2019) Who punishes the leader? Culpability and accountability during civil war, presented at The Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Toronto, 27–30 March.
Dahl, Marianne & Kristian Skrede Gleditsch (2019) Not a one way street: Coups d'état, civil society mobilization and democratization, presented at State-Citizen Interactions during and after Violence, University College London, 29th – 30th of May.

Report - External Series

Baev, Pavel K. (2019) Russia misguided and seeks to restrain the revolution in Armenia, PONARS Eurasia Memo, 599. Washington DC: George Washington University.

Past Events


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