I am a computational political scientist and data scientist. I am currently a Research Officer at European Institute and a final year PhD Candidate at the Department of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).  

Methods in Russian Studies: Overview of Top Political Science, Economics, and Area Studies Journals

Published in Post-Soviet Affairs. Available in open access here 

How has Russia been studied by political scientists, economists, and scholars in cognate fields who publish in specialized area-specific journals studied Russia? To systematically analyze the approaches employed in Russian studies over the last decade, I collected all publications (1,097 articles) on the country from the top five area studies journals covering the territories of the former USSR, the top 10 journals in political science, and the top five journals in economics from January 2010 to January 2022 and classified them based on the methods they utilized, empirical focus, and sub-fields within method. In this article, I discuss the results of this classification and the pitfalls associated with over-reliance on some methods over others, notably those that include self-reported data, in the context of Russia’s war against Ukraine and the increasingly repressive domestic environment under Putin’s autocracy. I also propose some ways of addressing the new realities of diminished access to data and fieldwork.

Keywords: Russia, Russian Studies, methods, surveys, survey bias, economics, political science

Are Domestic War Crimes Trials Biased? 

with Ivor Sokolić, Denisa Kostovicova, and Sanja Vico. Under review

Post-conflict states increasingly hold domestic war crimes trials. But do they prosecute perpetrators fairly? Applying statistical modeling and quantitative text analysis to two original datasets based on 555 decisions delivered to Serb and non-Serb defendants in Serbia’s war crimes trials (1999–2019), we do not find evidence of ethnic bias but demonstrate conflict actor bias. Paramilitaries received harsher sentences than state agents of violence, such as army members, from the same ethnic group for the same offenses. Additionally, we show that bias manifests in the verdicts’ textual content. Paramilitary violence is depicted more extensively and with greater detail than crimes committed by state actors. We demonstrate how deniability of accountability, which incentivizes government collusion with paramilitaries during conflict, operates after conflict. A state cannot completely avoid criminal responsibility given the global norm of accountability. Nonetheless, it can use domestic prosecutions to minimize state wrongdoing by associating egregious violence with paramilitaries.

Keywords: domestic war crimes trials, ethnic bias, paramilitaries, Serbia, deniability, human rights violations

Ukraine on Russian Domestic Television: Media Agenda-setting and Distraction, 2009–2019

Solo-authored. Under review

Do autocracies employ state-controlled media in an attempt to prime domestic audiences for external wars of aggression?  This article is the first study to expose large-scale evidence of attempts by Russian state-controlled domestic television to amplify for its audience the importance of the Ukrainian agenda in the years prior to the full-scale war. Using 2.4 million transcripts of news stories transmitted in Russia between 2009 and 2019, I offer evidence of mass-media agenda-setting and distraction. First, applying the differences-in-differences technique, I show that state-enforced change in news management induced the previously independent network RBC to increase its reporting about Ukraine. Second, I demonstrate that on nine national media outlets, less reporting about domestic events was associated with transmitting more news reports about Ukraine rather than in other countries. The data set used in this article covers most of the popular domestic television news flows during the period.

Key words: autocratic resilience, Russia, Ukraine, television, news

Grandstanding Instead of Deliberative Policy-making: Parliamentary Questions, Publicness, and Transitional Justice in the Croatian Parliament

with Denisa Kostovicova (LSE). R&R

The public nature of addressing past wrongs can both promote and stymie transitional justice (TJ) processes. Yet, while the moral, legal, and political benefits of publicness are well documented, its potentially detrimental effects are still poorly understood. To assess the complex relationship between publicness and TJ, this article leverages the democratic deliberation scholarship. A comparative analysis of legislators’ questions about transitional justice in the Croatian parliament (2004–2020) shows that these actors use oral questions for nationalist grandstanding and written questions for substantive transitional justice policy deliberation. The article confirms that there is a problematic ‘dark side’ to publicness.

Vladimir Putin on Channel One, 1998–2022 

Solo-authored. Under review

Drawing on transcripts from television network Channel One, a popular news source in Russia, this article addresses the question: How was Vladimir Putin covered by state-controlled media while the regime was getting increasingly centralized? The literature on the subject is scarce and inconclusive.  Dictators create different images of themselves, and the portrayals of present-day spin dictators, those who primarily rely on the power of propaganda to persuade rather than dominate, are understudied. While some analysts point to Putin’s omnipresence in mass media, others uncover the lack of media personalization and relatively neutral coverage. Drawing on 398,456 news transcripts from 1998–2022 and relying on techniques from computational linguistics and natural language processing, I examine how a present-day autocrat attempts to find a balance between the intensity of propaganda and its credibility. I uncover three main tendencies. First, during all the years in power, the ruler has been more frequently referred to by positive stories. Second, the relative references to Putin on Channel One have not been significantly increasing over time. Third, during all the years in power, Putin has been more frequently mentioned in domestic news rather than in stories about foreign affairs. However, I also demonstrate that the share of news about foreign affairs and events abroad that mentions the ruler has been increasing every year since 2013. By focusing on the supply side of propaganda, this article contributes to the literature on autocratic resilience and spin dictators. 

Keywords: Putin, Russia, television, autocracy, autocratic resilience

It Depends on Who Is Asking and Who Is Being Asked: Gendering Speaking Behavior in Parliamentary Interactions

with Denisa Kostovicova (LSE), Tolga Sinmazdemir (SOAS), and Vesna Popovski (LSE). Work in progress

Women have a distinctive voice in parliaments. Analysis of female legislators’ speaking behavior, including floor apportionment and policy issues they address, informs inferences about their effectiveness. In this vein, less adversarial tenor of female MPs’ speeches has been taken as an indicator of their less robust questioning of the members of the executive. To advance our understanding of the gendered patterns of legislative behaviour and their implications, we draw on the scholarship on gender and language in the field of social psychology and scrutinize the legislators’ speaking style. We analyze the text corpus comprised of parliamentary questions and answer sequences in the Croatian parliament from 2004 and 2020, and conduct quantitative content analysis that combines computer-assisted techniques and human coding of the discourse. A novel assessment of how female legislators’ interrogate ministers, rooted in Conversation Analysis―an approach to the study of interactive features of talk―systematically captures linguistic, deliberative and semantic features of discourse. The results show that female parliamentarians are no less robust questioners than their male counterparts. They put pressure on the answerer to account for government policy using different linguistic forms, rather than open aggression evident in semantic features of a speaker’s language. This research furthers the study of gender and politics by demonstrating that the masculine discourse in parliaments is used not only to ensure male dominance in parliaments, as scholars of feminist institutionalism have argued, but also to obscure the agency of female MPs and their effective oversight of the executive.

Key words: gender, legislature, content analysis

Ingroup and Intergroup Effects of Djokovic's Exclusion from 2022 Australia Open

with Denisa Kostovicova (LSE), Tolga Sinmazdemir (SOAS), and Sanja Vico (LSE, Exeter). Work in progress

Athletes and their sporting achievements can shape attitudes of a wider society, such as invoking national pride or reducing prejudice toward outgroup members. But, we have limited understanding of the societal impact of adversity of national sporting icons and of how it manifests in post-conflict societies, where athletes can lead the way in changing antagonistic relations with former adversaries. Drawing on theories of ethnic identity salience and contact hypothesis, we investigate the effects of Novak Djokovic's exclusion from the 2022 Australia Open tennis tournament after cancellation of his visa on the salience of ethnic identity among Serbs and on their willingness for contact with Croats, the former adversary from the Serb-Croat conflict (1991-1995). Reports of Djokovic’s ordeal featured prominently unconditional support he received from his Croatian coach and friend Goran Ivanisevic who was by his side. Drawing on original data from a nationally representative survey in Serbia and using an “unexpected event during survey design”, we compare Serbian respondents’ ethnic identification and willingness for inter-group contact before and after Djokovic's visa cancellation. Coupled with quantitative text analysis of the Serbian press reporting of the incident, our findings demonstrate that an athlete’s setback abroad strengthens ingroup members' ethnic identification, and point to ineffectiveness of vicarious intergroup contact. Challenging arguments that ingroup identity salience can facilitate intergroup contact, the study calls for better understanding of conditions for sporting stars’ peace-promoting impact in post-conflict societies.

Blog post about Telegram and its role in protests at Media@LSE

Protests in Russia raise questions about the role of new media in democratisation