Robert C. Tucker/Stephen F. Cohen Dissertation Prize

2011 Citation Recipient

Ora John Reuter

The Robert C. Tucker/Stephen F. Cohen Dissertation Prize, established in 2006 and sponsored by the KAT Charitable Foundation, is awarded annually (if there is a distinguished submission) for an outstanding English-language doctoral dissertation in Soviet or Post-Soviet politics and history in the tradition practiced by Robert C. Tucker and Stephen F. Cohen. The dissertation must be defended at an American or Canadian university and completed during the calendar year prior to the award.

Co-Winner: Ora John Reuter, Emory University
Title: “The Origin of Dominant Parties”

Reuter uses a full range of published sources and interviews to examine the large question of why dominant political parties emerge in some non-democracies and not in others. The dissertation focuses on post-Soviet Russia and the story of the post- 1991 failure of two ruling parties and, more recently, the emergence of a “successful” ruling party, United Russia. Deploying historical analysis as well as a rich conceptual model that views the issue as one of two-sided commitment between central leaders and other (usually regional) elites, Reuter shows that Russia’s ruling parties’ projects failed in the 1990s because regional elites were so strong that they would not link their political machines and fates to any ruling party project. By contrast, United Russia became strong after 2000 because elites were still strong enough to require cooptation, but not strong enough to defect from the ruling party. Data on Russian governors and regional legislators show that those with independent resources and political or economic power bases were more reluctant to join the dominant party. They only came around when benefits of membership outweighed costs of remaining independent. The dissertation also provides the first detailed account of the role of United Russia in Russia’s political system. The discussion of incentives and cadres is especially rich and provides much material to help assess the potential of democracy in Russia. Finally, the author examines the global context and data on all dominant parties in the world’s non- democracies since 1946. Dominant parties only emerge when neither leaders nor elites have a preponderance of control over resources. The model is presented with extraordinary clarity as are future research questions on the nature of dominant parties and democratization.

Co-Winner: Eleanory Gilburd