Post-Soviet Ethnic Politics and Public Goods Provision
In my dissertation project, I analyzed the role of ethnic identity in individuals’ relationship to the state and the delivery of public goods and services. In particular, I examined the influence of institutional ethnic dominance and informal social ties in the supply and demand sides of public goods provision, respectively. I conducted my primary field research in Kyrgyzstan in 2016-17, with a short period of research in June 2018. I carried out more than 50 semi-structured interviews and 10 focus group sessions with representatives from various sectors of society, including local politicians, NGO leaders, and “everyday” Kyrgyzstanis. I additionally employ quantitative analysis to analyze large-N data from the Life in Kyrgyzstan dataset and, in order to broaden the comparative scope to a variety of former Soviet states, USAID’s Demographic and Health Surveys.
I devote particular attention in my dissertation to the Soviet institutional legacies of “titular nation” status in the fourteen non-Russian union republics and informal governance practices, analyzing how these jointly affect channels for societal demand and governmental supply of public goods and services in the present period. Departing from the focus of existing research on the effects of ethnic diversity, I explore how institutional ethnic domination by titular groups (i.e. Kyrgyz in Kyrgyzstan) and informal social networks determine access to vital public goods, such as education, infrastructure, and human security. Both in my qualitative and quantitative analysis, I find that members of the titular community express higher evaluations of the provision of public goods and services compared to members of other ethnic groups. Additionally, I find that informal social ties allow ethnic Kyrgyz to influence the flow of state resources in a way that is not found among non-Kyrgyz. Thus, there is an additive effect of ethnic identity and informal social ties that benefits titular ethnic group members in both the demand (bottom-up) and supply (top-down) elements of public goods and service provision.
I am in the process of broadening the geographical scope of my field research in order to conduct comparative analysis of Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, and Latvia. The first stage of this effort was a month of fieldwork in Georgia in July 2018, during which I interviewed members of parliament about their decision-making processes in the formulation of legislation regarding public goods and service provision. I also conducted interviews with NGO activists in areas of ethnic minority concentration. This comparative research will be the basis for a book project on the influence of Soviet institutional legacies on governance.
"Whose Ties Still Bind? Ethnic Domination, Informal Social Networks, and Public Goods Provision in Kyrgyzstan." Forthcoming in Problems of Post-Communism
Copies available upon request
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