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Appropriation and subversion: pre-communist literacy, communist party saturation, and post-communist democratic outcomes

Lankina, Tomila V. ORCID: 0000-0002-8303-1747, Libman, Alexander and Obydenkova, Anastassia (2016) Appropriation and subversion: pre-communist literacy, communist party saturation, and post-communist democratic outcomes. World Politics, 68 (2). pp. 229-274. ISSN 0043-8871

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Identification Number: 10.1017/S0043887115000428


Twenty-five years after the collapse of communism in Europe, few scholars disagree that the past continues to shape the democratic trajectories of postcommunist states. Precommunist education has featured prominently in this literature’s bundle of “good” legacies because it ostensibly helped foster resistance to communism. The authors propose a different causal mechanism—appropriation and subversion—that challenges the linearity of the above assumptions by analyzing the effects of precommunist literacy on patterns of Communist Party recruitment in Russia’s regions. Rather than regarding precommunist education as a source of latent resistance to communism, the authors highlight the Leninist regime’s successful appropriation of the more literate strata of the precommunist orders, in the process subverting the past democratic edge of the hitherto comparatively more developed areas. The linear regression analysis of author-assembled statistics from the first Russian imperial census of 1897 supports prior research: precommunist literacy has a strong positive association with postcommunist democratic outcomes. Nevertheless, in pursuing causal mediation analysis, the authors find, in addition, that the above effect is mediated by Communist Party saturation in Russia’s regions. Party functionaries were likely to be drawn from areas that had been comparatively more literate in tsarist times, and party saturation in turn had a dampening effect on the otherwise positive effects of precommunist education on postcommunist democracy.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2016 Trustees of Princeton University
Divisions: International Relations
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HX Socialism. Communism. Anarchism
J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe)
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
Date Deposited: 01 Oct 2015 12:01
Last Modified: 12 Jun 2024 04:18
Funders: LSE International Relations Department, LSE Suntory and Toyota International Centers for Economics and Related Disciplines

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