Dr. Sofie Bedford
Associated Researcher

Dr. Sofie Bedford
Associated Researcher

Associate professor (docent) in Political Science and affiliated researcher at Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies (IRES) at Uppsala University. Ph.D. in Political Science from Stockholm University and MA in Peace and Conflict Research from Uppsala University. Currently living in Vienna.

Research interests:

  • authoritarian regimes
  • opposition
  • religious-, political- and civic mobilization
  • social movements
  • Post-Soviet Eurasia and the Caucasus

Current project:

Post-Soviet Authoritarianism in Azerbaijan and Belarus: Opposition and Regime Consolidation

I am working on a book manuscript that builds on a research project funded by the Swedish Research Council in 2015-2018. The project focused on ‘opposition’ in authoritarian states, using Azerbaijan and Belarus as the case studies. In essence it set out to challenge the widespread notion that in this type of context no relevant political opposition exists. The project argued that clearly there is opposition, but because of the authoritarian system it has come to mean something different than in a democracy. The purpose was therefore to problematize the concept and phenomenon of opposition in authoritarian regimes focusing on the questions: what is opposition in Belarus and Azerbaijan what role(s) does it play? There has long been a tendency among academic and non-academic observers to perceive the relation between government and opposition in authoritarian states as a zero-sum game, where opposition is seen primarily as an instrument for democratization. One of the project’s main findings was that in the case study countries ‘political opposition’ as a concept and a phenomenon, quite to the contrary, instead had come to contribute to the consolidation of authoritarianism. In the book I plan to try to explain this development through looking at the relations between opposition, state, and society, showing how the dynamic from these relationships help us better understand lack of political change and the reinforcement of current authoritarian regimes in Azerbaijan and Belarus.

Selected recent publications:

2023. “Politics of uncertainty” in practice. The Belarusian 2020 presidential election. In Miriam Matejova and Anastasia Shesterinina eds. Uncertainty in Global Politics. Routledge (forthcoming November 2023).

2023. Ring out the Old and Ring in the Young: Upgrading Authoritarianism in Azerbaijan. Baltic Worlds XVI (3): 8-32

2023. Digital Authoritarianism and Activist Perceptions of Social Media in Azerbaijan. Baku Research Institute, 21 August (with Najmin Kamilsoy).

2023. National Identification and Regime Legitimation: The Societal Impact of War in Azerbaijan. Caucasus Analytical Digest 134.

2021. The 2020 Presidential Election in Belarus: Erosion of Authoritarian Stability and Re-politicization of Society. Nationalities Papers 49(5): 808-819

2021. Protecting the Nation, State and Government: ‘Traditional Islam’ in Azerbaijan, Europe-Asia Studies 73(4): 691-712 (with Ceyhun Mahmudlu and Shamkhal Abilov).

2019. Resisting the Irresistible: ‘Failed Opposition’ in Azerbaijan and Belarus Revisited, Government and Opposition 54 (4): 686-714 (with Laurent Vinatier)