Главная/IFR-CEDAR Élites Lab

IFR-CEDAR Élites Lab

Russia’s Wartime Élite
This lab is a collaborative project of Ideas for Russia and CEDAR (Center for Data and Research on Russia)


Dr. Fabian Burkhardt is a postdoctoral research associate in the Political Science Research Group at the Leibniz Institute for East and Southeast European Studies (IOS) in Regensburg, Germany. Since 2023, he has been working with CEDAR on the research design of the project «Russia’s wartime elite» and on the collection of data since 2024. He is also a non-resident associate fellow at the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP). He serves as the co-editor of the Russian Analytical Digest and Russland-Analysen. Burkhardt’s academic work is in comparative authoritarianism. He focuses on executives, elites, constitutions, and digital politics in authoritarian regimes in the post-Soviet space, in particular in Russia and Belarus. More information can be found on his institutional web profile at https://leibniz-ios.de/en/people/details/fabian-burkhardt

Project description

The main goal of this project is to contribute to our understanding of elite dynamics in Russia in the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The basic assumption of the project is that elite-level developments are crucial for understanding regime stability in Russia and policy change with regard to the war against Ukraine. The academic literature on war termination suggests that coalition change in the aggressor state is an essential precondition for war termination. More than two years into the war, there is still very little systematic research on Russia’s wartime elite. Taking a “positional approach” to elite analysis, this project aims to partially fill this gap by studying the deputy heads of Russia’s federal executive bodies (ministries, services, and agencies). While these deputy heads do not belong to the top tier of the Russian elite, this class of officials is crucial to day-to-day wartime governance and offers unique insights into possible factionalism and latent discontent (siloviki and technocrats, doves and hawks, mobilized loyalists and silent discontents). And unlike the smaller and more secretive cohort of top elite actors, there are sufficient observable dynamics and variations in appointment and dismissal patterns among deputy heads to allow for systematic and replicable analyses of Russia’s wartime elite. Methodologically, the project aims to avoid the shortcomings of elite analysis based on anecdotal evidence, insider accounts, and telegram gossip. The main objective will be to assess elite factionalism, particularly within the presidential and government-controlled executive, existing checks and balances, and conflict and cooperation within the executive. The data set of deputy heads will be coded to track elite repression, elite defection, the effect of personal sanctions by the US, UK, and EU on career paths, subsequent appointments after dismissal from the position of deputy head, generational change and elite renewal in the executive, the degree of involvement in war activities, and war rhetoric. The period of analysis is one presidential term from May 2018 to May 2024, which allows for a comparison of wartime elite dynamics with a “normal” and pre-pandemic period (“before-after analysis” with the start of the full-scale invasion as critical juncture). The main data output of the project will be a data set on deputy heads of Russia’s federal executive, data on personal sanctions, meetings and travels of Vladimir Putin and Prime Ministers Dmitrii Medvedev and Mikhail Mishustin, and a text corpus of media mentions of deputy heads. The main deliverables of the project will be an analytical report written by the mentor, and the data sets, which will be made publicly available in a reputable open access data repository after publication of the report. Data collection, analysis and visualization is conducted in cooperation with the CEDAR collective https://cedarus.io/

Intern Workload

In the early stages of the project, multiple online interactions on a weekly basis will be necessary to define common goals and milestones for implementation. Once the research design, intern role, and deliverables are agreed upon, video calls will be the primary format of interaction, with a flexible schedule. In between, timely email communication and regular interaction in the project’s cloud infrastructure will be essential to ensure the smooth execution of the project. If desired, a self-funded short-term visiting stay at IOS could be arranged. 

Intern Requirements

Students at all levels (advanced bachelor, master, PhD) are eligible to apply. A genuine interest in the topic of the project and the academic literature (Russian politics, authoritarian regimes, the nexus of domestic and foreign policy, war termination, elites, bureaucracy, executive politics) that guides the research and the motivation to take a proactive role are crucial. A thorough working proficiency of Russian is essential as government websites and media reports will be the main source of data. Ideally, the student already possesses or would be interesting in acquiring methodological skills such as the coding of biographies, web scraping, data wrangling, data visualization, quantitative or qualitative text analysis, or social network analysis. Depending on the interests and qualifications of the intern, the mentee could either contribute to the ongoing project at various stages of literature review, data collection, analysis and writing. Or the mentee could use existing data or collect additional data to work on an independent side project within the overall framework of the project under the guidance of the mentor.

Internship applications to this laboratory are accepted in English only.