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Has a decades-long tradition of secrecy and concealment in former Soviet Union states led to a serious under-reporting of coronavirus cases?

While Europe has struggled under the weight of the global pandemic, with thousands of infections and deaths reported daily, many of the states of Eurasia are showing some of the lowest levels of infection rates on the continent, despite population mobility and regular interactions with neighbours.

On 6 April, Post-Soviet State Responses to Covid-19: Making or Breaking Authoritarianism will look closely at the political and ideological reactions to the pandemic across the region.  

This online event, running from 17.30-19.00, will feature Marlene Laruelle and Madeline McCann, of George Washington University. It is being hosted by King’s Russia Institute.

Sam Greene, director of King’s Russia Institute, said: “While the crisis is still emerging, one can already identify three broad models: the Chinese model, in which the authoritarian state is capable of taking draconian measures to prevent the spread of disease; the Asian model, illustrated by Singapore and South Korea and characterized by mass testing and a population ready to heed state instruction closely; and the European model, where states have difficulties restraining populations’ autonomy and are unable to deploy the repressive arsenal necessary to enforce order in the face of national emergency.

“A fourth broad model may be emerging in the former Soviet Union: leadership that denies the importance of the crisis and its potentially devastating impact on public health. Despite shared borders with China and Iran, high levels of internal population mobility, and frequent interactions with Europe, many of the states of Eurasia currently show some of the lowest coronavirus case rates across the continent.

“This suggests a serious underreporting of cases, consistent with decades-long traditions of concealment and secrecy. In this discussion, we identify post-Soviet states’ political—and ideological responses to the coronavirus outbreak - accurate as of at least 20 March - and categorise them based on what we know about the diffusion of innovation, drawing tentative conclusions about the implications.”

Admission to this online seminar is free and open to the public. Sign up here to join.

At this event


Professor of Russian Politics