Illiberalism’s appeal in Europe and Eurasia


ILLIBERALISMIn the West, the rise of illiberalism is taking place within a democratic framework. In most Eurasian states, on the other hand, authoritarianism is the dominant political system, thus enabling illiberal forces to gain traction faster, and act more forcefully, notes Eurasianet’s Maria Mammina.

“These trends [the rise of illiberal populism] have in common only the goal: the destruction or undermining of liberal democracy,” Jan Kubik, the director of the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at University College London, told

Kubik was a featured participant at a panel discussion, titled Illiberal Populism in Europe, held recently at Columbia University in New York. Another featured speaker, Harvard University Professor Pippa Norris, noted that economic insecurity has long been presented as a major reason why people support populist and illiberal movements. But such an assumption is clouded by data showing that the group most drawn to populist messages is the middle class, not the working poor, Norris said….

Norris believes that a “tipping point” has been reached, a shift caused by the younger generation’s adoption of progressive values. Holders of traditional beliefs, who long thought they were in the majority, have come to a sudden realization that they did not like the direction in which their respective societies are moving, setting off a cultural backlash.

POPULISM“The new minority is strongly angry and resenting changes in their society,” Norris said.

West European leaders see themselves as fighting an increasingly untenable two-front war: a southern front against immigration and terrorism and an eastern front against Russia, The New York Times reports.

“All over Europe, Putinism has emerged as an ideological alternative to globalism, the E.U., etc.,” said Benjamin Haddad, a French analyst at the Hudson Institute, with Mr. Putin seen as “a bulwark for conservative values — a strongman against gay marriage, immigration, Islam.”

As soon as one country breaks from the united front against Russia, “each European country will look to cut its own deal with the Russians,” said American University’s James. Goldgeier:

That could mean granting Russia concessions in Syria, lifting the European Union sanctions that were meant to force an end to the continuing war in eastern Ukraine, or tolerating greater Russian influence in Eastern Europe. It is impossible to predict where these trend lines lead, not because they are in doubt but because they foretell such extreme changes in the European order that their consequences vary too widely to pin down.

Boell Stiftung

Boell Stiftung

“For the people of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, these trend lines are quite tragic,” he said.

Russia is the key illiberal influence in the region, pushing a Eurasianist ideology that is mainly defined by the tenants of religion, obedience to authority and nationalism, according to Kubik. Russia has framed Eurasianism as an ideological answer to liberal and Western values, he added.

“Russia is looking after its own interests,” Kubik told “Consequently, the spread of “traditional values,” as defined in this doctrine [Eurasianism], means promoting, often quite aggressively, an alternative set of principles that bears resemblance to Count Uvarov’s famous “troika” of [Orthodoxy, Autocracy, Nationality].” RTWT

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