Drawing on his new study, Professor Brian Taylor of Syracuse University argued that we can only understand Vladimir Putin’s Russia if we understand the set of ideas, emotions, and habits that influence how Team Putin views the world.

In a lecture at MIT on Feb. 26, 2019, Taylor presented his vision of ‘Putinism,” or the mentality and system of rule in Putin’s Russia. In his point of view, Putinism is a relatively stable mentality. Unlike many analysts who see Russia’s president as a pragmatic operator and believe in his ability to easily adapt to new realities, Taylor is more skeptical. He argues that Putin and his entourage will resist change for as long as possible.

“We shouldn’t expect change in the way he does business. He’s been in power for 20 years. I don’t think that there is any reason to expect liberalization for example, or the change in the way the system is governed,” he said. At the same time, Taylor, who has his Ph.D. from MIT’s Political Science department in 1998, pointed out that the change is inevitable and will eventually cause internal conflict. “The decade of economic growth that averages out to less than one percent and five years of declining living standards inside Russia has meant the pressure for change is starting to grow.  I think this is going to be a very difficult term for Putin as president, his most difficult yet.”

Watch the full video of the lecture.


Each semester, the MIT Security Studies Program, co-sponsored by the MISTI MIT-Russia Program and the MIT Center for International Studies, presents a speaker series entitled “Focus on Russia,” which considers a number of current issues in Russian domestic and foreign policies. The public is welcome to attend.

About the Speaker:

Brian Taylor is Professor and Chair of Political Science in the Maxwell School at Syracuse University. Taylor is the author of three books on Russian politics: The Code of Putinism (Oxford University Press, 2018); State Building in Putin’s Russia: Policing and Coercion after Communism (Cambridge University Press, 2011) and Politics and the Russian Army: Civil-Military Relations, 1689-2000 (Cambridge University Press, 2003). He received his B.A. from the University of Iowa, an M.Sc. from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Wednesday, August 7, 2019