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Resisting the Irresistible: ‘Failed Opposition’ in Azerbaijan and Belarus Revisited

  • Sofie Bedford and Laurent Vinatier

In recent literature on post-Soviet electoral revolutions in places where attempts at regime change through popular protest did not succeed, opposition groups are often simply regarded as ‘failed’. And yet, opposition actors exist and participate in the political life of their country. Building on the Belarusian and Azerbaijani cases, we argue that opposition actors are maintained in a ‘ghetto’, often virtual, tightly managed by the ruling authorities who exert monopolistic control over civic activities. Opposition actors adapt to the restricted conditions – accepting a certain level of dependency. They thus develop various tactics to engage with the outside, striving to reduce the ghetto walls. To this end this article proposes a typology of what we call oppositional ‘resistance models’: electoral, in the media, lobbying and through education. The models highlight what makes ‘opposition’ in authoritarian states and are a step towards a more comprehensive understanding of the phenomenon in this context.

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Sofie Bedford is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM), Vienna, Austria and a Researcher at the Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Uppsala University. Contact email:

Laurent Vinatier is a Researcher at the Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Uppsala University. Contact email:

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Government and Opposition
  • ISSN: 0017-257X
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