The World Reconfigured: Consequences of Russia's War on Ukraine

An Online Q&A Series

Friday, February 3, 2023 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM EST
Zoom Meeting

Professors Steven Barnes of George Mason University and Cynthia Hooper of the College of the Holy Cross continue their series of virtual conversations about the global consequences of Russia's war on Ukraine with a new title, a new time, a new set of guests, and a shift to a broader focus on challenges to democracy around the world.
The 21st century has seen, thus far, both a trend toward authoritarianism and remarkable efforts to challenge despotic rule. Russia’s war on Ukraine captures both of those aspects. The authoritarian Vladimir Putin, last February, sought to subjugate a neighboring independent country through illegal invasion. Meanwhile, a Ukrainian populace with a history of protest has won admiration around the world through its valiant fight against the aggressor. However, Ukraine’s position remains precarious, and a secure post-war peacetime order difficult to imagine.
Putin’s strategic gamble in the war on Ukraine is that authoritarianism can outlast democracy and that international support for Ukraine will prove fickle and temporary. He believes that democratic forms of government cannot withstand the economic pain that comes with his war, and that authoritarian regimes like his own have successful mechanisms in place to build compliance amongst their citizenry. He also believes – and has demonstrated, in his rule for some 20 years prior to the Ukrainian invasion – that authoritarian leaders can, actually, be popular. His regime is one that has forced us, as outside observers, to introduce new definitions of what democracy should mean, to consider the importance of both electoral process and liberal principle, to re-emphasize the value of law as a mechanism of citizen protection from state power, and, sadly, to acknowledge the widespread appeal of undemocratic ideals and the ability, in a new technological age, to shape and sway individual beliefs through calculated media messaging.
This semester, the series of online conversations will explore the workings of power in different authoritarian regimes, particularly as regards the ability to craft consent, both among elites and ordinary people. At the same time, we will consider opposing efforts to create change or generate reform. We will also look at global interconnections – the new international alliances that are being formed, as well as the routine interactions between more and less democratic nations that have become difficult, especially within a global capitalist market, to fully untie. (Have sanctions against Russia worked? What should energy policy look like, moving forward?) Finally, we will consider the extent to which our values and definitions of democracy are shared in other regions of the world. How do citizens of the Global South view democracy? What do they see as policy priorities and crucial challenges?
The series for 2023 will be called “The World Reconfigured: Consequences of Russia's War on Ukraine.” As the title suggests, the war will be a jumping-off point from which to engage in discussions about developments all around the world. Discussions will engage the Ukrainian Presidency, Russia and sanctions, China, the rise of populist challenges to electoral democracy in Brazil, the protest movement in Iran, the power of global markets, AI technology, and new forms of 21st century propaganda to shape values. And, as ever, history will play a critical role, if only by looking at past reform efforts in Russia and Ukraine, the difficulty of “building legality” and checking elite corruption, or the ability of corrupt actors to co-opt liberal institutions and amass power inside traditionally democratic regimes.  The series will cast a wide net with a terrific group of guests and thoughtful participation and questions from the audience.
Come join us for a lively interactive discussion!
This event is brought to you by the Program in Russian and Eurasian Studies and the Department of History and Art History at George Mason University and the Department of History and the Program in Russian and Eastern European Studies at the College of the Holy Cross.
Cynthia Hooper is Associate Professor of History and head of Russian and Eastern European Studies at the College of the Holy Cross. She has extensive research experience having spent several years in the Russian cities of Moscow, St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Ekaterinburg, and Samara. She has published widely on aspects of Soviet dictatorship during the Stalin era, particularly on the experience of repression and the actions and attitudes of those involved in its organization and practice. Since the beginning of Russia’s war on Ukraine in 2014, she has specialized in the study of contemporary Russian media strategies, writing on the subject for, among others, the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and for The Conversation. She has been featured on CNN, Bloomberg News, ITV, and NPR.
Steven Barnes is Director of the Program in Russian and Eurasian Studies and Associate Professor in the Department of History and Art History. He has engaged in research on the history of the Soviet forced labor camp system, the Gulag, including extensive field research in Russia and Kazakhstan. He is the author of the multiple award-winning Death and Redemption: The Gulag and the Shaping of Soviet Society and is at work on a new book Gulag Wives: Women, Family, and Survival in Stalin's Terror, which traces women’s lives in a camp for elite women arrested only for the fact that their husbands had been arrested during the height of Stalin’s Great Terror. He was also the organizer of Russia's War on Ukraine in Historical Perspective, an online Monday speaker series for the fall of 2022. You can find recordings of that series and other events on the GMU REST YouTube Channel.
Add this event to your calendar