Paper long abstract:
Autocracies in developing countries are more likely to collapse during economic crises. Some influential works and popular media extend this argument to oil-rich autocracies, but cross-national empirical studies find little evidence to support this view. Yet, while the causes of their stability during boom periods are well understood, how oil-rich autocratic regimes remain stable during busts is underexplored. This article advances an explanation that refines and complements existing accounts. I argue that we need to take into account three interrelated factors that currently are likely to stabilize oil-rich autocracies: considerable savings, policy learning, and sustenance of coercive capacity. Leveraging evidence drawn from 75 original interviews, documents, news media, and academic literature, I investigate the role of these factors through a comparative case study of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan during the 2008 global economic turmoil. The findings highlight the ruling elites' ability to amass sizeable savings that later provide safety cushions, to update their know-how through drawing lessons within and beyond fiscal policy, and to sustain coercive capacity without resorting to overt repression. Through economic crises, they may learn to not escape the "resource curse," but to escape despite the "resource curse."
Foreign Policy Challenges in Central Eurasia