Working Papers

Never Again: The Holocaust and Political Legacies of Genocide
Wayne, Carly, and Yuri M. Zhukov. “Never Again: The Holocaust and Political Legacies of Genocide.” Working paper, 2019.
Abstract | PDF

What political lessons do victims of mass violence and genocide learn and pass on to their children? We explore two pathways through which personal experiences of genocide may shape the political attitudes of survivors and their descendants. First, these experiences could engender empathy toward other victims of violence, making survivors of repression (and their descendants) more supportive of oppressed out-groups. Second,exposure to this type of mass violence could heighten levels of fear, making these individuals less supportive of other victimized groups, if they believe they pose a potential threat. We examine these two divergent effects in the context of the Jewish experience of the Holocaust, and the attendant abstract principle of `never again.’ We conduct a survey experiment of out-group political attitudes among American Jews, including survivors, descendants, and those with no family connection to the Holocaust. We find that survivors and descendants are far more likely to support accepting Syrian refugees than individuals without a direct family connection to the Holocaust. Yet, compared to other respondents, survivors and descendants are also less likely to change their attitudes on refugees after being primed to feel empathy or threat toward them. These findings suggest that exposure to mass violence and genocide increases empathy toward other victimized groups, and this effect likely endures across generations.

Repression Works (just not in moderation)
Zhukov, Yuri M. “Repression Works (just not in moderation).” Working paper, 2019.
Abstract | PDF

Why does government violence deter political challengers in one context, but inflame them in the next? This paper argues that repression increases opposition activity at low and moderate levels, but decreases it in the extreme. There is a threshold level of violence, where the opposition becomes unable to recruit new members, and the rebellion unravels — even if the government is responsible for more civilian suffering overall. I show this result theoretically, with a mathematical model of coercion and popular support, and empirically, with micro-level data from Chechnya and a meta-analysis of sub-national conflict dynamics in 145 countries. The data suggest that such a threshold exists, but the level of violence needed to reach it varies. Many governments, thankfully, are unable or unwilling to go that far. I explore conditions under which this threshold may be higher or lower, and highlight a fundamental trade-off between reducing government violence and preserving civil liberties.

Political Regime Type and Warfare: Evidence from 600 Years of European History
Blank, Meredith, Mark Dincecco and Yuri M. Zhukov. “Political Regime Type and Warfare: Evidence from 600 Years of European History.” Working paper, 2017.
Abstract | PDF

This paper presents new evidence that, historically, the relationship between political regime type and warfare was different than it is today. Using a novel database of interstate conflict in Europe between 1200 and 1800, we perform the first quantitative analysis of domestic political institutions and warfare across the pre-modern era. We find that early parliamentary regimes – the institutional predecessors of modern democracies – were disproportionately more likely to experience armed conflict than their absolutist counterparts. Our empirical strategy makes use of two complementary approaches: a standard dyadic analysis of conflict initiation, and a dynamic network analysis that accounts for interdependence between dyads. These analyses show that early parliamentary regimes fought in significantly more wars than absolutist monarchies, both against one another and overall. Such regimes, we argue, had a relatively large capacity to make war, but, unlike modern democracies, not enough institutional constraints to prevent it.

How Selective Reporting Shapes Inferences about Conflict
Zhukov, Yuri M. and Matthew A. Baum. “How Selective Reporting Shapes Inferences about Conflict.” Working paper, 2017.
Abstract | PDF

By systematically under- or over-reporting violence by different actors, media organizations convey potentially contradictory information about how a conflict is likely to unfold, and whether outside intervention is necessary to stop it. These reporting biases affect not only statistical inference, but also public knowledge and policy preferences. Using new event data on the ongoing armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine, we perform parallel analyses of data from
Ukrainian, rebel, Russian and third party sources. We show that actor-specific reporting bias can yield estimates with vastly different implications for conflict resolution: Ukrainian sources predict frequent unilateral escalation by rebels, pro-Russian rebel sources predict unilateral escalation by government troops, while outside sources predict that transgressions by either side should be quite rare. Experimental evidence suggests that news consumers tend to support intervention against whichever side is shown to be committing the violence. We argue that these kinds of reporting biases can potentially make conflicts more difficult to resolve — hardening attitudes against negotiated settlement, and in favor of military action.