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Profile: Professor Neil Robinson

I came to Limerick in January 2001 and am now Professor of Comparative Politics. My research interests are primarily in the area of Russian and post-Soviet politics. I came to study Russian politics through Soviet studies. I did a degree in Russian and Soviet Studies at Portsmouth Polytechnic. During my time at Portsmouth I was lucky enough to spend a year at a Russian university in Voronezh. It was there that I decided I wanted to do postgraduate studies. I was fortunate enough to get a funded place to do an MA in Soviet Government and Politics at the University of Essex and carried on to do a PhD there. It was the late 1980s and an exciting time to study Soviet politics because of the Gorbachev reforms.

My PhD was on ideology and Soviet politics. My supervisor was the late Peter Frank, who I worked for as a TA teaching Soviet politics until he retired. I was then lucky enough to be supervised by Rachel Walker. Between them they tried to teach me about everyday Soviet politics and the importance of conceptual political analysis for the study of Soviet and Russian politics. Some of their lessons got through.

I finished my PhD whilst lecturing at the University of York (two and a half very enjoyable years with some great colleagues from whom I learnt a lot). My PhD was published as Ideology and the Collapse of Soviet Power (Edward Elgar) in 1995. I moved back to Essex in that year and began to broaden my research interests to cover post-Soviet Russian politics.

I’m interested in what drives political change in Russia and other post-Soviet and post-communist states. This has led me to work on several different areas over the years as I’ve tried to think about what forces lead to change in Russian politics. I learnt a lot about post-communist development in general working on a book about Post-Communist Politics (Prentice Hall, 1997) with Karen Henderson. I edited a book on Institutions and political change in Russia (Macmillan, 1999) that looked at how different political institutions were evolving under Yeltsin and influencing politics and policy. I’ve published articles on Russian political parties, foreign policy and other areas, and edited a couple of books on state-building in international politics (State-Building. Theory and practice with Aidan Hehir, Routledge, 2007) and comparative politics (The Sage Handbook of Comparative Politics, with Todd Landman, Sage, 2009).

Mostly, I’ve worked on two main issues: Russian political economy and Russian state development. These are related areas given the central role played by the Russian state in Russia’s ‘political capitalism’. I’ve published articles and edited two books on Russia’s political economy, Reforging the weakest link. Global political economy and post-Soviet change in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus (Ashgate, 2004) and The political economy of Russia (Rowman & Littlefield, 2011). I wrote a book on the Russian state and change in Russia generally for Routledge in 2002 called Russia. A state of uncertainty. I’m currently trying finish another book on Russian politics for Polity that looks at the relationship between state development and regime politics in Russia and argues that the processes of state building are different to those of regime consolidation with the result that state development is often sacrificed in the interests of regime stability.

I’ve also recently been working on ideas in Russian politics again and would like to do more in this area in the future. This work picks up on some of the things that interested me earlier in my career and comes from the much more ‘ideological’ nature of Russian politics under Putin since 2011. I’ve a paper coming out in Europe-Asia Studies soon on “Russian neo-patrimonialism and Putin’s ‘cultural turn’” and am finishing a paper on Putin’s populism with Sarah Milne.

I edit a book series for Routledge on Post-Soviet Politics, am on the editorial boards of journals including the new Russian Politics, and because I’m a sucker for a free book I do occasional reviews for the Irish Examiner on lots of different historical and political issues, which gives me the chance to inflict my opinions on the world on a wide range of things.

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