Graduate School for East and Southeast European Studies

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Burkhardt, Fabian

Dr. Fabian Burkhardt



Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP)
Deutsches Institut für Internationale Politik und Sicherheit
Ludwigkirchplatz 3-4
10719 Berlin

Phone: +49 30 88007-341

Website: Webprofile (SWP)

Main Research Areas

  • Political Institutions in the Post-Soviet states (especially in the Russian Federation and Belarus)
  • Elites and elite change
  • Political systems
  • Authoritarian Politics

Doctoral project

Der Präsident und Machtteilung in der Russischen Föderation: eine Institution im Wandel — abgeschlossen

The Presidency and Power Sharing in the Russian Federation: A Study of Institutional Change — completed

The thesis “Presidential Power and Institutional Change: A Study on the Russian Presidency” challenges the widely-held assumption both with regard to authoritarian regimes in general and Russia in particular that institutions do not matter, and that persons take prevalence over procedures. In the thesis, it is argued that by investigating the presidency instead of presidents, relevant advances can be made both for comparative politics and Russian studies alike. Theoretically, the thesis draws upon three strands of literature: the emerging discipline of comparative presidentialism, recent work on institutions under authoritarianism, and theories of institutional change. The main two concepts are disentangled for further analysis: presidential power is subdivided into institutional, relative and administrative power. Furthermore, a distinction is made between institutional origin and gradual, longitudinal institutional change. This initial stage of concept-building guided the research design of the cumulative dissertation subdivided into three main articles.

The first article (1) revisits theories of institutional origin and provides a novel take on the crafting-process of the 1993 presidency. It is argued that the strict assumptions of rational-choice institutionalism are often hard to meet in reality. Instead of intentional institutional design, the paper conceptualizes designers as do-it-yourself-bricoleurs – craftsmen who work with the ruins of the old system and rearrange and recombine institutional material. Moreover, path dependencies constrain choices of these bricoleurs.

The other two papers explore gradual, slow-moving change in the period between 1994 and 2012. In the second article (2), an original method based on conventional presidential power indexes is proposed that allows for measuring subconstitutional expansion of presidential power by means of laws, decrees and Constitutional Court rulings. It is argued that this accumulation of powers leads to an institutionalization of relative advantage in favor of the presidency. Expansion, it is shown, occurs more frequently in periods when the political opportunity framework is more pluralistic and competitive. The third article (3) attempts to open up the black box of the Kremlin – the presidential administration. In the paper, an analytical framework is employed that has been used to analyze other administrations around the world. By means of the four indicators autonomy, adaptability, complexity and coherence and original data (4), it is argued that the presidential administration has partially institutionalized over time. Uncertainty was reduced by the stabilization of structures and procedures. On the other hand, patronage and weak compliance with presidential decisions persist. This is called the paradox of power. The main contribution of the thesis and its findings is an attempt to further the integration of authoritarian regimes in general, and Russia in particular, into the emerging paradigm of comparative presidentialism. 

(1) Do-it-yourself bricoleurs, not engineers!  Revisiting theories of institutional design of the Russian presidency (under review)

(2) Burkhardt, Fabian. "The institutionalization of relative advantage: formal institutions, subconstitutional presidential powers, and the rise of authoritarian politics in Russia, 1994 - 2012." Post-Soviet Affairs 33, no. 6 (2017): 472-495. Link to paper:
[Link to online supplementary material:]

(3) Burkhardt, Fabian. "Polymorphous Presidential Power under Authoritarianism: On the Institutionalisation of Russia’s Presidential Administration." (forthcoming in Europe-Asia Studies). Link to online supplementary material:

(4) Burkhardt, Fabian, and Alexander Libman. "The Tail Wagging the Dog? Top-down and Bottom-up Explanations for Bureaucratic Appointments in Authoritarian Regimes", Russian Politics 3, no. 2 (2018): 239-259. Link to paper: [Link to online supplementary material:]

Curriculum Vitae

Born 1984 in Schwäbisch Gmünd (Germany); studied Russian and English, law, political science and Russian studies in Heidelberg, St. Petersburg, Hagen and London. From April 2012 to November 2013, research associate at the Geschwister-Scholl-Institute for Political Science of LMU Munich, working in the research network “Institutions and institutional change in post-socialism" (KomPost). 2013-2017, PhD candidate at the Graduate School for East and South East European Studies in Munich. Since 2013 member of the international "Forschungsnetzwerk Verfassungspolitik in den postsozialistischen Staaten Mittel- und Osteuropas" [Constitutional politics in the post-socialist states in Central and Eastern Europe]. 2017, Fellow of the "Forschungsgruppe Osteuropa und Eurasien" [Research Division: Eastern Europe, Eurasia] of the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP). 2018-2019, Postdoctoral fellow at the International Center for the Study of Institutions and Development of the National Research University "Higher School of Economics" in Moscow. Since 2019, Research Associate at the "Forschungsgruppe Osteuropa und Eurasien" [Research Division: Eastern Europe, Eurasia] in Berlin.


Edited Books and Journal Issues

With Anton Barbashin / Olga Irisova / Ernest Wyciszkiewicz (eds.): A Successful Failure. Russia after Crime(a), Warsaw: The Centre for Polish-Russian Dialogue and Understanding, 2017. [Social Science Open Access Repository (SSOAR) – PID:]

Journal articles and book chapters

With Alexander Libman: The Tail Wagging the Dog? Top-Down and Bottom-Up Explanations for Bureaucratic Appointments in Authoritarian Regimes. In: Russian Politics 3 (2), 2018, pp. 239-259. DOI:

The Institutionalization of Relative Advantage: Formal Institutions, Subconstitutional Presidential Powers, and the Rise of Authoritarian Politics in Russia, 1994–2012. In: Post-Soviet Affairs 33 (6), 2017, pp. 472-495. DOI:

Presidential Power in Putin’s Third Term: Was Crimea a Critical Juncture in Domestic Politics? In: Anton Barbashin / Fabian Burkhardt / Olga Irisova / Ernst Wyciszkiewicz (eds.): A Successful Failure. Russia after Crime(a), Warsaw: The Centre for Polish-Russian Dialogue and Understanding, 2017, pp. 119-141. [Social Science Open Access Repository (SSOAR) – PID:]

Constitutional politics in Belarus, in: Anna Fruhstorfer / Michael Hein (Hg.): Constitutional Politics in Central and Eastern Europe. Between Stability and Change, Wiesbaden: Springer VS, 2016, S. 463-493. URL:

Concepts of the Nation and Legitimation in Belarus, in: Martin Brusis / Joachim Ahrens / Maretin Schulze Wessel (eds.): Politics and Legitimacy in Post‐Soviet Eurasia, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015, pp. 148-171. URL:

Further publications

With Maryia Rohava: Verfassungspolitik und nationale Souveränität in Belarus, in: Belarus-Analysen Nr. 42, 29.03.2019, S. 2-16. URL:

With Janis Kluge: Kampf um das Eigentum. Staat und Wirtschaft in Russland, in: OSTEUROPA 68, 10-12/2018, S. 175–187. URL:

With Jan Matti Dollbaum: Der Bolotnaja-Prozess. In: Kurt Groenewold / Alexander Ignor / Arnd Koch (eds.): Lexikon der Politischen Strafprozesse, April 2018. URL:
The non-campaign of the 2018 presidential election in Russia. In: Presidential Power Blog, 07. März 2018. URL:
With Janis Kluge: Generalprobe für Russlands Präsidentschaftswahlen. Moskau stärkt seine Kontrolle über Gouverneure und regionale Finanzen. In: SWP-Aktuell 2017/A 66, September 2017. URL:

Ordnung der Macht. Die Generation Anton Wainos und Russlands techno-bürokratischer Autoritarismus, in: Russland-Analysen Nr. 322, 2016-10-07, pp. 13-19. URL:

„Securitization“ von Geschichte? Russlands Archivagentur Rosarchiv in der Präsidentenvertikale, in: Erinnerungskulturen. Erinnerung und Geschichtspolitik im östlichen und südöstlichen Europa (Weblog of the Graduate School), 2016-04-30. URL:

Gesetze wie heiße Piroggen – Geschichtspolitik und legislative Aktivität in der ukrainischen Rada, in: Erinnerungskulturen. Erinnerung und Geschichtspolitik im östlichen und südöstlichen Europa (Weblog of the Graduate School), 2015-06-10. URL:

Externe Einflüsse auf den ukrainischen Reformprozess: Wer bekommt was, wann und wie? In: Ukraine-Analysen Nr. 148, 2015-03-24, pp. 21-24. URL:

Die Ukraine-Krise in den deutschen Talkshows, in: Ukraine-Analysen Nr. 135, 2014-06-24, pp. 10-19. URL:

Neopatrimonializacija vmesto modernizacii: politika Germanii v otnošenii Rossii i «otkat». In: Forum novejshej vostočno-evropejskoj istorii i kul’tury (2), 2013, pp. 387-399. URL:

Neopatrimonialisierung statt Modernisierung. Deutsche Russlandpolitik plus russischer Otkat, in: OSTEUROPA 63, 8/2013, pp. 95-106. URL:

Moreover, several essays and smaller articles e.g. for,,,,,,,,,,

Presentations (selected)


"The institutional presidency and the power vertical: regime stabilization by institutionalization of the presidential administration in the Russian Federation 1994-2012" (First German-Russian Workshop on Institutional Change „Institutional Reform in Post-Communist States: Obstacles, Resistance, Failures“, Saint Petersburg State University, Saint Petersburg, October 2016).

"Measuring subconstitutional change of presidential power in the Russian Federation 1994-2012" (ECPR General Conference, Prague, September 2016).

"Presidential power and agenda-setting in the Russian Federation: The presidential address to the Federal Assembly 1994-2012" (Comparative Presidentialism seminar on paraconstitutional practices and informal institutions, St. Antony's College, University of Oxford, February 2016).


"Presidential power and institutional change in the Russian federation: accumulation, deinstitutionalization or signaling?" (Kolloquium der Forschungsstelle Osteuropa Bremen, November 2015).

"Presidential power and institutional change in the Russian Federation" (BISA PGN Annual Conference, King’s College London, March 2015).


"Constructing the nation - and its crisis? On the use of nationalist and crisis discourses in post-Soviet Belarus and Kyrgyzstan" (Ko-Autor des Beitrags, der von Philipp Lottholz vorgestellt wurde auf der Konferenz "Nationalist Responses to Economic and Political Crises", Nationalism Studies Pogram at the Central European University (CEU) and the Association for the Study of Nationalities (ASN) Central European University, Budapest, June 2014).

"Regime Durability and Legitimacy: The Consolidation of National Identity in Belarus" (The association for the Study of Nationalities 2014 World Convention. New York, Columbia University, Harriman Institute, February 2014).

"Presidential power and centre-periphery relations in Russia 1991-2012: Does institutional change have an effect on the recruitment of presidential representatives?" (KomPost-Workshop Elite Networks in Russia and Ukraine - Change, Structures and Political Role, Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, Berlin, February 2014).


"Neopatrimonialisation instead of modernisation. Germany’s policy towards Russia plus Russian otkat" (Research seminar "German - Russian relations in a Wider Europe: Interdisciplinary Facets", Osteuropa-Institut der Freien Universität Berlin, Berlin, November 2013).

"Executive-Legislative Relations in the Russian Constitutional Discourse: The Making of non-Western Constitutionalism" (with Petra Stykow, KomPost-Workshop, Munich, March 2013).


"Belarus – ein Staat ohne Nation, aber mit zwei nationalen Identitäten?" (20. JOE-Tagung: Jenseits der Transformation, Tutzing, Akademie für politische Bildung, June 2012).


"Medvedev's conservative modernization. A hegemonic discourse analysis" (Internationale Konferenz für Nachwuchswissenschaftler, Fakultät für Internationale Beziehungen, Saint Petersburg State University, Saint Petersburg, Russia, December 2011).