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Ethnonationalism or a Financial-Criminal Incentive Structure? Explaining Elite Support in Crimea for Russia’s Annexation

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Russia’s annexation of Crimea occurred after twenty years of relative peace and the apex (and failure) of pro-Russian sentiments within Crimea. Annexation is surprising for Putin’s willingness to pursue such risky actions, but also because it required elite support within Crimea. This article uses process tracing to test ethnonationalism in explaining support for Russia’s annexation against a rival explanation focusing on the role of criminality and crime (financial-criminal incentive structure). By exposing how and which elites defected in Crimea, the article demonstrates that elite breakage and realignments occurred within a financial-criminal incentive structure to motivate engagement in annexation. In turn, this article discusses its broader implications for understanding Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine and the politics of conflict, nationalism, and the wider former Soviet Union.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2024

This article was made available online on January 5, 2024 as a Fast Track article with title: "Ethnonationalism or a Financial-Criminal Incentive Structure? Explaining Elite Support in Crimea for Russia’s Annexation".

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  • Comparative Politics is an international journal that publishes scholarly articles devoted to the comparative analysis of political institutions and behavior. It was founded in 1968 to further the development of comparative political theory and the application of comparative theoretical analysis to the empirical investigation of political issues. Comparative Politics communicates new ideas and research findings to social scientists, scholars, and students, and is valued by experts in research organizations, foundations, and consulates throughout the world.
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