New Frontiers in the Study of Dictatorship and Democracy

University of Ostrava

Address: Českobratrská 16, 702 00 Ostrava.

29-30-31 May 2024

Call for applications is Closed

Conference program is available

This international conference brings together young and experienced scholars working on non-democracies to present their latest findings on how dictatorships behave, perform and interact. We are aiming for full global coverage and warmly invite area specialists to present old and new takes on cases from their regions of interest. Of course, we do not exclude scholars, policy-makers and other experts working on democratization and democratic backsliding, which can offer complementary viewpoints in the study of democracy and autocracy.
The overall goal of this conference resonates with the mission of the M.O.R.D.O.R. project: To provide a more cohesive and clearer theoretical understanding of dictatorship to area specialists and democracy support policy-makers, while in return, have area specialists bring new (and overlooked) developments to the fore based on innovative fieldwork and their in-depth understanding of country studies, which in turn can challenge and improve existing theories. Practitioners and policy-makers, similarly, can expose the effectiveness and limits of the available tools used to promote and support democracy.
The conference will tackle these topics from theoretical, methodological and critical angles. Dictatorships by principle are defined by their exclusion, and therefore we welcome gendered and post-colonial perspectives. We aim to pry open the black box of political regimes to discuss their internal workings and interaction with non-regime actors, but in parallel we ponder behavioral patterns of autocracies in international relations, how they collaborate and learn from one another. The ‘clash’ of democracy and non-democracy is certainly a debate we look forward on continuing even with contested topics like autocratic “diffusion” and democracy “promotion” however, nuances are required to account for the heterogeneity of regimes and the actual causality of their IR interactions. 
This conference is a one-time event, organized by the M.O.R.D.O.R. Erasmus+ project and hosted by the University of Ostrava. This event is co-funded by the Erasmus+ program of the European Union. We aim to connect about 100 participants working in fields related to dictatorship at this international conference. 
WHEN – The conference will take place from Wednesday 29 May 2024 to Friday 31 May 2024.
FOR WHOM – This conference is aimed academics, experts, policy-makers and students working on authoritarianism and democratization. It is possible to attend the conference without presenting a paper. This is not a hybrid event. Selected participants have to attend in person.
SUBMISSIONS – We welcome paper and roundtable abstract submissions. 
PRESENTING A PAPER – All paper proposals will be reviewed and organized into the most suitable section. Scholars can propose one or two sections they would like to join, but the final choice will go the organizers. If your paper is not selected, it is still possible to participate without presenting. We do not plan a post-conference publication. We will not upload papers in a paper-room, but selected paper presenters will be put in email contact with their panel reviewers, so they can pass on their draft papers beforehand for feedback, if they choose to. 
FEES – This conference is fully co-funded by the Erasmus+ program of the European Union, and for this region we are glad to announce that we can wave off any conference fees. However, an administrative fee of 50 EUR will be required in order to attend this event. 
VISA & INVITATIONS – Once participants are selected, the University of Ostrava can – upon request- provide letters of invitations and visa invitation letter for embassies. Certificates of attendance will be provided on the last day of the conference. 
GRANTS – Regrettably, we cannot offer travel grants or other discounts.
LOCATION & LOGISTICS – We chose Ostrava as our event location because it is centrally located in Europe, well-connected by train, and is also served by various bus and train connections from airports like Katowice (Poland), Vienna or Prague. The costs of accommodation in Ostrava are very reasonable and the organizers plan to provide snacks and refreshments (as the budget allows) beside an informal dinner (on 30 May 2024).
VENUE – The conference will be hosted by the University of Ostrava in Ostrava, Czech Republic. Address: Českobratrská 16, 702 00 Ostrava.
DEADLINES – The call for applications and registration are closed. 
CONTACT – for additional information please contact Dr. Nune Srapyan at admin@mordorproject.eu  

Key Notes Speakers

Fumbling in Kyiv’s Shadow: Unravelling Putin’s Missteps in Understanding Ukraine

Stephen G. F.  Hall (University of Bath)

Authoritarian Nostalgia: Why is Authoritarianism so hard to quit?

Natasha Lindstaedt (University of Essex)

Tyranny: how to apply an ancient concept to modern dictatorships and why this matters?

Edmund Stewart (University of Nottingham)
(more to come)

Thematic Sessions


SPECIAL PANEL 1 – Theorizing Contemporary Personalist Rule


The challenge of autocratic personalism: Trajectories and implications

Abel Escribà-Folch (Universitat Pompeu Fabra) – Online contribution


Personalist Regimes: Are they the monarchies of the Modern Era?

Jeroen Van den Bosch (AMU)


SPECIAL PANEL 2 – Political regimes and democratization in de facto states 

Section Chair: Vincenc Kopeček (Ostrava University)

In the first decade of the 21st century, a number of de facto states (unrecognized states) used the strategy of democratization as a political tool to legitimize their claims to independence and recognition. While this strategy has indeed brought some democratisation in states such as Abkhazia or Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), it has failed to achieve its ultimate goal of international recognition. The question that the proposed panel should address is what is the current situation with democratisation in the de facto states? Is the democratization-for-recognition strategy still used by some de facto states? How has Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine affected political regimes in the de facto states in Russia’s neighbourhood? What impact has the global competition between the collective West and non-Western actors, especially China and Russia, had on the internal political dynamics and political regimes in de facto states in general? We welcome theoretical and empirical contributions focused on particular cases of de facto states broadly defined.


Workshops for Young scholars

Developing soft skills and negotiation capacities in early academic career

Daniela Irrera (School of Advanced Defence Studies, Italy)


Doing Fieldwork in Authoritarian Contexts

Vincenc Kopeček (Ostrava University)


The Do’s and Don’ts of Getting Project Funding

Jeroen Van den Bosch (Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, M.O.R.D.O.R. Coordinator)


MindMates: Elevating Your Research Game with AI as Your Personal Assistant

Lukáš Laš (Ostrava University) & Jeroen Van den Bosch (AMU)

The scopus diaries and the (il)logics of academic careers

Abel Polese (Dublin City University & Université Libre de Bruxelles)


How to Create an Efficient and Sustainable Writing Practice?

Alžběta Šváblová (Bayreuth University)



We have worked out several conference sections to cluster papers. Sub-topics are to be adapted and reshuffled regarding the papers received, of course, but we hope that the overview below underlines our comprehensive range of topics we want to address at this conference. (Note that this list is not exhaustive and that we do welcome papers related to autocracy and democracy on topics not listed below.)

Theory, Methods & Critical Perspectives

This panel brings together papers on theory, methodology and measurement, the delineation and diffusion of core concepts as well as inviting gendered, racist and post-colonial perspectives to shed new lights on mainstream theories. Besides in-depth theoretical papers, this panel also invites papers that bridge fields and expose the needed synergy between comparative politics, international relations and area studies.
  • Old & New Concepts
  • Classifying Political Regimes
  • Measuring Autocracy
  • Gendered Perspectives
  • Post-Colonial Perspectives
  • Bridging Comparative Politics, IR & Area Studies
  • Non-Western Theoretical Innovations

Regime Archetypes

This section groups papers according to their archetypical manifestations, as they have been conceptualized and reinterpreted through time. Examples need not be area-dependent (there is another section for that). Contributions can cover topics ranging from their conceptualization, behavior, to their performance or evolution.
  • Juntas & Modern Caudillos – on Military Rule
  • Defiant Worldviews – on Ideocracies & Theocracies
  • Guardians of the New Order – on Revolutionary Regimes
  • Kings, Sheiks & Sultans – on Monarchic Rule
  • Oligarchs & Politburos – on Civilian Rule
  • The Murky Middle – on Hybrid Regimes
  • Tyranny & Neo-Sultanism – on Personalist Rule

Dictatorships & International Relations

This important section invites papers that integrate an IR perspective to our understanding of how autocracies behave in the international system. Moreover, we added the topic of features and experiences of regimes that resist change and keep them locked in common political-cultural legacies.
  • Autocratic Collaboration
  • Autocratic performance
  • International relations
  • Autocratic Learning
  • Black Knights and Autocratic Diffusion
  • Colonial, Imperial and Communist Legacies
  • Democracy Promotion & Support
  • Democratic Resilience

Transitions for Better or Worse

This traditional section zooms in on all types of transitions, regime and leadership changes and their consequences. Invited papers may cover a wide spectrum of perspectives, ranging from drivers of transitions to the long-range effects and everything in between.
  • Coups & Assassinations
  • Democratic Backsliding & Erosion
  • Democratic Consolidation
  • Democratization
  • Revolutions & Ousters
  • Ruler fates & exits

Inside the Black Box: Actors & Institutions in Dictatorships

This section looks inside regimes and interactions between elites and non-elite actors in domestic contexts, the role of institutions and internal dynamics of inner circles during specific contexts.
  • Authoritarian Control & Power Sharing
  • Autocratic Resilience & Survival
  • Autocratic Successions
  • Civil & Uncivil society
  • Disenfranchised groups
  • Opposition in Dictatorship
  • Rulers, elites & inner circles

Cases & Country Studies*

This section is devoted to relevant case studies that contribute to our understanding of political regimes and theory. 
  • Eurasian Cases
  • Indo-Pacific Cases
  • Latin American Cases
  • Middle Eastern and North African Cases
  • Sub Saharan African Cases
  • Western Cases
*All labels like “Western,” “Latin American” or “Indo-Pacific” are used as a shorthand to merely denote a geographical region, please ignore their (geo-)political connotations.