2020 Davis Center Book Prize

The Davis Center Book Prize in Political and Social Studies, established in 2008 and sponsored by the Kathryn W. and Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University, is awarded annually for an outstanding monograph published on Russia, Eurasia, or Eastern Europe in anthropology, political science, sociology, or geography in the previous calendar year.

Winner: Lenka Bustikova

Title: Extreme Reactions: Radical Right Mobilization in Eastern Europe (Cambridge University Press)

In a highly original and thoroughly researched study, Bustikova’s Extreme Reactions provides a timely account of the sources of support for parties that peddle in ethnic division and hatred. Most studies of the radical right focus on xenophobia, economic uncertainty, and institutional volatility. Bustikova shows that none of these cherished hypotheses satisfactorily explain the changing fortunes of the radical right. Antipathy toward ethnic minorities is too widespread and constant to account for the variation in support; the success of these parties fails to track economic performance; and the radical right’s vote share is unrelated to efficacy of the center-right. Instead, the book’s central claim is that radical right support is tied directly to the mobilization of ethnic minorities within the framework of democratic politics. Radical right parties are fueled not by prejudice and xenophobia but by dissatisfaction with and resentment against politically ascending minority groups. Where ethnic minorities remain politically quiescent, where large mainstream parties exclude them from cabinets, or where the ethnic minority is large enough to threaten the political dominance of the majority, radical right parties fail to gain traction in the electorate. When minorities mobilize, when mainstream parties include them within ruling coalitions, and where ethnic minorities are demographically not so weighty as to constitute a threat to the majority’s nation-building project, radical right parties find fertile electoral soil. The book effectively supports this theory with evidence using a multi-method research design: cross-national data from virtually every post-communist election, an original survey and survey experiments from Slovakia and Ukraine, and deep historical knowledge backed up by interviews with party elites from across the spectrum. Extreme Reactions reaches across disciplines to help us understand a topic of contemporary concern. It significantly advances our understanding of the darker forces unleashed by democracy itself.

Honorable Mention: Justine Buck Quijada

Title: Buddhists, Shamans, and Soviets: Rituals of History in Post-Soviet Buryatia (Oxford University Press)

Drawing from rich ethnographic research, Buddhists, Shamans, and Soviets is a novel contribution to studies of ritual, knowledge production, and indigeneity. By centering the typically marginal region of Buryatia, Justine Buck Quijada provides a unique lens onto the production of history as a post-Soviet and decolonizing process.

Honorable Mention: Samuel A. Greene and Graeme L. Robertson

Title: Putin v. The People, The Perilous Politics of a Divided Russia (Yale University Press)

Based upon extensive original research among Russia’s citizenry, Putin v. The People lucidly explores the sources of support and dissatisfaction with Vladimir Putin’s rule. What has kept Putin in power? This groundbreaking study rejects accounts focusing solely on political repression and highlights instead the “co-constructed” nature of Putin’s power. The durability of Putin’s autocratic rule, Greene and Robertson maintain, is based on a continuously changing and fragile consensus among Russian citizens and between the Kremlin and the public.