Dr. Adele Del Sordi


Graduiertenschule für Ost- und Südosteuropastudien
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Maria-Theresia-Str. 21

81675 München

Tel.: +49 (0)89 / 2180 - 9597

Research Project

Authoritarian regimes in quest of global legitimacy. Understanding the nexus between Russia’s domestic and international legitimation

My research will explore the nexus between international engagement, authoritarian legitimation and regime stability in reference to post-Soviet Russia. The project sets to answer the questions of whether and how globalisation influences the attempts of contemporary authoritarian regimes to legitimize their rule, both abroad and at home. In particular, the project investigates the ways the Russian government legitimizes its controversial involvement in Ukraine and Syria in front of global and domestic audiences. By looking at the framing used in Russian national and international media channels, my research proposes: (i) to decode the ways the Kremlin justifies its controversial actions in front of the international community, counteracting Western criticism and proposing alternative narrations; (ii) to analyse the ways such involvement and the on-going confrontation with the West are used to claim legitimacy in the domestic discourse; (iii) to unpack and theorize the deep connection existing between the domestic and international dimensions of authoritarian legitimation; and (iv) to understand the implications of these dynamics for the stability of Putin’s regime.

Curriculum Vitae

Since November 2017, Adele Del Sordi is a post-doctoral researcher at the Graduate School of East and Southeast European Studies at the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich, Germany. She holds a PhD in Political Systems and Institutional Change from the Institute of Advanced Studies (IMT) in Lucca, Italy. Her dissertation was on “The party of power of Kazakhstan. The origins, resources and functions of Nur Otan”.

In 2014-2017 she was a post-doctoral researcher with the project “Authoritarianism in a Global Age” at the University of Amsterdam (The Netherlands), where she investigated the impact of globalization on authoritarian sustainability in post-Soviet Kazakhstan. Adele was a visiting researcher at the German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA), in Hamburg, Germany (2017), at the CREES of Birmingham, UK (2010) and at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, at Harvard University, USA (2010-2011). In 2009 Adele spent a term teaching and researching at the OSCE Academy in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic.

Her research interests include the stability of authoritarian regimes, nation branding, higher education, post-Soviet politics, authoritarian legitimation and diffusion. A qualitative-oriented scholar, she has conducted extensive fieldwork in Kazakhstan between 2011 and 2017.

Positions, Assignments and Memberships

  • Member of Study Group "Empires"
  • Member of the American Political Science Association (since 2017)
  • Member of the Central Eurasian Studies Society (since 2017)
  • Member of the Associazione per lo Studio in Italia dell'Asia Centrale e del Caucaso (ASIAC; since 2012)


Journal Articles and Book Chapters

With Glasius, M., De Lange, M., Bartman, J, Dalmasso, E., Lv, A., Michaelsen, M. & Rujgrok, K.: Research, Ethics and Risk in the Authoritarian Field. Palgrave Pivot. 2018 (forthcoming).

Sponsoring student mobility for development and authoritarian stability: Kazakhstan’s Bolashak programme. In: Globalizations 15 (2: The Authoritarian Rule of Populations Abroad), 2018, 215-231. DOI:10.1080/14747731.2017.1403780.

Kazakhstan 2017: Institutional stabilisation, Nation-building, International engagement. In: Asia MaiorXXVIII, 2017, 411-430.

Kazakhstan 2015-2016: Balancing Regime Stability Amidst Local and Global Challenge. In: Asia Maior XXVII, 2016, 439-461.

With Dalmasso, E., Glasius, M., Hirt, N., Michaelsen, M., Mohammad, A. S., & Moss, D.: Intervention: Extraterritorial authoritarian power. In: Political Geography, 30, 2017, 1-10.

Legitimation and the Party of Power in Kazakhstan. In: J. Ahrens, M. Brusis & M. Schulze Wessel (eds.): Politics and Legitimacy in Post-Soviet Eurasia. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016, 72-96.

I ‘partiti del potere’ come istituzioni autoritarie: i casi di Russia e Kazakhstan [= ‘Parties of power’ as authoritarian institutions: The cases of Russia and Kazakhstan]. In: Conference Proceedings “La Comunità di Stati Indipendenti a 20 anni dalla dissoluzione dell’URSS”, Milan: Maggioli, 2014.

Post-Soviet Central Asia. In: R. Di Quirico and E. Baracani (eds.): Alternatives to Democracy: Non-democratic Regimes and the Limits to Democracy Diffusion. Florence: European Press Academy Publishing, 2013.

Further Publications

With Filippini, C.: Federazione di Russia. In: Quaderni Costituzionali, 34(4), 2014, 1046-1048.

With Filippini, C.: Federazione di Russia. In: Quaderni Costituzionali, 34(3), 2014, 816-817.

With Filippini, C.: Federazione di Russia. In: Quaderni Costituzionali, 34(2), 2014, 554-556.

With Filippini, C.: Federazione di Russia. In: Quaderni Costituzionali, 34(1),2014, 261-263.

Are the local elections really a step forward to decentralization in Kazakhstan? In: Eurasianet.es, 2014. URL: http://eurasianet.es/2014/01/are-local-elections-a-step-forward-to-decentralization-kazakhstan/

Local Akims elections in Kazakhstan. In: Italian on DIPEO, Blog of the University of Milan on East European Legislation, 2013. URL: http://users2.unimi.it/dirpubesteuropa/2013/11/le-elezioni-degli-akim-locali-in-kazakistan/

Presentations (selected)


Public Round Table "Future Challenges to Authoritarianism Research." Contribution to a round table by the International Diffusion and Cooperation of Authoritarian Regimes (IDCAR) network coordinated by the GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies / Leibniz-Institut für Globale und Regionale Studien, Hamburg, May 18 2018.


"In the Hall of Mirrors: EXPO 2017 Astana as a Case Study of Global Authoritarian Legitimation." Paper prepared for the panel "How do authoritarian regimes deal with the quest of legitimacy?", APSA Conference, San Francisco, CA, USA, August 30 - September 3, 2017.

"Is the 'Bolashak syndrome' real? The expectations, employment and innovation potential of Kazakhstani graduates returning from abroad," with Fariza Tolesh, Nazarbayev University. Joint ESCAS‐CESS Conference. Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic, June 29 - July 2, 2017.

"Together we are stronger: Sponsoring student mobility as a source of authoritarian stability in  Kazakhstan." ISA's 58th Annual Convention. Baltimore, MD, USA, February 22-25, 2017.


"Blurred borders between authoritarian and democratic regimes: the international relations of Kazakhstan and Morocco," with Emanuela Dalmasso, University of Amsterdam. Third IDCAR Network Conference "International Resistance to Democratization: Is it Really All About Authoritarian Co-operation?" Nuffield College, Oxford, 29.-30. September.

"Degrees of separation: How many hands must a Kazakh citizen shake until she reaches the president?" with and Franziska Barbara Keller, New York University. The Association for the Study of Nationalities 2016 World Convention, Columbia University, New York, USA, 14.-16. April.


"Was the party of power exported from Russia to Kazakhstan? Cooperation and learning between United Russia and Nur Otan," Workshop "Eurasian Integration and Authoritarian Diffusion," Leiden University, The Netherlands, 12.-13. März.


"Political Institutions and Legitimacy in Kazakhstan: What Role for the Party of Power," Annual Aleksanteri Conference, Helsinki, Finland, 22.-24. Oktober.


"The state capitalist model in Kazakhstan and the use of economic performance as legitimizing instance," Conference of the Research Network "Institutions and Institutional Change in Postsocialism" (KomPost), Munich, Germany, 28.-30. November.


"The ‘party of power’ Nur Otan and the stability of the Kazakhstani political system," Annual Conference of the British Association of Slavonic and East European Studies (BASEES), Cambridge, UK, 31. März - 2. April.


"Parties of Power as Authoritarian Institutions: The cases of Russia and Kazakhstan," ASN Joint Conference "Twenty Years Later Reshaping Space and Identity," Moscow, Russian Federation, 29. September - 1. Oktober.