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Sponsoring student mobility for development and authoritarian stability

Adele Del Sordi publishes article in Globalizations


The recent special issue "The Authoritarian Rule of Populations Abroad" of the international journal Globalizations features the article "Sponsoring student mobility for development and authoritarian stability: Kazakhstan’s Bolashak programme" by Dr. Adele Del Sordi. The Graduate School's Postdoc analyses the political implications of student mobility sponsored by Kazakhstan’s Bolashak programme.

Political scientist Adele Del Sordi joined the Graduate School of East and Southeast European Studies in November 2017. She teaches courses at LMU Munich's Department of Sociology. 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.


Soon after independence, Kazakhstan established the state-sponsored student mobility programme ‘Bolashak’, which has since provided almost 12,000 young people with full scholarships for their studies abroad. Bolashak is considered here as a multidimensional tool, promoting development and channelling authoritarian rule at the same time. Through a series of qualitative interviews with alumni of the programme, this paper investigates the authoritarian and paternalistic features in Bolashak-related policies and discourses, looking at how they contribute to the three ‘pillars’ of authoritarian stability: repression, co-optation and legitimation. The findings of this paper question the assumption that globalization is bringing only challenges to autocracies. Kazakhstan is an example of how contemporary authoritarian regimes may open up to the world in order to seek development as well as political stability.

Adele Del Sordi: Sponsoring student mobility for development and authoritarian stability: Kazakhstan’s Bolashak programme. In: Globalizations 15, 2018, Issue 2: The Authoritarian Rule of Populations Abroad. DOI:10.1080/14747731.2017.1403780. - open access -