Maryia Rohava

PhD Project

Political Rituals under Autocratic Rule in Belarus, 1995-2015: Symbols, Performances and Popular Beliefs

How does ideational power impact the durability of autocratic regimes? Why does authoritarian leadership invest in ideational strategies? While these questions tend to reappear in the current scholarship on authoritarian regimes, they could not be addressed within the dominant institutionalist perspective on regime survival. The thesis contributes to a larger debate on the authoritarian stability by extending the academic inquiry into the micro-level power consolidation. The research offers a novel methodological perspective on discursive power in autocracies with an examination of everyday discourses and performances of Belarusian people. The main focus of this research is on political rituals, such as national celebrations, commemorations and official ceremonies, in independent Belarus from 1995 to 2015. The objective of this study is twofold. First, the study presents how discourses of national and nationalist practices are perceived and performed by Belarusian people through routine talk and deliberations given the contingencies of everyday life in Belarus. This bottom-up perspective elaborates on which identity practices hold symbolic importance for Belarusian citizens and what meaning they invest when they replicate and reenact discourses of national identity. The second part of this study analyzes how symbols and political rituals employed by the Belarusian elites impact and shape public behavior. As political rituals function to visualize popular approval of the current political order, it is instrumental to look closer into the level and the type of public involvement and participation. In my study, I clarify what mechanisms the Belarusian governing elites employ to control the public space and to mitigate displays of societal resistance. The research integrates the material and data from ethnographic observations, conducted during 2015 celebrations in Belarus, print and online media analysis as well as the discussions from six focus groups with people in Belarus

Academic Interests

  • Theories of nationalism and national identity
  • State formation and nation-building
  • Democratic theory
  • Political regimes
  • Eastern European countries

Higher education and employment history

I have a background in Political Science (B.A.), and I completed a research Master’s degree in European Studies at Maastricht University with the financial support of the Open Society Foundations.

Before joining UiO, I worked as a research assistant on EU multilevel governance at the European Institute of Public Administration in Barcelona. I gained experience in civil society empowerment and civil rights advocacy at the Eastern Europe Studies Centre in Lithuania and through participation in international election observation missions in Belarus, Georgia and Lithuania.

Tags: Area Studies, Russia, Belarus, Nationalism, Post-Soviet, Political regime, Social movements, Political anthropology


Rohava, M. (2018). Identity in an Autocratic State: Or What Belarusians Talk about When They Talk about National Identity. East European Politics and Societies. First published 15 December 2017.

  • Rohava, Maryia (2018). Identity in an Autocratic State: Or What Belarusians Talk about When They Talk about National Identity. East European Politics and Societies.  ISSN 0888-3254. . doi: Show summary

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Published Oct. 1, 2013 11:34 AM - Last modified Mar. 22, 2018 12:02 PM


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