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Photo: “European Union Flags 2“, by Thijs ter Haar, licensed under CC BY 2.0. Hue modified from the original

Petrova, Tsveta, and Paulina Pospieszna. “Democracy Promotion in Times of Autocratization: The Case of Poland, 1989–2019.” Post-Soviet Affairs 37, no. 6 (September 9, 2021): 526–43.


How has the post-2015 democratic rollback in Poland impacted its support for the democratization of Ukraine and Belarus? Conventional wisdom is that countries undergoing autocratization would abandon democracy promotion. In contrast, we provide evidence that even as democracy was undermined at home, Poland continued to provide democracy support abroad, albeit less enthusiastically. We further document that it was not the normative commitment of Polish elites to democracy but the instrumental embeddedness of democracy promotion in Polish foreign and security policies that ensured its survival. Lastly, we find that Poland’s support for democracy abroad now is closer to the new conservative values promoted at home, implemented mostly through state-run or state-controlled programs and less focused on supporting civil and political society abroad. Our paper contributes to the literature on regime promotion by analyzing and theorizing the overlooked question of how foreign policy, including democracy promotion, shifts for countries undergo autocratization.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.