Disciplined and undisciplined repression: illicit economies and state violence in Central Asia’s autocracies

Lawrence P. Markowitz, Mariya Y. Omelicheva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


What explains the use of disciplined repression in some autocratic regimes and undisciplined repression in others? Despite its relevance to these broader debates on authoritarianism, this question remains inadequately explained in conventional approaches to repression. This article proposes that autocrats’ discipline over the use of state repression is a consequence of their differential control over illicit commercial networks. Autocratic regimes that consolidate their control over rents become dependent on security apparatuses to deepen and maintain that control. These regimes invest in and support the development of coercive capabilities, which leads to more disciplined state repression. Where autocratic regimes do not control illicit networks and rents, their dependence on security offices is low. Consequently, their investment in coercive capacity suffers, giving rise to patterns of undisciplined repression. This article explores the empirical implications of these regime trajectories through a controlled comparison of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, two drug transit states in post-Soviet Eurasia whose coercive institutions and patterns of state violence have developed in markedly different ways.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)367-383
Number of pages17
JournalPost-Soviet Affairs
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Political Science and International Relations


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