Dictators, Democracy & Diplomacy
How the Ukraine War reawakened our awareness of the fragility of democracy
Hi - welcome to Curious Minds. I’m Sophie from The Garden. In every Digest we will rounding up the most interesting Talks, articles, books & twitter threads on one of the themes raised in recent Garden Talks & Circles. Featuring must-watch and must-read content by the most inspiring researchers, authors and academics, curated to fascinate and inspire. If you enjoy the content, please share it with your curious friends.
The History of Ukraine War
Professor Nathaniel Knight giving his Garden Talk
The most watched Garden Talk last week was my conversation on The Background to the Ukraine War with Nathaniel Knight, Professor of Russian & Eastern European History at Seton Hall University.
Ukraine & Russia have historical roots dating back to the 9th Century but their paths diverged for almost 500 years from around 1200 AD during which distinct cultures, languages and histories emerged, before Ukraine was absorbed into the broader Russian Empire. The fall of the Soviet Union brought forth an independent Ukraine, which is the antithesis of Russia; a functioning democracy with fair & free elections, successful transfers of power and a free press. This history helps explain why Putin can’t accept an independent Ukraine….Watch here to learn more.
It is increasingly becoming clear that Putin’s plan to invade Ukraine, quickly overwhelm their armed forces, take Kyiv & install a puppet leader is failing. Dr. Mike Martin at King’s College London has been sharing his real time thoughts on Russia’s military strategy. He believes that Putin’s inner circle are not giving their President accurate information so his world view is divorced from reality. He shares potential end-game scenarios in this fascinating thread…..Read more here
Do economic sanctions work?
The economic sanctions imposed on Russia & Russian Oligarchs over the past 3 weeks are the most drastic & wide-ranging economic sanctions ever imposed on a major economy. Designed to force Putin to reconsider the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the impact will be felt at all levels of the Russian economy. But do they work? And can they be considered as a form of warfare? Nicholas Mulder, assistant professor of modern European history at Cornell University, traced the history of economic sanctions over the last century & shares his insights into the sobering lessons and unintended consequences they present. Buy his book here or read more here.
Inside the Mind of a Dictator
Dictators share a cluster of personality characteristics: Narcissism (often pathological); drive for absolute power and control; low tolerance for ambiguity; conspiratorial thinking and Machiavellianism; illusions of grandeur and control. They are also instinctively aware of how to manipulate and direct followers. But it takes a crisis (or perceived crisis) to create the opportunity for someone with these traits to springboard into dictatorship. Professor Fathali Moghaddam shared his insights on the psychology of dictators in his Garden Talk and the steps from potential to absolute control. Watch here or read this article by Ali.
The Fragility of Democracy
Historically strongman dictatorships & absolute monarchies have been the norm in most societies. Democracy is a relatively new, fragile & experimental phenomenon. recent phenomenon. There have been plenty of democracies that have failed, from the collapse of the Roman Republic to the 1953 Iranian coup d'état. In this private speech Mitt Romney discusses the challenges that have emerged in preserving American democracy.
Music as an instrument of war
The amazing Dr. Jennifer Cassidy from Oxford University, who joins us next week in The Garden to discuss how social media is becoming the frontline of modern wars, did part of her PhD on the Information War that was fought during the Annexation of Crimea in 2013/2014. She is also a world class violinist and we loved hearing her spontaneous rendition of ‘The Parting Glass’ in honour of St. Patrick’s Day and in memory of the fallen and the fighters in Ukraine.
Want to dig deeper? Check out our bookshop where we have a selection of fascinating biographies, books on history and psychology, and essays. We've included a few on Putin and Russia in this context specifically, including Putin's Russia by Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya that you may find useful. Are there any books that should be in this list?
Next Week in The Garden
March 21st, 7.30pm GMT - Nature vs Nurture: How does where you grow up impact who you become? - Dr Dorsa Amir
March 23rd, 6pm GMT - Digital Diplomacy: Is social media threatening foreign relations? - Dr. Jennifer Cassidy
March 24th, 2pm GMT - Garden Perennial: What can Shakespeare tell us about truth? - Dr. Lisa Dickson
March 24th, 6pm GMT - Garden Perennial: Can life be both wonderful & terrible at the same time? - Prof. Shannon Murray
Comments, questions or ideas for amazing Fellows? email@example.com