Dictators, Democracy & Diplomacy

Sophie Adelman, Cofounder & CEO · Mon, 21 Mar 2022

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.

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The History of Ukraine War

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.

Military Strategies

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.

Book Recommendations

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?

List of books on dictators

Dictators, Democracy & Diplomacy

Throughout history, humans have found ways to oppress and malign those they feel they're in opposition to, whether because of ethnicity or beliefs. In this collection, we're exploring the legacy of persecutions past, and why they're such a recurring theme.

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Did the Roman Empire really wage a war against Christians and their God?

Dr. James Corke-Webster

History remembers the persecution of early Christians as a clash between the Roman state and its traditional gods, and the new Christian cult and its upstart God. But is that really all there is to the story?

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Are we living in an age of persecution?

Prof. Fathali M. Moghaddam

What's driving us when we act as a collective? And why does modern life mean more people feel persecuted than ever before?

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What conditions create witch hunts?

Dr. Mikki Brock

Witch hunting is, by and large, a thing of the past, yet we remain captivated by the concept. What drives this fascination, and why are we still talking about witch hunts today?

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