Parameters of Police Reform and Non-Reform in Post-Soviet Regimes: The Case of Armenia
- Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization
- Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies, The George Washington University
- Volume 26, Number 1, Winter 2018
- pp. 83-108
- Additional Information
We examine police reform in Armenia as an illustrative case study to assess what kinds of reforms are feasible in post-Soviet states. Using documentary sources, ethnographic observation, and key-informant interviews, we review four major areas of reform: anti-corruption measures in the highway police, modernization of police recruitment and training, the policing of protest, and treatment of victims and witnesses in criminal investigations. The outcomes of Armenia’s reforms are modest, with significant improvement in some areas, ambiguous or cosmetic changes in others, and lack of reform in still others, where the government and international partners have not made progress a priority (“neglected reforms”) or reject change altogether for reasons of regime survival (“blocked reforms”). We explain these outcomes through the country’s intra-elite relations, antecedent levels of corruption and street crime, and international linkages, suggesting Armenia’s reforms may be more typical of the region than better-studied Georgia and Russia. Based on these findings, similar modest reforms could occur in electoral authoritarian regimes throughout the region, although reforms may only be possible following a radical political transformation.