The dissertation approaches the phenomenon of selective law enforcement in Russian politics. The practice of using law selectively against regime critics in Russia is well known, yet has received little theoretical attention. Through an explorative and cross-disciplinary research design, the dissertation seeks to deal meticulously with the confusion and non-transparency associated with the practice. The dissertation presents and develops a novel concept of selective law enforcement in Russian politics, defined as a “mechanism of repression aimed at enforcing informal rules of political conduct through selective legal acts.”
The empirical foundation for the research is the author’s qualitative fieldwork in a dozen different locations in European Russia in 2010 and 2011. Importantly, the conceptualization is first and foremost based on the perceptions of the practice among those who find themselves subjected to it, namely opposition politicians and critics of the regime in a broad sense.
The above definition of selective law enforcement is the epicenter of the analysis, answering the broadly posed questions of what selective law enforcement is and how it works in Russian politics. Differing from existing perspectives, my approach actively grapples with the essential formal/informal and legal/extra-legal hybridity of the practice, and provides a formalized model as to how Russian authorities play upon the non-transparency associated with rule enforcement in order to distort criticism.
To deal with this hybridity of selective law enforcement head on, the study develops significant insight. First, the dissertation presents evidence to the concept’s fit with the practice as experienced by the interviewees. Second, the study points to a number of theoretical implications to how we can understand and deal with quasi-legality in more complex terms. Third, my efforts to conceptualize selective law enforcement in a rigorous and testable manner provide solid ground for further expansion and research, something which is of high importance in a field of study prone to speculation and anecdotal evidence.