Home » Research




Working Papers

Empire in the Making: Evidence from the early Ottoman Empire

Author: Bogdan Popescu

Empires have been the norm for much human history. Many empires ruled over indigenous populations using violence, while others ruled peacefully by cooperating with local elites. The article answers why empires collaborate with local elites and how. I provide an elite-based explanation and argue that in order to ensure durability of rule, the imperial center needs to make concessions and rent-sharing arrangements to local elites. I use quantitative evidence from an Ottoman fiscal register from the mid 15th century about the province of Arnavıd (part of modern-day Albania). I show that the sultan makes more concessions and rent-sharing to locals whose preferences are in tandem with his. Specifically, local elites who converted to Islam have higher income from taxes collected and more villages assigned to them. In contradistinction, local elites who come from old noble families whose preferences are far from the sultan’s, have fewer concessions and less rent. These findings have implications for the way we understand imperial rule and for the power trade-off that occurs between ruler and the ruled.

Colonialism in Europe: Imperial Legacies in the Balkans

Author: Bogdan Popescu

There is a plethora of research examining European colonial legacies around the world, arguing that in some cases, Europeans established settlement colonies while in other cases, they set up extractive colonies primarily aimed at collecting natural resources. There is however a dearth of research when it comes to colonialism in Europe. Some recent scholarship in economics argues that some countries in Eastern Europe are doing worse economically than others due to the lingering legacy of the Ottoman Empire. Such research however does not take into consideration the variety of formal and informal political institutions that the Ottomans set up in the different regions of Eastern Europe. For example, one typical outcome associated with colonial legacies is corruption. Therefore, parts of Eastern Europe that were under the Ottoman Empire should have similar levels of corruption. Nevertheless, an empirical subnational examination of household survey data from the Life in Transitions Survey (LITS) from 2006 and 2010 from places like Romania and Croatia reveals a puzzling picture: places that were Ottoman in Romania have on average perceptions of higher incidence of corruption compared to non Ottoman places. In contradistinction, places that were Ottoman in Croatia have on average perceptions of lower incidence compared to non-Ottoman places. In this project, I provide a more nuanced picture of the effect of the Ottoman Empire than previous works, by arguing that the Ottoman Empire has not had the same influence everywhere. I argue that the different institutions that the Ottomans set up in Eastern Europe (whether direct or indirect rule) together with the size of bureaucracy and level of monitoring had a long-lasting effect on human behavior today, which is one explanation for the different patterns in perceptions about the incidence of corruption within individual countries.


State Censorship: A Global Study of Press Freedom in Non-Democratic Regimes

Author: Bogdan Popescu

Non-democratic regimes often do experience some degree of freedom of the press. This paper develops and tests a theory to explain the differences in this respect between non-democratic countries. Starting from Geddes’ distinction between military, personalist and single-party regimes, the paper argues that press freedom will be most restricted in personalist regimes because of the political isolation of leaders and ruling cliques. Single-party regimes, being the most transparent and inclusive among non-democratic regimes (Geddes, 1999) will allow the greatest level of press freedom. This however, depends on their level of heterogeneity: in single-party regimes with little or non-existent opposition, there will be more censorship, the leaders being able to coordinate better; in single-party regimes with much opposition, there is more media freedom. Military regimes are also expected to censor the press based on the fact that their leaders are socialized within a culture o violence and will be capable of censoring the press in order to stay in power. These theoretical expectations are empirically tested using country data from Freedom House and Reporters without Borders, which are analyzed in a panel data research design.

Published Papers

Knowledge breeds affects: How does the understanding EU’s Internal Complexities increase EU’s image among Chinese people

Authors: Zhengxu Wang and Bogdan Popescu

Citation: Zhengxu Wang and Bogdan Popescu, 2013. ’Knowledge breeds affects: How does the understanding EUs Internal Complexities increase EUs image among Chinese people?’. In: L. Dong, Z. Wang and H. Dekker, eds., Chinese Views of the EU: Public Support for a Strong Relation, Routledge.

Perception of another country or power plays an important role in public preferences of foreign policies. If citizens perceive another power as friendly or even attractive, they are more likely to give consent to policies that will bring their country closer to the power in question. By projecting a more positive image in another society, a country increases its soft power. In this study, we test the hypothesis that the understanding of another country’s internal complexities will help brew positive perception of that country. In the Western societies, for example, it was found that citizens with more understanding of the social and cultural complexities of Arabic countries had largely more positive perceptions of them. We test this theory by looking at Chinese people perception of the EU and Europeans with a newly collected dataset from 3,000 citizens living in six major cities in China. We found that, ceteris paribus, the knowledge of EU complexities significantly affect Chinese people’s perception of EU, as a player in global affairs. People with more knowledge of the EU area show more positive attitudes of Europeans, even if their personal experience of the EU or Europeans might have been negative. The study hence furthers our understanding of political and cultural psychology, and carries important implications for building international trust as well as soft power of political actors.

%d bloggers like this: