The Jean Monnet Chair “Europe and the Rule of Law” (EUROL) supports Prof. Popova’s research on European politics, comparative judicial politics and Post-Soviet politics.

Download Maria Popova’s full C.V. here.


Prosecuting high-level corruption in Eastern Europe
2018. Communist and Post-Communist Studies 51 (3): 231-244. With Vincent Post.

Do Eastern European courts effectively constrain politicians and uphold the rule of law? Criminal prosecution of grand (high-level) corruption can further the central principle of equal responsibility under the law by demonstrating that even powerful political actors have to submit to the laws of the land. This article introduces the Eastern European Corruption Prosecution Database, which contains entries for all cabinet ministers (927 in total) who served in a government that held office in one of seven post-Communist Eastern European countries since the late 1990s. The systematic data collection reveals that Bulgaria, Romania and Macedonia consistently indict more ministers than Croatia, the Czech Republic, and Poland; Slovakia has barely indicted anyone. We aim to start a research agenda by formulating hypotheses about which countries will see more corruption prosecutions and which ministers’ characteristics would make them more likely to face the court. We use the database to begin testing these hypotheses and find some evidence for several associations. We find no strong evidence that EU conditionality or membership raises the profile of the grand corruption issue or leads to more indictments. Party politics seems to affect the frequency of corruption indictments more than the structure and behavior of legal institutions. Indictment rates are lower when a former Communist party controls the government and individual ministers from junior coalition partners are more vulnerable to indictment than other ministers. The existence of a specialized anti-corruption prosecution or a more independent judiciary do not seem to lead to the indictment of more ministers on corruption charges. Finally, we discuss avenues of future research that our database opens, both for the analysis of country-level and individual-level variation.

Download paper here (gated).

Politicized Justice in Emerging Democracies: A Study of Courts in Russia and Ukraine
2012. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Why are independent courts rarely found in emerging democracies? This book moves beyond familiar obstacles, such as an inhospitable legal legacy and formal institutions that expose judges to political pressure. It proposes a strategic pressure theory, which claims that in emerging democracies, political competition eggs on rather than restrains power-hungry politicians. Incumbents who are losing their grip on power try to use the courts to hang on, which leads to the politicization of justice. The analysis uses four original datasets, containing 1,000 decisions by Russian and Ukrainian lower courts from 1998 to 2004. The main finding is that justice is politicized in both countries, but in the more competitive regime (Ukraine) incumbents leaned more forcefully on the courts and obtained more favorable rulings.

Winner of 2012-2013 American Association for Ukrainian Studies prize for best book in the fields of Ukrainian history, politics, language, literature, and culture and featured in a Critical Dialogue in Perspectives on Politics and reviewed in 11 other journals in comparative politics, area studies, law, and anthropology.