Virtual WiP: Is There a Post-Soviet Police Culture?

CRRC, ARISC and American Councils are proud to present the 8th talk of the 2020 Fall Series of the Tbilisi Works-in-Progress series, now celebrating its 10th year!

“Is There a Post-Soviet Police Culture? Police Reform, Interview Methods, and Violence against Women in Georgia”

By Matthew Light, University of Toronto

Date: December 2, 2020, at 18:30 Tbilisi time
Virtual venue: Given the continuing COVID19 situation, we will once again hold the Works-in-Progress session virtually. The Zoom link will be posted on WiP Facebook page on the day of the event. Alternatively, you can RSVP to georgia[at]

This paper examines the nature of post-Soviet “police culture”—how the police understand and approach their social role—through a study of police interview methods in Georgia, focusing on investigations of crimes of violence against women. Drawing on interviews and government and civil society reports, I show that harsh interview methods derived from Soviet criminal procedure persisted in Georgia for more than a decade after President Mikheil Saakashvili’s police reform drive. Such methods are widespread across the post-Soviet region, suggesting scholars should be attuned to the existence of a shared, durable police culture influencing the reception and results of targeted reform efforts.

Matthew Light is associate professor of criminology and European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies at the University of Toronto. His research focuses on migration control, policing, and other aspects of public and citizen security in the post-Soviet region. Light received his doctorate in political science from Yale University in 2006. His book, Fragile Migration Rights: Freedom of Movement in Post-Soviet Russia, was published by Routledge in 2016. His current project is a multi-year study of police and security sector evolution in post-Euromaidan Ukraine, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Although this presentation will take place in virtual format, in observation of the spirit of the Chatham House Rule to which the series generally adheres, the talk will not be recorded and we courteously request that the other participants refrain from recording and/or distributing it as well. The opinions expressed in WiP talks are those of the speakers alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC, ARISC or of American Councils.
WiP is an ongoing academic discussion series based in Tbilisi, Georgia, that normally takes place at the new office of CRRC at Liziko Kavtaradze St. 1. It is co-organized by the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC), the American Councils for International Education: ACTR/ACCELS, and the American Research Institute of the South Caucasus (ARISC). All of the talks are free and open to the public.