Elite purges in dictatorships
Elite Purges in Dictatorships examines the causes of elite purges under autocracy. An elite purge is when a dictator forcibly removes an official from their inner circle. I examine why some dictators purge elites and others do not (cross-national variation), and why dictators purge only specific elites (within-regime individual-level variation). Conventional wisdom highlights dictators' fears of coups to explain purges. My central claim is that a dictator's fear of being unseated by a foreign state or revolution also shapes whether dictators purge elites, who to target, and when to do so. With an original global cross-national quantitative dataset on elite purges, I show dictators are more likely to purge elites when there are reduced threats from foreign adversaries or of a revolution occurring. At the individual-level, I use an original dataset on elite politics in North Korea under Kim Jong Un and show that Kim was most likely to purge a disloyal elite when doing so would not exacerbate threats from foreign adversaries or the people. I also conduct historical qualitative analysis on individual cases of elite purges in South Korea under Park Chung-hee to show that the individual-level theory's causal mechanisms functions as theorized.
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