The research project “The legacy of authoritarian regimes” studies the long-term impact of autocratic regimes on civil society that could undermine democratization processes. It thereby addresses important and unresolved questions of democratisation, by using a new methodological approach of cohort analysis to examine the lasting legacy of authoritarian dictatorships. Previous research has overlooked the possibility of citizens’ formative experiences in non-democratic systems that might impact their political attitudes, values, and behaviour even after the existence of these regimes. We expect that these legacy impacts have important implications for the development of a democratic political culture in transitioning societies.

Using a statistical methodological approach, the study investigates the legacy of dictatorships from over 100 countries from around the globe covering the entire 20th century. The research has important implication for democracy aid, addressing issues of how to best support the mass population in transitioning societies.


This study has three academic objectives: a theoretical, an empirical and a methodological one. Firstly, we are developing a new theory of authoritarian socialization. Secondly, we are expanding our analyses to new and developing democracies across the globe. Thirdly, in order to overcome methodological (and ethical) constraints of previous studies, we are developing a methodological approach of studying generations that were brought-up under dictatorships.

Project summary

View a summary of the project theory, methods, timeline and preliminary results.