Welcome to Professor Maria Popova's hub for research, teaching, and public outreach on issues related to democracy, corruption, and the rule of law in Europe. Prof. Popova's current research focuses on the Russo-Ukrainian war and Ukraine's road to EU accession.

In February 2022, Russian missiles rained on Ukrainian cities, and tanks rolled towards Kyiv to end Ukrainian independent statehood. President Zelensky declined a Western evacuation offer and Ukrainians rallied to defend their country. What are the roots of this war, which has upended the international legal order and brought back the spectre of nuclear escalation? How did these supposedly “brotherly peoples” become each other’s worst nightmare?
In Russia and Ukraine: Entangled Histories, Diverging States, Maria Popova and Oxana Shevel explain how since 1991 Russia and Ukraine diverged politically, ending up on a collision course. Russia slid back into authoritarianism and imperialism, while Ukraine consolidated a competitive political system and pro-European identity. As Ukraine built a democratic nation-state, Russia refused to accept it and came to see it as an “anti-Russia” project. After political and economic pressure proved ineffective, and even counterproductive, Putin went to war to force Ukraine back into the fold of the “Russian world.” Ukraine resisted, determined to pursue European integration as a sovereign state. These irreconcilable goals, rather than geopolitical wrangling between Russia and the West over NATO expansion, are – the authors argue – essential to understanding Russia’s war on Ukraine.



February 18, 2024
Prof. Popova Appears on "Cross-Country Check-Up" with Ian Hanomansing on CBC Radio

Alongside Andrew P. Rasiulis from the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, Prof. Popova fielded questions from Canadians regarding the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, as well as recent developments surrounding the death of dissident opposition politician Alexei Navalny.

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February 17, 2024
Prof. Popova Speaks to CBC News Network Regarding Alexei Navalny's Death

"[Yulia Navalnaya] sounded like she's taking the baton and may be ready to lead the organization," Popova said. Navalny's death means his movement hasn't been "decapitated" after all, given the network of committed activists who helped him in dozens of offices across Russia and with his online campaigns.Still, she points out that with only 10-20 per cent of Russians ready to question Putin's leadership, Navalnaya would face the same challenges and risks her husband did."

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February 16, 2024
Profs. Popova & Shevel Discuss Their New Publication with Arik Burkovsky from The Fletcher School at Tufts University

"The Russia and Eurasia Program at The Fletcher School held a conversation with Oxana Shevel, Associate Professor of Comparative Politics at Tufts University, and Maria Popova, Associate Professor of Political Science at McGill University, about their new book, Russia and Ukraine: Entangled Histories, Diverging States (2024). The event marked the two-year anniversary of the Russia-Ukraine war."

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Maria Popova (PhD, Harvard) is Associate Professor of Political Science at McGill University and Scientific Director of the Jean Monnet Centre Montreal. Her work explores rule of law and democracy in Eastern Europe. Her first book Politicized Justice in Emerging Democracies, which won the American Association for Ukrainian Studies book prize in 2013, examines the weaponization of law to manipulate elections and control the media in Russia and Ukraine. Her recent articles have focused on judicial and anticorruption reform in post-Maidan Ukraine, the politics of anticorruption campaigns in Eastern Europe, conspiracies, and illiberalism. Her new book (co-authored with Oxana Shevel), on the roots of the Russo-Ukrainian war, entitled “Russia and Ukraine: Entangled Histories, Diverging States” is now available from Polity Press.