Maria Popova

Academic title(s): 

Associate Professor, Jean Monnet Chair


Contact Information

855 Sherbrooke St. W.
Montreal, Quebec
H3A 2T7

514-398-4400 Ext 089451
Email address: 
maria.popova [at]


BA, Dartmouth

MA, PhD, Harvard

3438 McTavish, Rm 301
Curriculum vitae: 
Research areas: 
Comparative Government and Politics

Maria Popova has lived and conducted research across Eastern Europe and Eurasia and its various regime incarnations. She holds a BA in Government and Spanish from Dartmouth College, and an MA and PhD in Government from Harvard University.  Prof. Popova works on the intersection of politics and law and has written about the rule of law, judicial reform, political corruption, populist parties, and the legal repression of political dissent under authoritarianism. Her book on the Russian and Ukrainian courts during the 1990s-2000, Politicized Justice was published by Cambridge University Press in 2012 and won the 2012-2013American Association for Ukrainian Studies prize for best book in the fields of Ukrainian history, politics, language, literature and culture. Her recent and forthcoming articles appear in Europe-Asia Studies, Problems of Post-Communism, Communist and Post-Communist Studies, Daedalus, and others, as well as in edited volumes. She has written for policy and general audiences as a contributor to the Monkey Cage Blog @ the Washington Post, the Globe and Mail, and Kyiv Post, as well as Foreign Policy, and Foreign Affairs. Prof. Popova’s current research projects focus on post-Maidan judicial reform in Ukraine, the prosecution of political corruption in the Balkans and East Central Europe, and the weaponization of law by populists and authoritarians across the post-Communist region. 


Comparative politics, European politics, post-Communist transformation, courts and politics

Areas of interest: 
  • European Politics: rule of law, populism, corruption, anti-establishment parties, EU accession, protest.
  • Comparative Judicial Politics: judicial independence, global expansion of judicial power, post-communist judicial reforms, prosecution of political corruption.
  • Post-Soviet politics: freedom of speech and elections, authoritarian consolidation, weaponization of law.
Selected publications: 


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

Journal Articles and Book Chapters


  • “Journalists, Judges and State Officials: How Russian Courts Adjudicate Defamation Lawsuits Against Media” in Kurkchiyan, M. and Agnieszka Kubal (eds.), A Sociology of Justice in Russia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), pp. 141-169

  • "Putin-Style “Rule of Law” & the Prospects for Change." Daedalus, Vol. 146, No. 2 (2017), pp. 64-75
  • “Ukraine’s Politicized Courts” in Hale, H. E. and Robert W. Orttung (eds.), Beyond the Euromaidan: Comparative Perspectives for Advancing Reform in Ukraine (Redwood City: Stanford University Press, 2016), pp. 143-161.
  • “Who Brought Ataka to the Political Scene: Analysis of the Vote for Bulgaria’s Radical Nationalists” in Dragostinova, T. and Yana Hashamova (eds.), Beyond Mosque, Church, and State: Alternative Narratives of the Nation in the Balkans (Budapest and New York: Central European University Press, 2016), pp. 259-287.
  • “Fear and Loathing on the Post-Communist Street: Why Bulgaria's DANSwithme Protest Fizzled out, but Ukraine's Euromaidan Escalated,” Critique and Humanism, Vol. 46, No. 2 (2016), pp. 109-127. A Bulgarian version: „Страх и омраза на посткомунитическите улици: защо българския протест ДАНС затихва, а украинският Евромайдан ескалира?,“ кн. 45, бр. 1/2016, стр. 107-129.
  • “Die Entwicklung der ukrainischen Justiz seit dem Euromaidan,” Transit: Europaische Revue, Vol. 48 (Winter 2015/Fruhling 2016), pp. 136-156.
  • “Why the Orange Revolution Was Short and Peaceful and Euromaidan Long and Violent” Problems of Post-Communism, Vol. 61 (November-December 2014), No. 6, pp. 64-70.
  • “Why Doesn’t the Bulgarian Judiciary Prosecute Corruption?” Problems of Post-Communism, Vol. 59, No. 5 (September-October, 2012), pp. 35-49.
  • “Political Competition as an Obstacle to Judicial Independence: Evidence from Russia and Ukraine”, Comparative Political Studies, Vol. 43, Issue 10 (October 2010), pp. 1202-1229.
  • “Be Careful What You Wish For: A Cautionary Tale of Post-Communist Judicial Empowerment” Demokratizatsiya, Vol.18, No. 1 (Winter 2010), pp. 56-73.
  • “Watchdogs or Attack Dogs? The Role of the Russian Courts and the CEC in the Resolution of Electoral Disputes”, Europe-Asia Studies, Vol. 58, No. 3 (May 2006), pp. 391-414
  • "Implicit Objections to the Rule of Law Doctrine in Russian Legal Thought", Journal of East European Law, Vol. 11, Nos. 2-3 (2004), pp. 205-229.
  • “Rossiiskaya Pravovaya Mysl' i Printsip Verkhovenstva Prava: Problemy Adaptatsii i Neobkhodimost' Dialoga”, Konstitutsionnoe Pravo: Vostochnoevropeiskoe Obozrenie, Vol. 3, 44 (2003).

Policy articles and op-eds

  • “How Can the EU Help Ukraine Build the Rule of Law and Fight Corruption? Romania and Bulgaria as Guideposts,” PONARS Policy Memo, No. 469, April, 2017

  • “Will There Be a “Full, Rapid and Transparent Investigation into Nemtsov’s Murder,” The Monkey Cage@The Washington Post, March 7, 2015

  • “Ukraine’s Judicial Reforms,” VoxUkraine, December 15, 2014 (translated and reprinted by Ukrainska Pravda, December 17, 2014)

  • “Ukraine’s Legal Problems: Why Kiev’s Plans to Purge the Judiciary Will Backfire,” Foreign Affairs, April 15, 2014

  • “The Kremlin, Not Language, is Driving Ukraine Apart,” The Globe and Mail, April 15, 2014. With Matthew Light

  • “What is Lustration and Is It a Good Idea for Ukraine to Adopt it?,” The Monkey Cage@ Washington Post, April 9, 2014 (reprinted by Kyiv Post). With Vincent Post.

  • “Was Yanukovych’s Removal Constitutional?,” PONARS Eurasia Commentary, March 20, 2014

  • “What Doesn’t Kill Ukraine…,” Foreign Policy, March 12, 2014. With Oxana Shevel

  • “Why Domestic Developments in Ukraine Still Matter,” The Monkey Cage @ Washington Post, March 5, 2014

  • “The Strange Court Case of Alexey Navalny,” The Monkey Cage, July 22, 2013


“The Weaponization of Law and Regime Dynamics,” Regime Evolution, Institutional Change, and Social Transformation in Russia: Lessons for Political Science Conference, McMillan Centre, Yale University, April 27-29, 2018


“Weaponized Legalism,” Academic Workshop “Rule of Law in Europe: Threats and Resilience”, Jean Monnet Centre Montreal, McGill University, April 19-20, 2018


“Judicial Reform After the Euromaidan: The More Things Change…,” 14th Danyliw Research Seminar on Contemporary Ukraine, University of Ottawa, November 16-18, 2018 


“The Weaponization of Law” Data and Methods in the Comparative Study of Legal Institutions Collaborative Workshop, Georgetown University, February 1-3, 2017


“Anti-Corruption and Rule of Law Reforms in Ukraine,” PONARS Policy Workshop, Montreal, December 3-5, 2016


“Post-Communist Protests and the Rule of Law,” Between Europe and Russia Network Workshop, McGill University, September 29-30, 2016


“Can Russia Become a Rule of Law State? Russia’s Legal Regime and the Prospects for Change,” Daedalus Authors’ Workshop, American Academy of Arts and Science, Cambridge, MA, May 31-June 1, 2016


“Instrumental Politicization of Judicial Output,” Data and Methods in the Comparative Study of Legal Institutions Collaborative Workshop, Georgetown University, February 4-5, 2016


“How Politicized are the Russian Courts? Evidence from Defamation Cases Against Media Outlets, 1997-2011,” Sociology of Justice in Russia Workshop, University of Oxford, December 17-18, 2015


“Fear and Loathing on the Post-Communist Street: Why Bulgaria's DANSwithme Protest Fizzled Out, but Ukraine's Euromaidan Escalated,” 22nd Conference of Europeanists, Paris, July 8-10, 2015.


“Ukrainian Judicial Reform after Euromaidan,” Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies, San Antonio, November 20-23, 2014


“Why Does Kivalov Still Pull the Strings: Ukraine’s Judicial Lustration Process,” Danyliw Research Seminar on Contemporary Ukraine, University of Ottawa, October 31-November 2, 2014


“Politicization of Justice: Conceptualization and Measurement,” American Political Science Association Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, August 29-September 2, 2014


“Prosecuting High Level Corruption in Eastern Europe,” International Political Science Association World Congress, Montreal, July 20-23, 2014


“Ukrainian Studies: Bibliometric Analysis,” (with Radu Parvulescu), Association for the Study of Nationalities, Columbia University, New York, April 24-26, 2014


“Ukraine’s Politicized Courts,” Advancing Reform in Ukraine workshop, Kyiv, Ukraine, December 13-14, 2013


“Prosecuting High-Level Corruption in Eastern Europe” (with Vincent Post), Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies Annual Convention, Boston, November 21-24, 2013.


“Judicial Independence and Media Freedom: Defamation Litigation Trends in Russia, 2004-2010,” Council for European Studies 20th International Conference, Amsterdam, June 24-26, 2013.


“How Politicized Are the Russian Courts? Evidence from Defamation Cases Against Media Outlets, 1997-2011,” Law and Society Association Annual Meeting, Boston, May 30-June 2, 2013.


“Attack and Counter-Attack: Mainstream Party-Radical Challenger Interaction in Bulgaria,” Association for the Study of Nationalities World Convention, Columbia University, New York, April 18-20, 2013.


“Political Competition and Judicial Independence in Democracies: A Cross-national Test,” European Consortium for Political Research Joint Sessions of Workshops, Johannes Gutenberg Universität, Mainz, Germany, March 11-16, 2013.

Selected talks and presentations: 



  • Ditchley Foundation, Chipping Norton, UK, May 2018. Brexit and the Future of Europe.

  • Columbia University, Harriman Institute, March 2018. Putin-Style “Rule of Law”

  • Princeton University, May 2017. Ukraine’s Anti-Corruption and Judicial Reforms.

  • Université Libre de Bruxelles, June 2015.  Ukraine’s Judiciary After Euromaidan.

  • Sciences Po, Centre de Recherches Internationales, Paris, June 2015.  Ukraine’s Judiciary After Euromaidan.
  • Leiden University, May 2015. Prosecution of Political Corruption in Eastern Europe
  • Universita di Bologna, March 2015. Prosecution of Political Corruption in Eastern Europe
  • Université de Montréal School of Law, November 2014. Constitutional Dimensions of the Ukrainian Crisis
  • University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, October 2014.  Ukraine Under the Fog of War.
  • Simon Fraser University, September 2014. Ukraine Under the Fog of War.
  • Emory University, March 2014. Electoral and Defamation Disputes in Russia and Ukraine, 1997-2012
  • University of Michigan, February 2014. Why Political Competition Undermines Judicial Independence in Hybrid Regimes
  • Columbia University, Harriman Institute, January 2014. Independent Courts in Russia: Say What?
  • Université de Montréal, January 2014. Ukraine’s Euromaidan: A Pro-European Revolution?
  • University of Toronto, January 2011.  The Perils of Judicial Insulation
  • University of Toronto, December 2010.  Distinguished Leaders in Bulgaria Annual Lecture, “Boyko Borisov, the Judiciary, and the Fight Against Corruption”
  • Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson Center, June 2010. Separation of Powers in Russia and Ukraine.

"Judicial Prosecution of High-level Political Corruption in Eastern Europe", funded by SSHRC and FQRSC, 2011-2017

The post-Communist transformation has provided fertile ground for political and bureaucratic corruption and both the EU and Eastern European publics are demanding that governments tackle the problem.  Naturally, the courts are at the center of any anti-corruption effort, because they are the institution responsible for enforcing the anticorruption laws, which each Eastern European state has adopted.  An effective judiciary puts corrupt politicians and bureaucrats behind bars, but resists attempts by powerful incumbents to destroy political opponents with trumped up prosecutions under the guise of fighting corruption.  Only a judiciary that is independent, powerful, and accountable at the same time can achieve this balance.  Which Eastern European judiciaries (if any) fit this bill and why?  Which type of judiciary fights corruption better?  Is it an insulated judiciary, i.e. one which is protected through institutional guarantees from interference by the other branches of government and the public? Or is it an accountable judiciary, i.e. one which is subject to some control by non-judicial actors?  What factors explain why some judiciaries become instruments in the hands of powerful incumbents who use them to sideline political opponents? 


Associate Professor