Brothers in Arms No Longer: Who Do Regime Change Coup-Entry Dictators Purge?


Research shows that dictators purge (military) elites following coups, while other work shows the utility of analyzing individual-level elite purges to understand the inner workings of autocracies. We therefore ask: Who do regime change coup-entry dictators purge? We argue that who dictators purge depends on costs and benefits relating to two factors. First, purging elites with coercive capacity entails higher costs due to the assistance they provide dictators in navigating outsider threats. Second, dictators benefit from purging elites who helped them seize power; the demonstrable willingness of these elites to overthrow an incumbent threatens the dictator and his ability to consolidate power. We find support for our argument from original quantitative data on 289 elites in 32 autocratic ruling institutions between 1948 and 2000. Our findings have important implications for the study of the large proportion of autocracies born of regime change coups, particularly topics on survival and state violence.

Journal of Conflict Resolution