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Karen Dawisha: Professor & Famous Author On Campus

This week’s HC Campus Celebrity is Professor Karen Dawisha. Not only is she a superb professor, but she is also as the director of Miami University’s Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies. A few months ago, Professor Dawisha released her book titled, “Putin’s Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia?”. Today she is travelling all over the country on a book tour promoting her work and helping readers gain insight into what is going on overseas.

Her Campus: Where did you earn your education?Karen Dawisha: I received my PhD from London School of Economics. I started off studying the Russian language, and became fascinated soon after with the history of the country. At the time, the Cold War was also happening, so the Soviet-American relations were certainly exciting!

HC: What made you come to Miami and work in your field of expertise? KD: In the year 2000, with the help of the University, I started the first Russian study center, making me the first director. It was a very exciting opportunity, and I could not pass it up. As a professor, my main focus is on the political science on Russia.

HC: What inspired the book?KD: Well, recently, I have come across many writings and many news articles about the democracy in Russia failing. It occurred to me that people were looking at things the wrong way, so I decided to do a little research, certainly not expecting a book to come out from my own findings. Russia’s politics are corrupt due to personal greed on the part of President Vladimir Putin and the people that surround him. But I won’t give away too much for my readers.

HC: How did you come up with the title?KD: Actually, I started off with a much longer, academic title (as to be expected) that probably would not have been as appealing. When I submitted it to my editor, he worked around my ideas and came up with what it is now, “Putin’s Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia?” In my opinion, it definitely sounds a little harsh, BUT it truly does resemble what the book is all about. Of course, when I saw the cover later on, I knew both the title and the cover were just right.

HC: We hear that you are going on a book tour as well. Would you mind telling us some of the places you will be visiting?KD: The tour has been up and running for a bit now. The book launch was in D.C.. There, I spoke at the Wilson Center and the State Department, which attracted a lot of attention and media to my book. Last week, I was in New York. My next destination is going to be Boston where I will speak to MIT and Harvard. For now, the book is published in the United States, but I do have an ultimate hope and goal to travel abroad. I rely heavily on my publisher to set everything up – all I do is get in a car and drive place to place!

HC: What should the readers expect?KD: The main focus of the book is how Putin truly came to power, and how his earliest connections got him to where he is today. With a sort of “brotherhood” surrounding him then and now – consisting of former KGB members and businessmen (typically people with a criminal past if we are to put it in Russian context)  – Putin has certainly flourished. He continues to keep them as his right hand(s), so the readers will definitely find it enlightening.

Karolina is a junior contributing writer and President of HerCampus at Miami(OH).
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