Özgür Özkan Joins Fletcher Russia and Eurasia Program as a Visiting Scholar

By Natasha Wood, MALD 2024 Candidate, The Fletcher School

Özgür Özkan has joined the Fletcher Russia and Eurasia Program as a visiting scholar for the 2023-2024 academic year. During his time at Fletcher, Özkan plans to combine his research interests in Turkey and Russia for a comparative analysis of the relationship between autocracy and military independence in both countries. He will explore how militaries have reacted to autocratic regimes in Russia and Turkey, and he will research trends in military reform and institutionalization under President Vladimir Putin and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, respectively. More broadly, his work will consider the persistence and entrenchment of authoritarianism in Russia and Turkey.

Prior to starting his academic career, Özkan served in the Turkish military for eleven years. His service coincided with Erdoğan’s consolidation of power, and he observed the degradation of professionalism in the Turkish military. Özkan went on to complete an M.A. in Regional Security Studies with a focus on Russia-Eurasia from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA, where he studied opportunities for collaboration between NATO and Russia in the 21st century. Özkan decided to pursue a career in academia while working on his master’s degree. Özkan’s Ph.D. at the University of Washington in Seattle focused on recruiting patterns in the Turkish officer corps since 1850 and their implications for respective political regimes. 

His research showed that since the 19th century, Turkey has historically demonstrated higher levels of resilience to authoritarianism. The rise of Erdoğan changed that paradigm. 

In his work at Fletcher, he hopes to challenge academic assumptions about the relationship between military autonomy and democracy. “What I find… in my research is that responsible military autonomy could be an important counterbalance to the [possible] emergence of autocratic regimes,” he said. “I find that the more military recruitment and promotion patterns are institutionalized, the more it can resist autocratic co-optation.” 

Özkan joins Volodymyr Dubovyk, Maxim Krupskiy, Pavel Luzin, and Stanislav Stanskikh as visiting scholars at the Fletcher Russia and Eurasia Program. 

“The Russia and Eurasia Program offers an opportunity for me to study Turkey and Russia comparatively. The possibility of working with faculty from diverse disciplinary approaches and country expertise and interacting with scholars studying Russia and other Eurasian countries attracted my interest.”

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