I am a Ph.D. Candidate at the Fletcher School and a Senior Ph.D. Research Fellow at the Center for Strategic Studies at Tufts University. My research focuses on civil-military relations, intrastate conflict, democratic governance, and international security with a regional interest in Russia, Ukraine, and Israel.

I rely on a quantitative and qualitative methodology. Being proficient in Russian, Ukrainian, Hebrew, and English allows me to collect data through fieldwork, archival research, and the analysis of original sources. My work was published by Comparative Political Studies, Texas National Security Review, Perspectives on Terrorism, War on the Rocks, POLITICO, The Washington Post, and the World Peace Foundation


I was selected as a 2019 - 2020 US Institute of Peace - Minerva Peace Scholar Fellow and World Politics and Statecraft Fellow at Smith Richardson Foundation. My research is also supported by the World Peace Foundation and Bradley Foundation.

Before coming to Fletcher, I studied Diplomacy, Conflict Resolution, and Counterterrorism at IDC Herzliya (Israel). I also worked as a professional educator in Kyiv, Ukraine, and Tel Aviv, Israel.


In my free time, I enjoy birdwatching, hiking, practicing yoga and Krav Maga.




Dissertation and Book Project

Don’t Blame the Generals: How Governmental Policies Weaken Civilian Control


My current book project investigates the problems of civilian control and security policymaking under conditions of intra-state conflict. It explores how governmental policies about domestic use of the military affect democratic civilian control of the military. I argue that governmental policies prescribing the use of the armed forces in domestic political disputes create favorable conditions for the erosion of democratic civilian control and contribute to the overall weakening of democratic norms.

I use my proficiency in Russian, Ukrainian, Hebrew, and English to compare Russia in the First Chechen War, Ukraine at the beginning of the war in Donbas, the United Kingdom in the Northern Ireland conflict, and Israel during the First Intifada. I gathered evidence through two rounds of fieldwork in Russia and Ukraine, interviews with Israeli military elites, and the analysis of archival records and secondary sources.

Challenging the conventional wisdom, this study shows that elected officials’ policies rather than the military’s political ambitions lead to the weakening of civilian control. This book project helps place the literature on intrastate conflict and civil-military relations within the context of democratic backsliding. It spotlights the role of the elected officials in the erosion of one of the essential requirements of democratic governance — civilian control of the military.

Peer-Reviewed Publications

Erosion by Deference: Civilian Control and the Military in Policymaking, Texas National Security Review 4, no. 3 (2021)

Erosion of Civilian Control in Democracies: A Comprehensive Framework for Comparative Analysis, Comparative Political Studies 54, no.8 (2021)

Say Terrorist, Think Insurgent: Labeling and Analyzing Contemporary Terrorist Actors,

Perspectives on Terrorism 8, no. 5 (2014), with Assaf Moghadam and Ronit Berger

Research in Progress

Leading or Following: the Role of the Military in Democratic Backsliding

The Effectiveness of Governmental Strategies Against Low-Intensity Conflict


Civil-military Relations and Corruption in Post-Soviet States 

Analytical Reports and Commentary


Topics in Russian National Security (Fall 2019)

Instructor of Record, Tufts University

What does the security landscape look like from the Kremlin’s window? This discussion-based undergraduate seminar covers 12 topics in Russia’s national security that help to answer this question. These include: how geography affects Russia’s security, relations with the West, Russia’s sphere of influence, the war in Ukraine, internal security threats, corruption, Russia’s security toolkit, “hybrid” warfare, information security, and nuclear strategy. The goal of this seminar is to familiarize participants with how officials in Moscow view threat environment, identify security priorities, and decide which means to employ for their achievement. The collection of class materials relies heavily on sources published after 2014. Original government documents and leadership statements translated into English provide a first-hand perspective on Russia’s security thinking.


Introduction to International Relations (Fall 2018)

Teaching Assistant, Prof. Jeffrey Taliaferro, Tufts University

At the core of my teaching approach is connecting the class knowledge to current events in international politics. For the discussion sections in International Relations, I encouraged students to analyze current news reports by using the theories discussed in class. In teaching evaluations, students noted that they found applying their knowledge to real life events useful and stimulating. 

I employ various discussion technics to engage students with different learning preferences.


[Click here to see teaching evaluations]



Polina Beliakova

Fletcher School, Tufts University

160 Packard Ave, Medford, MA 02155

follow me on      @Beliakova_P

  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn - Grey Circle