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 Perspectives on Terrorism, War on the Rocks, 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.




Explaining Erosion of Civilian Control: A Policy-focused Theory

My dissertation offers a theory explaining how the government's policies can undermine civilian control of the military. To observe a broad range of the effects the government's policies can have on civil-military relations, I develop a comprehensive analytical framework that allows capturing erosion of civilian control beyond coups. Methodologically, I combine process tracing with cross-case comparisons to test the explanatory power of the new theory in a context of intrastate conflict, which will yield useful insights for theory and policy. My research relies on extensive fieldwork in Russia, Ukraine, and Israel. 

[Link to the fieldwork notes from Moscow]

Dissertation Project

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

Terrorist groups are commonly understood to be groups that carry out acts of terrorism, and their actions viewed as terrorist campaigns. In this article, we offer empirical evidence in support of our claim that most major contemporary terrorist groups also employ other, non-terrorist, modes of warfare, notably guerrilla tactics. Then, we offer our reflections of these findings for theory and policy. Our main recommendation is for governments to separate the official labeling of these groups from the analysis of their origins, conduct, and threat potential. While official policy statements might continue to label actors involved in terrorism as terrorist groups, we argue that the policy analysis informing these governments’ decisions should adopt greater nuance by regarding most of these actors as insurgent groups. Such an approach can help policy analysts to arrive at more adequate, comprehensive, and longer-term solutions to the problems these groups pose.

[Link to the publication]


Peer-reviewed Publication (with Assaf Moghadam and Ronit Berger)

Corruption in the Russian Defense Sector

Today, Russia is the world’s fourth largest military spender and second largest arms exporter. Their arms industry is probably the third largest in the world, after the USA and China.  However, corruption still constitutes a significant problem facing the Russian arms industry. This report discusses publicly available information on corruption in the Russian defense sector, especially the arms industry, identifying key cases of corruption that have become visible in recent years, in particular since 2008, when Russia’s current set of military reforms, and major rearmament drive, began.

[Link to the report]

Analytical Report (with Sam Perlo-Freeman)

Erosion of Civilian Control in Democracies: A Comprehensive Framework

Civilian control of the military is a fundamental attribute of democracy. However, existing empirical studies that treat civilian control as a dependent variable mostly focus on one form of erosion (e.g., coups, mutinies, defections) overlooking the others. The lack of a comprehensive analytical framework impedes scholarly efforts in the systematic analysis of civilian control, especially across regimes. This paper offers a new typology of erosion sensitive to the nuanced fluctuations in power balance between civilian governments and the military.

Working Paper


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.

Instructor of Record, Tufts University, Schools of Arts & Sciences, and Engineering

Topics in Russian National Security (Fall 2019)

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]

Teaching Assistant, Prof. Jeffrey Taliaferro, Tufts University

Introduction to International Relations (Fall 2018)



Polina Beliakova


Fletcher School, Tufts University

160 Packard Ave, Medford, MA 02155

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© 2019 by Polina Beliakova