Protest, Democratisation, and Escalation to Large-scale Political Violence


Project Leader

Project Period

  • 2019-2024


  • Sabine Otto (Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University)
  • Håvard Hegre (Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University)
  • Nils B. Weidmann (Department of Politics and Public Administration, University of Konstanz)

Research Assistants

  • Jan Rustemeyer
  • Andra Negus


Why do some protests quickly fizzle out, others successfully overthrow dictatorships, and yet others descend into full-blown civil war? In this project, we marry the largely compartmentalised research literatures on political protest, democratisation, and large-scale political violence to explain the most common protest escalation trajectories, and the conditions under which they emerge. Importantly, we will study how escalation trajectories are shaped by combinations of coercive and political institutions. In light of the consequences different trajectories have for human rights abuses, political systems, and economies, the research is highly relevant for local and international organisations working to promote peace and democracy.

To carry out the research, we will collect and analyse novel data on the coercive organisations engaged in violent repression of protests, and expand the temporal scope of protest events in the Mass Mobilization in Autocracies Database (MMAD).

The project collaborates with the political Violence Early-warning System (ViEWS) project at the Department of Peace and Conflict Research at Uppsala University, and the theoretical and empirical insights from the project will be integrated in the ViEWS forecasts.


  • Swedish Research Council
Last modified: 2023-06-29