David Szakonyi

academic research

I am an associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University. My work focuses on corruption, illicit financial flows, autocracy and non-market strategy, with current projects underway on Russia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States.

My work has been published in numerous journals, including the American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, and American Economic Review. My most recent book Politics for Profit: Business, Elections, and Policymaking in Russia examines legalized corruption in the Russian government -- businesspeople running for political office -- and is available from Cambridge University Press (Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics). I am currently writing a book on technocrats in Russia.

For more information, see my CV as well as lists of my books and published papers.

anti-corruption and policy work

I am co-founder of the Anti-Corruption Data Collective, a new type of nonprofit organization that brings together leading journalists, data analysts, academics and policy advocates to expose transnational corruption flows and push for policy change. Since launching in 2020, our work has been featured in dozens of investigations in media outlets across United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, and the United States.

I also serve as the co-Director of PONARS Eurasia, a network of over 140 academics advancing new approaches to research on Russia and Eurasia. We connect scholarship to policy by fostering an academic community, especially of mid-career and rising scholars, committed to developing policy-relevant and collaborative research.

I have appeared on television, radio and in print for major international outlets to speak on contemporary events in Russia, its war in Ukraine, money laundering, and corruption. I have also served as an expert witness on a number of legal cases related to the region.

working papers

recent publications

news archive.



Politics for Profit: Business, Elections, and Policymaking in Russia, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics), 2020.

Businesspeople run for and win elected office around the world, with roughly one-third of members of parliament and numerous heads of states coming directly from the private sector. Yet we know little about why these politicians choose to leave the private sector and what they actually do while in government. In Politics for Profit, I bring to bear sweeping quantitative and qualitative evidence from Putin-era Russia to shed light on why businesspeople contest elections and what the consequences are for their firms and for society when they win. The book develops an original theory of businessperson candidacy as a type of corporate political activity undertaken in response to both economic competition and weak political parties. My evidence then shows that businesspeople help their firms reap huge gains in revenue and profitability while prioritizing investments in public infrastructure over human capital. The book finally evaluates policies for combatting political corruption.

Reviewed in Perspectives on Politics, Foreign Affairs, Europe-Asia Studies, Slavic Review, Eurasian Geography and Economics, and Governance.


Under Siege: Inter-Ethnic Relations in Abkhazia. Columbia University Press, 2010, (with Tom Trier and Hedvig Lohm)

Located in the northeastern corner of the Black Sea, Abkhazia was once part of Georgia but broke away from the country after the fall of the Soviet Republic. For fifteen years the region functioned as a de facto independent, though internationally unrecognized, state, until August of 2008, when the short war over South Ossetia (another breakaway territory) ended in Russia's recognition of Abkhazian and South Ossetian sovereignty. Consequently, Abkhazia has become a crucial component of Russia's struggle to redefine its global influence and a major player in its geopolitical battle with the West. Under Siege clarifies Abkhazia's ethno-political dynamics, which have played a major role in the country's state-building efforts and have come to shape the conditions under which the country's many ethnic communities live. Abkhazians, Armenians, Georgians, and Russians all call Abkhazia home, and this volume explores the effect of the government's de facto status on these groups' ideas of nationhood and continuing tensions between Georgia, Abkhazia, and Russia. This book also launches a rare investigation into the conflict brewing among human rights, minority protections, and Abkhazia's state building project.

Reviewed in Slavic Review, Europe-Asia Studies, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, and Nationalities Papers.

published papers

money and politics





I teach the following classes at George Washington University.

  • PSC 3192W: Money and Influence in Politics Around the World
  • PSC 2366: Russian Politics
  • PSC 8331: Advanced Theories of Comparative Politics
  • PSC 8108: Craft of Political Inquiry
  • contact me

    Email: [email protected].

    I'm also around on Twitter.

    curriculum vitae

    Click here to open PDF in a new window.

    contact me

    Email: [email protected].

    I'm also around on Twitter.