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Depicting Public Servants in Authoritarian Regimes


This chapter examines how public servants in authoritarian regimes are depicted in the media. The site of enquiry is Central Asia. It begins by defining what a “public servant” means in this post-Soviet context and challenges the conventional boundaries between elected politicians and career public servants. This, in turn, casts doubt on the traditional political-administrative dichotomy as a way of considering their respective roles. Using content analysis of critical incidents involving public servants from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan, the authors juxtapose reports from the state media, independent sources, and social media to compare how officials are portrayed. The chapter concludes that state media is used to deify prominent public servants. Social media, on the other hand, while offering an alternative voice for citizens to hold public servants to account, is used in malign ways to reinforce control and a mechanism to cynically court international public approbation that authoritarian regimes are becoming more open, transparent, and accountable.


  • Authoritarian regimes
  • Central Asia
  • Political and administrative elites
  • Public servants

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Correspondence to Colin Knox .

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Knox, C., Janenova, S. (2020). Depicting Public Servants in Authoritarian Regimes. In: Sullivan, H., Dickinson, H., Henderson, H. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of the Public Servant. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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  • Print ISBN: 978-3-030-03008-7

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