The “dictator’s endgame”: Explaining military behavior in nonviolent anti-incumbent mass protests

Aurel Croissant, David Kuehn, Tanja Eschenauer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


This article introduces a configurative theory to explain military reactions to nonviolent mass protests in dictatorships. An empirical analysis of three cases of such “dictators endgames” (Burma in 1988, Sudan in 1985, and East Germany in 1989), shows that militaries will defend the dictator against the masses if the military leadership’s physical and economic well-being is linked to the dictator’s survival in office. In turn, military leaders will defect from the regime incumbent only if the alternatives of siding with the opposition or staging a coup d’état is expected to be more beneficial to their interests than staying loyal to the regime.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)174-199
Number of pages26
JournalDemocracy and Security
Issue number2
StatePublished - 3 Apr 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft [CR 128/6-1 and KU 2485/4-1].

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • Authoritarianism
  • Contentious politics
  • Dictator’s endgame
  • Mass mobilization
  • Military
  • Revolution


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