Cecilia Garcia-Peñalosa: cecilia.garcia-penalosa[at]univ-amu.fr
Can free media become a powerful lever to make regime change possible? Are Western countries successful in exporting their values to other countries and triggering regime change abroad? I study these questions in the context of Russia in the early 90s when the Soviet Union was crumbling. In particular, I analyze the impact of Radio Liberty on the 1991 Russian presidential elections, which were the first democratic elections in the country. In order to study the effects of this American radio broadcasting from outside Russia, I use a novel empirical strategy exploiting ionospheric variation, which affects shortwave propagation over long distances, measured by NASA with the aim of obtaining a measure of radio availability in each Russian electoral district. The results show a significant effect of these broadcasts in favor of Yeltsin and a negative significant effect on communist support. Such results are robust and bolstered by a series of placebo exercises, and survey evidence. Thus, this paper documents that free media can play an important role in political processes of regime change.