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The Diffusion of Human Trafficking Policies in the Post-Soviet Region: A Comparative Analysis of Policy Adoption in Ukraine, Latvia, and Russia

Pages 403-418 | Received 31 Aug 2015, Accepted 25 Oct 2016, Published online: 10 Jan 2017


This paper analyzes how human trafficking policies diffused in the post-Soviet region. By adapting the diffusion of innovation framework to fit the international context, I examine whether human trafficking adoptions in the post-Soviet region were due to internal determinants and/or diffusion effects. A comparison of Russia, Latvia, and Ukraine found that internal determinants such as state commitment to human trafficking policy and interest group strength were more important to policy adoption than external pressures from the international community while state capacity and bureaucratic restructuring impeded policy adoption. I argue that policymaking, even in authoritarian regimes, is more nuanced than blind compliance with international treaties and shows that interest groups and policy entrepreneurs work within the constraints of national policymaking to adopt human trafficking policies.


The author would like to thank Stacy Nall and the two anonymous reviewers for their comments on this manuscript.


1. Elite interviews are defined as interviews that target interview subjects based on the position they hold or the work that they do. The names of interview subjects have been changed to pseudonyms in order to protect their identity.

2. For example, this quotation from Jānis, a national government official, was coded as positive for the variable state commitment: “Policy development [in Latvia] is very fast, both in terms of legislation and the creation of specialized prosecutors and police units to combat trafficking in human beings. In Latvia, we recognize the fight against human trafficking as a priority”. Conversely, this quotation from Yelena, a civil society representative in Russia, was coded as negative for state commitment: “Trafficking is only included in the Criminal Code and was written that trafficking is a crime, but how to prove it, no one really understands. Victims of trafficking need shelter, social protection, document assistance, health care, etc. This is not included in the criminal code article! No one does anything about this. There is no political will to assist victims”! Neutral designations were assigned if overall there was no mention of facilitation of or impediments to policy adoption by the interview respondents and participant observation.

3. Triangulation means that in order to increase the reliability of the findings, two sources were used to obtain the data or verify the results of the data.

4. Aigars, government official, personal interview, June 2013, Latvia.

5. Andrejs, government official, personal interview, June 2013, Latvia.

6. Alisa, government official, personal interview, April 2013, Ukraine.

7. Ibid.

8. Alexander, academic, personal interview, July 2013, Russia.

9. Vadim, government official, personal interview, March 2013, Ukraine.

10. Olena, international partner, personal interview, November 2012, Ukraine.

11. Mikhail, academic, personal interview, July 2013, Russia.

12. Mārtiņš, government official, personal interview, July 2009, Latvia.

13. Olena, international partner, personal interview, November 2012, Ukraine.

14. Ibid.

15. Thanks to an anonymous reviewer for bringing this to my attention.

Additional information

Notes on contributors

Laura A. Dean

Laura A. Dean is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Millikin University and a Title VIII Summer Research Scholar at the Kennan Institute. She researches comparative public policy issues focusing on gender based violence, migration, and human rights in the former Soviet Union.

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