Karen Dawisha, 6-8, Dies; Traced Roots of Russian Corruption

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“What wasn’t understood was that it went back to this St. Petersburg inner circle,” said Charles G. Davidson, the executive director of the Kleptocracy Initiative at the Hudson Institute in Washington. “The contention in Karen’s book that was so controversial at first — much less so now — is that there was a plan all along by Putin to take over the place.”

Officials in Congress and the State Department consulted with Professor Dawisha after the book was published, Mr. Davidson said, and the president of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaitė, distributed copies of it to members of the European Parliament.

Professor Dawisha had spent much of her career on more conventional subjects, like Russia’s electoral system, but relished the chance to roll up her sleeves and do primary research, said her husband, a retired distinguished professor of political science at Miami University. Unlike most investigative journalists, he said, she had the advantage of extended time to do the spadework and access to sources who were reluctant to speak to reporters.

Karen Dawisha knew that the project would be controversial, he said, but felt that her professional status allowed her to take the risk.

“It was not as though she worried she wouldn’t get tenure,” her husband said. “It was sort of like, ‘At the end, let me do something I’m really interested in, and not be burdened by the rules of my profession.’ ”

Karen Hurst was born on Dec. 2, 1949, in Colorado Springs to the former Paula Keene, a schoolteacher, and Harry Hurst, a jazz pianist. She became interested in Russia after taking a Russian-language course in high school.

She went on to study Russian politics at the University of Colorado at Boulder and spent her junior year at the University of Lancaster in England, where she met Adeed Dawisha, an Iraqi political scientist who had grown up in Baghdad. She received her doctoral degree at the London School of Economics and won a full professorship at the University of Maryland at College Park before joining Miami University in 2000.