The Presidencies of Boris Yeltsin, Vaclav Havel, and Helmut Kohl

Author: Strong, Carol R.
This book modifies Weber’s conception of legitimate authority to examine the connections between charismatic authority and radical societal change. It argues that the form and duration of the emerging charismatic authority depends on both longer-term variables (the existing political system and culture) and more transient ones (a suitable leader; media influence; the international perspective; and specific events sparking radical change). The hypothesis is tested using three case studies: Yeltsin in Russia, Havel in Czechia and Kohl in Germany, primarily between 1989 and 1991.


“This book makes a significant contribution to our understanding of charismatic legitimacy and legitimation, the contexts in which it is likely to emerge and succeed, and why it fades over time. At the same time, Strong’s study adds substantially to our understanding of three major political figures of the late twentieth century; her argument about Kohl as a charismatic leader is particularly innovative and insightful.” – Prof. Leslie Holmes, University of Melbourne

“Strong uses her selected cases as a vehicle to reveal mechanisms that initiate and sustain political charisma. In particular, she draws a distinction between charismatic leadership and charismatic authority and then dissects the relationship between them. She is not content to treat political charisma as all of one sort, nor as a static and unchanging characteristic. Rather, she examines the phenomenon as a vibrant and fluctuating quality, framing her analysis as an examination of changes in identifiable phases of a “charismatic cycle.” Strong accounts for variation in levels of charismatic authority during times of significant change in a particular society and political system. It is this treatment of charismatic authority and its effects as time-bound as well as operating in a dynamic relationship with the surrounding culture and specific instances that sets her work apart and makes a genuine contribution to our political charisma and how it operates.” – Prof. Joel M. Jenswold, Oklahoma State University

“[The author] has also made outstanding justifications on why she has chosen Yeltsin, Havel and Kohl. I am particularly impressed with the manner in which she interprets Kohl, and how she contends that it is necessary to view Kohl as a charismatic figure within the GDR. This is indeed a unique insight and is a novel contribution to scholarship.” – Prof. Pete Lentini, Monash University

Table of Contents

Foreword by Prof. Leslie Holmes, University of Melbourne
List of Abbreviations and Acronyms
1. Legitimate Authority in Contemporary
2. The Various Faces of Charisma in Politics
3. The Interrelated Aspects of Charismatic Authority
4. Boris Yeltsin: The Heroic Charismatic
5. Václav Havel: The Reluctant Charismatic
6. Helmut Kohl: The Contested (Constituted) Charismatic
7. Conclusion: The Charismatics Compared