Matthew Light

Associate Professor, Criminology and Sociological Studies
Affiliated Faculty, Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies
Headshot of Matthew Light

Areas of interest

  • Migration
  • Law and legal processes
  • Criminal justice
  • Criminal behaviour
  • Migration policy
  • Policing
  • Public and citizen security
  • Corruption and organized crime
  • Post-Soviet law and society
  • Russia
  • The Caucasus
  • Ukraine


Main bio

Matthew Light studies migration control, policing and criminal justice, and public and citizen security, primarily in the post-Soviet region. His book (Routledge 2016) and several related articles on Russian federal and regional migration policies in the aftermath of the breakup of the USSR analyze what forms of freedom of movement emerged in the new post-Soviet Russian state, and frames the Soviet and post-Soviet experience with migration management in comparative international perspective. Light’s recent work concerns policing and other aspects of public and citizen security in several post-Soviet countries, including Russia, Georgia, and Armenia, and examines the evolution of both public policing institutions and private provision of security in the region. 

Current Projects


With Dr. Anne-Marie Singh (Ryerson University) and Aaron Erlich (McGill University), Light is engaged in a four-year SSHRC-funded study of public and citizen security in Ukraine, examining how Ukraine’s political transition and ongoing conflict with Russia and Russian-backed separatists have affected how citizens experience and understand their security environment, including the police, private security, and private gun ownership; see Ukraine Public Security in Transition Project for more details.

With Dr. Willem Maas (York University), Light is co-editing a collection of papers on the “regulation of exit,” that is, how governments around the world regulate whether, and how, their citizens may leave the country.

With Dr. Anne-Marie Singh (Ryerson University), Light is co-editing a special issue of Theoretical Criminology on international and inter-regional comparisons in criminology, with publication expected in 2022.


Select publications


  • Mikhail Borisovich Denisenko, Salvatore Strozza, and Matthew Light, eds. 2020. Migration from the Newly Independent States: 25 Years After the Collapse of the USSR. Springer.
  • Light, Matthew. 2016. Fragile Migration Rights: Freedom of Movement in Post-Soviet Russia. (Routledge)

Journal Special Issue

Selected Articles and Book Chapters

  • Light, M. & Slonimerov, E. 2020. How gun control policies evolve: Gun culture,‘gunscapes’ and political contingency in post-Soviet Georgia. Theoretical Criminology, 24, 590-611.
  • Singh, A.-M. & Light, M. 2019. Constraints on the growth of private policing: A comparative international analysis. Theoretical Criminology, 23, 295-314.
  • Shahnazarian, N. & Light, M. 2018. Parameters of Police Reform and Non-Reform in Post-Soviet Regimes: The Case of Armenia. Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization, 26, 83-108.
  • Light, M., Prado, M.M. & Wang, Y. 2015. Policing following political and social transitions: Russia, Brazil, and China compared. Theoretical Criminology, 19, 216-238.
  • Light, M. 2014. Police Reform in the Republic of Georgia: The Convergence of Domestic and Foreign Policy in an Anti-Corruption Drive. Policing and Society, 24, 318-45.
  • Light, M., Gartner, R. & Strbac, M. 2014. Interpersonal violence by authoritarian rulers: Saddam Hussein and Joseph Stalin compared. Post-Soviet Affairs, 30, 389-415.
  • Light, M. & Kovalev, N. 2013. Russia, the death penalty, and Europe: the ambiguities of influence. Post-Soviet Affairs, 29, 528-566.
  • Light, M. 2013. “Regulation, Recruitment and Control of Immigration,” in International Handbook of Migration Studies, eds. Steven Gold and Stephanie Nawyn (Routledge), 345-5
  • Light, M.A. 2012. What Does It Mean to Control Migration? Soviet Mobility Policies in Comparative Perspective. Law & Social Inquiry, 37, 395-429.
  • Light, M. 2012. Migration, ‘Globalised’ Islam and the Russian State: A Case Study of Muslim Communities in Belgorod and Adygeya Regions. Europe-Asia Studies, 64, 195-226.