Despite its global rise, theoretical frameworks to capture populism have been derived primarily from case studies in the Western hemisphere. To assess if and how the premises of populism travel across different contexts, we offer a comparative analysis of populist discourses in Turkey, India, and Russia, countries with different political contexts and religions. The content analysis of 1682 speeches of Erdoğan, Modi, and Putin shows that they depart from their European and American counterparts because they are neither nativist nor inclusive. Instead, they introduce a new notion of “people” anchored in a religiously defined community, interpret the nation’s past to achieve their own political goals, and identify different driving forces to restore their lost global role. A comparison of Erdoğan, Modi, and Putin highlights the blind spots of existing studies, which fail to carefully contextualize the term, thus obscuring the country-specific constituents of populist discourses and the role of religions. Understanding the regional variants of populism not only helps us capture the reasons behind the leaders’ appeal and resiliency but also their so-called unexpected actions and decisions, such as Putin’s territorial and religious claims over Ukraine.
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