Causes and Concequences of Colour Revolutions in the Post-Soviet Countries


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A presentation of lecture re coulor revolutions, their causes and consequences so far.

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Causes and Concequences of Colour Revolutions in the Post-Soviet Countries

  1. 1. CAUSES AND CONSEQUENCES OF COLOR REVOLUTIONS IN THE POST-SOVIET COUNTRIES Mykhailo Minakov Associate Professor , University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy Fulbright Scholar, Harvard University April 11, 2013
  2. 2. PHENOMENON OF COLOR REVOLUTIONS Three issues at the core of this lecture: • causes for the Color Revolutions • successes of the Color Revolutions • regional trends re-enforced by the Color Revolutions in Western Eurasia
  3. 3. PHENOMENON OF COLOR REVOLUTIONS measuring success of the Color Revolutions: • causes vs consequences: have the Revolutions outcomes solved those issues that caused these events? • expectations vs outcomes: have the Color Revolutions’ supporters got what they expected? • expectations vs outcomes: what regional trends were reenforced by the Color Revolutions in Western Eurasia?
  4. 4. LIMITATIONS • Color Revolutions are a complex object for scholarly research constructed by the media and political groups supporting or opposing the civil movements and associated changes of regimes in Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine and other countries of the region • Scholars can with difficulties avoid partisan interpretations of the Color Revolutions due to biases inherent in the concept itself • It is possible to measure successes of the Color Revolutions by assessing their outcomes across the expectations of their champions and participants
  5. 5. PHENOMENON OF COLOR REVOLUTIONS A tsunami of ‘revolutions’ in Eurasia from West to East • Serbia – ‘bulldozer revolution’ (2000) • Georgia – ‘rose revolution’ (2003) • Ukraine – ‘orange revolution’ (2004) • Kyrgyzstan – ‘tulip revolution’ (2005) • Lebanon – ‘cedar revolution’ (2005) • Kuwait – ‘blue revolution’ for women’s suffrage (2005) • Burma – ‘saffron revolution’ (2007) • Iran – ‘violet revolution’ (2009) • Tunisia – ‘jasmine revolution’ (2011) • Russia – ‘birch revolution’ or ‘snow revolution’ (2011 – 2012)
  12. 12. IRAN, 2009 «VIOLET REVOLUTION»
  14. 14. RUSSIA, 2011-2012 «BIRCH (SNOW) REVOLUTION»
  15. 15. DEFINITIONS OF COLOR REVOLUTIONS • minimalist definition of revolution (change of regime without change of socio-economic system) • special role of civil society – both as idea and as driving force • special role of external players (Russia, USA and EU countries) • chronology: following the velvet revolutions and preceding the Arab Spring • global democratization framework
  16. 16. CHRONOLOGY OF COLOR REVOLUTIONS • A continuation of the velvet revolutions in Eastern Europe in 1989-1991? • A new phenomenon in Eurasia (with continuations in Africa and Arabia)? • Paradox of global democratization?
  17. 17. PARADOX OF GLOBAL DEMOCRATIZATION • Growth in number of democratic political regimes, along with increasing dissatisfaction with the quality of existing regimes • Growth in global demand for democratization of regimes • Freedom House: more democratic countries – increase from 42 countries (24%) in 1974 to 89 countries (46%) in 2009 • Freedom House: fewer non-free countries – decrease from 64 (41%) in1974 to 47 (24%) in 2009 • World values survey: In almost all countries of the world, the vast majority of the population supports democratic values
  18. 18. PARADOX OF GLOBAL DEMOCRATIZATION • Growth in public distrust of existing regimes (both democratic and non-democratic countries) • voter passivity and volatility • lower participation in political parties • lower trust in political institutions • lower trust in and respect for elites • slowdown of democratization after crisis of 2008 There are two simultaneous global processes: an increase in democratic countries and a decrease of satisfaction with democracy as practiced by most regimes.
  19. 19. «COLOR REVOLUTION» HOW THE TERM WAS COINED • Western journalists: 2003 • Post-Soviet journalists: 2004 • Politicians: Askar Akayev used it to describe processes in Kyrgyzstan in the beginning of 2005 • Scholars: political scholar Michael McFaul, ‘Transition from Postcommunism’ (2005): term Color Revolutions used to describe the political processes in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine
  20. 20. CAUSES OF COLOR REVOLUTIONS - VERSIONS Michael McFaul: Color Revolutions continue the process that started at the end of the 1980s as democratic revolutions • in 1989, the West managed to consolidate democracies only in Central and Eastern Europe, failed in non-Baltic FSU and Balkans • non-controlled behavior of elites in non-Baltic FSU and Balkans led to harsh disparities in society and thus to civic uprisings McFaul, Michael (2005) ‘Transitions from Postcommunism’, in: Journal of Democracy Volume 16, Number 3 pp 5-19.
  21. 21. PARTISANS ON CAUSES OF COLOR REVOLUTIONS Color Revolutions as a result of the Western impact • «Optimists»: • internal causes were predominant • the Western impact was limited • «Pessimists»: • a Western conspiracy was the main cause of revolutions • CSOs were manipulated by Western governments • conspiracy theory: irrational horror in face of global democratization and propaganda of authoritarianism
  22. 22. COLOR REVOLUTIONS – OPTIMISTS VERSIONS • leaders in power provided limited freedoms sufficient to preserve some public trust and legitimacy of their regimes : • controlled elections • systemic opposition parties • tolerance towards presence of NGO sector • systemic contradiction between moderate authoritarianism and long-term regime goalsf : semi-authoritarian regimes could not reproduce themselves in the presence of stronger electoral transparency, civic activism and political competition Carothers, Thomas (2006) ‘The Backlash against Democracy Promotion’, in: Foreign Affairs, Vol. 85, No. 2 (Mar. - Apr., 2006), p. 59-60.
  23. 23. COLOR REVOLUTIONS – OPTIMISTS VERSIONS • high role of civic spirit without definite political ideology • new social strata and identities in contradiction with political regimes rooted in late SU models • widespread acknowledgement of need to re-establish republic in post-Soviet states Poh Phaik Thien (2009) ‘Explaining the Color Revolutions’, in: International Relations, e-document, checked 14.07.2011: [] Fischer, Sabine (2008) Crises and conflicts in post-socialist societies: the role of ethnic, political and social identities, Stuttgart, Ibidem-Verl.
  24. 24. COLOR REVOLUTIONS – OPTIMISTS VERSIONS • civic spirit (not politics) as engine of civil unrest • absence of a single political ideology among the revolutionaries, attempts at reintegration of societies : civic movements as supporters of nationalism, socialism, and liberalism to create equal conditions for political competition in revolutionary countries • change in political ecology of post-Soviet countries caused by contradictions between growing social fragmentation based on new collective identities and rigid political system • Color Revolutions as constituent assemblies of new republics; attempt to establish new social contract Poh Phaik Thien (2009) ‘Explaining the Color Revolutions’, in: International Relations, e-document, checked 14.07.2011: [] Fischer, Sabine (2008) Crises and conflicts in post-socialist societies: the role of ethnic, political and social identities, Stuttgart, Ibidem-Verl.
  25. 25. COLOR REVOLUTIONS – PESSIMISTS VERSIONS • priority given to external causes of the revolutions • honest results of elections are not possible in post-Soviet countries • to defend their liberties, post-Soviet citizens need the West and its mechanisms of influence • CSOs are an instrument of external players Лукьянов Федор (2010) ‘Бесцветная эволюция’, в:, проверено 14.07.2011: []
  26. 26. COLOR REVOLUTIONS – PESSIMISTS VERSIONS • special role of foreign organizations with interest to control the CIS; citizens manipulated from the outside • regimes unstable and in need of ‘being reloaded’ with new, more effective elite groups coming to rule • CSOs as an instrument of external players Petra Stykow (2010) ‚Bunte Revolutionen – Durchbruch zur Demokratie oder Modus der autoritären Systemreproduktion?‘ In: Politische Vierteljahresschrift, #51:1, 137-162. Herd, Graeme P. (2005) ‘Colorful Revolutions and the CIS : ‘Manufactured’ Versus ‘Managed’ Democracy?’ in: Problems of Post-Communism, Vol.52, #2, 3 – 18.
  27. 27. COLOR REVOLUTIONS AND INTERNATIONAL PROMOTERS OF DEMOCRACY International organizations claimed to be part of the Western conspiracy • main institutions: National Endowment for Democracy (NED), National Democratic Institute (NDI), International Republican Institute (IRI), International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), Open Society Institute, Freedom House • result of their activities: CSOs built their capacity to effectively advocate free and transparent elections, civil liberties, and group interests that were never taken into account by power elites • the West helped CSOs and the opposition to become effective competitors in elections • Western organizations used the Color Revolutions to fundraise for themselves in their own countries • the West supported elites (through loans to governments) and CSOs simultaneously
  28. 28. COLOR REVOLUTION KEY FACTORS • determinist trap of quest for causes in socio-political phenomena • conditions instead of causes • key factors as indicators for higher possibility of revolutions
  29. 29. COLOR REVOLUTION KEY FACTORS • Position of power elites • how dependent are elites on international aid and trade? • do elites keep their assets in the Western banks? • do authorities permit existence of NGOs? • do power elites adhere to democratic principles?
  30. 30. COLOR REVOLUTION KEY FACTORS • Situation in the opposition • how effective is the political opposition in coordinating between themselves? • how effective is the opposition in communicating with society? • are there strong popular leaders in the opposition? • is there an economic basis for the opposition? • Depth of influence of foreign actors on political situation • influence of official diplomatic representative offices on the authorities • influence of non-official political foreign actors on politicians and oligarchs • coordination of international aid providers with CSOs
  31. 31. COLOR REVOLUTION KEY FACTORS • Recognition of regime’s illegitimacy by vast majority of population • are citizens ready to stand up for their interests? • what is the level of support for/distrust of government? • what is the level of support for/distrust of the opposition? • are there influential trusted leaders in the opposition to the authorities?
  32. 32. PROMISES OF COLOR REVOLUTIONS • transcendentalist vs consequentialist • consequences of actions based on expectations/promices • measurability of (non)fulfilled expectations
  33. 33. PROMISES OF COLOR REVOLUTIONS • special role of rising expectations • consequences of actions based on expectations/promices • measurability of (non)fulfilled expectations
  34. 34. EXPECTATIONS/PROMISES OF COLOR REVOLUTIONS • new leaders and elites to rule and to fulfill civic expectations • honest elections, honest political competition • local self-government and participatory democracy • anti-corruption, transformation of State-as-a problem into State-as-asolution • more political liberties and economic rights (freedom of speech, SME) • factor of fear: less fright-inducing regimes selected from speeches of M.Saakashvili, V.Yushchenko, and several leaders of Kyrgyz revolutionary groups
  35. 35. COLOR REVOLUTION OUTCOMES • Mart Laar (Estonia, 2007): Color Revolutions had a positive impact on development of revolutionary countries (Georgia) and their neighbors (Moldova) • Theodor Tudoroiu (USA, 2007): in all revolutionary countries the leaders’ promises were not fulfilled Laar, Mart (2007) Escape from Moscow, in: Project Syndicate Theodor Tudoroiu (2007) ‘Rose, Orange, and Tulip: The failed post-Soviet revolutions’, in: Communist and Post-Communist Studies, #40:3, 315-342.
  36. 36. COLOR REVOLUTION OUTCOMES • Color Revolutions in former Soviet Union (Economist, 2008): • Color Revolutions had confusing consequences • Color Revolutions were a street fight between the Western Light and the Eastern Shadow • although the revolutions did not lead to positive results, the post revolutionary countries are ‘in better places than they would be without revolutions’ • Andrei Ryabov (Russia, 2010): none of the revolutionary countries launched ‘a principally new model of their development’ ‘Colour revolutions in the former Soviet Union. A bit faded but still bright enough’, in: Economist Рябов, Андрей (2010) ‘Промежуточные итоги и некоторые особенности постсоветских трансформаций’, в:, проверено 13.07.2011: [
  37. 37. COLOR REVOLUTION OUTCOMES Measured by : • quality of elites and stability of political regimes • quality of democracy • economic freedoms
  38. 38. COLOR REVOLUTION OUTCOMES Quality of elites • Temporary effect: the change of names of those in power did not change practices • social lifts remained out of work • political groups use force more often • medium-term process: strengthening of institution of the presidency, weakening of the parliament
  39. 39. COLOR REVOLUTION OUTCOMES Quality of elites • none of the post-revolutionary elites had a clear goal of development • Georgia: contradictory Westernization • Ukraine: self-isolation • Kyrgyzstan: no vision of future • split nations : • Georgia: lost provinces (South Ossetia, Abkhazia), national consolidation through war with Russia • Ukraine: East and West - cultural diversity with political representation • Kyrgyzstan: South and North, tribal groups in parliament
  40. 40. COLOR REVOLUTION OUTCOMES Failed states index (Foreign Policy / Fund for Peace)
  41. 41. COLOR REVOLUTION OUTCOME Civil liberties and political rights (Freedom House)
  42. 42. COLOR REVOLUTION OUTCOME Press freedom index (Reporters without Borders)
  43. 43. COLOR REVOLUTION OUTCOME Corruption perception index (Transparency International)
  44. 44. COLOR REVOLUTION OUTCOME Economic freedom of the world (Fraser Institute)
  45. 45. COLOR REVOLUTIONS GENERAL OUTCOMES • Unfulfilled expectations/promises • Short term slow down in slide toward authoritarianism in revolutionary countries • Medium term reaction of counter-revolutionary countries that promoted authoritarianism throughout the region • No change in socio-economic model of development • No decrease in corruption and separation between private sector and government • Increased conflictogenic situation in the FSU region • Increasing chances for repeating of Revolutions
  46. 46. THANK YOU!