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Comparative Analysis of Colour Revolutions in Post-Soviet Area Countries

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Evolution of political system in CIS states. Comparative Analysis of Colour Revolutions in Post-Soviet Area Countries.


The Vasiljkovaja revolution - a meeting on the October Square in Minsk, the 19th of March 2006The aim of this research is to analyse reasons why colour revolutions struck post-Soviet countries, elicit institutional and non-institutional factors that shaped revolutionary events, and give conclusions based on expert interviews taken between 1 April and 23 September 2010 in post-Soviet countries. Seven experts have been interviewed. Selection of experts is based on their availability, critical attitude to reliability of various kinds of sources, and necessity of providing of different points of views. I would like to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to the following persons for their participation in the research, namely, Yana Amelina (expert analyst at the Institute of National Strategy, South Ossetia), Andrey Bolshakov (Ph.D. in Political Science, Professor of Kazan State University), Ruben Zaganyan (Counsellor for the Foreign Office of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Ph.D. in History, Nagorno-Karabakh), Aleksandr Iskandaryan (in charge of the course in Politology in Yerevan State University, Armenia), Rim Abdulovich Giniyatullin (Tashkent, Uzbekistan), Chairman of the Seniors’ Council of the Tatar Public Cultural and Educational Center, Economy Ph.D.; a journalistfor the Armenian Radio “Golos Svobody” (Voice of Freedom) and a councellorfor the City Hall of Osh, Kyrghyzystan, (both wished to remain incognito), as well as to Ella Karagulyan (the interviewer), graduate of Politology Dept. of Yerevan National University.

KeywordsPolitical Systems, Post-Soviet area, Revolution, Putsch (Putsh), Coup d’Etat, Colour Revolutions, Campaign for insubordination to authority.


The Orange Revolution, Ukraine, (from 22th of November 2004 until January 2005). Police and orange roses.One of the main reasons for transformations in the Post-Soviet countries is complication of reality where these countries have to develop. In some countries, e.g. Ukraine, Georgia and Kirghizia, it resulted in colour revolutions, in others it led to stagnation. The task of this research is to analyze the most successful transformations that are called colour revolutions by scientists.

  • Definition of the problem, core concepts, theoretical and measurement models Theoretical and Methodological Prerequisites of the Research:

Marxist and Neomarxist concepts (K.Marx, Engels, E.Bernstein, K.Kautsky, R.Luxemburg, W.F.Wertheim, P.Sztompka) define revolutions as a natural outcome of social development.

Behaviourist concepts (G.Lebon, P.Sorokin, J.Davies) combine revolutions with human behaviour (especially with the need to manage people) and derive them from suppression of basic instincts (nutritional, sexual, self-preservation etc).

Synergetic theory (I.Prigozhin, A.Vanchikova etc.) defines revolution as a bifurcation (breakpoint) in development of social systems.

Modern theories of revolution implementation (G.Sharp, G.Pocheptsov) define a colour revolution as a revolt organized in a democratic country and substantially supported by third party countries. While analysing transition problems of former communist countries many authors pay attention to the influence of colour revolutions on democratic processes in post-communist countries (McFaul M., Kuzio T., Silitski V., Way L., Hale H., Tacker J., Lane D.).

The author adheres to the poliparadigmatic concept based on the idea that actors and structures are interconnected. In the course of socialization actors master practices of interaction, originally set forth by institutions (structures). Later, actors, formerly influenced by institutions and structures, change these institutions and structures themselves.

The aim of this research is to elicit basic factors and consequences of political regime transformations in Georgia, Kirghizia and Ukraine in the beginning of the XXI century. The following tasks must be completed:

  1. Elicit the main characteristics of the original political systems of the post-Soviet countries and evaluate significance of colour revolutions within context of post-Soviet transformation of the three countries;
  2. Elicit the main factors and reasons that caused success of mass protests and fall of authoritarian leaders in Georgia, Kirghizia and Ukraine;
  3. Elicit the main consequences of regime transformations in Georgia, Kirghizia and Ukraine and ways of their development.

Therefore, the object of research is transformation of political regimes in Georgia, Kirghizia, Ukraine and other countries in the beginning of the XXI century that are often referred to as colour revolutions. The subject is content, common and particular factors, course and consequences of transformation of political regimes in Georgia, Kirghizia and Ukraine.

The empirical base for the research are secondary sources (regulatory enactments, scientific publications, printed media, the Internet etc) as well as expert interviews, taken from 1 April 2010 to 31 September 2010 on the post-Soviet area.

All post-Soviet could be divided into three groups: 1) countries where nothing changed except their titles, e.g. Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan (experts have been interviewed); 2) countries that have developed power rotation, e.g. Balitc countries, and till recently Modavia (experts were unavailable); 3) countries that have developed neither autocracy nor democrcy (there is power rotaion but unaccepted by society), like Armenia, Georgia, Kirghizia (experts have been interviewed).

1. Evolution of political system in CIS states.

1.1 Political Systems of CIS countries

By the 1980s centrifugal tendencies in the Soviet republics had increased, new leaders tended to adhere to more radical views. Legally the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (the USSR) became extinct in December, 1991. On 8 December in Belovezhskaya Pushcha, leaders of Russia, Ukraine and Belorussia signed an agreement on denunciation of the treaty, that is on dismissal of the USSR and establishing of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

Despite the fact that all post-Soviet countries differed territorially, demographically, linguistically, geographically all their political systems arose as a result of dismissal of the unified Soviet state and a unified communist system at the same time and in the same circumstances. This makes the post-Soviet countries an ideal field for political research (see Attachment 1, Table 1.).

All the fifteen newly established states set the same goal as to establish democratic societies with market economy. Constitutionally post-Soviet countries define themselves as indicated in Table 2 (see Attachment 1).

Social and political changes caused by the split of the Soviet union had a revolutionary significance, but were relatively bloodless (velvet) by nature. The changes followed different ways in different countries. Some countries (Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan) were still governed by the old bureaucratic elite and former party chiefs who lead their countries from communism to pseudo-democracy and “clan capitalism”. Spontaneous anti-communist movements in these countries were of little importance. Other countries (Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova) went through more dramatic events and power was taken over by nationalist-democratic movements, which caused significant vertical mobility of in the political sphere. However, these political processes on the post-Soviet area resulted in political systems with formally similar political establishment (see Table 3).

According to some experts (e.g. Y.Amelina, A.Bolshakov), political systems in the post-Soviet area developed as systems of personal power. Presidents who came to power in 1990s make all efforts to entrench themselves in power and to avoid any rotations in the future. Nearly all of them have a Nomenklatura background. Power is retained by former party functionaries in almost every country of the post-Soviet area: M.Gorbachev and B.Yeltsin in Russia, N.Nazarbayev in Kazakhstan, I.Karimov in Uzbekistan, S.Niyazov in Turkmenistan, E.Shevardnadze, G.Aliyev in Azerbayjan (the latter two returning after a revolt); as well as former low rank functionaries such as A.Lukashenko (former kolkhoz chairman) who came to power after the first and last Belorussian rotation, E.Raxmonov who came to power after a civil war. However, certain first presidents of the post-Soviet countries did not have a “nomenclatural” background. Kirghizia was headed by A.Akayev sponsored by anticommunist democrates as an alternative to former leaders. Armenia was headed by an intellectual and “semi-dissident” leader of national-democratic movement L.Ter-Petrosyan. See Attachment 1, Table 4.

According to our main hypothesis, all authoritarian political systems under analysis are characterized by weaknesses, internal inefficiency, institutional inefficiency, personal antagonism, conflicts between organizations and departments etc. These weaknesses tend to decrease efficiency of the regime and make it vulnerable under strong resistance of the opposition. Our research has lead to the conclusion that all post-Soviet countries have experienced similar crises during 1991–2010 (the Baltic countries went through the same crises in 1980s1). Let’s analyze some of them.

1 The author observed these events personally in 1988 on Gediminas Square in Vilnius.

1.2 Power Succession Conflicts

Presidents and parliaments tended to conflict in 1990s. The power of the 1991 winners had no institutional legalization.

In the earlier stages of development of the post-Soviet democracies presidents and parliaments tended to conflict. Following Russia, all CIS countries went through similar conflicts. Post-Soviet presidents dissolved disturbing parliaments several times. Akayev in Kyrgyzstan resorted to dismissal in 1995; Nazarbayev in Kazakhstan did it twice, in 1993 and 1995. Lukashenko dismissed the Belorussian parliament in 1996. The only exception was the Moldovan parliament that discharged president Luchinsky and established a parliamentary republic.

Power succession crisis is confrontation between new leaders and their “old comrades” who helped them to come to power. All the presidents, who came to power as a result of the USSR collapse, should they have been party leaders or leaders of mass democratic movements, went to power with their teams, where they were “the first among equals” but not “bosses” or “masters”. Later on when team-leaders become country-leaders, their old comrades can hardly adapt to their new subordinate roles and keep disturbing their leaders by constantly reminding them about their previous status which results in conflicts. a wave of such conflicts went across the post-Soviet area in all of the newly independent republics. In Kazakhstan president Nazarbayev clashed with speaker Abdildin and dismissed vice-president E.Asanbayev; president A.Akayev in Kyrgyzstan was in confrontation with vice-president F.Kulov; president I.Karimov in Uzbekistan was in conflict with Sh.Mirsaidov; in Azerbayjan president G.Aliyev confronted speaker R.Kuliyev; in Belorussia A.Lukashenko struggled many of his former supporters. Each president was in confrontation with his vice-presidents or speaker, that is with their closest supporters who occupied the most imortant positions after president. Naturally, president always won while speakers and vice-presidents went into opposition (Abdildin), emigrated (Mirsaidov, Kuliyev) or went to prison (Kulov).

The Russian conflict scenario was confrontation between Yeltsin who first was democratic movement leader with his former supporters Gorbachev and GKChP.

Naturally, leaders often declare their children as their successors. Quasy- dynasties resulted therefrom in pseudo-democracies tend to become similar to traditional monarchial dynasties. Only in two post-soviet countries power was inherited after the death of a leader (Azerbayjan and Turkmenistan) and both were accompanied by struggle for power succession and acute crisis. Despite the fact that Azerbayjan had a successor ready long in advance (Geydar Aliyev’s son Ilham), his accession to power was not only accompanied by struggle inside Aliev’s clan but also with an attempt of the opposition to organize a “colour revolution”. In Turkemnistan Niyazov’s death caused a clash in the ruling establishment. Speaker Atayev, who was supposed to take over after Niyazov’s death, was arrested and disgraced. Power was taken over by G.Berdymukhametov. Fierce strife in Nazarbayev’s family flaring up in anticipation of his death can also be referred to as a power succession conflict.

1.3 Experiments with opposition

The way power was accessed first in Russia then in the rest of the post-Soviet countries eliminated opportunities for creation of “normal” legal opposition of western type. The Belovezha Accords, privatization and the fusillade of the White House resulted in the fact that any political protest became “out-of-system”, radical and “counter-revolutionary”. Allowing the opposition acccess to power meant emigration or imprisonment to Yeltsin and his associates. That’s why fight for retention of power was not only motivated by the desire to carry out social and political plans (reforms), love of power and ambition, but also by instinct of self-preservation. Presidents’ power is constantly reinforced, so is the power of the “dynasty” – successors appointed by current presidents. Besides Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, opposition was not openly suppressed. All the countries have both main and marginal parties, the latter being in opposition. Each country experiment with a controllable, artificially pluralist system of parties, loyal to the current authorities. Such experiments were carried out in Kazakhstan by Nazarbayev until the controllable multiparty system was affected by uncontrollable conflicts in Nazarbayev’s family itself. The parties became supporters of separate conflicting members of the Nazarbayev family. Nazarbayev then united all the parties into one “Nur Otan” party. “United Russia” is an absolute analogue of Aliev’s “Yeni Azərbaycan”, Nazarbayev’s “Nur Otan”, and “People’s Democratic Party” of Tajikistan. According to D.Furman, the controllable pluralist system in Russia is quite similar to that of Uzbekistan set up by I.Karimov, where parties compete at love for the president. See Table 5.

S.Grushevski singles out three kinds of parties:

1. Authentic parties, i.e. the parties that emerged at the turn of the XIX and XX centuries and then emigrated during the Soviet regime to re-immigrate after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Dashnaktsutyun and Hunchakian can serve as an example of Armenian parties that survieved thanks to large Armenian diaspora beyond the Soviet Union.

2. New parties. The majority of the existing parties belong to this group. Party of Regions and a range of left-wing parties are of pro-Russian orientation with some restrictions.

3. Heirs of Communist Party of the Soviet Union, i.e. former ruling communist parties.

See Table 5.

1.4 Crisis of Representative Democracy Institutions

Social change rate naturally afects citizens’ attitude to power and its separate institutions. For years polls have registered public approval of all branches of power first of all presidential in Belorussia and Kazakhstan1. In Russia, Putin was constantly in focus of public attention, meanwhile the parliament and the government did not enjoy public approval but rather accumulated public dissatisfaction. The 2007 polls displayed a certain change in public attitude to governmental bodies2. First of all, polls displayed an essential drop in public attitude to the Belorussian president (from 75% to 57% within a year). On the contrary, Putin and Nazarbayev, who have been at power for a relatively long time, do not provoke rejection: both Russian and Kazakh citizens do not mind if their presidents retain their current positions. The Ukrain went through quite a different events. Attitude to power undergoes considerable change. After the dramatic election that ran over about three months (November–December, 2004), the president’s rating rose from 24% (2004, then L.Kuchma) to 57% (Yushchenko in April, 2005). However, the postrevolutionary rejoycing did not last long. Just half a year later positive evaluations were substituted by negative ones with Yushcheko’s rating dropping down to 32%, and later to 22% by the end of 2006. By october, 2007 the rating rose but not essentially. Nevertheless, V.Yushchenko is the only president of the four countries whose rating is below 50%3.

Likewise, citizens of Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan differ form each other in their attitude to their governments. While Kazakh and Belorussian governments generally enjoy approval (with a noticeable drop from November, 2006, to May, 2007, especially in Belorussia), Russians and Ukrainians do not trust their governments and give them negative marks. Besides, the situation of the government in Ukraine is an absolute copy of that of the president: growth of public expectations, rise of approval of the first “orange” government, then a sudden drop, no matter who formed and lead the government, whether it was Y.Timoshenko, Y.Yekhanurov or V.Yanukovich4. As for the legislative branch, in Ukraine and Russia it is assessed more negatively than positively, while in Belorussia and Kazakhstan the assessment is mainly positive. The Russians’ and Ukrainians’ attitude to their parliaments does not differ much, though in Russia the parliament is believed to be under absolute control of the president, while in Ukraine it was believed to be in opposition to president V.Yushchenko. V.Petukhov comes to a conclusion that there is crisis of representative democracy institutions, because polls in these countries do not only display decrease in trust to the parliements but also to the political parties and election as the key institution that legitimates power, although the crisis is caused by different reasons. Nevertheless, both Russians and Ukrainians agee that democracy is a prerequisite to stable functioning of the state5. Half of the Russians and 59% of the Ukrainians (contrary to 35% and 28% respectively) suppose that democracy is the best form of government for their countries. Higher rates are displayed in Belorussia and Kazakhstan, which can be interpreted, according to Petukhov6, as a more distinct request for democracy in these countries than in Russia and Ukraine. According to research, there is a certain correlation between satisfaction from functioning of democratic institutions in this or that country and social and financial standing of the citizens. In other words, people assess efficiency of democracy on the basis of the extend basic rights and freedoms are realised in democratic institutions, the right for a decent life being the most important. In Russia, the Ukraine and the Belorussia, the higher is material security, the higher is satisfaction with democracy, and vice versa. In Russia, 68% of respondents who assess their financial standing as more “good”, are satisfied with the way democracy “works”. 77% of those who assess their financial well-being as more “bad”, are not satisfied with democracy. Thus financially independent people are inclined to assess democracy in a more positive way than the poor.

Material well-being is not the only factor that affects people’s perception of reality. Particularly, many Byelorussian and Kazakhstan citizens dislike “excessive governmental patronage”. The majority believe that individuals must depend on themselves rather than on the government (52% and 55% respectively). The situation when social equality and governmental care prevent growth of social mobility is most disliked by the Belorussian youth (65%).

The majority of Belorussian and Kazakhstan citizens (55% and 60% respectively) argue against hard pressure on business, being assured that absence of freedom of enterprise “is not good”. Russia and to a lesser extent Ukraine (countries further on the way of democratic and market reforms) are more restrained in their assessment of and attitude to freedom of entrepreneurship, which, however, does not prove that the achieved level of freedoms and opportunities is enough, but proves that in these countries there is a direct and indirect correlation between significance of rights and freedoms and their practical realization. Russians and Ukrainans worry less about political rights and freedoms, pressure on business, but worry more about social and economical situation in these countries, as well as high level of uncertainty about the nearest future of these countries.

Research by Eurasian Monitor in May 2006 showed that anxiety level in Russia and Ukraine is noticeably higher than that in Belorussia and Kazakhstan. Mass unemployed, growth of prices, impoverishment worries 70% of Ukrainians and 63% of Russians. Belorussia and Kazakhstan display lower but still high rates (42% and 38%). However, the majority of Russians do not worry about limitation of rights and freedoms.

The highest demand for change was registered in 2007 in Ukraine, to a lesser degree in Russia and Belorussia. Kazakhstan is mainly satisfied7.

1 Pollings by the Public Opinion Foundation (FOM), Russian National Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM), ROMIR, researches by “The Eurasian Monitoring” etc.

2 Integration in Eurasia: Sociological Dimension (Интеграция в Евразии: социологическое измерение). Issue 2 / Ed. and compilation by I.V. Zadoring. – M.: Institute of Economic Strategies, 2008. p. 18

3 V.Petuhov. Dynamics of Social Problems as Reflected in Mass Consciousness of the Russian, Ukrainian and Kazakhstan Populations // Integration in Eurasia: Sociological Dimension (Интеграция в Евразии: социологическое измерение). Issue 2 / Ed. and compilation by I.V. Zadoring. – M.: Institute of Economic Strategies, 2008. p. 14

4 Integration in Eurasia: Sociological Dimension (Интеграция в Евразии: социологическое измерение). Issue 2 / Ed. and compilation by I.V. Zadoring. – M.: Institute of Economic Strategies, 2008. p. 20

5 V.Petuhov. Dynamics of Social Problems as Reflected in Mass Consciousness of the Russian, Ukrainian and Kazakhstan Populations // Integration in Eurasia: Sociological Dimension (Интеграция в Евразии: социологическое измерение). Issue 2 / Ed. and compilation by I.V. Zadoring. – M.: Institute of Economic Strategies, 2008. p. 20

6 V.Petuhov. Dynamics of Social Problems as Reflected in Mass Consciousness of the Russian, Ukrainian and Kazakhstan Populations // Integration in Eurasia: Sociological Dimension (Интеграция в Евразии: социологическое измерение). Issue 2 / Ed. and compilation by I.V. Zadoring. – M.: Institute of Economic Strategies, 2008. p. 20

7 V.Petuhov. Dynamics of Social Problems as Reflected in Mass Consciousness of the Russian, Ukrainian and Kazakhstan Populations // Integration in Eurasia: Sociological Dimension (Интеграция в Евразии: социологическое измерение). Issue 2 / Ed. and compilation by I.V. Zadoring. – M.: Institute of Economic Strategies, 2008. p. 30

2. The Empiric Part

2.1 Comparative Analysis of Colour Revolutions in Post-Soviet Area Countries

The majority of experts agree that the events that took place on the post-Soviet area cannot be referred to as revolutions. Some prefer to call these processes “upheaval” [3], others “transformations” [1].

According to A.Iskandaryan, all the post-Soviet countries can be divided into three groups. “The first group consists of the countries where nothing has changed, except labels and names; meanwhile the content has remained the same (Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan etc). The second group is the countries that have developed a mechanism of power rotation via election (Lithuania, also Moldova until recently). The election is not important per se in these countries, essential is recognition of election as a result, as well as the fact that society recognizes results of power rotation; in these societies colour revolutions are of no importance because people understand that election is a competition with known rules and unknown results. Defeat in one election does not mean defeat in the next election. The third group of countries is the so called gray zone, i.e. the countries where neither real autocracy nor real democracy has been formed. Power does rotate in these countries, but society does not recognize the fact. Society does not consider election objective (Armenia, Georgia, Ukraine, and Kirghizia). This gray zone serves as a ground for colour revolutions. Societies of this kind tend to give way to creation and development of groups of alternative power which, having lost at an election, mobilize the active part of the population to ‘vote with their legs’. If they can, they break through the resistance of current authorities. Colour revolutions always happen after election. This is the voting of the active part of the population in capital cities but not of the entire population. This phenomenon only takes place in capitals. A colour revolution is not a Ukrainian revolution, it is Kieran; not Georgian, but Tbilisian; not Abkhazian, but Sukhumian”.

All experts agree that the most radical character is inherent to the events in Georgia, Kirghizia and Ukraine. These countries, in the experts’ opinion, are the basic social and geographical zones of the post-Soviet area. Georgia represents the post-Soviet Caucasus, Ukraine – Europe, Kirghizia – Central Asia. Therefore, we are going to focus on the change processes in these post-Soviet countries (see 2.2) as their comparative analysis can help elicit significant tendencies in the CIS countries.

[1] V.Petuhov. Dynamics of Social Problems as Reflected in Mass Consciousness of the Russian, Ukrainian and Kazakhstan Populations // Integration in Eurasia: Sociological Dimension (Интеграция в Евразии: социологическое измерение). Issue 2 / Ed. and compilation by I.V. Zadoring. – M.: Institute of Economic Strategies, 2008. p. 30

2.2 Basic Characteristics of Colour Revolutions on Post-Soviet area

According to some experts, the most successful revolutions on the post-Soviet area are “the Revolution of Roses” in Georgia (November, 2003), “the Orange Revolution” in Ukraine (December, 2004 – beginning of January 2005). Unsuccessful attempts at colour revolutions are the activities of opposition in Azerbaijan in autumn, 2005; Belorussia (“Cornflower Revolution” spring, 2006); Armenia (spring, 2008) and Moldova (“Mamaliga Revolution”, spring, 2009).

The common characteristic for these activities were attempts at social and political reforms aimed at introducing “democracy from below”.

Experts list the following common features of colour revolutions on the post-Soviet area:

2.2.1 Electoral Revolution

All the colour revolutions always followed elections. This voting is not by the whole population but by the active part of the capital populations, thus, according to Iskandaryan, a colour revolution is not a Ukrainian one but Kievan, not Gergian but Tbilissian, not Abkhazian but Sukhumian. Real or suspected ballot rigging by current authorities causes a widely spread mobilization of society that do not just demand to change something in the system, but change the system itself. The author does not consider that the colour revolutions are classical revolutions but are transformations of power which was revealed through mass meetings, demonstrations and strikes, conducted by the opposition after election that declares defeat of the opposition. Opposition claims that errors and violation of electoral rights have been commitied during the election so as to distort public will. Mass protests cause either revote (Ukraine) or coercive seizure of governmental bodies by crowd (Georgia, Kyrgizstan). In the latter case the rulers escape from the country and a revote is held. In both cases opposition comes to power.

In this case nationalism serves as a motive power that can also cause more violent movements. Everywhere revolutions take place under anti-corruption and radically democratic slogans. The key idea of the revolutions is people’s sovereignty. Revolutions are always preceded by establishing youth organizations (“Pora” in the Ukrainw, “Khmara” in Georgia etc) that form so called “field squads of revolution”.

In all cases people go out to the streets to force the authorities to sit down at the negotiating table. The point of highest mass mobilization is the moment of turning to negotiation, that is a compromise. Decisive role in the success of a revolution is played by restraint of forces of coercion (“prevent bloodshed”). All the revolutions bore definitely bloodless character, reminiscent of Gandi and hippies who gave flowers to the police (flower power), therefore is the revolution brand – a non-aggressive colour (neither red or black) or a flower. However, in Kyrgyzistan collisions with the police, pogroms of shops and coercive seizure of authority buildings by crowds resulted in casualties.

Segmentation of elites, clans, contradictions between them created extra opportunities for opposition to develop in Georgia, Kirghizia, and Ukraine and, finally, win in the end. Union of oppositions in Georgia, Kirghizia, and Ukraine turned out to be a key factor of victory. Opposition was headed by representatives of political elites, formerly high-rank functionaries with broad economical ties. This provided opposition with a structure and created opportunities for support from the elite, previously loyal to regime.

So, destruction of original political regimes in Georgia, Kirghizia, and Ukraine based on electoral manipulations thanks to three factors: mass control over voting, presence of oppositional media, opposition’s opportunities to cause mass protests.

Split of elites favoured split of security agencies and undermined their loyalty to regime. As a result, cohesive capabilities of Georgian, Kirghiz, and Ukrainian leaders decreased and events developed in a non-violent way.

2.2.2 External Players

The researchers tend to fall into two trends. The first group claims that the colour revolutions were inspired from abroad and accuse the US and the EU of toppling the old regimes. Their researches are obviously subject to reductionism, i.e. they reduce all the reasons for regime transformation to a single external source. The second group characterizes the ongoing processes as democratic breakthrough. So, external factor manifested itself in democracy promotion programmes that were in effect in Georgia, Kirghizia, and Ukraine. Actualization of political approach in promoting of democracy resulted in the fact that the programmes did not only favour social openness and development of civil groups but also reinforced opposition in their fight against current regime. Timothy Garton Ash believes that external players have relevance to post-Soviet revolutions, sometimes overtly, sometimes covertly. However, T.Ash is assured that their role was not decisive in any of he cases. According to D.Lane in Ukraine active organizations were Soros’ Renaissance Foundation, USAID, Freedom House, the Carnegie Foundation, the National Endowment for Democracy, the German Marshall Fund. Experts speak about connections between street protests in the post-Soviet states with grants and scholarships of such funds as George Soros’ Open Society Fund, Harvard University, Albert Einstein Unversity, International Republican Institute, International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, International Institute For Strategic Studies in London.

The author considers that any kind of influence associated with scientific grants and scholarships, support for various democratic movements, as well as participation of independent experts in electoral committees results in latent association with various transformations in polytical systems.

On the Maidan (Kyiv): a grandmother and a cat - in orange scarves (grandmother - on the left), 30.11.20042.2.3 Creation of a Symbol


Creation of a symbol is an important part of techniques and methods of launching a revolution, it also serves as a means of communication and identification of companions. In Ukraine it was the orange colour, in Georgia – a rose, in Kyrgyzistan – a tulip. The prerequisite for any symbol is its recognizability and ease of drawing it in public places.

Mikheil SaakashviliColour revolutions in CIS countries proved successful if their leaders were high rank fuctionaries who had not left executive power earlier than one elective cycle. The Orange Revolution in Ukraine was headed by the former prime-minister (till May, 2001) V.Yushchenko. Kyrghiz revolution was lead by former prime-minister (till May, 2002) K.Bakiyev and former head of Foreign Office R.Otunbayeva. Revolution of Roses in Georgia was organized by former minister of justice M.Saakashvili and parliement speaker Z.Zhvaniya, who had been supposed to be president E.Shevarnadze’s successor.

A colour revolution enjoys a wide support at least in one of the regions of the country which is an important factor that favours their success. Orange Revolution in Ukraine was widely backed in the west of the country, the Tulip Revolution in Kyrghizia was broadly supported in the south. Quite often, cultural and historical differences between the regions served as an essential source of support for opposition activities. The core activists of street campains were often nationalists, the opposition was mainly lead by liberal politicians with nationalist ideas.

Experts notice that the fall in popularity of Georgian, Kirghiz and Ukrainian leaders has lead to the fact that ballot rigging has become widely spread. Opposition’s ability to elicit fraud is an important factor that allows transformation of a political regime through a colour revolution. Opposition in all the colour revolution countries enjoyed this ability. The key role in providing the necessary information belongs to non-governmental organizations, financed from internal or external sources. Another resource of great importance is the ability to mobilize an essential number of people for protesting against ballot rigging.

Colour revolutions were gained success because they enjoyed support on the part of press and electronic mass media. e.g. the Orange opposition in Ukraine got access to live broadcast on “Channel 5”. Massmedia focused on youth oppositional organizations that took part in colour revolutions, among these were “Pora” (The Time, “black” and “yellow”) in Ukraine, “Khmara” in Georgia, “Kel-Kel” and “Birge” in Kyrghizia etc. Some experts (e.g. Yana Amelina, A.Iskandaryan) some mass-media assume the role of a political party.

Experts believe that “media depend on the political powers that sponsor them. The political powers, in their turn, are of different character, and their spheres of influence are different and discrete, not adjacent. People buy and read newspapers they agree with in advance! There is no neutrality. It results in discreteness of spheres. And that is all propaganda” [2].

Experts come to a conclusion that semi-authoritarian regimes in the CIS, particularly, in Georgia, Kirghizia and Ukraine, have not proven as strong as they seemed. Limitations, imposed by democratic constitutions, expiry of period at power in the CIS countries have resulted in: 1) weakening of the role of informal institutionalized rules dealing with the chief executive and playing an important role in political life; 2) increased role of formal democratic institutions; 3) formation of additional ambiguity, that – as a range of neoinstitutionalists point out – favour increase of the role of ideological alternatives in political battle.

Some experts (e.g. A.Bolshakov, R.Zagnyan) single out certain similarities of regimes in Georgia, Kirghizia and Ukraine (mechanisms of executive power recruitment; systems of executive power limitations; mechanisms of political participation). Kirghizia, it should be mentioned, was essentially different form the other two countries. Nevertheless, opposition in Kirghizia came to success faster and easier than that in Georgia and Ukraine. Experts also notice the fact that president’s domination in all the three countries weakened the other branches of power and handicapped democratic growth.

Analysis divides all the factors, that lead to colour revolutions in all the three countries, in two groups:

2.3 Institutional Transformation Factors of Political Regimes in Georgia, Kirghizia and Ukraine

The first day of protests on the Maidan (Kiev), the evening 22.11.2004Colour revolutions in Georgia, Kirghizia and Ukraine were caused under conditions of disbalanced political systems. These countries display a significant tilt in favour of presidential power that had a great influence on executive power, as well as on judiciary and legislation. Vertical power was distributed so as to keep provincial authorities under direct control of president. As a result all political power focused first of all on president. Although the tilt is claimed to guarantee stability, it becomes obvious that in case of loss of power by president, political stability will be lost as well. Therefore, while similar circumstances would cause a cabinet crisis in a parliamentary republic, a presidential republic is likely to end up with a revolutionary outbreak due to impossibility of impeachment.

Experts (A.Iskandaryan, R.Giniyatullin) believe that the grey zone countries are ruled not by one but a number of political groupings. There are also a number of oppositional groups that are united by non-admission of current authorities, i.e. they are not united on a positive but a negative base claiming election illegal if their candidate fails.

Reasons for losing control over political elites by the leaders of Georgia, Kirghizia and Ukraine may be regarded as peculiarities of the political systems and distribution of political power: 1) the way resources are distributed within a political system; 2) cost of violence in this society and condition of security agencies; 3) dependence of elite unity or segmentation on historical and economical conditions; 4) opportunity for oppositional elites to unite.

Experts come to a conclusion (A.Bolshakov, Armenian experts) that elites turned to opposition due to two main factors: first, they were not uniform but rather split into parts; second, opportunities existed for counter-elite to come up. Political and geographical split resulted in additional split of the elites in Ukraine, Kirghizia, and Georgia, which manifested itself in confrontation between East and West in Ukraine, as well as North and South in Kirghizia. As for Georgia, the country broke into several uncontrollable autonomies. Weakened autocrats gave way to failure in the control over elite systems.

One of the most important institutional factors that lead the oppositions in Georgia, Kirghizia and Ukraine to victory was presence of independent mass media: they spread information on ballot-rigging and thus stimulated mass protests.

A.Iskandaryan believes that reducing all the reasons to external factors only, independent of context, is definitely incorrect. Nevertheless, extensive use of democracy support programmes based on political approach played a substantial role in colour revolutions. Political approach defines the goal of actors promoting democracy as to help those who proclaim themselves to be democrats (like Saakashvili) overcome antidemocratic powers in the country. This can be done directly through helping democratic political structures (political parties, movements, blocks, separate politicians) and non-governmental organizations participating in political processes. In this case support is financial, educational, consultative, moral, etc. Indirect help can be offered through support of such important institutions as independent election committees, independent courts, and independent mass media. Thus, guarantes of fair execution of law and legal procedures provides essential support for democratic powers and weakens authoritarian regime.

2.4 Extra-institutional Transformation Factors of Political Systems in Georgia, Kirghizia, Ukraine, etc.

According to experts, “certain features can still be found in all of the post-Soviet area political systems. First, population follows its leader and his programme or slogans rather than political parties. Second, a significant part of the population is politically apathetic and does not believe that average citizens are capable of changing anything. However, some post-Soviet countries are notable for strong pluralist tendencies. First of all, these are the Baltic countries, that have now become part of EU, except that Lithuania and Estonia still maintain some nondemocratic ethnic policies), Ukraine and Moldova. Significant features of pluralism can be found in Georgia and Armenia. Kirghizia is on the brink of losing sovereignty, although this country is probably the freest country in Central Asia. The other countries (Russia, Azerbaijan, and Belorussia) are dominated by authoritarian procedures of Soviet and pre-Soviet patterns, political system is focused on one or several leaders, one ruling party, which is not substituted by another party during election. Obviously, authoritarianism in Russia is ‘soft’, while in Uzbekistan and especially in Turkmenistan it is ‘hard’” [1].

A gathering of the All the countries under discussion belonged to different groups according to their economical development. Ukraine, formerly an economical leader in the USSR, has become an economical outsider of the CIS. Moldova has been displaying the most rapid economical drop on the post-Soviet area (I.Petuhov). As a result, Kirghizia – one of the most economically backward countries both in Soviet and post-Soviet times – was joined by Georgia, then partially by Ukraine. Same time, Georgia and Ukraine were the leaders of economical fall down.

Economical and social policies in Georgia, Ukraine and Kirghizia resulted in a fact that their population has suffered most since 1991. This created a wide range of sources of dissatisfaction among various social groups. However, a source of dissatisfaction in itself does not necessarily arouse protests. What in fact matters is the way people percieve their own social standing.

Economical growth that began in the CIS changed public disposition. A wide range of objective factors encouraged growth of relative deprivation in Georgia, Kirghizia, and Ukraine, these factors are: economical growth and the related growth of axiological expectations; reference groups with fast vertical mobility; status incompatibility between various large social groups; destructive nature of clan economies; presence of alternative ideologies denouncing regimes; precedents of successful revolutionary changes.

A.Iskandaryan notes that post-Soviet societies (Armenia, Georgia, Ukraine) tend to subconsciously impose responsibility for current state on one, two, dozens of, or hundreds of people. They are inclined to believe that substitution of persons will result in change of whole lifestyle.

A.Iskandaryan says that in Armenia official power was not opposed by a party or parties but rather by national liberation movements whose names did not imply any meaning for the public. People did not unite around organizations but rather around an individual – symbol of change (e.g. Levon ter Petrosyan in Armenia, but not parties, ideologies etc.).”

Comparison of situations in Georgia, Kirgizia, and Ukraine leads to a conclusion that segmentation of elites in these countries is an important factor encouraging opposition. At the same time, segmentation of elites does not automatically presuppose success of a colour revolution. To succeed, oppositional elite has to overcome segmentation and unite forwarding a common leader. A united opposition or, at least, a sense of being united is a factor necessary for a successful subversion of a semi-authoritarian regime. Opposition was lead by high-rank resignees having extensive experience and wide connections which, among other things, also help opposition organize itself. Polarization of elites between opposition and authorities favoured split of security agencies and undermined their loyalty to regime. All these decreased cohesive capabilities of autocrats and pre-conditioned non-violent development of events.


1. Experts single out three factors of political system formation common for the grey-zone post-Soviet countries [5]:

The first factor is elitism of politics. Politics is not dealt with by the population but by elite groups, these being managers, economists, military officers, regional elites, who constitute a separate political class of individuals distributing resources among themselves.

The second factor is absence of political institutions (political parties). Such structures, as a rule, are closely related to a particular political figure.

The third factor is that politics is shifted to the media. Some media editorials start serving as political parties.

2. Colour revolutions in Georgia, Kirghizia, and Ukraine cannot be regarded as revolutions in the classical sense of the word, like the 1917 Revolution in Russia and 1789 Revolution in France. According to experts, colour revolutions have not changed reality. What has in fact happened is “substitution of elites, rhetoric, symbols, but not social structure”. According to experts, shift from an authoritarian to a democratic regime requires change of political culture which is a time consuming process. “Change must take four to five electoral periods so that with every electoral period people get more used to the idea that the mechanism is important, but not an individual heading it.”

3. Colour revolutions in Georgia, Kirghizia, and Ukraine occurred within disbalanced political systems. Presidential power dominated over executive, legislative, and judicial powers. E.Shevarnadze, L.Kuchma, and A.Akayev successfully consolidated personal power thus creating a regime of dominating autocracy. Concentration of power in president’s hands did not guarantee any stability. Loss of power by president undermined stability of the political system.

4. Electoral manipulations were an important factor of establishing political systems in post-Soviet Georgia, Kirgizia, and Ukraine and other countries. Political systems of these countries provided a relatively high degree of freedom for the CIS which encouraged creation and development of opposition. Expert opinions and various evaluation systems lead to a conclusion that regimes of L.Kuchma, E.Shevarnadze, and A.Akayev were not the hardest ones. On their background Ukraine and Georgia displayed relatively decent levels of development of rights, freedoms, and political competition, Kirghizia was the freest of all the Central Asian republics.

5. E.Shevarnadze, L.Kuchma, and A.Akayev, who were removed from their positions as an outcome of the revolutions, built an effective system of control over elites. A wide range of institutions in Georgia, Kirghizia, and Ukraine let political leaders enjoy a wide spectrum of informal competences to distribute rich material resources and power to stimulate loyal elites and cooptate opposition. According to experts, at difficult moments, “authorities concentrate all effort to preserve power. They work on self-preservation. Depending on circumstances, they can act more or less roughly: they slip bulletins, organize meetings, buy people, and even kill people. They Can act in different ways in different circumstances, but their goal is to preserve status quo.” Autocrats turning into lame ducks as well as a range of other factors caused system failure.

6. “Colour revolutions lead to different results. While Ukraine was able to create a simulacrum of a pluralist regime, which V.Yanukovich is unsuccessfully trying to destruct, Georgia is still displaying significant elements of authoritarianism, and Kirghizia is completely unstable suffering from anarchy. Unsuccessful colour revolutions in Armenia, Belorussia, and Estonia should also be taken into account. The latest political transformations in Moldova are still hard to analyse.” Georgia, Kirghizia, and Ukraine turned to be the countries that lost most in social and economical spheres. A wide range of objective factors caused public discontent: economical growth unable to keep pace with public expectations; referent social groups demonstrating fast vertical mobility; status incompatibility between large social groups; destructive character of clan economies.

7. Union of opposition in Ukraine, Georgia and Kirghizia turned to be the main factors for the revolution to succeed. Opposition is led by influential members of political elites, who used to occupy top positions and have vast experience and well-developed political connections.

Attachment 1

Table 1. Common data on the CIS countries



AreaPopulationOfficial languagesReligion
27 Aug, 199133,800 km24.447 mln (July, 2004)MoldavianOrthodox 98%, 1,5 Judaism
25 Aug, 1991207,600 km2.
No coast
10,310,000 (July, 2004)Belorussian, RussianOrthodox 80%, Catholic 15%
28 May, 1918 – 2 Dec 1920;
23 Sep, 1991
29,800 km22.9 mlnArmenian

Orthodox 94%

29 Apr, 199169,700 km24.693 mlnGeorgianGeorgian Orthodox 65%, Russian Orthodox. 10%, Armenian Apostolic 8%, Islam 11%
24 Aug, 199117,075 km2143.8 mln (over 100 nationalities)RussianOrthodox, Islam, Bhuddism, Judaism, Catholic, Protestant
1 Dec, 1991603,700 km247.7 mlnUkrainianOrthodox 75%, Islam 8%
9 Sep, 1991143,100 km27 mlnTajikIslam (Hanifite Sunnism 80%, Shiism 5%)
31 Aug, 1991447,400 km2
No coast
26.4 mln.UzbekIslam (Sunnism) 88%, Orthodox 9%.
16 Dec, 19912,717 km215.1 mln.KazakhIslam (Sunnism 47%), Orthodox 44%
31 Aug, 1991198,500 km2
No coast.
5.1 mln.Kirghiz, RussianIslam (Sunnism) 75%, Orthodox 20%

Table 2. Constitutional self-determination of post-soviet countries [6]

CountryPresidentConstitutional self-determination
AzerbayjanG.AlievDemocratic, secular, unitary, law-governed republic
The Republic of ArmeniaS.SargsyanSovereign democratic social, law-governed state
The Republic of BelarusA.LukashenkoUnitary democratic social law-governed state
GeorgiaM.SaakashviliDemocratic republic
The republic of KazakhstanN.NazarbaevDemocratic, secular, social law-governed state the highes values of which are individual, their life, rights and freedoms
The Kirghiz RepublicTransition governmentSovereign unitary democratic republic
The Republic of MoldovaTransition governmentDemocratic law-governed state
Russian FederationD.MedvedevDemocratic, federal, law-governed state with a republican government
The Republic of TajikistanE.RakhmonovSovereign, democratic, law-governed, secular state
TurkmenistanG.BerdymukhammedovDemocratic, law-governed, secular state
UzbekistanI.KarimovSovereign democratic republic
UkraineV.YanukovichSovereign democratic social law-governed state

Table 3. Political order in CIS countries [7]

CountryGovernmentParliament StructureNames of chambersName of Parliament


Semi-Presidential republicBicameralState Duma,
Federation Council
State Duma
Federal Assembly


Semi-Presidential republic


Chamber of Representatives,
Council of the Republic
National Assembly
(Nationalnoye Sobranie)
3KazakhstanSemi-Presidential republicBicameralMejis, SenateParliament
4TajikistanSemi-Presidential republicBicameralMajlisi Namoyandogon,
Majlisi Milli
Majlisi Oli
(Supreme Council)
5UzbekistanSemi-Presidential republicBicameralSenate, Legislative ChamberOliy Majlis
6ArmeniaSemi-Presidential republicUnicameralNational Assembly
(Azgayin Joghon)
7GeorgiaSemi-Presidential republicUnicameralSakartvelos (Parliament)


8UkraineMixed governmentUnicameralVerkhovna RadaVerkhovna Rada
9KyrgyzstanSemi-Presidential republicUnicameralJogorku KeneshJogorku Kenesh
10MoldovaParliamentary governmentUnicameralParliamentParliament

Table 4. CIS presidential establishment

CountryFirst PresidentSecond PresidentThird PresidentFourth President
1RussiaM.Gorbachev (1985),
B.Yeltsin (1990)
V.Putin (2000)D.Medvedev (2008) 

N.Nazarbayev (since 1991 up to date)

5UzbekistanI.Karimov (since 1989 up to date)   
6ArmeniaL.Ter-Petrossian (1991) S.Sargssyan (since 2008) 
7GeorgiaZ.Gamsakhurdia (1991)E.Shevarnadze (since 1995)M.Saakashvili (since 2003 
8UkraineL.Kravchuk (1991)

L.Kuchma (1994)

V.Yushchenko (2004)V.Yanukovich (2010)
9Kyrgyzstan(1991)A.Akayev (1996)K.Bakiyev (2006)Temporary government
10MoldovaDruka (Romanophilic government)P.Lucinschi (1996)V.Voronin (2001)Mihai Ghimpu (Acting President of Moldova, Speaker of Parliament РМ (2010)
11AzerbayjanA.ElchibeyG.AliyevI.Aliyev (2003) 
12TurkmenistanS.Niyazov (since 1991) G.Berdimuham edow (since 2007) 

Table 5. CIS Political Pluralism

CountryParty in power (centrist)OppositionAuthentic PartiesThe CPSU Heirs
1RussianUnited Russia (V.Putin)A Just Russia (S.Mironov)Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (V.Zhirinovski)Communist Party of the Russian Federation (G.Zyuganov)
2BelarusUnited Civil Party, Liberal Democratic Party etc.Fair World (S.Kolyakin);
Belorussian Social-Democrate Party Gromada (A.Levkovich);
Republican Party of Labour and Justice (V.Zadnepryany) Belorussian People’s Front, Belorussian Paysants’ Party
Belorussian Left-wing Party (S.Kolyakin)Belorussian Party of Communist, Belorussian Socialist Party, Republican Party of Labour and Justice etc.
3KazakhstanNur Otan (N.Nazarbayev)Democratic Party Adilet (T.Sadykov)  
4TajikistanParty of Economic Reforms of TajikistanPeople’s Democratic Party of Tajikistan; Democratic Party of Tajikistan; Social Democratic Party of Tajikistan; Socialist Party of TajikistanIslamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan; Two social and political alliances: Tarrakiyot (Development); Vahdat (Union)Communist Party of Tajikistan; Agrarian Party of Tajikistan
5UzbekistanVatan Tarakkiyoti (Progress of Fatherland)

National Democratic Party Uzbekistan Fidokorlar; Vatan Tarakkiyoti and National Democratic Party Uzbekistan Fidokorlar (The Self-sacrificing) united, the united party being named after the second of the two as NDP Fidokorlar

Adolat (Justice); Milliy Tiklanish (National Renaissance)Communist Party of Uzbekistan (CPU; Uzbekiston Kommunistik Partiyasi) – forbidden in Uzbekistan
6ArmeniaRepublican Party (RP) –(Andranik Markaryan, prime-minister).
Country Where Law Rules (Orinants Yerkir). (A.Bagdassaryan)
Justice Block (Ardatyun) consists of: Democratic Party (A.Sarkissyan, in 1999– 2000 prime-minister), National democratic Union (V.Manoukyan, in 1990–1991 prime-minister), National Democratic Party (Sh.Kocharyan) and People’s Party (S.Demirchyan). Party of National Unity (A.Geghamyan) as organizaton “Law and Unity”Dashnaktsutyun (A.Roustanyan);
Hunchakian; Armenian Revolutionary Federation dashnaktsutyun is one of the oldest parties of Armenis, established in 1890 as a party of social revolutionary bias, claiming from Turkey historical parts of Armenia that are currently parts of Turkey (V.Oganessyan)
Armenian Communist Party. Voluntary dissolution in September, 1991. Reorganized into Armenian Democratic Party

United National Movement

Georgian Republican Party of D.Berdzenishvili;
Freedom (K.Gamsahurdia);
For Justice and Equal Rights (G.Magradze);
Union of Georgian Traditionalists (A.Asatiani);
Party of the Future (G.Maisashvili)
Social and Political Union KhmaraUnited Communist Party of Georgia
8UkraineParty of regions (V.Yanukovich)Justice (S.Nikoloenko);
Ukranian Socialist Party
Pora (The Time)Ukrainian Communist Party (P.Simonenko)
9KyrgyzstanAk Zhol (Light Way)Kyrgyz Socialist Party Ata-Meken (E.Alymbekov);
Kyrgyz Socialist Party Zhogorku Kenesh (R.Otunbayeva)
10Moldova Social Democratic Party of Moldova (Dumitru Braghiș);
Democratic Party of Moldova (D.dyakov)
 Party of Communists of Republic Moldova
11AzerbayjanYeni Azerbayjan
(New Azerbayjan, G.Aliyev)
Azerbayjan Social Democratic Party (T.Sadykov);
Azerbayjan People’s Socialist Party (R.Hüseynov)


The author is not responsible for experts’ opinions. The author shares some of the experts’ ideas and objects to others. For the time being, it is difficult to assess transformations and their results in Kirghizia and Moldova, as these countries set forth democratic values as priorities of state policy but the methods of establishing these values are not democratic.

The author considers that all the countries under analysis are on different stage of acquring democratic values. The Baltic countries, a decade ago, went through the same processes that Ukraine, Kirghizia and Georgia are going through or have recently gone through. The author expects that some countries are about to go through the same processes.

To establish democracy, it is necessary to change the political culture and mentality of these countries (Russia, Armenia, Turkmenistan etc.).

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