What exactly is a ‘colour revolution’?


What exactly is a ‘colour revolution’?

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3 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments


Anonymous 0 Comments

Color revolutions aren’t exactly a specific type of revolution at least not academically.

It’s more about the fact that some revolutions especially located in the former soviet republics have come to be associated with colors as names.

One of the first and most famous of these is the velvet revolution in Czechoslovakia.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Colour revolutions are a group of revolutions that primarily happened in the post-Soviet space in the mid-2000s. The best known examples are the Rose revolution in Georgia in 2003 and the Orange revolution in Ukraine in 2004. The name of a colour or a flower was adopted as a symbol by the political opposition to the then incumbent leader, which gave these revolutions their name. Their (relative) success inspired political opposition in other post-Soviet countries, as well as in Asia and the Middle East, to try something similar.

Usually, there was an incumbent leader who had become the leader of a country (shortly) after the Communists were forced out, though he might have been a member of the political elites during Soviet times. He may have been elected by a majority of the population initially, after independence from the USSR, by styling himself as a liberal and a bit nationalist reformer. But after a decade in power it is clear that he has built a semi-autocratic state where all the wealth and power are concentrated in the hands of the oligarchs and there is widespread corruption. So, a large portion of the population wants to vote him out of office. But the president in charge does not want to go, so he falsifies elections, perhaps by ballot stuffing or selectively jailing popular opposition candidates.

So what can the population and political opposition do? Well, during elections they can try to monitor the elections and report on any electoral shenanigans to the rest of society, as well as mobilising large groups of regular people to take to the streets of the (capital) city. Large scale popular but non-violent protests damage the legitimacy of the sitting president and if there is a strong and united political opposition the political elites may decide to turn their back on the sitting president and endorse one of the leaders of the opposition instead. Some of these sitting presidents decide to use large scale violence against protesters, but others see the writing on the wall, especially if (riot) police and army decide to not carry out the orders to repress the protesters and so they flee.

While this sort of revolution may be an inspiration for democratically minded people elsewhere in the region and in the West, the autocratic presidents of neighbouring countries are deeply concerned. What if this happens to them? So they devise all of kind of ways to make it less likely that such an opposition can form and try to either demobilise the population or mobilise them in their favour. This often involves designating political opposition candidates as ‘foreign agents’ or ‘enemies of the people’, sent by the ‘imperialist West’ to foment unrest and bring down the nation. They shut down any domestic civil society organizations and instead set up state-led youth organizations, where they can indoctrinate them with more useful political beliefs.

How a colour revolution plays out exactly depends on the country, the popularity of the incumbent leader, his connections within the political and ecomic elites and the unity and strength of the political opposition, as well as the (non-)willingness of the security apparatus to put down any protests violently. Finally, the new leaders may prove to be just as incompetent or corrupt as the old one …

If you need a more academic answer, you can read the introduction of Ó Beacháin, D. & Polese, A. (eds.) (2010). *The Colour Revolutions in the Fomer Soviet Republics: Successes and failures.* Routledge.