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The Orange Revolution: ‘People's Revolution’ or Revolutionary Coup?

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The ‘Orange Revolution’ in Ukraine is widely considered to be an instance of the ‘coloured revolutions’ of 1989 engendered by democratic values and nascent civil societies in the process of nation building. The article examines the extent to which the ‘Orange Revolution’ could be considered a revolutionary event stimulated by civil society, or a different type of political activity (a putsch, coup d'état), legitimated by elite-sponsored ‘soft’ political power. Based on public opinion poll data and responses from focus groups, the author contends that what began as an orchestrated protest against election fraud developed into a novel type of political activity—a revolutionary coup d'état. It is contended that the movement was divisive rather than integrative and did not enjoy widespread popular support. The article considers why sponsored democracy promotion and western-inspired ‘soft power’ politics have failed.
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The Orange Revolution: ‘People’s
Revolution’ or Revolutionary Coup?
David Lane
The ‘Orange Revolution’ in Ukraine is widely considered to be an instance of the ‘coloured
revolutions’ of 1989 engendered by democratic values and nascent civil societies in the process of
nation building. The article examines the extent to which the ‘Orange Revolution’ could be
considered a revolutionary event stimulated by civil society, or a different type of political activity (a
putsch, coup d’état), legitimated by elite-sponsored ‘soft’ political power. Based on public opinion
poll data and responses from focus groups, the author contends that what began as an orchestrated
protest against election fraud developed into a novel type of political activity—a revolutionary coup
d’état. It is contended that the movement was divisive rather than integrative and did not enjoy
widespread popular support. The article considers why sponsored democracy promotion and
western-inspired ‘soft power’ politics have failed.
Keywords: Orange Revolution; nationality; Ukraine politics; post-communism
and coup d’état; ‘soft’; political power; people’s power
Introduction
The outcomes of the disintegration of communism have been relatively peaceful
affairs for nearly all the post-communist countries of central Europe. Property has
been largely de-statised; a market system for consumer goods, for labour and for
property has been introduced. The apparatuses of communist power have been
disbanded, and political parties compete for the popular vote: electoral systems of
one type or another, claiming to be democratic, have been installed. However, not
all countries have adopted the social and political characteristics of successful
capitalist democracies. These include those which aspire to membership of the
European Union (Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and Armenia) and a group of former
republics of the USSR (Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and
Kazakhstan).1All these countries to a greater or lesser extent have had imperfect
‘transitions’ to capitalism and democracy. In many of the latter countries since
1998, ‘coloured’ revolutions have occurred—Serbia (2000), Belarus (2001 and
2006), Georgia (2003), Ukraine (2004) and Kyrgyzstan (2005). These public pro-
tests have adopted a colour (orange for Ukraine, rose for Georgia) as a symbol to
identify their supporters and to define the character of the movement. In 2005,
similar events were initiated in Russia, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, though they
were successfully suppressed.
These activities all had in common an attempted socio-political transformation
intended to introduce ‘democracy from below’.2Although differing in content, they
doi: 10.1111/j.1467-856x.2008.00343.x BJPIR: 2008 VOL 10, 525–549
© 2008 The Author. Journal compilation © 2008 Political Studies Association
shared common goals: replacing the incumbent political leadership, calls for free
and fair elections and a free press. The literature on these phenomena, however, is
often journalistic in approach, partisan in orientation and normative rather than
objective in content. It does not measure the extent of, or reasons for, the public
protests. Apart from the recognition of students as major actors, we have no
detailed analysis of the composition of the leaders or followers of the protests; and
their aims (ostensibly, the promotion of democracy, freedom and human rights)
have not been put to any critical analysis. Indeed, it is unclear whether these
outbursts are deserving of the label of ‘revolution’ in any reputable political science
sense. This article takes just one case, that of the ‘Orange Revolution’ in Ukraine, as
an instance of civil strife, and subjects it to some scrutiny.
Ukraine and Transformation
Ukraine displays the formal features of a democracy and market society: transfor-
mation has secured relatively high levels of price liberalisation and small business
privatisation, though little enterprise restructuring (EBRD 2006a). Politically, the
country has a multi-party system with competitive elections which have secured a
turnover of leadership in the elected parliament and presidential power (fulfilling
one of the conditions for a stable democracy).3While democratic institutions are
becoming ‘consolidated’, there remains extensive disenchantment with politics,
consequent on the political and economic reforms.4The reform programme and the
introduction of capitalism had very damaging effects on the well-being of the
population. For example, in 1987, the USSR was 25th in the world ranking of states
by human development; by the year 2000, Ukraine (one of the USSR’s most
advanced economies) had fallen to 80th. Even by 2005, Ukraine’s gross domestic
product (GDP) was only 59 per cent of the 1989 level.5The collapse in living
standards led to public resentment against reform and the beneficiaries of privati-
sation. National opinion polls conducted in 2005, after the Orange Revolution,
revealed widespread social and political disillusionment: only 23 per cent of the
population believed that they had the ‘ability to live under the new social condi-
tions’, 51 per cent felt that their health care was ‘insufficient’ and 44 per cent were
absolutely or somewhat dissatisfied with life in general (Panina 2006, 60). These
data provide an empirical backing to a condition of ‘decremental relative depriva-
tion’ as defined by Ted Gurr (1970, ch. 1). In this case, people’s expectations remain
constant (or may even rise, in anticipation of gains to be made from the end of
communism) but the capabilities to meet them decline: such conditions lead to civil
strife. In the Ukrainian case, to use Gurr’s terms, welfare (economic), political and
interpersonal value opportunities declined, and constituted conditions predisposing
people to political protest.
Ukraine, like the other ‘partly reformed’ countries of post-communism, presents a
challenge to the international order and particularly to the hegemonic powers of
the west in the form of the European Union and the United States. As a country
strategically situated to the east of the Mediterranean and with borders to both the
European Union and Russia (whose southern fleet is based in Crimea), it presents
a desirable strategic asset or, if in alliance with Russia, a possible security threat. The
size of the country (population 50 million) puts it below France but above the
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highest populated accession state of the European Union (Poland, 39 million). Its
incomplete transition to capitalism, noted above, not only entailed widespread
poverty, but also ailing industrial and agricultural sectors needing modernisation on
a massive scale. While the sentiments of the elites in most of the EU states (and
even more so the US) were in favour of Ukrainian EU membership, they have
baulked at promising it, though NATO membership was (and is) a real possibility.
The contest for the presidency in 2004 presented two candidates: Viktor Yush-
chenko, favourably disposed towards both the EU and joining NATO, and the
eastern-supported and Russian-leaning Viktor Yanukovich.6The United States and
Russia came out clearly in favour of Yushchenko and Yanukovich, respectively.
There were then important international players seeking to influence Ukrainian
politics. How far they did so is a contentious matter. Changes in the technology of
global information and communication since the late 20th century have implica-
tions for politics and the ways that political power might be exerted. ‘Soft power’
through democracy promotion and ‘people’s power’ has become a major social
constituent of political change and one of the key components of American foreign
policy, especially in the post-communist societies (Nye 2004). Soft power was
clearly a potent instrument for use in Ukraine.
The Orange Revolution
The declared victory of Yanukovich in November 2004 led to public demonstrations
in Kiev and other areas of Ukraine, which have become known as the ‘Orange
Revolution’.7The mass protests sought to secure a change of election result through
a novel type of mass mobilisation in the form of a mass public political gathering
entertained with rock music, provided with free (tent) accommodation, food and
even pocket money for participants. The demonstrations, managed by the Yush-
chenko team, were directed against the Electoral Commission and, legitimated by
exit poll estimates, sought to overturn its ruling, though the events had a wider
political significance in that they promised a major reorientation of Ukraine’s
internal and external policies.
It was widely held by commentators in the west that these events signalled the
beginning of a new era of Ukrainian nationhood: ‘The Orange Revolution marked
a new stage of Ukrainian society development and identified the end of the
previous political epoch on the hybrid Soviet-type system’ (Stepanenko 2005, 614).
The country should, and would, move toward its European home as well as, it was
hoped, secure liberation from the corruption8and stagnation of the Kuchma
regime. The sweep of revolution beginning in 1989 was now taking root in Ukraine.
[T]he [O]range revolution had set a major new landmark in the post-
communist history of eastern Europe, a seismic shift Westward in the
geopolitics of the region. Ukraine’s revolution was just the latest in a series
of victories for ‘people power’—in Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia
in the late 1980s and, more recently, in Serbia and Georgia (Karatnycky
2005).
Power politics of the ‘soft’ variety has been conceptualised by Joseph S. Nye (2004)
who considers that the objective of such power is to use the ‘attraction’ of the
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dominant power to get what it wants, rather than through the use of military force.
‘Attraction’ can refer to political values (democracy, freedom, justice), cultural
artefacts (pop music) and consumption articles (MacDonalds, mobile phones).
Promotion of internal change through manipulation of the norms and values of
citizens is a major strategy. Utilising multiple channels of communication to project
the domestic achievements and international performance of the west is likely,
claims Nye, to be to the benefit of the US and Europe. Coloured revolutions, which
contest allegedly fraudulent elections in authoritarian states, through mass mobili-
sation, are forms of ‘soft power’ and are part of ‘democracy promotion’.
Opponents, however, take a more critical view and consider power politics to be at
the core of the struggle: in this case between Yanukovich and Yushchenko. Writers
such as Nataliya Narochnitskaya (2008) contend that the ‘voice of the people’ is an
illegitimate use of modern media technology (television, radio and the press) to
create public opinion to force political change. Non-governmental organisations
(NGOs), with powerful sponsors, become political bodies working through net-
works and the media—rather than being rooted in civil society and acting on behalf
of citizens. Sponsors,9directly or indirectly financed by outside governments,
become involved in insurgent activity, defining democracy in terms of their own
conceptions and magnifying election frauds to promote a coup d’état to their political
advantage. What is portrayed in the media as ‘people’s power’ is in reality an
elite-manipulated demonstration.
To explain adequately the dynamics of the Orange Revolution one would need to
study internal and international elite interests10 which are beyond the scope of this
article. Here we adopt a perspective of the Orange Revolution from ‘the bottom’,
through study of public opinion and focus group discussions, which is considered in
the light of the existing literature. I focus on the public conception of the Orange
Revolution from the point of view of participants and citizens. Methodologically, I
use qualitative data in a quantitative way. This provides a novel approach to the
assessment of the legitimacy of the ‘coloured’ revolutions as well as giving quali-
tative indicators to the social background of the insurgents.
The coloured revolution phenomenon is a new type of political movement which
needs to be fitted into a paradigm of political change. First, I conceptualise the
Orange Revolution as a novel type of revolutionary activity: not a classical revolu-
tion or coup d’état, but a combination of both—a revolutionary coup. Second, I
consider the extent of public support and opposition to the demonstrations. Third,
I outline public perceptions and analyse the social background of supporters and
opponents. Finally, I conclude that the Orange Revolution was a failure in democ-
racy promotion and point to some of the conditions which are likely to promote or
retard sponsored coloured revolutions.
Types of Political Change
In analysing popular political protests and political change one may distinguish
between a putsch, coup d’état and revolution. A putsch may be defined as a sudden
illegitimate overthrow of a ruling elite by another competing elite (for example, the
installation of a military regime in place of a political one). A coup d’état is an
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illegitimate replacement or renewal of one governing set of personnel by another
(e.g. the replacement of a ruling faction of a political party by another from that
party or another party). These political processes are distinguished by relatively
little public participation, either in the overthrow or in the defence of the incum-
bents, and they have by intention no significant social or economic effects.
Arevolution is a more complex process. Charles Tilly defines a ‘revolution’ as:
a forcible transfer of power over a state in the course of which at least two
distinct blocs of contenders make incompatible claims to control the state,
and some significant portion of the population subject to the state’s
jurisdiction acquiesces in the claims of each bloc (Tilly 1993, 234).
This definition, like that of Jeff Goodwin (2001),11 involves the seizure of state
power. However, it ignores the type of social movement, the level of popular
participation and the policy intentions of the insurgents. There are different kinds
of ‘revolution’.12 In a minimal definition, there are two elements: changes in the
structure of political authority (an elite renewal of the incumbents of state power)
and high levels of mass participation. I define this as a revolutionary coup d’état as no
major changes of regime type are intended by the new political incumbents (despite
such demands by many of the supporters). Mass involvement takes place, but it is
of an ‘audience’ participatory type. We may distinguish between such a coup and a
social or political revolution. A maximalist definition of a social or political revolution
requires major changes in the social and economic system consequent on the
political transformation of the ruling elites by a new political class taking power.13
Whereas in a revolutionary coup d’état, public participation is of a passive ‘audience’
type, in a political revolution the public, in the form of autonomous civil society
associations, has a positive input to political activity requiring significant social
change. Finally, the outcomes are crucial. If the intentions of the insurgents are not
subsequently realised in structural transformation, a political revolution cannot be
said to have occurred. In this way, we may distinguish a social/political revolution
from a coup d’état consequent on public protest.
The definition of various types of political change in terms of organisation, level of
public participation and intentions of insurgents/counter-elites are summarised in
Figure 1. The coloured revolutions, I contend, fall into the revolutionary coup d’état
category: they have high elite (or counter-elite) participation; high public (mass)
participation but of an ‘audience’ type; they lead to elite renewal, but not to the
reconstitution of the political class or wider social and economic changes in prop-
erty relations.
Perception of the Orange Revolution
Current western scholarship generally considers the events known as the ‘Orange
Revolution’ to be an instance of ‘people’s power’ (Wilson 2005; Aslund and McFall
2006; Kuzio 2007). The present article attempts to evaluate the orientations of the
population through the study of public opinion polls14 taken soon after the events.
To give a qualitative dimension of the political process, reference is also made to the
testimony of respondents at focus group meetings organised by the author in
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Ukraine.15 Using cross-tabulations of the public opinion poll data, one is able to
study the social characteristics of groups favourably disposed and opposed to the
events. Focus group discussions also give a qualitative dimension to our under-
standing of participants’ attitudes.
Bearing in mind that even the largest of public demonstrations can only include a
relatively small portion of the population, participation in the protest actions
subsequently known as the ‘Orange Revolution’ was on a large scale. Of the 1,800
people surveyed in 2005, 4.8 per cent reported that they had taken part in the
protest actions in Kiev and another 12.8 per cent took part in other towns and
localities (of these, of course, some may have participated in ‘anti-Orange’ demon-
strations, or in meetings associated with Yushchenko’s opponent, Yanukovich); 5.2
per cent actively aided the protesters (with food, money etc). Large as the partici-
pation was, the population was by no means fully in support of the demonstrations.
As shown in Figure 2, over a quarter of people surveyed in 2005 did not support the
events, and a further fifth were uncommitted. Moreover, following the actions,
there has been a considerable decline in commitment: by 2006, nearly 40 per cent
of the population claimed that they had not and did not support the leaders of the
Figure 1: Types of Political Change: Putsch, Coup d’état, Revolutionary Coup
d’état, Political/Social Revolution
Type of
political
change
Type of
organisation
Level of
public
participation
Intentions of
insurgents/counter-elites
Consequences, if
successful
Putsch Counter-elite
led
Low Elite replacement New elite
Coup
d’etat
Elite or
counter-elite
led
Low
Governing elite
renewal
New personnel in
ruling elite
Revolutionary
coup d’etat
Elite or
counter-elite
led
High:
audience
participation
Elites: renewal of
governing elite; for
mass participants,
changes of leaders
and priorities
New personnel in
ruling elite
Political/social
revolution
Counter-elite
led
Very high:
mass push
from below
Fundamental
replacement of
political class and
socio economic
system
New political
class, reconstituted
institutions,
including property
relations
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BJPIR, 2008, 10(4)
‘Orange Revolution’. Already some six months after the events of November 2004,
nearly 4 per cent of previous supporters were disillusioned, rising to 15 per cent in
2006.
Participants in the focus groups explained how they felt. Vladimir, a driver in Kiev
said: ‘Everyone thought that it was a revolution at that time. Everybody hoped that
something will change. ... A kind of change happened; people believed ... that each
person is worth something’. Oleksandr, a businessman respondent in one of the
focus groups in Lvov declared:
I believe that revolution is when there is a result ... We have not started
living better; on the contrary, we live in the same country, even a worse
one than before ... Many people in western Ukraine at the beginning
wanted to go to Kiev and make a revolution but in the middle of all this
we had tours, a banal betrayal of people who went to [make a] revolution.
In reality it was a well-staged technology [event] which ended in fiasco.
And nothing changed in people’s consciousness (2 October 2006).
What then had been their expectations and why had they become disenchanted?
We have some useful indication of what motivated the participants when we
consider the responses to the following question asked in the opinion polls: ‘In your
opinion, what were the main factors [motivating] the political activities of citizens
during the “Orange Revolution” ’. (No more than 3 responses, surveyed 2005 and
not repeated in 2006).
Protest against the authorities and non-acceptance of one of the presidential can-
didates (presumably Yanukovich) came high in the priorities (41.9 per cent),
followed by economistic motives (30.4 per cent). These criteria do not envisage a
revolutionary change. As Nadezhda, a middle-class grandmother working for a
consumers’ association in Kiev put it: ‘The events were partly a revolution because
people believed that they were overthrowing the old regime and installing a new
Figure 2: Support/Not Support the Orange Revolution 2005, 2006
40.7
3.8
7.7
26.8
20.7
29
15.1
5.8
38.7
11.3
0
10
20
30
40
Supported
and
continue
to support
Supported
but do not
support
now
Did not
support
but
support
now
Did not
support
and do not
support
now
Difficult to
say
Per Cent
2005 Survey 2006 Survey
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one which would protect their interests. I say partly because people put in a new
person, hoped for improvements though no improvements were achieved’
(October 2005).
Protest against ‘injustice’ was mentioned by 20 per cent of polled respondents.
Geopolitical orientations (5.2 per cent) were even lower than ‘the wish to partici-
pate in a spectacular event’ (9.9 per cent). As there were a relatively low number
of people (2.1 per cent) making alternative suggestions and 15.7 per cent did not
respond, we may conclude that the major reasons were given in the survey.
There was no general consensus about the role of the Orange Revolution in nation
building. Just over a third of the respondents (37 per cent) agreed that the
‘ “Orange Revolution” gave birth to a political nation in Ukraine’. One of these was
Igor, a university lecturer in Kharkov, who said: ‘There were some revolutionary
elements ... it [was] undoubtedly a national revolution ... The Ukrainian people for
the first time remembered a hymn of Ukraine and learned it at that time. ... In this
sense this revolution was a bourgeois-democratic and national revolution but
unfortunately unfinished’ (April 2007). This view is reflected in the western litera-
ture: Andrew Wilson (2005, 210), for example, refers to ‘Yushchenko’s value-based
campaign, which helped consolidate a new version of the “national idea” ’.
However, 20 per cent of those polled did not know what a ‘political nation’ was, 15
per cent did not agree with the assertion and 29 per cent found the question
‘difficult to answer’. These opinions reflect divisions in Ukrainian society. As
Roman, a plant sciences researcher from Kharkov pointed out: ‘I think a revolu-
tionary situation existed but no revolution occurred in reality. There was a wish by
people and people lost patience, it was necessary to change something. Everybody
sensed that it was necessary to create changes but no changes occurred at the end’.
The ambiguous nature of the ‘revolution’ is indicated here, as this participant
clearly envisaged a social revolution, though the outcome did not even satisfy
protesters supporting the election of Yushchenko.
The divisions between personal opinions are shown by the following three state-
ments from members of one of the Kharkov focus groups. First is Dariya (a student
of journalism):
The Orange Revolution was an event. Some think it was positive, some
think it was negative but it was a great event for Ukraine and the world.
And many students ... supported Yushchenko, voted for the Orange for
different reasons. ... The most positive feature of the revolution is not that
Yushchenko became president but because of that solidarity. Everybody
supported each other. I was proud at that time that I was a Ukrainian. It’s
an incommunicable feeling to be proud of being Ukrainian.
Second is the point of view of Tatiana, a student at Kharkov Polytechnic:
I did not feel proud that I was a Ukrainian during the Orange Revolution.
I think that the world got to know Ukraine from the worst side. And there
was no solidarity. I was at Maidan [the scene of major demonstrations] at
that time and I saw how some people cheered for the ‘Orange’ before 5
p.m. and after for the ‘blue’ [i.e. Yanukovich]. They stood where they got
paid for.
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Third is Vitaliy (another Kharkov student):
This was a velvet revolution. There were people for the idea, but ... very
many people just went there to earn money. Both sides did that. There
were ideological people there and they got what they wanted and it’s good
for them (April 2007).
The political character of the events is a disputed one. Clearly, for a demonstration
of this magnitude some form of organisation was required. Was it organised by the
participants (an autonomous ‘civil society’ event) or manipulated from above—or
a combination of both?16 Taking a random sample of the population gives the
possibility of determining the spread of opinions about the character of the Novem-
ber events and the social background of supporters and opponents. The respondents
were given a number of alternative interpretations of the events—from a coup d’état
supported by the west to a conscious struggle by citizens to protect their rights. The
main results are shown in Figure 3 with the proportion of the respondents being in
favour of each one: 45.2 per cent regarded the happenings as a ‘bottom-up’ activity
(11.8 per cent plus 33.4 per cent), 36.4 per cent an elite-led coup (24 per cent plus
12.4 per cent) while 18.3 per cent were undecided. The image of the ‘Orange
Revolution’ being a spontaneous ‘people’s event’ is widely put in question.
What Type of Event was the Orange Revolution?
As one of our focus group participants (Roman) put it: ‘Ukraine is a very good
political card to play. Nothing happens here without some external involvement.
Internal and external politics include the interests of Russia and of the United
States, and Europe who provided financial support’. However, this is not the full
story. Many of those occupying the tents in the Maidan in the centre of Kiev were
considered by a third of respondents to be part of a ‘struggle of citizens to protect
their rights’; and, as noted above, the largest group believed the coming out was a
manifestation of protest against the authorities. As another Kharkov respondent,
Yevgeny (a postgraduate student), put it:
Figure 3: Public Evaluation of Type of Political Activity: Coup, Spontaneous or
Protect Rights
24
12.4 11.8
33.4
18.3
0
10
20
30
40
Coup d’etat ,
supported by
the west
Coup d’etat,
supported by
politi cal
opposit ion
Spontaneous
public
protest
Consc ious
struggl e by
citizens to
protect ri
g
hts
Diffi cu lt to
say
Per cent
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I went to Maidan by myself with my own money, nobody paid me, and I
was there for two days. I understand that any event if it is well organised
is organised on someone’s money, right? I do not exclude that money was
given, maybe even by USA or from somewhere else. But it is in a way a
legitimate process because Ukraine is indeed a geopolitical place which is
very profitable both for the west and for Russia.
Elvira, a staunchly pro-Yushchenko activist from Lvov, articulated an image of the
people against the authorities:
I went to the revolution from the first to the last day because the situation
became critical. People came out to fight for their rights. We wanted a
change in power. No matter what Yushchenko or Yanukovich would be,
we knew that with Yanukovich the same power would remain ... People
were not coming for money but for the idea. My generation wanted
change so that our grandchildren would live better in a new system,
so that people were not treated as cattle ... That forced people out to
revolution.
Others, however, were more critical. Working-class members of the focus group in
Kiev expressed contrary opinions. Vladimir (metal worker and Communist party
member): ‘A revolution normally is something like a shift of systems ... There [the
Maidan] a herd of sheep was led ... Oligarchs developed a plan. In Western Ukraine
there was high unemployment, they came over to Kiev because they did not have
work. It was just a theatrical show’.
One reform activist referred to the events as analogous to the Russian February
Revolution of 1917. Sergei (director of pharmaceutical company):
Maybe the revolution has not reached its goal, we can see this now.
Maybe there will be an analogy with the February and October revolu-
tions. We can see now that the change of social economic system has not
happened. The same oligarchs ... remained in power. That’s why I think
that these contradictions will continue and the second stage of revolution
might happen peacefully during the [coming] parliamentary elections,
maybe without any shock. We might be in revolutionary mood for the
next five years.
In these discussions, the emphasis was on revolutionary potential, which had been
awakened by the Orange Revolution, even if it had been instigated from the top.
Some were critical of the Yushchenko leadership; they did not see the happenings
as a revolution and thought that they led nowhere.
No one was satisfied with the [government] executive at that time. This
coincided with the ability of Yushchenko to have the finance and tech-
nical [media] means to create popular protest. ... These factors led to a
replacement of the leadership but a continuation of the system. ... It was
a swap over; it allowed them to get a second breath.
Disillusionment with the events was expressed by another as: ‘It was a fraud. A lot
was promised. Now the people are waiting for the promises to be kept’. As to the
character of the Orange Revolution, Iryna, a student member of ‘Pora’ (a militant
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pro-Orange youth organisation) contended that ‘Revolution happened in people. If
we look at the political scene, I think that it was a theatrical performance. It was a
situation which was planned long ago and was carried out’. For another student,
Mykola: ‘It was excitement, an emotional splash greatly connected with personal
motivations, cultural interests’. Similar views were expressed by the student
members of a focus group in Lvov (2006), such as Oksana, an art student and
secretary of ‘Student Initiatives’ group: ‘In my view it was a revolution because
people got united around a certain common idea. They were not fighting for
Yushchenko but for changing something and not living as they used to live’.
Vladimir (metal worker from Kiev) was sceptical:
I thought about it negatively. ... People wanted to grab power. Ideologi-
cally driven people were only in the minority at Maidan. The rest were
only onlookers watching the show, romantics arrived from other places,
local romantics. People came up to watch from boredom and curiosity.
Many people only went there to bring food and blankets to their children
who were in the tents. I know my neighbours, other people were paid for
that. But others were not paid. It is not a revolution.
These quotations bring out the ‘audience participation’ aspect of many of those who
took part in the events. They illustrate the points made earlier about the character
of revolution: there was indeed recognition by some that the present regime was
illegitimate and was incompatible with the need to ‘live better in a new system’. As
to the underlying conditions, the participation of the unemployed from West
Ukraine is given a negative connotation by one participant. However, it brings out
that limited economic opportunities gave rise to decremental relative social
deprivation—an underlying cause of civil strife. The data show a high level of mass
involvement, though of an ‘audience participation’ type.
Supporters and Sceptics of the Orange Revolution
Traditional analysts of revolution, from Marx to Barrington Moore (1967) point to
social cleavages, opposing interests determined by social background, at the root of
popular protest. I analysed the social composition of those in the four groups
defined in Figure 3. In cross-tabulating the data by occupation, no statistically
significant differences were found between the occupational backgrounds of
respondents (this may be due to small numbers when broken down into many
categories). The largest group were those who thought the events represented ‘a
conscious struggle of citizens to assert their rights’ (33.4 per cent of the respon-
dents). Of these, there were some interesting differences in occupational back-
ground: 39.4 per cent of those defined as intellectuals were in this group; of
entrepreneurs in small business, 42.9 per cent; of farmers (fermery) 60 per cent
(though only five persons were in this category); of social significance is the fact
that 40.3 per cent of students in the survey saw the November events as a struggle
of citizens to assert their rights.
Twenty-four per cent of the sample surveyed regarded the events as based on
‘support of the west’; 37.5 per cent of the top social group of executives, business-
men, politicians and state officials came into this category (though the total in this
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group was only 24), for civil servants and those in the military the proportion was
29 per cent (n=31); of lower white-collar workers and small businessmen, 26.2 per
cent were in this group; students were very much below the average with only 15.3
per cent in this category (n=72). A major conclusion here is the disproportionate
participation of students with favourable dispositions to, and participation in, the
events.
There were no significant differences between the views of men and women.
Excepting young people in higher education, age also made only small, relatively
insignificant differences: for example, 35.7 per cent of the under-30s regarded the
events as a conscious struggle for defence of rights, compared to an average of 33.4
per cent of the population. Educational background also did not make any impor-
tant difference: people of all educational backgrounds put a conscious struggle for
civil rights first and a state coup supported by the west second. Those with higher
education were slightly more in favour of a conscious struggle for rights than
others. Also, the non-response was lower as educational level increased.
One might conclude that the Orange Revolution could not be described as a ‘class’
revolution in terms of its supporters and opponents. The data here would suggest
that students and small businessmen saw the demonstrations in a positive eman-
cipatory light and provided a social base to the activity.
A major social cleavage, however, is to be found on a regional basis. As shown in
Table 1, those resident in the west and centre of Ukraine clearly saw the movement
as a spontaneous expression of citizens seeking to assert their rights. These citizens
also had a much more positive identification with the happenings: only 9 per cent
of those undecided about its nature were from the west, compared to 34 per cent
from the centre. The centre was more divided with a spread between all four
interpretations. The demographic density of the protesters was in the west, where
nearly 80 per cent of the respondents considered the events to be a spontaneous
protest or a conscious struggle of citizens. Those who saw the movement as western
inspired were clearly concentrated in the east: nearly half of those with this view
came from here, whereas only 4 per cent in this group came from the west.
What is there about the inhabitants of these geographical areas that predisposed
them to view the Orange Revolution in different ways? The language divide was
closely linked to perceptions. The data were disaggregated by the language spoken
at home (more than one language spoken is ignored) and the results are shown in
Table 2. The major supporters of those who regarded the coup as orchestrated by
western interests were Russian-speaking Ukrainians who accounted for 64 per cent
of those in this group and for 44 per cent of those who thought it a coup supported
by the political opposition. Ukrainian speakers only accounted for 13.3 per cent of
the former group. Put another way, of the Russian speakers, 42 per cent saw the
happenings as a western-sponsored enterprise; only 6 per cent considered it to be
a spontaneous protest. For the Ukrainian speakers only 7.6 per cent regarded it as
the former, whereas nearly half (48.7 per cent) considered the protest to be a
‘conscious struggle of citizens to assert their rights’.
The identity of the western Ukrainians is historically much closer to western Europe
than the Russians in the east who have a greater affinity with the previous Soviet
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Table 1: Public Opinion: ‘Orange Revolution’—Coup or Civil Protest? (2005)
Response by Region
Coup d’état, supported
by the west
Coup d’état, supported by
political opposition
Spontaneous
public protest
Conscious struggle by
citizens to protect rights Difficult to say Totals
West 5.5 7.1 17.8 60.4 9.2 100
4.2 10.3 27.4 32.8 9.1 18.2
Centre 17.6 11.9 14.9 37.7 17.8 100
26 34.1 44.8 40 34.3 35.5
South 22.8 15.4 8.1 29.5 24.2 100
23 30 16.5 21.3 31.9 24.2
East 50.5 14.3 6 8.8 20.4 100
46.7 25.6 11.3 5.8 24.6 22.2
Total 24 12.4 11.8 33.4 18.3 n=1,704
100 100 100 100 100
Note: Results based on background of respondents to Ukrainian public opinion poll (March 2005, details in Note 14).
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Table 2: Nature of ‘Orange Revolution’ by Language Spoken at Home: Ukrainian and Russian (2005)
Language spoken
at home
Coup d’état with
support of the west
Coup d’état supported by
political opposition
Spontaneous
public protest
Conscious Struggle
of citizens to assert
their rights Difficult to say
Total
n=1,794
Mostly Ukrainian 7.6 10 18.8 48.7 14.9 100
13.3 33.6 66.5 61 34 41.9
Mostly Russian 42.3 15.0 6.3 16.0 20.4 100
64.2 43.9 19.3 17.3 40.1 36.3
Total 24 12.4 11.8 33.4 18.3 100
100 100 100 100 100 100
Note: Percentages do not sum to 100 as some categories are omitted from the table (e.g. mixed Ukrainian and Russian and other languages).
538 DAVID LANE
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Union and Russia. The events of the Orange Revolution strengthened these
identities. These data, which clearly indicate the polarised participation by the
Ukrainian-speaking and Russian-speaking communities, lead one to cast consider-
able doubt on the widely held view that the events of 2004 were part of a
national-democratic revolution. Under half of the population thought it to be an
event inspired by public protest.
Political Outcomes
Evaluation of political events needs to include not only the intentions and expec-
tations but also the consequences, as indicated in the typology of political change,
illustrated in Figure 1 above. The Orange Revolution is often legitimated in the
victorious outcome for Yushchenko in the third round of the presidential election.
Yushchenko’s popular opinion poll evaluation in 2005 was 5.6, compared to the
former president Kuchma’s 2.7 when in office (based on average of respondents’
answers on a 10-point scale).17 In 2006, however, Yushchenko’s ranking had
plummeted to 3.8: the largest category of answers (23 per cent) came from those
giving the very lowest rating of one out of ten. Popular opinion in Ukraine was
higher for Putin in both 2005 and 2006 (6.0 and 6.3, respectively) than for
Yushchenko—even after the conflict over the price of energy between the two
countries. Yet more remarkable is the popularity of A. Lukashenko, the president of
neighbouring Belarus, who had higher standing in Ukrainian public opinion in
2005 (5.8) and 2006 (6.3) than Yushchenko, even in 2005. Clearly, if one of the
objectives of ‘soft politics’ was to place the ‘west’ as an object of positive identifi-
cation in people’s consciousness, it had failed. Russia and, surprisingly perhaps,
Belarus were considered by a significant part of the population to be preferred
alternatives.
While the outcome was successful in terms of a change in personnel (a coup), it did
not meet the expectations of the population for more substantive positive changes.
A process of disenchantment occurred and the ‘Orange Revolution’ began to
receive a negative connotation. The position is summed up in Table 3 which
compares perceptions in 2005 and 2006. The results in one year show a remarkable
change: the proportion of respondents considering themselves to be in a winning
position in 2005 had declined by 50 per cent.
Table 3: Do You Find Yourself in a ‘Winning’ or
‘Losing’ Position as a Result of the ‘Orange
Revolution’?
Per cent of
respondents
2005 2006
Losing position 11.7 34.7
Difficult to say 55.8 48.7
Winning position 32.1 16.4
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The Orange Revolution was an attempt not only to change the alleged fraudulent
electoral process but also to define the political ‘other’ as Russia, and the friendly
‘our’ as the west in general and the European Union in particular (epitomised in the
Orange slogan of ‘Back to Europe!’). Figure 4 shows attitudes towards the EU,
NATO and Russia/Belarus in four years: 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007.
Attitudes to the EU are generally more positive than negative, though positions
have become clearer cut between 2004 and 2006. The main change came in 2006,
not 2005, and is probably linked to the conflict with Russia over energy supplies in
Figure 4: Attitudes to Joining EU, NATO, Russia/Belarus: 2004 to 2007
11.7
19.9
24.7
17.4
39.7
32.9
14.3
38.9
47.9
47.2
61
43.1
0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%
2004
2005
2006
2007
More Negative Difficult to Answer More Positive
To Joining a Union with Russia and Belarus
To Joining EU
20.1
27.8
23.2
20.2
16.8
18.4
33.8
20.4
62.8
53.6
43
59.1
0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%
2004
2005
2006
2007
More Negative Difficult to Answer More Positive
To Joining NATO
38.5
50.4
64.4
58.1
42
34.4
22.8
28.2
18.8
14.9
12.7
13.2
0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%
2004
2005
2006
2007
More Negative Difficult to Answer More Positive
Source: Panina (2006); data for 2007: Natsional’na (2007, 500).
540 DAVID LANE
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that year. Nevertheless, the proportion of people being ‘more negative’ towards the
EU has more than doubled between 2004 and 2006; though a clear majority (61 per
cent) are in favour of membership, this fell back to a low of 43 per cent in 2007.
Except for 2006, joining with Russia and Belarus has been more popular than with
the EU. The consequence of the dispute with Russia (which had curtailed energy
supplies) in 2006 led to a near doubling of the numbers finding it ‘difficult to
answer’ rather than moving into the opposition camp. If one considers the possible
effects of the Orange Revolution events, however, one needs to compare attitudes
in 2004 (before) and 2005 (after). Those favourable to joining the EU did not
change very much at all between these two years; those with ‘more negative’
attitudes actually rose from 11.7 per cent to 19.9 per cent. Attitudes to NATO have
hardened. Support for joining declined from 18.8 per cent in 2004 to only 12.7
per cent in 2006; the previously high number of undecided people has declined
considerably as they have moved against NATO.
A qualitative dimension of political attitudes is given by respondents in the focus
group in Lvov. From Stefanija, a research worker, active in Rukh:
Ukraine has a long tradition of living in Europe and having connections
with Europe. Another question is how profitable it is for us and when it
happens whether the standards of life will rise. With Russia, as a good
neighbour, we should develop relations too but not too closely.
From Yurij, an entrepreneur and member of ‘Pora’ (a Ukrainian nationalist group):
‘Ukraine is a guarantor of security in Europe. It’s beneficial for Europe to have a
strong, independent Ukraine. People in the east are more manipulated than us,
they are less conscious. Borders should be opened and elites should agree with
eastern-Ukrainian elites’. And from Andrij, a teacher and supporter of national-
patriotic forces (Svoboda):
There is a difference in orientation between the authorities or intellectual
elites of western Ukraine and the east (such as Donetsk). If I have a choice
only between two alternatives, then I am for European Union which at least
offers certain life standards. I am for NATO now because I think this
membership would at least take away a threat to Ukraine’s territorial unity.
For Oleg, an entrepreneur and supporter of Our Ukraine:
On the one hand, everybody wants to be in Europe but everything here
is done opposite to [that of] Europe. On the other hand, Europe is falling
down spiritually and Russia is a more spiritual country, that is, it’s more
pleasant to be with spiritual Russia than with sick Europe. ... We under-
stand that Ukraine plays a small role in global problems. I think Ukraine
can be saved by dictatorship without joining any block.
The data cited and the discussion cast doubt on the efficacy of the Orange Revo-
lution and democracy promotion significantly to influence the population towards
a more pro-western stance. While attitudes to the EU have become more positive,
a significant proportion of the population have a positive attitude to Russia and
Belarus; hostility to NATO significantly increased.
Public attitudes to the political regime have become more unstable following the
events of the Orange Revolution. The underlying tensions stemming from the
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transformation process have, if anything, become exacerbated. Could another
public protest lead to a social (or counter-) revolution? Clearly, this is a concern for
many in the west who seek to ‘tie in’ Ukraine to the European Union. The
conditions which promote public disturbances and revolutionary events (unlike
election studies) are relatively under-researched and their outcomes are unantici-
pated (for instance, the fall of the USSR). Indications are that public dissatisfaction
is still high. The public’s mood remains ‘tense’ and has been on a steadily rising
upward course since 1998. Data for 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 are shown in
Figure 5. The level of ‘tension’ has risen by 6.5 points and the estimate of ‘quiet’ has
fallen from 21.3 in 2005 to 12.2 in 2006. In 2007, ‘critical/explosive’ rose to almost
a third of respondents and ‘safe’ fell to less than 1 per cent of respondents. These
data would indicate that the underlying tensions in Ukraine have increased
considerably.
I have contended that ‘decremental relative deprivation’ was one of the main
causes of the psychological predisposition to civil strife. This is a consequence of the
social conditions prevailing following transformation. One measure is the percep-
tion of people’s life chances compared to those of their parents. Data in Figure 6
show the considerable decline in positive perceptions of opportunities. While there
has been a perceived improvement in economic conditions for 43 per cent of the
respondents, 37 per cent felt that they were materially worse off than their parents
at a similar age; there has been a perceived major deterioration compared to parents
with respect to the stability of life (70.4 per cent of respondents believed their
position worse), personal safety (59 per cent), social security (58.6 per cent) state of
health (50.3 per cent), possibility of taking holidays (47 per cent) and position in
society (30.6 per cent).
While levels of dissatisfaction are high, this does not necessarily give rise to civil
strife. People’s willingness to participate in political action is captured by the
responses in Table 4. The propensity to participate in ‘some kind of action’ against
the government undoubtedly increased between 2004 and 2005, but fell back again
in 2006. The answers to question A in Table 4 show that even at the height of
Figure 5: Perception of Political Situation in Ukraine: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
Safe
Quiet
Tense
Critical/E
xplosive
Difficult toans
2004
2005
2006
2007
How would you evaluate the general situation in Ukraine? Select most appropriate answer.
Source: Panina (2006), Question b15; data for 2007: Natsional’na (2007, 474).
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Figure 6: Comparison of Respondent’s Life Chances with Parents at Same Age
43 37 27
11 13 10
20 31
24
37 26
18
40 31
47 50 59 70
0%
20%
40%
60%
80%
100%
123456
Aspect of Life
Better Same Worse
Aspect of Life Key: (1) Material conditions; (2) possibility to develop own potential; (3) possibility
to have holidays; (4) state of health; (5) personal safety; (6) stability of life.
Question asked: When you compare your life with that of your parents when they were of your age
now, which of the following have become better or worse or remained the same?
Source: Natsional’na (2007, 479). Based on 1,800 sample of population surveyed in 2007.
Table 4: Willingness to Take Political Action
A. If national government encroached on people’s interests,
would you take part in some kind of action?
2004 2005 2006
No, would not 69 57 63.2
Difficult to say 24.7 33.4 28.6
Yes, I would 6.2 9.4 8.2
B. If your local government did the same, would you take some
kind of action against it?
No, would not 54.9 46.2 50.3
Difficult to say 31.7 36.6 32.9
Yes 13.3 17.2 16.7
C. How likely, in your opinion, are mass protests in your region
against a decrease in standard of living or for the protection
of rights?
Unlikely 56.5 42.7 54.7
Don’t know 21.2 22.1 19.3
Very likely 22.2 35.2 26.1
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protest, less than 10 per cent of the respondents would be prepared to take action
against the central government, though more would do so against local govern-
ments. As to participation in ‘mass protests’ (Table 4, question C), in the wake of the
events in November 2004, more than a third thought that mass protests were
likely—evidence that the population was now more politicised. By 2006, however,
the euphoria of the Orange Revolution had worn off somewhat and the proportion
fell to just over a quarter. But in the same year, 27.9 per cent of the respondents
were willing to take part in ‘legal meetings and demonstrations’ (not shown in
table). Those prepared to participate in direct action fell to below 10 per cent;
‘unauthorised meetings and demonstrations’ were supported by only 2.6 per cent
and ‘unlawful strikes’ by only 1.8 per cent. Moreover, many believed that both legal
and illegal means of protest were likely to be ineffective. Of those surveyed 31.2 per
cent opined that ‘none of the methods [legal and illegal] are sufficiently effective
that I would resort to using them’ (though this left quite a balance who would).
Such evidence suggests that a relatively significant number of people would be
willing to participate in further revolutionary events, and these might provide a
core of insurgent activists.
Discussion: The Failure of Democracy Promotion?
The testimony of participants in focus group discussions shows that demonstrators
have mixed motives. These include political conviction, promoting democracy,
excitement, participation in a spectacle, ‘a show’, even payment for being present.
Such declarations may obscure underlying socioeconomic factors which predis-
posed people to political activity. There were real political and economic grievances
underlying the protests, derived from the considerable dislocations and detrimental
effects of the transformation process described at the beginning of this article.
Moreover, one might criticise those who point solely to external forces deploying
‘soft’ politics to manipulate people to further their own interests. Such viewpoints
ignore the deteriorating conditions, as indicated above, which predisposed people to
action.
The significant decline in the economic, social and political capabilities available to
the population, consequent on the transformation of state socialism, led to severe
‘decremental relative deprivation’ (Gurr 1970). There was a striking weakening in
the levels of loyalty and trust in government and a critical fall in support for the
regime. There was a noteworthy crisis of legitimacy. Two crucial factors are neces-
sary to move from a situation of social and political discontent to revolutionary
action. First, there must be an ideological rationalisation of radical change. The
Orange Revolution provided a critique of the Kuchma regime: it defined as illegiti-
mate the existing power structure and it presented an alternative—a closer move to
the west and its values. Secondly, there must be a counter-elite with a mass
following. The information technology available to Yushchenko enabled a mass to
be assembled effectively. The coloured revolutions are Leninist in inspiration: they
provide organisation and bring ideology to a receptive mass. However, I have
demonstrated that there was not a nationwide mass mobilisation—either geo-
graphically or socially. Only students could be considered a socially mobilised
group—particularly in Kiev and West Ukraine. Students were to Yushchenko what
the working class was for Lenin. ‘Soft’ politics had an uneven effect.
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Yushchenko, moreover, did not deliver a regime change. He sought to avoid a
revolution.18 The critical rhetoric was not translated into policy. As many of the
respondents in the focus groups put it, there was a change of positions orchestrated
by the Orange Revolution. The demonstrators were not part of an autonomous
revolutionary movement; their activity was a form of audience participation. From
the point of view of the counter-elite around Yushchenko, the demonstrations were
a legitimating device in support of a coup d’état, which had considerable support
from incumbent political elites (including the mayor of Kiev and sections of the
security police), foreign support and diplomatic pressure. Financial resources were
provided, not only by foreign supporters, but from the ‘country’s emerging upper
middle class and new millionaires’.19 Leadership was provided by elites well estab-
lished in the Kuchma administration, including, of course, Viktor Yushchenko
himself who had been head of the National Bank of Ukraine and had worked as
prime minister under Kuchma. The phenomenon was a ‘revolutionary’ coup as
defined above in Figure 1—revolutionary in the sense of the mobilisation of mass
support and opposition to the incumbent powers, but a coup in that the objectives
were replacements of personnel, rather than significant social and political systemic
change.
Politicians in the west anticipated that the ‘coloured’ revolutions would bring
Ukraine closer to the European Union. In Ukraine, Yushchenko’s supporters hoped
that the EU would become part of ‘us’, and that the ‘other’ would be defined as
Russia. While there was fairly widespread opposition to the incumbent political
powers, Yushchenko’s active mass support was drawn from students and dispro-
portionately from the ‘ethnic Ukrainians’ rather than the ‘eastern Slavic’ political
cultures.20 The events of the Orange Revolution did not initiate, and the conse-
quences did not effect, integrating mechanisms creating solidarity—the formation
of a ‘civic Ukraine’—but led to greater division between East and West Ukraine.21
The attractiveness of the Putin and Belarus Lukashenko regimes (usually ignored in
the western literature) to many Ukrainians lies in the provision of a statist welfare
nationalist regime which is (believed to be) anti-market and anti-western, quite the
opposite of what was promised by the leaders of the Orange movement. The
consequence is that Ukraine has become more polarised: in the East, the ‘other’ is
defined as supporters of the Orange Revolution and West Ukraine. The associated
‘us’ has two different identities: Europe and West Ukraine, on the one hand, and
East Ukraine and Russia, on the other.
Many writers contend that the Orange Revolution ‘will positively influence the
development of democratic movements ... in post-Soviet space’ (Stepanenko 2005,
614). Karatnycky opines:
Ukraine had benefited from more than a decade of civil-society develop-
ment, a good deal of it nurtured by donor support from the United States,
European governments, the National Endowment for Democracy, and
private philanthropists, such as George Soros. Although such sponsorship
was nonpartisan, it reinforced democratic values and deepened the pub-
lic’s understanding of free and fair electoral procedures. Authentic demo-
cratic values were being reinforced by a new generation that had grown
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up initially under glasnost, and later with a broad awareness of democratic
practices around the world (Karatnycky 2005).22
Such views exaggerate the positive potential of civil society.
The data presented in this article contest the widely held view, as articulated by
writers such as Anders Aslund and Michael McFaul,23 that the Orange Revolution
was an event stimulated by civil society. Such positions grossly understate the
implications of sponsor-led organisations and the weakness of autonomous civil
society associations. Certainly, they played a part in social mobilisation, but this was
a top-down movement inspired by the leadership of non-governmental organisa-
tions (such as the youth group Pora), not a spontaneous upsurge of ‘people’s’
power. Participation in ‘civil society’ associations in Ukraine is one of the lowest in
Europe, with 84 per cent of the population having no membership of any associa-
tion in 2005—less than in 1994 (Panina 2006, 23). USAID’s ‘NGO Sustainability
Index 2003’ commented that, in Ukraine, NGOs were only at the ‘transition’
stage and highly dependent on foreign sponsors. They often (not always, of
course) intervened in the electoral process to procure success for their favoured
candidates.24
The west, in the form of engagement in ‘soft politics’, has supported forces
in opposition to many non-democratic governments which have triggered off
‘coloured’ revolutions. ‘Democracy promotion’ means, as Wilson approvingly
points out, ‘The West promoting its own values [and] ... help[ing] other countries
[to] live up to these values’ (Wilson 2005, 187). This involves influencing elections
and backing those parties approved by the west’s leaders. By the same logic, those
in the host countries who lose as a consequence of western policy will oppose the
imposition of alien values and seek their own champions outside (in this case,
Russia), thereby creating conditions of instability. In Ukraine, the ‘Orange Revolu-
tion’ did not lead to a democratic revolution. The results of opinion polls and the
testament of members of focus groups show that the outcome was not a step to
democracy, but disappointment leading to disillusionment.
Why did this coloured revolution fail? The rhetoric of Yushchenko promised too
much and he had neither the means nor the will to make substantial social changes.
Sponsors sought and achieved a westward-orientated foreign policy and commit-
ment to a more open market economy. ‘Soft’ politics in terms of the positive image
of the west and particularly the US can succeed in a society with a population
predisposed to change, which is relatively undivided and where there is no alter-
native ideological challenge. In the case of Ukraine, not all these conditions pre-
vailed. The alternative of a statist economy in Belarus and a state-led society in
Russia had a greater affinity with the Russian-speaking population which was
exposed to alternative media. The aftermath of the Iraq War and involvement in the
Balkans also makes questionable the assumption of Nye and others that ‘the west’
is any longer likely to win a ‘soft politics’ war. The use of media technology and the
promotion of western values fail when the real intentions of counter-elites are
exposed and the expectations of the mass of supporters are not met. Incumbent
leaders can learn from their opponents’ methods and use of media technology as
well as their mistakes, thus limiting the potential for success of future ‘coloured’
revolutions.
546 DAVID LANE
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About the Author
David Lane, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2
3RQ, UK. email: DSL10@CAM.AC.UK
Notes
Acknowledgement is made to the Leverhulme Trust which financed the research included in this article.
The author wishes to thank the editors, Andreas Bieler and three anonymous referees for comments on
an earlier draft.
1. For different groupings see Aslund (2007); Lane (2007); Stark and Bruszt (2001).
2. On the 1989 revolution see Kumar (2001). There is a growing, but relatively small, number of articles
on ‘coloured revolutions’ and democracy promotion: Herd (2005); D’Anieri (2006); Grodsky (2007);
Beissinger (2007). Among the better works on Ukraine’s Orange Revolution is the special edition of
Communist Studies and Transition Politics on the ‘Democratic Revolution in Ukraine’ (March 2007). On
Russia, there is a growing literature on democracy promotion and, from the Russian side, the threat
of subversion: V. Putin, www.kremlin.ru/eng/text/speeches/2007/04/26/1209_type70029; Sergey
Kara-Murza, Revolyutsii na eksport, Moscow, Algoritm, 2006.
3. The Bertelsmann political transformation index (considering levels of political participation, the rule
of law, the stability of democratic institutions and levels of social and political integration) gives
Ukraine a score of 7.1, just below the threshold (8) of a democratic regime (data for 2006, Berg-
Schlosser et al. 2007, 269).
4. Only 12 per cent of people surveyed considered that their elected Member of Parliament could
represent their interests and 30 per cent of the population in 2005 believed that ‘Ukraine needs a
multi-party system’ (36 per cent thought not) (Panina 2006, 25).
5. The USSR included many economically backward republics of central Asia, making Russia much
higher than 25th. The GDR at this time was ranked 20th. See Human Development Report for 2000
(UNDP 1990). For economic conditions see Transition Report (EBRD 2006b, 32).
6. Even prior to 2004, the Ukraine’s leaders (including Yanukovich) aspired to membership of the
European Union. It was generally recognised in the west that Yushchenko was more likely to accede
to EU conditionality than Yanukovich.
7. Estimates of from 500,000 to a million people, many dressed in orange, assembled in the Maidan
square in the centre of Kiev to protest at the official victory of Yanukovich. For overviews of the
Orange Revolution see Wilson (2005); Aslund and McFall (2006); Kuzio (2007).
8. On the relevance of corruption, see Way (2005, 191–205).
9. Active in Ukraine, for example, were: Soros’ Renaissance Foundation, USAID, Freedom House, the
Carnegie Foundation, the National Endowment for Democracy, the German Marshall Fund.
10. Wilson (2005) provides a sympathetic account of the background of, as well as details on, the events
themselves and their international implications.
11. Goodwin defines a revolution as any and all instances in which a state or government is overthrown
by a popular movement in an extra-constitutional or violent manner (Goodwin 2001).
12. Tanter and Midlarsky (1967, 265), for example, define four different types of ‘revolution’: mass
revolution, revolutionary coup, reform coup and palace revolution.
13. Scocpol (1979) is the best-known articulator of this position. She emphasises the transformation of a
society’s state and class structures (p. 4).
14. The Public Opinion Polls are organised on a yearly basis (bi-yearly from 2006) by the Institute of
Sociology at the National Academy of Science of Ukraine and consist of a sample of 1,800 people aged
over 18 living in Ukraine. In this research I utilise the results of polls conducted in 2005 and 2006.
Source: Panina (2006). Data for some of the tables are available only in the edition for 2005.
Cross-tabulations in the tables are not shown in the published data and have been calculated
separately for this article. Data for 2007 were published only in Ukrainian in Natsional’na (2007).
15. The focus groups have been initiated by the author and organised by the Institute of Sociology of the
Ukrainian Academy of Sciences and Kharkov National University. Five focus groups composed of
eight people each were held in Kiev in October 2005 and another six in Lvov in October 2006; four
more took place in Kharkov in April 2007. The focus groups were composed of political activists
drawn from students and the manual and non-manual working classes. The idea was to bring
together political activists at the grass roots of politics, divided in their attitudes to the transformation
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BJPIR, 2008, 10(4)
of Ukrainian society: in each city groups were organised on the basis of two middle class and two
working class; each class group then was selected on the basis of being in favour of, or opposed to, the
movement to market reforms; in addition one politically mixed student group was organised (this was
used as a pilot group). I do not claim that these opinions can be truly representative of the total
population, but they provide a qualitative dimension to our understanding of politics.
16. There has been a great deal of journalistic discussion of this point, notably by Jonathan Steele of the
Guardian (26 November 2004) and Mark Almond (Guardian 7 December 2004) coming out on the
side of manipulation. Western interests, particularly American ones, put literally hundreds of millions
of dollars into democracy promotion in one form or another. See the details in Wilson (2005,
183–188), who concludes that promoting western values is ‘nothing to apologise for’ (p. 187). There
can be no doubt that other ‘coloured’ revolutions followed a similar path, with western advice,
finance and information technology in support of local counter-elites challenging incumbent political
leaders. Outcomes, however, differed.
17. ‘How would you evaluate L. Kuchma’s actions as president?’ 1 as lowest grade and 10 the maximum.
18. ‘Avoid’ is the word correctly used by Paul D’Anieri (2006).
19. Elite interests (‘leaders of the Orange coalition’) are described by Karatnycky (2006), 41.
20. This point is well taken by Taras Kuzio (2005).
21. The presence of literally thousands of westerners ‘monitoring’ the election on the third round of
voting further associated Yushchenko with the west. Numbers are difficult to estimate: the Canadian
government sent 500 (mission led by former PM John Turner), another 550 were partially sponsored
by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, the US sent approximately 400 (partially sponsored by the
American Congressional Committee) and Poland 300. In addition there were many others, including
‘official’ observer missions from the OSCE, Council of Europe and UN. My thanks to Mychailo
Wynnyckyj of KMBS for these data.
22. The idea of 1989 being a ‘people’s revolution’ has been popularised by journalists such as Garton Ash
(1990).
23. ‘Ukraine possessed the most mature civil society of any post-Soviet state’ ... and non-governmental
organisations ‘spearheaded the protest movement against the regime’ (Aslund and McFall 2006,
intro., 5–6).
24. In 2004, for example, the American National Endowment for Democracy alone made available 15
million dollars for support of the democratic process (National Endowment for Democracy Report,
cited in Lane 2006, 17). On the basis of data in the European Social Survey, Lane calculated that
Ukraine, in terms of civil society participation in human rights activity, came below Romania, Latvia,
Croatia, Czech Republic and Slovenia (ibid., 12). The index of participation in such associations in
Ukraine was nine times less than the median score in the old member states of the EU—a clear ‘civil
society’ deficit.
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... Alternatively, in an attempt to provide a more bottom-up view on the events, scholars have looked at the way civil society has evolved and informed politics and political decisions to become an integrated part of the political actors and arena of the country (Kuzio 2006a, Stepanenko 2006. Subsequent studies have looked at the failed democratization process and the broken promises by politicians, parties and in general political actors (Christensen et al. 2005, Kubicek 2009, Lane 2008. Only a few, and often overlooked, works have engaged with what can be considered as 'side effects' of the Orange Revolution (Beissinger 2011, Kuzio 2006b, Polese 2009b). ...
... There has been a lot of speculation as to why people were able to stay in the centre of Kiev for so long under freezing winter conditions, why so many people kept on going there from other regions, how the whole revolution was organized and what the motivation was of each of them to participate. Pro-Western analysts would look at the democratic nature of the events whereas pro-Russia accounts emphasized the artificial nature of the events (see Lane 2008, Ó Beacháin and Polese 2008, 2010a, McFaul 2007. It is well beyond the scope of the chapter to endorse either version. ...
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