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The Color Revolutions

By Lincoln A. Mitchell

Publication Year: 2012

From late 2003 through mid-2005, a series of peaceful street protests toppled corrupt and undemocratic regimes in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan and ushered in the election of new presidents in all three nations. These movements—collectively known as the Color Revolutions—were greeted in the West as democratic breakthroughs that might thoroughly reshape the political terrain of the former Soviet Union.

But as Lincoln A. Mitchell explains in The Color Revolutions, it has since become clear that these protests were as much reflections of continuity as they were moments of radical change. Not only did these movements do little to spur democratic change in other post-Soviet states, but their impact on Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan themselves was quite different from what was initially expected. In fact, Mitchell suggests, the Color Revolutions are best understood as phases in each nation's long post-Communist transition: significant events, to be sure, but far short of true revolutions.

The Color Revolutions explores the causes and consequences of all three Color Revolutions—the Rose Revolution in Georgia, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, and the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan—identifying both common themes and national variations. Mitchell's analysis also addresses the role of American democracy promotion programs, the responses of nondemocratic regimes to the Color Revolutions, the impact of these events on U.S.-Russian relations, and the failed "revolutions" in Azerbaijan and Belarus in 2005 and 2006.

At a time when the Arab Spring has raised hopes for democratic development in the Middle East, Mitchell's account of the Color Revolutions serves as a valuable reminder of the dangers of confusing dramatic moments with lasting democratic breakthroughs.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press


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Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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Chapter 1. Introduction

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pp. 1-16

Roughly fifteen years after crowds of peaceful demonstrators from Prague to Tbilisi brought down Communist regimes that had denied hundreds of millions of people their freedom for more than half a century, the excitement of the late 1980s and early 1990s had given way, at least in much of the former Soviet Union, to a grim reality: building free and prosperous...

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Chapter 2. Pre-Color Revolution Regimes

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pp. 17-43

The Rose, Orange, and Tulip Revolutions occurred in three countries that have distinct histories, locations, and economies. Other than having once been part of the Soviet Union, they do not have a great deal in common. Although all have historical connections with Russia, thousands of miles separate Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, and Georgia. Equally important, they have had links and ties with different countries and parts of the world as...

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Chapter 3. Electoral Breakthroughs

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pp. 44-72

The images of the Color Revolutions, of young, peaceful demonstrators solemnly standing in the cold, rain, and snow, demanding their voices be heard and that stolen elections not be allowed to stand, of old Communist era rulers being, shuffled in the case of Shevardnadze, literally, off the political stage,...

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Chapter 4. The U.S. Role

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pp. 73-91

The Color Revolutions are almost a political Rorschach test for observers of international politics. How one views these events—as triumphs of the “freedom agenda,” as twentieth-century U.S. imperialism in twenty-first-century nongovernmental bottles, as American-supported plots or events that were orchestrated by the citizens of Georgia, Ukraine, or...

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Chapter 5. Russia

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pp. 92-114

The Color Revolutions also had a substantial impact on U.S.-Russia relations. Moscow viewed these events as U.S. meddling in the region and in some cases, notably with regard to Georgia, supporting governments that were considerably more confrontational with Russia than their predecessors...

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Chapter 6. Democracy After the Color Revolutions

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pp. 115-140

In November 2007, the Georgian government violently cracked down on peaceful demonstrators, using water cannons and sonic devices to send demonstrators fleeing. Less than two years later, in Kyrgyzstan President Bakiev was reelected by a landslide in an election that would not have looked out of...

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Chapter 7. Exporting Color Revolutions

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pp. 141-166

After the success of the Rose Revolution in Georgia, democracy activists in the former Soviet Union and in the West—especially the United States—believed the Georgian model could be replicated in other countries in the region. The Orange Revolution, only a year later, and the Tulip...

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Chapter 8. Misreading Democratic Breakthroughs: U.S. Policy After the Color Revolutions

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pp. 167-186

The Western powers—and especially the United States—played an important role in the stalled or even reversed development of democracy in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan after the Rose, Orange, and Tulip Revolutions.1 For the first several years following the revolutions, U.S. policy contributed to the failure of democracy to consolidate in Kyrgyzstan and...

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Chapter 9. The End of an Era

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pp. 187-199

The Color Revolutions have receded into the past. They are no longer an important political factor in the former Soviet Union, nor have they precipitated, or are likely to precipitate, meaningful democratic advances. However, for a few brief years, they were important not only throughout...

Appendix. Studying Color Revolutions

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pp. 200-210


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pp. 211-221


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pp. 223-235


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pp. 237-243


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p. 245

E-ISBN-13: 9780812207095
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812244175

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 806246648
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Color Revolutions

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Protest movements -- Former Soviet republics
  • Opposition (Political science) -- Former Soviet republics
  • Regime change -- Former Soviet republics.
  • Democratization -- Former Soviet republics.
  • Former Soviet republics -- Politics and government.
  • United States -- Foreign relations -- Former Soviet republics.
  • Former Soviet republics -- Foreign relations -- United States.
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