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Colour revolutions is a term used to describe related movements that developed in several societies in the CIS (former USSR) and Balkan states during the early 2000s. Some observers have called the events a revolutionary wave.

Participants in the colour revolutions have mostly used nonviolent resistance to protest against governments seen as corrupt and/or authoritarian, and to advocate democracy. These movements all adopted a specific colour or flower as their symbol. The colour revolutions are notable for the important role of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and particularly student activists in organising creative nonviolent resistance.

So far these movements have been successful in Serbia (especially Serbia's Bulldozer Revolution of 2000), in Georgia's Rose Revolution (2003), in Ukraine's Orange Revolution (2004), and (though more violent than the previous ones) in Kyrgyzstan's Tulip Revolution (2005). Each time massive street protests followed disputed elections and led to the resignation or overthrow of leaders considered by their opponents to be authoritarian.


Colour revolutions



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  • The 5th October revolution in 2000, which led to the overthrow of Slobodan Miloševic. These demonstrations are usually considered to be the first example of the peaceful revolutions which followed. However, the Serbians adopted an approach that had already been used in parliamentary elections in Bulgaria (1997), Slovakia (1998) and Croatia (2000), characterised by civic mobilisation through get-out-the-vote campaigns and unification of the political opposition. The nationwide protesters did not adopt a colour or a specific symbol; however, the slogan "Gotov je" (Serbian Cyrillic: Готов је,English: He is finished) did become an aftermath symbol celebrating the completion of the task. Despite the commonalities, many others refer to Georgia as the most definite beginning of the series of "colour revolutions". The demonstrations were supported by the youth movement Otpor, some of whose members were involved in the later revolutions in other countries.

Former USSR states

Related usages in the Middle East

The following events, having taken place in the Middle East instead of post-Communist Europe and Central Asia, have nonetheless at times been described as part of the series of coloured revolutions, and their popular names designed specifically to draw the parallel. Nonetheless they have marked differences with the revolutions described above, and thus their inclusion in the series of "coloured revolutions" is so far not universally accepted.

  • The Cedar Revolution took place in Lebanon between February and April 2005. Unlike the revolutions in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, it followed not a disputed election, but rather the assassination of opposition leader Rafik Hariri in 2005. Also, instead of the annulment of an election, it demanded an end to the Syrian occupation of Lebanon. Nonetheless, some of its elements and some of the methods used in the protests have been similar enough that it is often considered and treated by the press and commentators as one of the series of "colour revolutions". The Cedar of Lebanon is the symbol of the country, and the revolution was named after it. The peaceful demonstrators used the colours white and red, which are found in the Lebanese flag. The protests led to the pullout of Syrian troops in April 2005, ending their nearly 30-year presence there, although Syria retains some influence in Lebanon, in part through the presence of the usually sympathetic Hezbollah.
  • Blue Revolution was a term used by some Kuwaitis [1] to refer to demonstrations in Kuwait in support of women's suffrage beginning in March 2005; it was named after the colour of the signs the protesters used. In May of that year the Kuwaiti government acceded to their demands, granting women the right to vote beginning in the 2007 parliamentary elections. [2]Since there was no call for regime change, this cannot be categorised as a true colour revolution.
  • "Purple Revolution" was a name first used by some hopeful commentators and later picked up by United States President George W. Bush to describe the coming of democracy to Iraq following the 2005 Iraqi legislative election and was intentionally used to draw the parallel with the Orange and Rose revolutions. However, the name has not achieved widespread use in Iraq, the United States or elsewhere. The name comes from the colour that voters' index fingers were stained to prevent fraudulent multiple voting.
  • Green Revolution is a term widely used to describe the 2009 Iranian election protests. The protests took place several years after the main wave of color revolutions, although like them it began due to a disputed election, the 2009 Iranian presidential election. Protesters adopted the colour green because it had been the campaign colour of presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, whom many protesters believe had actually either received the most votes or received enough votes to necessitate a second round. It is also being referred to as the "Twitter Revolution"[3] and the "Facebook Revolution"[4], in reference to the websites Twitter and Facebook, which have been used to organize many of the protests.

Influencing factors

Anti-Communist revolutions

Many have cited the influence of the series of revolutions which occurred in Central and Eastern Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s, particularly the Velvet Revolution in Prague (Czechoslovakia) in 1989. A peaceful demonstration by students (mostly from Charles University) was attacked by the police - and in time contributed to the collapse of the communist regime in Czechoslovakia. Yet the roots of the pacifist floral imagery may go even further back to the non-violent Carnation Revolution of Portugal in the mid 1970s.

Student movements

The first of these was Otpor ("Resistance") in Serbia, which was founded at Belgrade University in October 1998 and began protesting against Miloševic' during the Kosovo War. Many of its members were arrested or beaten by the police. Despite this, during the presidential campaign in September 2000, Otpor launched its "Gotov je" (He's finished) campaign that galvanised Serbian discontent with Miloševic' and resulted in his defeat.

Members of Otpor have inspired and trained members of related student movements including Kmara in Georgia, Pora in Ukraine, Zubr in Belarus and MJAFT! in Albania. These groups have been explicit and scrupulous in their practice of non-violent resistance as advocated and explained in Gene Sharp's writings.[5] The massive protests that they have organised, which were essential to the successes in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine, have been notable for their colourfulness and use of ridiculing humor in opposing authoritarian leaders.

Soros foundation and U.S. influence

Opponents of the colour revolutions often accuse the Soros Foundation and/or the United States government of supporting and even planning the revolutions in order to serve western interests. It is noteworthy that after the Orange Revolution several Central Asian nations took action against the Open Society Institute of George Soros with various means -- Uzbekistan, for example, forced the shutting down of the OSI regional offices, while Tajik state-controlled media have accused OSI-Tajikistan of corruption and nepotism. [6]

Evidence suggesting U.S. government involvement includes the USAID (and UNDP) supported Internet structures called Freenet, which are known to comprise a major part of the Internet structure in at least one of the countries - Kyrgyzstan - in which one of the colour revolutions occurred.

The Guardian[7]h claimed that USAID, National Endowment for Democracy, the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, and Freedom House are directly involved; the Washington Post and the New York Times also reported substantial Western involvement in some of these events.[8][9]

Activists from Otpor in Serbia and Pora in Ukraine have said that publications and training they received from the US based Albert Einstein Institution staff have been instrumental in the formation of their strategies.[10][11]

Reactions and connected movements in other countries

Aram Karapetyan, leader of the New Times political party, has declared his intention to start a "revolution from below" in April 2005, saying that the situation was different now that people had seen the developments in the CIS. He added that the Armenian revolution will be peaceful but not have a colour.[12]

A number of movements were created in Azerbaijan in mid-2005, inspired by the examples of both Georgia and Ukraine. A youth group, calling itself Yox! (which means No!), declared its opposition to governmental corruption. The leader of Yox! said that unlike Pora or Kmara, he wants to change not just the leadership, but the entire system of governance in Azerbaijan. The Yox movement chose green as its colour.[13]

The spearhead of Azerbaijan's attempted colour revolution was Yeni Fekir ("New Idea"), a youth group closely aligned with the Azadlig (Freedom) Bloc of opposition political parties. Along with groups such as Magam ("It's Time") and Dalga ("Wave"), Yeni Fekir deliberately adopted many of the tactics of the Georgian and Ukrainian colour revolution groups, even borrowing the colour orange from the Ukrainian revolution.[14][15]

In November 2005 protesters took to the streets, waving orange flags and banners, to protest what they considered government fraud in recent parliamentary elections. The Azerbaijani colour revolution finally fizzled out with the police riot on November 26, during which dozens of protesters were injured and perhaps hundreds teargassed and sprayed with water cannons.[16]

There have been a number of protests against President Alexander Lukashenko, with participation from student group Zubr. One round of protests culminated on March 25, 2005; it was a self-declared attempt to emulate the Kyrgyzstan revolution, and involved over a thousand citizens. However, police severely suppressed it, arresting over 30 people and imprisoning opposition leader Mikhail Marinich.

A second, much larger, round of protests began almost a year later, on March 19, 2006, soon after the presidential election. Official results had Lukashenko winning with 83% of the vote; protesters claimed the results were achieved through fraud and voter intimidation, a charge echoed by many foreign governments. Protesters camped out in October Square in Minsk over the next week, calling variously for the resignation of Lukashenko, the installation of rival candidate Alaksandar Milinkievič, and new, fair elections.

The opposition originally used as a symbol the white-red-white former flag of Belarus; the movement has had significant connections with that in neighboring Ukraine, and during the Orange Revolution some white-red-white flags were seen being waved in Kiev. During the 2006 protests some called it the "Jeans Revolution" or "Denim Revolution",[17] blue jeans being considered a symbol for freedom. Some protesters cut up jeans into ribbons and hung them in public places. It is claimed that Zubr was responsible for coining the phrase.

Lukashenko has said in the past: "In our country, there will be no pink or orange, or even banana revolution." More recently he's said "They [the West] think that Belarus is ready for some 'orange' or, what is a rather frightening option, 'blue' or 'cornflower blue' revolution. Such 'blue' revolutions are the last thing we need". [10] On 19 April 2005, he further commented: "All these coloured revolutions are pure and simple banditry."[11]

The 2007 Burmese anti-government protests were referred to in the press as the Saffron Revolution[18][19] after Buddhist monks took the vanguard of the protests. A previous, student-led revolution, the 8888 Uprising on August 8, 1988 had similarities to the colour revolutions, but was violently repressed.

The 2008 Tibetan unrest is sometimes referred to as an attempted "Crimson Revolution".[20]

The opposition in Moldova, is reported to have hoped and urged for some kind of Orange revolution, similar to that in Ukraine, in the follow up of the Moldovan parliamentary elections, 2005, while the Christian Democratic People's Party adopted orange for its colour in a clear reference to the events of Ukraine.

A name hypothesised for such an event was "grape revolution" because of the abundance of vineyards in the country; however, such a revolution failed to materialise after the governmental victory in the elections. Many reasons have been given for this, including a fractured opposition and the fact that the government had already co-opted many of the political positions that might have united the opposition (such as a perceived pro-European and anti-Russian stance). Also the elections themselves were declared fairer in the OSCE election monitoring reports than had been the case in other countries where similar revolutions occurred, even though the CIS monitoring mission strongly condemned them.

There was civil unrest all over Moldova following the 2009 Parliamentary election due to the opposition claiming that the communists had fixed the election. Eventually, the Alliance for European Integration created a governing coalition that pushed the Communist party into opposition.

On March 25, 2005 activists wearing yellow scarves held protests in the capital city of Ulan Bator, disputing the results of the 2004 Mongolian parliamentary elections and calling for fresh elections. One of the chants heard in that protest was "Let's congratulate our Kyrgyz brothers for their revolutionary spirit. Let's free Mongolia of corruption."[12]

A July 1 Uprising of 2008 in Ulan Bator commenced with a peaceful meeting in protest of the election of 29 of June results corrupted (as claimed the opposition political parties) by the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP). Approximately 30,000 people took part in the meeting. After the meeting was over a part of protestors left the central square and moved to the building of the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party, attacked and next burned this building. A police station also was attacked[21]. By the night rioters set fire to the Cultural Palace, where a theatre, museum and National art gallery were vandalised and burned. Cars torching[22], bank robberies and looting were reported[21]. The organisations in the burning buildings were vandalised and looted. Police used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon against stone-throwing protesters[21]. A 4-day state of emergency was installed, the capital has been placed under a 2200 to 0800 curfew, and alcohol sales banned[23], rioting not resumed [24]. 5 people were shot dead by the police, dozens of teenagers were wounded from the police firearms [13] and disabled and 800 people, including the leaders of the civil movements J. Batzandan, O. Magnai and B. Jargalsakhan, were arrested. International observers said July 1 general election was free and fair. [25]

In 2007 the Lawyers' Movement movement started in Pakistan with the aim of restoration of depost judges. However, within a month the movement took a turn and started working towards the goal of removing Pervez Musharraf from power.[26]

The liberal opposition in Russia is represented by several parties and movements, the most remarkable of which is Oborona youth movement. Oborona claims that its aim is to provide free and honest elections and to establish in Russia a system with democratic political competition. This movement is one of the most active and radical ones and is represented in a number of Russian cities.

The opposition in the Republic of Bashkortostan has held protests demanding that the federal authorities intervene to dismiss Murtaza Rakhimov from his position as president of the republic, accusing him of leading an "arbitrary, corrupt, and violent" regime. Airat Dilmukhametov, one of the opposition leaders, and leader of the Bashkir National Front, has said that the opposition movement has been inspired from the mass protests of Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.[14] Another opposition leader, Marat Khaiyirulin, has said that if an Orange Revolution were to happen in Russia, it would begin in Bashkortostan.[15]

There has been longstanding opposition to President Islom Karimov, from liberals and Islamists. Following protests in 2005, security forces in Uzbekistan carried out the Andijan massacre that successfully halted country-wide demonstrations. These protests otherwise could have turned into colour revolution, according to many analysts.[27][28]

The revolution in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan began in the largely ethnic Uzbek south, and received early support in the city of Osh. Nigora Hidoyatova, leader of the Free Peasants opposition party, has referred to the idea of a farmers' revolution or Cotton Revolution. She also said that her party is collaborating with the youth organisation Shiddat, and that she hopes it can evolve to an organisation similar to Kmara or Pora.[29] Other nascent youth organisations in and for Uzbekistan include Bolga and the freeuzbek group.

Uzbekistan has also had an active Islamist movement, led by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, most notable for the 1999 Tashkent bombings, though the group was largely destroyed following the 2001 NATO invasion of Afghanistan.[30]

Backlash in non-CIS countries

In 2005, in Lebanon there was a "Cedar Revolution".

When groups of young people protested the closure of Venezuela's RCTV television station in June 2007, president Hugo Chavez said that he believed the protests were organised by the West in an attempt to promote a "soft coup" like the revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia.[31]

In July 2007, Iranian state television released footage of two Iranian-American prisoners, both of whom work for western NGOs, as part of a documentary called "In the Name of Democracy." The documentary purportedly discusses the colour revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia and accuses the United States of attempting to foment a similar ouster in Iran.[32]

See also


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ [2]
  3. ^
  4. ^ [3]
  5. ^ [4]
  6. ^ [5]
  7. ^ [6]
  8. ^ Dobbs, Michael. "U.S. Advice Guided Milosevic Opposition." 11 December 2000.
  9. ^ Cohen, Roger. "Who Really Brought Down Milosevic?" New York Times. 26 November 2000.
  10. ^ Strijbosch, Margreet. "Ukraine: The Resistance Will Not Stop." Radio Netherlands. [7]
  11. ^ Dobbs, Michael. "U.S. Advice Guided Milosevic Opposition." Washington Post. 11 December 2000. [8]
  12. ^ Time for Revolution Armenian Diaspora
  13. ^ Azeri youth group makes debut by slamming state corruption Baku Today
  14. ^ Young activists posed to assume higher political profile in Azerbaijan EurasiaNet
  15. ^ Baku opposition prepares for 'colour revolution’ ISN Security Watch
  16. ^ Baku police crush opposition rally with force ISN Security Watch
  17. ^ Fraud claims follow Lukashenko win in Belarus election ABC Online
  18. ^ Military junta threatens monks in Burma
  19. ^ 100,000 Protestors Flood Streets of Rangoon in "Saffron Revolution"
  20. ^ Is Washington playing a deeper game with China?
  21. ^ a b c BBC.Mongolia calls state of emergency
  22. ^ ABC News.Mongolia clamps down after 5 killed in unrest
  23. ^ BBC.Fatal clashes in Mongolia capital the situation had stabilised
  24. ^ BBC. Streets calm in riot-hit Mongolia
  25. ^ BBC. In pictures: Mongolian protests
  26. ^ Lawyers' Movement in Pakistan
  27. ^ Kelly, Jack (June 17, 2009). "Obama Cowers on Iran". Real Clear Politics. Retrieved 13 January 2010.  
  28. ^ "Explaining the Color Revolutions". e-International Relations. July 31, 2009. Retrieved 13 January 2010.  
  29. ^ [9]
  30. ^ Alisher Sidikov (July 2, 2003). "Pakistan Blames IMU Militants For Afghan Border Unrest". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Retrieved 2008-07-03.  
  31. ^ Nacional y Política -
  32. ^ BBC NEWS | Middle East | Iran shows new scholars' footage

Further reading

  • Mark R. Beissinger, Structure and Example in Modular Political Phenomena: The Diffusion of Bulldozer/Rose/Orange/Tulip Revolutions, Perspectives on Politics 5 (2007): 259-276. [16].
  • Pavol Demes and Joerg Forbrig (eds.). Reclaiming Democracy: Civil Society and Electoral Change in Central and Eastern Europe. German Marshall Fund, 2007.
  • Joerg Fobrig (Hrsg.): Revisiting Youth Political Participation: Challenges for research and democratic practice in Europe. Council of Europe, Publishing Division, Strassbourg 2005, ISBN 92-871-5654-9
  • Kurt Schock: Unarmed Insurrections: People Power Movements in Nondemocracies. University of Minnesota Press, 2005.
  • Joshua A. Tucker: Enough! Electoral Fraud, Collective Action Problems, and Post-Communist coloured Revolutions. 2007. Perspectives on Politics, 5(3): 537-553. [17]

External links


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