Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

How Ukrainians View Their Orange Revolution: Public Opinion and the National Peculiarities of Citizenry Political Activities

Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

How Ukrainians View Their Orange Revolution: Public Opinion and the National Peculiarities of Citizenry Political Activities

Article excerpt

The period from the end of 2004 through the beginning of 2005 was marked by the enchanting events of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. The carnivallike Orange Revolution that broke out at the end of November 2004 in Kyiv, as well as in other western and central Ukrainian cities, had transformed Ukraine from a "grey-zone" (T. Carothers's term) and marginal territory of the world's political stage into one of the most intriguing countries in the world. The alternative "blue" (the color of the opposite political camp) meetings and manifestations over eastern parts of Ukraine, predominantly in the Donbas region, gave additional political traits to these sociopolitical events. Experts and researchers are now actively analyzing the phenomenon of the historic sociocultural changes in the country,1 which had often been considered as a dependent geopolitical territory in the shade of neighboring Russia, while its population had been regarded as politically inert and passive. History will undoubtedly highlight key points of the Orange Revolution, its lessons, and its results. However, even now, it is obvious that these events demonstrate deep sociopolitical and cultural changes in the huge post-Soviet Eurasian continent. The profound internal transformation of Ukrainian society prepared cultural and social ground for the Orange Revolution.2 The various aspects in the transformation of the hybrid semiauthoritarian political regime under the rule of L. Kuchma are comprehensively analyzed in the works of Taras Kuzio,3 Paul D'Anieri,4 Lucan A. Way,5 and other experts. Thus, Ukrainian political events at the end of 2004 sum up a period of complicated and multidimensional Ukrainian transformation,6 and the revolution itself was marked by numerous dimensions and tasks. In my opinion, the characteristic of the Orange Revolution and Yushchenko's victory stated by Taras Kuzio-that it was an event that "brought together three revolutions in one: national, democratic, and anti-corruption"7-makes sense.

This article is an attempt to look at the Orange Revolution not only from the experts' point of view, but also from public opinion, examining the nature and reasons for the orange political action. I also examine some peculiarities of the political activity of the citizens during that period. The spectrum of public opinion about the estimations and comprehension of the Orange Revolution, analyzed in the article, is chronologically traced to the post-Orange period of February-March 2005, when the Institute of Sociology, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, conducted its nationwide representative survey.* The statistical data designate yet complicate an ambiguous democratic consolidation process in Ukrainian society at its new postrevolution stage of development. It is obvious that the public opinion on the orange events will change along with the process of further sociopolitical development in the country. At the time of writing this article (April-May 2005), there were comments about the end of the revolution's "honeymoon period" and even about it as "treason."8 But even judging from the short historical distance, public opinion was marked by diverse sociopolitical meanings and contexts. The orange project of social changes is still developing; its results and consequences are open and vague. It is still a question whether the political gap between the orange project and the postcommunist past is radical or revolutionary enough. In other words, as Paul D'Anieri rightly indicates, "the story of democratization in Ukraine is, at best, at a midpoint."9 But, the Orange Revolution at least determined a new way of public political activity, formed new social experience, and integrated itself as a successful political mobilization of wide sections of the population in a post-Soviet country.

Postmodern Coup d'état or National-Democratic Revolution?

Participants and sympathizers of the political events at the end of 2004 (more than 20 percent of our poll respondents, who were in some way engaged in these events) regard them as the Orange Revolution. …

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