The Diffusion of Revolutions: Comparing Recent Regime Turnovers in Five Post-Communist Countries
Fenger, Menno, Demokratizatsiya
The latest wave of revolutions in southeast Europe and Central Asia illustrates the vulnerability of oppressive, authoritarian, and nondemocratic regimes. This wave started in Serbia in 2000, and ended in Kyrgyzstan in early 2005.1 Almost all of these revolutions share the following characteristics: stolen elections triggered them, there were massive, nonviolent demonstrations, and the opposition united behind a single, often charismatic, leader. Revolutions are often linked to the concept of failing states. However, various sources cite the role of foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that help build and sustain a coalition of opposition parties, train volunteers in campaigning and monitoring election results, and even formulate and implement strategies to overthrow the regime.2 Singh even speaks of franchised revolutions.3
This article combines two theoretical perspectives on the recent revolutions in southeast Europe and Central Asia: a state failure perspective that focuses on the domestic characteristics that helps explain these events and a diffusion perspective that focuses on the interrelatedness between these events by means of the interchange of financial resources, activists, and knowledge. This article contributes to the explanatory and-perhaps more important-predictive power of the state failure approach by taking into account the deliberate strategies of foreign actors to overthrow regimes. This analysis is based on a review of existing literature and databases, except for the Moldovan case, which is based on a series of interviews from March 2005.
The literature on revolutions is elaborate and does not provide a consensus on how to define a revolution. I follow Goodwin,4 who defines a revolution as any and all instances in which a state or government is overthrown and thereby transformed by a popular movement in an irregular, extraconstitutional, or violent manner. However, whether an event is labeled a revolution is not a matter of a simple dichotomy. Following Yinger and Katz,5 one could argue that there is a potential variety in the amount of "revolutioness" in a revolution. So while using Goodwin's broad definition, I emphasize the variety within individual revolutions.
The next section gives a brief overview of the state of the art of both state failure and policy diffusion literature and integrates them in an analytical framework. The following section has a description and analyses of Serbia's October Revolution, Georgia's Rose Revolution, Ukraine's Orange Revolution, Moldova's Silent Revolution, and Kyrgyzstan's Tulip Revolution.6 Conclusions are then drawn from a comparative analysis of these five revolutions. The final section discusses the lessons that might be drawn regarding nonviolent action against nondemocratic regimes beyond the cases that are analyzed in this article.
Theoretical Approaches: State Failure and Policy Diffusion
The analytical framework that is used for analyzing the revolutions (and their interrelated-ness) in Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, and Kyrgyzstan is described here. This framework consists of the integration of two theoretical perspectives: studies of state failure and theories on the diffusion of policies. The "state failure" perspective is a useful perspective for analyzing revolutions, but it starts with the domestic situation within a country. Adding a diffusion perspective enables a more dynamic perspective that also incorporates the role of foreign interventions. Table 1 gives an overview of the analytical framework that is used in this article. The remainder of this section explains the framework. First, the state failure perspective is described and complemented with the issue of state performance. Second, an overview of the diffusion perspective is given. Finally, the role of "trigger events" is discussed. Trigger events are actions that set events in motion once favorable conditions for a revolution emerge. …