>Unpeeling the Orange Revolution

> Stayed up late to watch an excellent BBC4 documentary Inside the Orange Revolution about Ukraine’s 2004 transition from semi-authoritarianism. Like the best BBC documentaries it achieved a good balance between compelling TV, insider interviews and personal stories. It was also analytical enough to capture some subtleties and complexities– the legitimate interests and concerns of the industrial Russian-speaking Blue camp; the circulation of some not quite so new elites in the Orange movement; the extremism of the some ultra-nationalist element in West Ukraine living off the interwar/war time Ukrainian Insurgent Army tradition, who formed part of the Orange coalition (co-opted and kept in check by its more liberal, pro-Western leaders).

What struck me is how Velvet Revolutions have now become a strategy for toppling semi-authoritarian regimes centring on that classic flashpoint of illiberal democracy: rigged elections. The ingredients seem to be: broad coalitions and political moderation; large peaceful festive crowds; international media attention; pressure on security sector and previously tame judicial structures; ‘branding’ of the movement through symbols and a label; and good funding and careful preparation – the Orange catering operation, tent city in Kiev’s Independence Square put up by specially recruited former camp site employees

What was striking is how the Revolution was ‘staged’ not in the sense that some left-wing (and occasionally right-wing) critics have argued: that it was an externally directed Trojan Horse for capitalism and US interests, but in the sense of being a familiar situation, strategized for by all sides, rather than the spontaneous, improvised leap in the dark of Czechoslovakia in 1989. There is now even a computer game simulating peaceful transition to democracy A Force More Powerful

Doubtless President Putin has learned a few lessons even if, like me, he has not had time to download the game …

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