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The Semblance of Democratic Revolution: Coalitions in Ukraine's Orange Revolution


Using two unusual surveys, this study analyzes participation in the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine, comparing participants with revolution supporters, opponents, counter-revolutionaries, and the apathetic/inactive. As the analysis shows, most revolutionaries were weakly committed to the revolution's democratic master narrative, and the revolution's spectacular mobilizational success was largely due to its mobilization of cultural cleavages and symbolic capital to construct a negative coalition across diverse policy groupings. A contrast is drawn between urban civic revolutions like the Orange Revolution and protracted peasant revolutions. The strategies associated with these revolutionary models affect the roles of revolutionary organization and selective incentives and the character of revolutionary coalitions. As the comparison suggests, postrevolutionary instability may be built into urban civic revolutions due to their reliance on a rapidly convened negative coalition of hundreds of thousands, distinguished by fractured elites, lack of consensus over fundamental policy issues, and weak commitment to democratic ends.

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Mark R. Beissinger is Henry W. Putnam Professor, Department of Politics, Princeton University, 237 Corwin Hall, Princeton, NJ08544-1013 (
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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
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