Skip to main content Accessibility help

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.


Corresponding author

Mark R. Beissinger is Henry W. Putnam Professor, Department of Politics, Princeton University, 237 Corwin Hall, Princeton, NJ 08544-1013 (


Hide All
Alexander, Jeffrey C. 2011. Performative Revolution in Egypt: An Essay in Cultural Power. London, UK: Bloomsbury Academic.
Andrews, Rick, and Currim, Imran. 2003. “Retention of Latent Segments in Regression-Based Marketing Models.” International Journal of Research in Marketing 20 (4): 315–21.
Arel, Dominique. 2002. “Interpreting ‘Nationality’ and ‘Language’ in the 2001 Ukrainian Census.” Post-Soviet Affairs 18 (3): 213–49.
Arel, Dominique. 2007. “Why and How It Happened: Orange Ukraine Chooses the West, but Without the East.” In Aspects of the Orange Revolution III: The Context and Dynamics of the 2004 Ukrainian Presidential Election, eds. Bredies, Ingmar, Umland, Andreas, and Yakushik, Valentin. Stuttgart, Germany: Ibidem-Verlag: 3553.
Aslund, Anders. 2005. “The Economic Policy of Ukraine After the Orange Revolution.”Eurasian Geography and Economics 46 (5): 327–53.
Beissinger, Mark R. 2002. Nationalist Mobilization and the Collapse of the Soviet State. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Beissinger, Mark R. 2007. “Structure and Example in Modular Political Phenomena: The Diffusion of Bulldozer/Rose/Orange/Tulip Revolutions.” Perspectives on Politics (June): 259–76.
Beissinger, Mark, Jamal, Amaney, and Mazur, Kevin. 2012. “Who Participates in ‘Democratic’ Revolutions? A Comparison of the Egyptian and Tunisian Revolutions.” Paper prepared for the annual convention of the American Political Science Association. August 29–September 2, New Orleans, LA.
Boix, Carles. 2008. “Economic Roots of Civil Wars and Revolutions in the Contemporary World.” World Politics 60 (April): 390437.
Bunce, Valerie J., and Wolchik, Sharon L.. 2011. Defeating Authoritarian Leaders in Postcommunist Countries. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Dix, Robert H. 1984. “Why Revolutions Succeed and Fail.”Polity 16 (3) (Spring): 423–46.
Diuk, Nadia. 2006. “The Triumph of Civil Society.” In Revolution in Orange: The Origins of Ukraine's Democratic Breakthrough, Åslund, Anders and McFaul, Michael. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 6984.
Downs, Anthony. 1957. An Economic Theory of Democracy. New York: Harper & Row.
Fearon, James, and Laitin, David. 2003. “Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War.”American Political Science Review 97 (1) (February): 7590.
Fonseca, Jaime R. S. 2008. “The Application of Mixture Modeling and Information Criteria for Discovering Patterns of Coronary Heart Disease.” Journal of Applied Quantitative Methods 3 (4): 292303.
Goldstone, Jack A. 1994. “Is Revolution Individually Rational?Rationality and Society 6: 139–66.
Goldstone, Jack A. 2001. “Toward a Fourth Generation of Revolutionary Theory.”Annual Review of Political Science 4: 139–87.
Goldstone, Jack A. 2011. “Cross-class Coalitions and the Making of the Arab Revolts of 2011.” Swiss Political Science Review 17: 457–62.
Goodwin, Jeff. 2001. No Other Way Out: States and Revolutionary Movements, 1945–1991. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Granovetter, Mark S. 1973. “The Strength of Weak Ties.” American Journal of Sociology 78 (6): 1360–80.
Gurr, Ted Robert. 1970. Why Men Rebel. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Hale, Henry E. 2005. “Regime Cycles: Democracy, Autocracy, and Revolution in Post-Soviet Eurasia.” World Politics 58 (October): 133–65.
Hardin, Russell. 1995. One for All: The Logic of Group Conflict. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Huntington, Samuel P. 1968. Political Order in Changing Societies. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Inglehart, Ronald, and Welzel, Christian. 2005. Modernization, Cultural Change, and Democracy: The Human Development Sequence. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Johnson, Chalmers. 1982. Revolutionary Change. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Karatnycky, Adrian. 2005. “Ukraine's Orange Revolution.” Foreign Affairs 84 (2): 3552.
Klandermans, Bert. 2010. “Peace Demonstrations or Anti-Government Marches? The Political Attitudes of the Protesters.” In The World Says No To War: Demonstrations Against the War on Iraq, eds. Walgrave, Stefaan and Ruchts, Dieter. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 98118.
Kuran, Timur. 1995. Private Truths, Public Lies: The Social Consequences of Preference Falsification. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.
Kuzio, Taras. 2010. “Nationalism, Identity and Civil Society in Ukraine: Understanding the Orange Revolution.” Communist and Post-Communist Studies 43: 285–96.
Lane, David. 2008. “The Orange Revolution: ‘People's Revolution’ or Revolutionary Coup?The British Journal of Politics and International Relations 10 (4): 525–49.
Lichbach, Marc I. 1995. The Rebel's Dilemma. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.
Lipset, Seymour Martin. 1959. “Some Social Requisites of Democracy: Economic Development and Political Legitimacy.” American Political Science Review 53 (1): 69105.
Marwell, Gerald, and Oliver, Pamela. 1993. The Critical Mass in Collective Action: A Micro‐Social Theory. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
McAdam, Doug, and Paulsen, Ronelle. 1993. “Specifying the Relationship between Social Ties and Social Activism.” American Journal of Sociology 99 (November): 640–67.
McFaul, Michael. 2010. “Importing Revolution: Internal and External Factors in Ukraine's Democratic Breakthrough.” In Democracy and Authoritarianism in the Postcommunist World, eds. Bunce, Valerie, McFaul, Michael, and Stoner-Weiss, Kathryn. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 329.
Mueller, Lisa. 2011. “Democratic Revolutionaries or Pocketbook Protestors? The Comparative Salience of Personal Rule and Famine in the Nigerien Uprisings of 2009.” Paper presented at the Working Group in African Political Economy, Stanford University. (Accessed March 1, 2013).
Myagkov, Mikhail, Ordeshook, Peter C., and Shakin, Dmitry. 2005. “Fraud or Fairytales: Russia and Ukraine's Electoral Experience.” Post-Soviet Affairs 21 (2): 91131.
Olsson-Yaouzis, Nicolas. 2010. “Revolutionaries, Despots, and Rationality.” Rationality and Society 22 (3): 283–99.
OSCE Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. 2005. “Ukraine Presidential Election 31 October, 21 November and 26 December 2004.”
Panina, Natalya. 2005. Ukrainian Society 1994–2005: Sociological Monitoring. Kyiv: International Center for Policy Studies.
Petersen, Roger D. 2001. Resistance and Rebellion: Lessons from Eastern Europe. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Popkin, Samuel L. 1979. The Rational Peasant: The Political Economy of Rural Society in Vietnam. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Putnam, Robert D. 1993. Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Rustow, Dankwart A. 1970. “Transitions to Democracy: Toward a Dynamic Model.” Comparative Politics 2 (3): 337–63.
Scott, James C. 1976. The Moral Economy of the Peasant: Rebellion and Subsistence in Southeast Asia. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Skocpol, Theda. 1979. States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia, and China. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Slater, Dan. 2009. “Revolutions, Crackdowns, and Quiescence: Communal Elites and Democratic Mobilization in Southeast Asia.” American Journal of Sociology 115 (1): 203–54.
Stepanenko, Viktor. 2005. “How Ukrainians View Their Orange Revolution: Public Opinion and the National Peculiarities of Citizenry Political Activities,” Demokratizatsiya 13 (4) (Fall): 595616.
Stepanenko, Victor. 2006. “Civil Society in Post-Soviet Ukraine: Civic Ethos in the Framework of Corrupted Sociality?East European Politics and Societies 20 (4): 571–97.
Thompson, Mark R. 2004. Democratic Revolutions: Asia and Eastern Europe. New York: Routledge.
Thompson, Mark R., and Kuntz, Philipp. 2004. “Stolen Elections: The Case of the Serbian October.” Journal of Democracy 15 (4): 159–72.
Tilly, Charles. 1993. European Revolutions, 1492–1992. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Trotsky, Leon. 1932. The History of the Russian Revolution, Vol. 1. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Tucker, Joshua A. 2007. “Enough! Electoral Fraud, Collective Action Problems, and Post-Communist Colored Revolutions.” Perspectives on Politics 5 (3): 535–51.
Tullock, Gordon. 1971. “The Paradox of Revolution.” Public Choice 11: 8999.
Vachudova, Milada Anna. 2005. Europe Undivided: Democracy, Leverage, and Integration After Communism. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Vermunt, Jeroen K., and Magidson, Jay. 2002. “Latent Class Cluster Analysis.” In Applied Latent Class Analysis, eds. Hagenaars, J. A. and McCutcheon, A. L.. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 88106.
Way, Lucan. 2008. “The Real Causes of the Color Revolutions.” Journal of Democracy 19 (July): 5569.
Way, Lucan. 2010. “National Identity and Authoritarianism: Belarus and Ukraine Compared.” In Orange Revolution and Aftermath: Mobilization, Apathy, and the State in Ukraine, ed. D'Anieri, Paul. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 129–59.
Weinstein, Jeremy M. 2007. Inside Rebellion: The Politics of Insurgent Violence. New York: Cambridge University Press.
White, Stephen, and McAllister, Ian. 2009. “Rethinking the ‘Orange Revolution,’Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics 25 (2): 227–54.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO

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



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.