This article takes a comparative look at two historically and geographically interconnected waves of large-scale unrest: the colour revolutions of the post-communist region during the 2000s and the Arab uprisings of 2011. From this vantage point, it considers the power of alternative approaches in explaining the resilience or breakdown of autocratic regimes in the face of exogenously inspired protests. These explanations centre on the destabilizing impact of sudden economic downturns, the varied resilience of authoritarian subtypes, linkages to the outside world, the advantages of resource wealth and the threats posed by leadership successions. Drawing a deliberate comparison between these two waves of contention reveals several findings: first, structural factors such as resource wealth, monarchical political organization and weak political links to the outside made autocrats more resilient in the face of regional protest waves. Second, regimes temporarily undergoing leadership transitions were more vulnerable amidst regional waves.