Colour revolution

Colour revolution

Colour revolutions is a term that was widely used by the media to describe related movements that developed in several societies in the CIS (former USSR) and Balkan states during the early 2000s. The term has also been applied to a number of revolutions elsewhere, including in the Middle East. Some observers[who?] have called the events a revolutionary wave, the origins of which can be traced back to the 1986 People Power Revolution (also known as the "Yellow Revolution") in the Philippines.

Participants in the colour revolutions have mostly used nonviolent resistance, also called civil resistance. Such methods as demonstrations, strikes and interventions have been intended protest against governments seen as corrupt and/or authoritarian, and to advocate democracy; and they have also created strong pressure for change. These movements generally adopted a specific colour or flower as their symbol. The colour revolutions are notable for the important role of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and particularly student activists in organising creative non-violent resistance.

Such movements have had a measure of success, as for example in Serbia's Bulldozer Revolution (2000); in Georgia's Rose Revolution (2003); and in Ukraine's Orange Revolution (2004). In most but not all cases, massive street protests followed disputed elections, or requests for fair elections, and led to the resignation or overthrow of leaders considered by their opponents to be authoritarian. Some events have been called "colour revolutions" but are different from the above cases in certain basic characteristics. Examples include Lebanon's Cedar Revolution (2005); and Kuwait's Blue Revolution (2005).


Colour revolutions


The 1986 People Power Revolution, or the "Yellow Revolution", in the Philippines was the first successful peaceful revolution in the contemporary period. It was a series of peaceful demonstration from 1983-1986, attempting to topple an American supported dictator. It inspired the Revolutions of 1989 which actually led to the collapse of Communist Europe.


Color Revolutions Map.png
  • The 'Bulldozer revolution' in 2000, which led to the overthrow of Slobodan Milošević. These demonstrations are usually considered to be the first example of the peaceful revolutions which followed. However, the Serbians adopted an approach that had already been used in parliamentary elections in Bulgaria (1997), Slovakia (1998) and Croatia (2000), characterised by civic mobilisation through get-out-the-vote campaigns and unification of the political opposition. The nationwide protesters did not adopt a colour or a specific symbol; however, the slogan "Gotov je" (Serbian Cyrillic: Готов је, English: He is finished) did become an aftermath symbol celebrating the completion of the task. Despite the commonalities, many others refer to Georgia as the most definite beginning of the series of "colour revolutions". The demonstrations were supported by the youth movement Otpor, some of whose members were involved in the later revolutions in other countries.

Former USSR states

  • The Rose Revolution in Georgia, following the disputed 2003 election, led to the overthrow of Eduard Shevardnadze and replacing him with Mikhail Saakashvili after new elections were held in March 2004. The Rose Revolution was supported by the Kmara civic resistance movement.
  • The Orange Revolution in Ukraine followed the disputed second round of the Ukrainian presidential election, 2004, leading to the annulment of the result and the repeat of the round – Leader of the Opposition Viktor Yushchenko was declared President, defeating Viktor Yanukovych. The Orange Revolution was supported by Pora.
  • The Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan (also sometimes called the "Pink Revolution") was more violent than its predecessors and followed the disputed Kyrgyz parliamentary election, 2005. At the same time, it was more fragmented than previous "colour" revolutions. The protesters in different areas adopted the colours pink and yellow for their protests. This revolution was supported by youth resistance movement KelKel.

Related usages in the Middle East

The following events, having taken place in the Middle East instead of post-Communist Europe and Central Asia, have nonetheless at times been described as part of the series of colour revolutions, and their popular names designed specifically to draw the parallel. Nonetheless they have marked differences with the revolutions described above, and thus their inclusion in the series of "colour revolutions" is so far not universally accepted.

  • The Cedar Revolution in Lebanon between February and April 2005 followed not a disputed election, but rather the assassination of opposition leader Rafik Hariri in 2005. Also, instead of the annulment of an election, the people demanded an end to the Syrian occupation of Lebanon. Nonetheless, some of its elements and some of the methods used in the protests have been similar enough that it is often considered and treated by the press and commentators as one of the series of "colour revolutions". The Cedar of Lebanon is the symbol of the country, and the revolution was named after it. The peaceful demonstrators used the colours white and red, which are found in the Lebanese flag. The protests led to the pullout of Syrian troops in April 2005, ending their nearly 30-year presence there, although Syria retains some influence in Lebanon.
  • Blue Revolution was a term used by some Kuwaitis[1] to refer to demonstrations in Kuwait in support of women's suffrage beginning in March 2005; it was named after the colour of the signs the protesters used. In May of that year the Kuwaiti government acceded to their demands, granting women the right to vote beginning in the 2007 parliamentary elections.[2] Since there was no call for regime change, the so-called "blue revolution" cannot be categorised as a true colour revolution.
  • "Purple Revolution" was a name first used by some hopeful commentators and later picked up by United States President George W. Bush to describe the coming of democracy to Iraq following the 2005 Iraqi legislative election and was intentionally used to draw the parallel with the Orange and Rose revolutions. However, the name "purple revolution" has not achieved widespread use in Iraq, the United States or elsewhere. The name comes from the colour that voters' index fingers were stained to prevent fraudulent multiple voting.
  • Green Revolution is a term widely used to describe the Iranian election protests. The protests began in 2009, several years after the main wave of colour revolutions, although like them it began due to a disputed election, the 2009 Iranian presidential election. Protesters adopted the colour green as their symbol because it had been the campaign colour of presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, whom many protesters believed had actually won the elections. These protests, also referred to as the Iranian Green Movement, however failed to bring any changes to the Iranian government.[3]
  • Jasmine Revolution is a widely used term[4] for the 2010-2011 Tunisian protests. The Jasmine Revolution led to the exit of President Ben Ali from office and the beginning of the 2010–2011 Arab world protests.
  • Lotus Revolution is a term currently used by various western news sources to describe the protests in Egypt that forced President Mubarak to step down in 2011 as part of the 2010–2011 Arab world protests, which followed the Jasmine Revolution of Tunisia. Lotus is known as the flower representing resurrection, life and the sun of ancient Egypt. It is uncertain who gave the name, while columnist of Arabic press, Asharq Alawsat, and prominent Egyptian opposition leader Saad Eddin Ibrahim claimed to name it the Lotus Revolution. Lotus Revolution later became common on western news source such as CNN.[5] Other names, such as White Revolution and Nile Revolution, are used but are minor terms compare to Lotus Revolution. the term Lotus Revolution is rarely, if ever, used in the Arab world.[citation needed].

The terms 'Lotus' and 'Jasmine' Revolution are commonly perceived in the Arab world as Western attempts to orientalise and take nominal ownership over actions very far removed from them, and are indicative of an inherently orientalising tendency to fixate on exotic, sensual items that have no relevancy to actual events.

Influencing factors

Anti-Communist revolutions

Many have cited the influence of the series of revolutions which occurred in Central and Eastern Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s, particularly the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia in 1989. A peaceful demonstration by students (mostly from Charles University) was attacked by the police – and in time contributed to the collapse of the communist regime in Czechoslovakia. Yet the roots of the pacifist floral imagery may go even further back to the non-violent Carnation Revolution of Portugal in the mid 1970s, which is associated with the color carnation because carnations were worn, and the 1986 Yellow Revolution in the Philippines where demonstrators offered peace flowers to military personnel manning armoured tanks.

Student movements

The first of these was Otpor ("Resistance") in Serbia, which was founded at Belgrade University in October 1998 and began protesting against Miloševic' during the Kosovo War. Many of its members were arrested or beaten by the police. Despite this, during the presidential campaign in September 2000, Otpor launched its "Gotov je" (He's finished) campaign that galvanised Serbian discontent with Miloševic' and resulted in his defeat.

Members of Otpor have inspired and trained members of related student movements including Kmara in Georgia, Pora in Ukraine, Zubr in Belarus and MJAFT! in Albania. These groups have been explicit and scrupulous in their practice of non-violent resistance as advocated and explained in Gene Sharp's writings.[6] The massive protests that they have organised, which were essential to the successes in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine, have been notable for their colourfulness and use of ridiculing humor in opposing authoritarian leaders.

Soros foundation and U.S. influence

Opponents of the colour revolutions often accuse the Soros Foundation and/or the United States government of supporting and even planning the revolutions in order to serve Western geopolitical interests. It is noteworthy that after the Orange Revolution several Central Asian nations took action against the Open Society Institute of George Soros with various means – Uzbekistan, for example, forced the shutting down of the OSI regional offices, while Tajik state-controlled media have accused OSI-Tajikistan of corruption and nepotism.[7]

Evidence suggesting U.S. government involvement includes the USAID (and UNDP) supported Internet structures called Freenet[citation needed], which are known to comprise a major part of the Internet structure in at least one of the countries – Kyrgyzstan – in which one of the colour revolutions occurred.

The Guardian[8] claimed that USAID, National Endowment for Democracy, the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, and Freedom House are directly involved; the Washington Post and the New York Times also reported substantial Western involvement in some of these events.[9][10]

Activists from Otpor in Serbia and Pora in Ukraine have said that publications and training they received from the US based Albert Einstein Institution staff have been instrumental in the formation of their strategies.[11][12]

Reactions and connected movements in other countries


Aram Karapetyan, leader of the New Times political party in Armenia, has declared his intention to start a "revolution from below" in April 2005, saying that the situation was different now that people had seen the developments in the CIS. He added that the Armenian revolution will be peaceful but not have a colour.[13]


A number of movements were created in Azerbaijan in mid-2005, inspired by the examples of both Georgia and Ukraine. A youth group, calling itself Yox! (which means No!), declared its opposition to governmental corruption. The leader of Yox! said that unlike Pora or Kmara, he wants to change not just the leadership, but the entire system of governance in Azerbaijan. The Yox movement chose green as its colour.[14]

The spearhead of Azerbaijan's attempted colour revolution was Yeni Fekir ("New Idea"), a youth group closely aligned with the Azadlig (Freedom) Bloc of opposition political parties. Along with groups such as Magam ("It's Time") and Dalga ("Wave"), Yeni Fekir deliberately adopted many of the tactics of the Georgian and Ukrainian colour revolution groups, even borrowing the colour orange from the Ukrainian revolution.[15][16]

In November 2005 protesters took to the streets, waving orange flags and banners, to protest what they considered government fraud in recent parliamentary elections.[citation needed] The Azerbaijani colour revolution finally fizzled out with the police riot on 26 November, during which dozens of protesters were injured and perhaps hundreds teargassed and sprayed with water cannons.[17]


In Belarus, there have been a number of protests against President Alexander Lukashenko, with participation from student group Zubr. One round of protests culminated on 25 March 2005; it was a self-declared attempt to emulate the Kyrgyzstan revolution, and involved over a thousand citizens. However, police severely suppressed it, arresting over 30 people and imprisoning opposition leader Mikhail Marinich.

A second, much larger, round of protests began almost a year later, on 19 March 2006, soon after the presidential election. Official results had Lukashenko winning with 83% of the vote; protesters claimed the results were achieved through fraud and voter intimidation, a charge echoed by many foreign governments.[citation needed] Protesters camped out in October Square in Minsk over the next week, calling variously for the resignation of Lukashenko, the installation of rival candidate Alaksandar Milinkievič, and new, fair elections.

The opposition originally used as a symbol the white-red-white former flag of Belarus; the movement has had significant connections with that in neighbouring Ukraine, and during the Orange Revolution some white-red-white flags were seen being waved in Kiev. During the 2006 protests some called it the "Jeans Revolution" or "Denim Revolution",[18] blue jeans being considered a symbol for freedom. Some protesters cut up jeans into ribbons and hung them in public places.[citation needed] It is claimed that Zubr was responsible for coining the phrase.

Lukashenko has said in the past: "In our country, there will be no pink or orange, or even banana revolution." More recently he's said "They [the West] think that Belarus is ready for some 'orange' or, what is a rather frightening option, 'blue' or 'cornflower blue' revolution. Such 'blue' revolutions are the last thing we need".[19] On 19 April 2005, he further commented: "All these coloured revolutions are pure and simple banditry."[20]


The 2007 Burmese anti-government protests were referred to in the press as the Saffron Revolution[21][22] after Buddhist monks (Theravada Buddhist monks normally wear the color saffron) took the vanguard of the protests. A previous, student-led revolution, the 8888 Uprising on 8 August 1988, had similarities to the colour revolutions, but was violently repressed.


A call which first appeared on 17 February 2011 on the Chinese language site in the United States for a "Jasmine revolution" in the People's Republic of China and repeated on social networking sites in China resulted in blocking of internet searches for "jasmine" and a heavy police presence at designated sites for protest such as the McDonald's in central Beijing, one of the 13 designated protest sites, on 20 February 2011. A crowd did gather there, but their motivations were ambiguous as a crowd tends to draw a crowd in that area.[23] Boxun experienced a denial of service attack during this period and was inaccessible.[24]


The opposition is reported to have hoped for and urged some kind of Orange revolution, similar to that in Ukraine, in the follow-up of the Moldovan parliamentary elections, 2005, while the Christian Democratic People's Party adopted orange for its colour in a clear reference to the events of Ukraine.[citation needed]

A name hypothesised for such an event was "grape revolution" because of the abundance of vineyards in the country; however, such a revolution failed to materialise after the governmental victory in the elections. Many reasons have been given for this, including a fractured opposition and the fact that the government had already co-opted many of the political positions that might have united the opposition (such as a perceived pro-European and anti-Russian stance). Also the elections themselves were declared fairer in the OSCE election monitoring reports than had been the case in other countries where similar revolutions occurred, even though the CIS monitoring mission strongly condemned them.

There was civil unrest all over Moldova following the 2009 Parliamentary election due to the opposition claiming that the communists had fixed the election. Eventually, the Alliance for European Integration created a governing coalition that pushed the Communist party into opposition.


On 25 March 2005, activists wearing yellow scarves held protests in the capital city of Ulan Bator, disputing the results of the 2004 Mongolian parliamentary elections and calling for fresh elections. One of the chants heard in that protest was "Let's congratulate our Kyrgyz brothers for their revolutionary spirit. Let's free Mongolia of corruption."[25]

An uprising commenced in Ulan Bator on 1 July 2008 with a peaceful meeting in protest of the election of 29 June results corrupted (as claimed the opposition political parties) by the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP). Approximately 30,000 people took part in the meeting. After the meeting was over a part of protesters left the central square and moved to the building of the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party, attacked and next burned this building. A police station also was attacked.[26] By the night rioters set fire to the Cultural Palace, where a theatre, museum and National art gallery were vandalised and burned. Cars torching,[27] bank robberies and looting were reported.[26] The organisations in the burning buildings were vandalised and looted. Police used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon against stone-throwing protesters.[26] A 4-day state of emergency was installed, the capital has been placed under a 2200 to 0800 curfew, and alcohol sales banned,[28] rioting not resumed.[29] 5 people were shot dead by the police[citation needed], dozens of teenagers were wounded from the police firearms[30] and disabled and 800 people, including the leaders of the civil movements J. Batzandan, O. Magnai and B. Jargalsakhan, were arrested.[citation needed] International observers said 1 July general election was free and fair.[31]


In 2007 the Lawyers' Movement started in Pakistan with the aim of restoration of depost judges. However, within a month the movement took a turn and started working towards the goal of removing Pervez Musharraf from power.[32]


The liberal opposition in Russia is represented by several parties and movements, the most remarkable of which is Oborona youth movement.[citation needed] Oborona claims that its aim is to provide free and honest elections and to establish in Russia a system with democratic political competition. This movement is one of the most active and radical ones and is represented in a number of Russian cities.

The opposition in the Republic of Bashkortostan has held protests demanding that the federal authorities intervene to dismiss Murtaza Rakhimov from his position as president of the republic, accusing him of leading an "arbitrary, corrupt, and violent" regime. Airat Dilmukhametov, one of the opposition leaders, and leader of the Bashkir National Front, has said that the opposition movement has been inspired from the mass protests of Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.[33] Another opposition leader, Marat Khaiyirulin, has said that if an Orange Revolution were to happen in Russia, it would begin in Bashkortostan.[34]


In Uzbekistan, there has been longstanding opposition to President Islam Karimov, from liberals and Islamists. Following protests in 2005, security forces in Uzbekistan carried out the Andijan massacre that successfully halted country-wide demonstrations. These protests otherwise could have turned into colour revolution, according to many analysts.[35][36]

The revolution in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan began in the largely ethnic Uzbek south, and received early support in the city of Osh. Nigora Hidoyatova, leader of the Free Peasants opposition party, has referred to the idea of a peasant revolt or 'Cotton Revolution'. She also said that her party is collaborating with the youth organisation Shiddat, and that she hopes it can evolve to an organisation similar to Kmara or Pora.[37] Other nascent youth organisations in and for Uzbekistan include Bolga and the freeuzbek group.

Uzbekistan has also had an active Islamist movement, led by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, most notable for the 1999 Tashkent bombings, though the group was largely destroyed following the 2001 NATO invasion of Afghanistan.[38]

Backlash in non-CIS countries

In 2005, in Lebanon there was a "Cedar Revolution".

When groups of young people protested the closure of Venezuela's RCTV television station in June 2007, president Hugo Chavez said that he believed the protests were organised by the West in an attempt to promote a "soft coup" like the revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia.[39]

In July 2007, Iranian state television released footage of two Iranian-American prisoners, both of whom work for western NGOs, as part of a documentary called "In the Name of Democracy." The documentary purportedly discusses the colour revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia and accuses the United States of attempting to foment a similar ouster in Iran.[40]

See also

  • Civil resistance
  • Non-violent revolution
  • Non-violent resistance
  • 2010–2011 Tunisian uprising, referred to by some commentators as the "Jasmine Revolution"


  1. ^ Charles Paul Freund (7 March 2005). "Kuwait: Blue Revolution – Hit & Run". Reason Magazine. Retrieved 15 March 2011. 
  2. ^ "Leaders hail Kuwait women's votes". BBC News. 17 May 2005. Retrieved 30 April 2010. 
  3. ^ Akbar E. Torbat,The Arab Uprisings and Iran’s Green Movement,October 19, 2011.
  4. ^ Tucker, Joshua (15 January 2011). "Initial Thoughts on Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution". The Monkey Cage. Retrieved 15 March 2011. 
  5. ^ By the CNN Wire staff. "Egyptian-American leaders call for U.S. support of 'Lotus Revolution'". CNN. Retrieved 15 March 2011. 
  6. ^ [1][dead link]
  7. ^ [2][dead link]
  8. ^ Traynor, Ian (26 November 2004). "US campaign behind the turmoil in Kiev". The Guardian (London).,,1360080,00.html. Retrieved 30 April 2010. 
  9. ^ Dobbs, Michael. "U.S. Advice Guided Milosevic Opposition.", Washington Post 11 December 2000.
  10. ^ Cohen, Roger. "Who Really Brought Down Milosevic?", New York Times. 26 November 2000.
  11. ^ Strijbosch, Margreet. "Ukraine: The Resistance Will Not Stop." Radio Netherlands. [3]
  12. ^ Dobbs, Michael. "U.S. Advice Guided Milosevic Opposition." Washington Post. 11 December 2000. [4]
  13. ^ Time for Revolution Armenian Diaspora
  14. ^ Azeri youth group makes debut by slamming state corruption Baku Today
  15. ^ Young activists posed to assume higher political profile in Azerbaijan EurasiaNet
  16. ^ Baku opposition prepares for 'colour revolution’ ISN Security Watch
  17. ^ Baku police crush opposition rally with force ISN Security Watch
  18. ^ Fraud claims follow Lukashenko win in Belarus election ABC News (Australia)
  19. ^ [5][dead link]
  20. ^ [6][dead link]
  21. ^ "Military junta threatens monks in Burma", The Times (UK)[dead link]
  22. ^ M3 Web – September 2007). "100,000 Protestors Flood Streets of Rangoon in "Saffron Revolution"". Retrieved 15 March 2011. 
  23. ^ Andrew Jacobs (20 February 2011). "Chinese Government Responds to Call for Protests". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 February 2011. 
  24. ^ Cara Anna, Associated Press (19 Feb 2011). "China cracks down on call for 'Jasmine Revolution'". Retrieved 21 February 2011. 
  25. ^ "Asia-Pacific | Mongolians protest for new poll". BBC News. 29 March 2005. Retrieved 15 March 2011. 
  26. ^ a b c "Mongolia calls state of emergency". BBC News. 1 July 2008. Retrieved 15 March 2011. 
  27. ^ "Mongolia clamps down after 5 killed in unrest". Australia: ABC News. 2 July 2008. Retrieved 15 March 2011. 
  28. ^ "Fatal clashes in Mongolia capital the situation had stabilised". BBC News. 2 July 2008. Retrieved 15 March 2011. 
  29. ^ "Streets calm in riot-hit Mongolia". BBC News. 3 July 2008. Retrieved 15 March 2011. 
  30. ^ "Єдєр бvр дэлхий даяар – Гэмтэж бэртсэн иргэд цагдаад буудуулсан талаараа ярьж байна". Retrieved 15 March 2011. 
  31. ^ "In pictures: Mongolian protests". BBC News. 2 July 2008. Retrieved 15 March 2011. 
  32. ^ xavia. "Lawyers' Movement in Pakistan". Retrieved 15 March 2011. 
  33. ^ Bigg, Claire (8 April 2005). "Bashkortostan: Opposition Denounces ‘Dictatorship’ At Moscow Protest". Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty. Retrieved 15 March 2011. 
  34. ^
  35. ^ Kelly, Jack (17 June 2009). "Obama Cowers on Iran". Real Clear Politics. Retrieved 13 January 2010. 
  36. ^ "Explaining the Color Revolutions". e-International Relations. 31 July 2009. Retrieved 13 January 2010. 
  37. ^ "Features". Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty. Retrieved 15 March 2011. 
  38. ^ Alisher Sidikov (2 July 2003). "Pakistan Blames IMU Militants For Afghan Border Unrest". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Retrieved 3 July 2008. 
  39. ^ "Nacional y Política" (in (Spanish)). Retrieved 15 March 2011. 
  40. ^ "Iran shows new scholars' footage". BBC News. 19 July 2007. Retrieved 30 April 2010. 

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