Andrew Wilson. After the Orange Revolution: The Nature of Post-Soviet Democracy in Ukraine and Russia

Fifth Annual Stasiuk-Cambridge Lecture, University of Cambridge, 23 February 2007

There is an established academic tradition of posing formal tests of embedded democratisation.[1] Ukraine, for example, easily passes the ‘two turnover’ test – two decisive elections in which power changes hands, so that both sides can be trusted with the reigns of government. (This should really be a political culture test – generating an opposition that feels it might one day return to or become a government, and a government that is constrained by a real fear it may move in the opposite direction). Ukraine has arguably had three turnovers of power: maybe not in 1991, but certainly in 1994, 2004 and 2006. Russia has had none since 1991. The carefully managed handover of power from Yeltsin to Putin doesn’t count. Nor does the transfer from Gorbachev to Yeltsin in 1991, as it involved leapfrogging from one state to another.

Does this mean that Ukraine is a democracy and Russia is not? Freedom House has a scorecard approach, according to which Ukraine has improved from a score of 4.88 before the Orange revolution in 2004 to 3.96 in 2006 (lower is better), while Russia has deteriorated from 5.25 to 5.75 over the same period.[2] Comparative analysts have looked at the legacy of totalitarian control and Soviet imperial rule,[3] or at the nature of ‘pacts’ and ‘the balance of power at the transitional moment’ between hardliners and compromisers.[4] Others have returned to the ‘modernisation’ agenda of the 1950s and 1960s to argue that historical, socio-economic and cultural indicators in the region (normally throughout the region), such as a limited previous experience of democracy, small native middle classes, a lack of well-distributed prosperity or the social capital of ‘trust’, were never promising.[5]

Some would point to important differences between the two states’ institution design.[6] Russia’s new election system – the abolition of the okrugy and the raising of the electoral barrier to 7% – will only increase the comparative advantage of national ‘broadcast parties’. Ukraine has arguably reached the point of over-engineering the political system. The recent constitutional reforms – particularly the ‘imperative mandate’ – have tried to trump deeply ingrained practices of party volatility, with predictably mixed results. Political culture differences are also important. Ukrainians don’t defer as naturally to vlada as Russians do to vlast’ – although both states also share a post-Bolshevik elite culture that prefers ‘active measures’ to real politics.

Political Technology

Today, however, I have something more specific in mind. The problem with post-Soviet states like Ukraine andRussia is not with the nature of their ‘pact’, or with the fact that that they never really had one.At least not in the sense that moderates conceded to hardliners during ‘transition’.Both states would be more properly said to have had ‘Faustian bargains’ rather than pacts. In Ukraine,‘national-democrats’ conceded power to communists who would support independence.[7] In Russia‘democrats’ conceded power to communists who would support ‘market Bolshevism’[8]

Nor is the local problem specifically to do with Huntingtonian preconditions for democracy. Both states had ‘patrimonial communist’ regimes before 1991.[9]

The post-Soviet states’ problem is with the corrosive influence of ‘political technology’. Political technology is the true essence of better known terms like ‘managed democracy’ (‘directed’ democracy would be a more exact translation of upravliaemaia demokratiia ). There can be no managed democracy without techniques of management. As also with the more recent term of ‘sovereign democracy’ preferred by Vladislav Surkov.[10] Political technology is the means of policing external sovereignty (keeping foreigners out) and imposing internal sovereignty (maintaining the power of state elites).There is some academic work that overlaps with my own in this area,[11] but it is as yet new ground for research. In terms of the democratisation theories outlined above, my main intellectual reference point would be Laurence Whitehead, who has argued that historical tradition and the politicalculture it spawns can override the incentive structures of formal institutions.[12] Democracy, in other words, needs to be supported by civility as much as by civil society. The rules of the game are important, but so is the willingness to play the game. Democracy in many states is trumped by parties that see their ideology, their religion, or just their corruption, as more important than any framework of rules.

Three Types of Technology

Political technology should therefore be seen as the political culture of incivility, of politics as war by other means. In the time available, I want to do two things: first to give a necessarily brief outline of how the ‘virtual politics’ system functioned before 2004, not so mch ‘in its own terms’ (i.e. without critique) as within its own terminology; second to look at how conditions have changed since then. In so far as the Orange Revolution can be seen as a revolt against such ‘technology’ (it was certainly triggered by the egregious vote fraud that was the most obvious manifestation of such technology), while Russia has continued to refine its management techniques, it is here that the divergence between the two states is now most clear.

I don’t have the time to review the argument of my last book in great detail. Instead I will focus on three key types of ‘political technology’. The three have been deconstructed (Ukraine) and reconstructed (Russia) differently since 2004, and so should help provide some important pointers to underlying trends in the two states. First, political technologists create or manipulate politicians and political parties as virtual objects . An extraordinary number of parties and politicians in the region are entirely fake, or operate to specific commands solely in virtual space. Others are hijacked, or serve a dual purpose, but the practice is sufficiently widespread for the whole system to be corrupted. Public politics is therefore a shadow-play. Private interests remain unclear.

Second, normal political dialogue is replaced by ‘information wars’ and ‘black PR’. The ubiquity of such propaganda wars is due to a post-communist political economy where all the major players hold kompromat (‘compromising materials’) on one another. The character of such black PR is virtual. Accusations are sometimes true, sometimes not. ‘The authenticity of information appearing in kompromat is not important…what is important is the use of information, the attack .’[13]

Third, political technologists also like to determine the way in which their virtual objects interact – not only the players in the chess game but also the moves they make – by setting the dramaturgiia , the psychodrama of a particular election or other political event; which once again may be real or may be not. The anti-oligarch ‘campaign’ in Russia in 2003-4 is a perfect example. Another would be the recasting of Ukraine’s 2004 election as a struggle between east and west, rather than between good government and bad.

The key conditions for the practise of this type of virtual politics are: a powerful but amoral elite; a passive electorate; a culture of information control and the lack of an external counterpoint. The second condition might normally be refined as a lack of civil society or potentially mobilising social cleavages. More precisely, it refers to the way in which communist would-be totalitarianisms warped any elements of pre-existing civil society into self-serving krugovaia poruka .[14] In the 1990s, post-Soviet Russia and Ukraine both met these conditions and variations were small. However, they became increasingly important after around 2000, with the replacement of Yeltsi by Putin in Russia on the one hand and the Gongadze scandal in Ukraine marking the apogee of ‘Kuchmism’ on the other. The Ukrainian state became weaker, or was at least perceived to weaken, at the very moment Putin was noisily trumpeting an apparent reassertion of the power of its Russian counterpart.
Moreover, historical and regional factors have produced a clannish ‘pluralism by default’ that makes elite reconsolidation more difficult in Ukraine[15] Incipient differentiation at both the social-regional and institutional-structural level became more important after 2000. On the first level, Galicia in west Ukraine, which has always served as ‘reserve’ territory for the survival of opposition politics (if not as a ‘Piedmont’), has no real equivalent in Russia or Belarus. Then, despite the defeat of the ‘Ukraine without Kuchma’ movement in 2001, a new type of opposition movement developed through the 2002 elections, and spread from west to central Ukraine. (It has also been argued that there was a ‘seconm revolution’ in eastern and southern Ukraine in 2004 – a coming to age of its regional consciousness).[16] This then began to widen incipient elite splits at the second, institutional, level. Elite fence-sitting became increasingly common after the events of 2001-2 made it clear a change of power was possible in 2004.[17]

Power began to diffuse through the political system – informally after 2002, more formally after the constitutional changes of 2004 – which made it more difficult to use the type of political technologies that best serve a monopoly of power. External counterpoints were strong, and were capable of leveraging these differences.[18]
But the key factor in Ukraine’s revolution against virtual politics was psychological. Unlike traditional authoritarian states, the point with virtual politics is not to trap the population
in some kind of repressive box, but to trap them in the perception that they
are trapped in some kind of box. Ukraine’s Orange Revolution was the first revolution both within and against this system of virtual politics. Regimes that practice virtual politics are vulnerable to key segments of the population turning off message, or switching channels
to another message. Hence the importance of controlling the message, or dramaturgiia.
In Georgia in 2003 a tired regime was unable to spin any line to justify its hold on
power (In previous years Shevardnadze had arranged two easy victories against
the pliable local Communist leader Dzhumber Patiashvili). In Ukraine in 2004, the authorities’ Russian technologists did all they could to sell a particular myth, of Ukrainian east versus Ukrainian west. It was successful enough to polarise the election, but not enough to guarantee victory. The key tipping point in the Orange Revolution was therefore both Yushchenko’s electoral appeal, and the hundreds of thousands of people who stood up in
the Maidan and said the real issue was something else. It was in this sense of psychological revolution, rather than in any ‘modular’ transfer,that the Orange Revolution was potentially exportable.

Ukraine – After the Orange Revolution

It is notable, however, how many aspects of ‘political technology’ have been able to survive the Orange ‘Revolution’. The two biggest changes since 2004 have been the psychological revolution and a freer media. Before 2004 the Ukrainian media market was characterised not by state ownership, but by control exercised through a limited number of interlocking clans. The clans promoted their own interests, but there was, again, incipient ‘pluralism by default’. One clan, the Social-Democrat group led by Kuchma’s Chief of Staff Viktor Medvedchuk controlled UT-1, Inter and 1+1, Viktor Pinchuk owned ICTV and New Channel, Petro Poroshenko owned Channel 5, and so on. This incipient pluralism then became real after the revolution in media culture just before and in the first week of the Orange Revolution. Reporters and editors demanded more freedom. The second factor (the new media culture) may be ultimately dependent on the first (ownership). Most media outlets still serve particular clans or oligarchs.[20] Media freedom may not persist if the clans reconsolidate around some new configuration of power.

In the immediate aftermath of 2004, however, the psychological revolution and the freer media provided a potent combination, most vulnerable to which were political technologists’ virtual objects – in plainer words, the fake or ‘big board parties ’ that have plagued Ukrainian elections in the past. Most such projects were clear failures at the next elections in March 2006, despite ‘project’ budgets of several million dollars. The ‘small business’ party Viche failed (winning only 1.7% – 3% was the barrier for representation in parliament), because it was too obviously backed by one particular big businessman, Viktor Pinchuk. The ‘People’s Party’ aimed at l’Ukraine profonde , rural and small town Ukraine, failed because in reality it was funded by big city businessmen like Oleksandr Yaroslavs’kyi and outgoing parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn. The Industrial Union of Donbas failed with its fake ecological party Eko+25% (which won closer to 0.5%), because ‘Industrial’ was an apt name and ‘ecological’ was not. Most notably of all, Nataliia Vitrenko’s ‘People’s Opposition’ collapsed in the polls after the Interior Minister Yurii Lutsenko exposed many of its candidates’ criminal backgrounds in great detail on prime time TV.

Voters are no longer so easily fooled. Party sponsors may think twice about wasting
their money next time. The bigger parties hired fewer Russian political technologists
and more US K Street consultants. I leave you to judge whether that is progress. And this is not just an abstract matter. Had the abuse of ‘administrative resources’ been as prevalent in 2006 as in previous elections, the Party of Regions would have been declared the immediate
winner, with that little bit extra granted to its likely allies Vitrenko’s party (2.93%) and the People’s Party (2.44%).

Another small, but telling, example. The Georgian-born Lev Partskhaladze is reported to be Ukraine’s 19th richest man, with an estimated fortune of $399 million. He launched his ‘European Capital’ party because he needed to maintain his influence on Kiev city council to benefit his company Kvadrat, which builds shopping malls. His lavish campaign netted all of 38,000 votes, and no seats. On the other hand, Leonid Chernovets’kyi won the mayoral election with a populist campaign and lashes of free goods, allowing all sorts of businessmen to free ride on his coattails – though arguably his was a more ‘traditional’ type of East European populism.

On the other hand, the culture of ‘information wars ’ remains much more deep-rooted.[21] To see why, it is worth revisiting a favourite model of political scientists involved in Ukrainian studies, Keith Darden’s idea of a ‘blackmail state’.[22] Darden’s model can be adapted in several respects: the Kuchma regime functioned with carrots as well as sticks; blackmail was not its only form of control, his model is unclear whether elite and masses are controlled in the same way. But the most important necessary adaptation is that it was never just the state that collected kompromat. All the key clans collect ammunition against one another. And a freer media has made it more difficult for the clans (krugovaia poruka) to disguise themselves as parties, but it has not yet begun the process of dismantling these clans.

Before the Orange Revolution, the system had an uneasy equilibrium, a type of ‘Mexican standoff’, in so far as the main groups held equal amounts of kompromat on one another (a Mexican standoff is a stylized confrontation, much beloved by the director Quentin Tarantino, as with the end of his 1992 film Reservoir Dogs , when all the protagonists pull guns on one another at the same time). Normally kompromat was kept aside for a rainy day,[23] with the knowledge of its existence sufficient to maintain an equilibrium.

As with a Tarantino standoff, however, an equilibrium of kompromat is a difficult situation to quit (in political science terms, this is like the ‘Prisoners’ Dilemma’ game in reverse). You cannot just put down your gun and leave. In fact, even if a post-revolutionary state tries to play a cleaner game, its self-restraint may actually be a disadvantage as the ‘media wars’ continue around it. And none of the key players in post-Orange Ukraine were political neophytes. They arrived in office well-armed, primed and ready to go, unlike the isolated ‘democratic’ ministers who had been easily picked off by the system in both Ukraine and Russia in the 1990s. The culture of mutually assured destruction therefore remained barely suppressed after 2004, both within the orange camp and between the orange camp and its opponents. Crucially, a freer media actually increases the temptation to use kompromat, or at least increases the fear that others may do so first, so you must get your blow in before they do. This is exactly what happened in September 2005. All sides are still blazing away at each other – as in Reservoir Dogs , where all the gunmen end up dead. In this sense, perhaps the Revolution was doomed to devour itself. Moreover, information wars may only fade away as the supply of kompromat dries up – which may take a generation or more.

In this argument, unlike the previous one dealing with fake parties, the mass media is at both the beginning and the end of the chain of reasoning. Ukraine’s apparently freer media is therefore not as free as it seems, as it is corrupted by information wars. Too many outlets and journalists still function as a slivnoi bachok (‘toilet pipe’), particularly on the internet. The observer is lost in disinformation. Did Andrii Kliuiev really discuss payment of $300 million to the Socialists with someone in Moscow last summer?[24] Did the Yushchenko team really accept $22.85 million from Boris Berezovskii in 2004?[25] We don’t yet know.

With regard to the third type of political technology, the new conditions in Ukraine
mean it is still possible to sell dramaturgiia, but political technologists have to work more with the grain of public opinion. There are many mini empires in media space from which to launch a particular story (the katka , ‘toss’, or utka , ‘duck’), but the freer media environment in general determines whether it will have legs. Stories that are patently absurd or obviously covers to promote particular interests are difficult to sell, but latent valence issues can be manipulated at times of convenience. The anti-NATO campaign orchestrated for the Party
of Regions in the summer of 2006 is a classic example – a real issue exploited to lever certain business interests into government.

The Party of Regions was only interested in the August 2006 ‘Universal’ agreement
as dramaturgiia. The Tymoshenko Block has been more interested in the dramaturgiia
of ‘justice’ (their election slogan in 2006) than its reality. Ukraine is now a unique testing ground. The Orange Revolution was able to occur because Ukrainian democracy was never as well-‘directed’ as it has become in Russia. Even under Kuchma there was enough ‘pluralism by default’, and much real politics survived direction from above. Not everything real became virtual. In many post-Soviet states (Russia, Belarus) real politics has been pushed to the margin. In a counterfactual Ukraine, in which the post-Orange authorities had sought more decisively to reshape the rules of the game in early 2005, ‘political technology’ might have been forced to the margins. However, it proved able to adapt and recover. Real
and virtual politics therefore coexist and conflict in Ukraine as in no other state. It is far from clear whether Ukraine’s new institutional environment – a more active citizenry and civil society, a freer media, the post-2006 parliamentary democracy – will bend its elites’ post-Bolshevik political culture or the other way around. Will the ‘real’ triumph over the ‘virtual’, or vice-versa?

Political Technology in Russia

Russia’s problems are of a different sort. By the end of the Yeltsin era ‘political technology’ was already a mature industry. The ‘management’ of democracy seemed to have been perfected by the 2003-4 election cycle. Problems of over-management and ‘taut control’ have since come to the fore.

If we apply the same three-fold schema as in Ukraine we can obviously see different results. The Kremlin controls virtual objects , and this control is more exclusive than it was in the 1990s. The Kremlin manipulates political parties for its own purposes; at least in the mainstream they are no longer designed as virtual masks for krugovaia poruka. The anti-Yukos campaign in 2003-4 was clearly designed, inter alia, to force oligarchs out of the manipulation game and make it much more of a Kremlin monopoly.[26] Problems of over-success now loom large, however, all of which result from a core problem of over-concentration . The fact that the Kremlin is now the only significant player in virtual politics makes its efforts too visible, and risks imposing too much monopoly strain on the system. Despite the Kremlin’s commitment to ‘counter-revolutionary technology’ (see below), Russia remains vulnerable to channel switching, to the key moment when sufficient numbers realise that the Tsar has no clothes.

A first symptom is a characteristic tendency to over-production , a good example of which is the sheer number of orange (and orange youth) clones that appeared in the immediate aftermath of 2004: Russkaia Pora, Moskva Pora, Krasnaia Pora, Da!, My!, Khvatit!, Ura! – even before the appearance of the final Kremlin-approved version, Nashi.

The Kremlin also faces problems of over-control with the upcoming election cycle in 2007-8. Its preferred option seems to be replacing the four party system that emerged in 2003-4 with a two party system, or two parties plus minor satellites. One party will obviously be United Russia, but it is far from clear that the second pillar, ‘Just Russia’ will be a success. One of its progenitors, Rodina, was always a complex phenomenon that posed severe management problems for a Kremlin that has been unsure whether to coopt or control its particular political niche, and which has always been nervous of a genuine grassroots nationalist movement it could not command.[27] Moreover, in ‘theatre politics’ the audience’s attention has to be engaged. But arguably the personality of now excluded leaders like Dmitrii Rogozin was the key reason why so many voted for Rodina in 2003. Without them, the new ‘Kremlin 2’ project may flop like the Rybkin Block in 1995. And the proposed ‘script’ is a hard sell: the myths that Just Russia is an outsider party that is being victimised by United Russia, and that Just Russia is against United Russia but is pro-Putin.

An additional problem is that smaller projects probably have better chances of slipping in under the radar. Larger projects get too much attention.

A third potential pathology is over-kill . The 7% barrier for Duma representation should be effective in keeping challengers out, but it will be interesting to see if this is regarded as enough. Kremlin-connected political technologists are unlikely to be relaxed about near misses, their instinct is to humiliate potential challengers instead. It will be indicative if there is still a role for ‘clones’ and ‘flies’ in the 2007 campaign, so as to keep challengers down to 2-4% rather than 5-6%. This would in any case likely raise less fuss internationally than the main alternative of judicial deregistration.

The post-2003 settlement works differently in the media sphere, however. The Kremlin is again a near-monopolist, even when it uses proxies like Gazprom to take over the likes of Izvestiia. It has also expanded its role into a ‘selling Russia’ project via initiatives like Russian World TV (see and the Valdai discussion group ( Russia is also toying with idea of introducing a Chinese-style system of internet control, or, more likely, given practical problems of control, indirectly influencing and manipulating the content of the net. As well as obviously pro-Kremlin sites like,, and the site for young people, the Kremlin has also moved into the ‘blogosphere’,[28] supporting media-savvy bloggers with genuine youth appeal like Maksim Kononenko at One site,, is a direct clone/antipode of the liberal, anti-Kremlin[29]

But in this sphere the Kremlin’s monopoly is less secure. Whereas oligarchs are in at least temporary retirement from running party ‘projects’, they need to maintain media influence to run information wars for commercial purposes. There is no logical reason why Putin’s settlement with the Russian oligarchs could have been backdated to the destruction of kompromat – it has certainly not meant the disappearance of krugovaia poruka. (The Kremlin’s ‘anti-oligarch’ campaign, in the Russian example, arguably having a weaker effect than a freer media, in the Ukrainian example). On the contrary, rival groups can be expected to have kept whatever materials they had, and the Kremlin has not been able to choke off the supply of kompromat, which often comes through privatised KGB services.[30] Also, the deliberately arbitrary nature of Russian law ‘enforcement’ (the ‘principle of suspended punishment’)[31] means it would be advisable in this particular game to bolster up defences.

The Kremlin and the oligarchs are therefore still jointly involved in corrupting media space via information wars, which are therefore much more likely to break out again in 2008. It is also possible that the key clan players could seek to return to the manipulation game over the next political cycle, particularly if the current succession struggle fails to produce a clear winner. Another important predictive conclusion therefore is that apparent elite unity is only skin-deep.

And what about dramaturgiia in 2007/8? One big irony is that this time it may not actually be necessary for victory, but the Kremlin elite may be addicted to it. They don’t do boring. A calm and well-organised transfer of power would hardly count as an election at all. Unlike in Ukraine, there are fewer restrictions on possible dramaturgiia. Political technologists have a dangerous freedom to experiment. So what might the big story be next time around? You can’t repeat the same trick twice, though another oligarch might serve the same function as Khodorkovskii if he were more representative of the 1990s (Chubais, Berezovskii). Certainly, Surkov can’t lay off the 90s bashing.[32] Some political technologists have oversold the idea of an ‘Orange threat’ in Russia to justify their own power and exorbitant fees. The Islamic ‘enemy’ is also a tempting target, especially as The Kremlin’s enemies will no doubt be tempted to rain on the succession parade in 2008.

The most important temptation towards dramaturgiia, however, is its relationship to Russia’s ‘succession dilemma’. Democracies smooth political transitions, but Russia’s current political system cannot. The transfer of political power also means the transfer of property and income, and a likely redistribution fight amongst elites. Dramaturgiia could solve this problem in either of two opposite ways. One possibility is that a successful narrative could aid rapid elite reconsolidation. The other is that a dramaturgiia will be the cover story to define the likely losers in the succession struggle.

Background Trends

Much has been written about the way in which the recent ‘coloured’ revolutions might inspire other post-Soviet oppositions.[33] It has been argued above that the copycat effect of coloured revolution, understood as a revolt against political technology, has been undermined by the difficulties involved in trying to make a truly revolutionary break with the virtual politics system. An equally important if less widely-noticed phenomenon since 2004 has been ‘authoritarian learning ’,[34] and the development of ‘counter-revolutionary technology’ by networks on the other side of the fence. Despite all their bluster during the Orange Revolution, political technologists, whose raison d’être is to regard themselves as masters of technology, were disconcerted to be out-manoeuvred, and even made to look distinctly old-fashioned, by the Ukrainian protests in 2004, and have been anxious to redeem themselves ever since.

First and foremost, this has meant maintaining, policing and refining the four conditions for the practice of virtual politics defined earlier: maintaining elite control, acting against any signs of social mobilisation, especially via NGOs, tightening restrictions on the mass media, and what Modest Kolerov (see below) has eloquently termed the ‘de-internationalisation’ of post-Soviet space.[35] Broadly, however, there are two distinct types of adaptation, which might be dubbed ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ counter-revolutionary technology, as Russia in particular tries out the techniques it might use for its next, more difficult, election cycle in 2007-8. It is almost too obvious to point out that the two types work against one another to a large extent. Many of Russia’s recent PR efforts have been fatally undermined by the all too obvious use of ‘hard power’ elsewhere.

Hard Power

‘Hard’ counter-revolutionary technology comes in various forms. One is straightforward authoritarian repression, of the type seen in Andijon in Uzbekistan in May 2005. Other, more strictly semi-authoritarian, states have made much greater use of ‘administrative technology’ since 2004. Russia increasingly uses crude ‘judicial resources’ to simply disqualify awkward candidates, especially in local elections.

The Belarusian election in March 2006 was a test-case for the maximum use of ‘technology’ specifically directed against coloured revolutions. Mainly this was a local initiative, but Gleb Pavlovskii’s frequent visits to Minsk in the run-up to the elections demonstrated the Kremlin’s obvious interest in testing the limits of repressive possibility.[36] Lukashenka’s priority was to prevent an ‘electoral revolution’, so he effectively disabled all the key potential triggers, such as youth movements, election monitors and exit polls. All revolutions need crowds, and they were dispersed by initial salami tactics, before the alleged use of agents provocateurs to justify a severe crackdown. Election day itself was rendered less important by the four days of early voting. New legislation and draconian threats completely altered the cost-benefit calculus of potential demonstrators, especially those less pre-committed who would be needed to raise numbers to a tipping point.

Despite Lukashenka’s reputation as ‘Europe’s last dictator’, however, this ‘hard’ counter-revolutionary technology was not deployed in isolation, but in tandem with other ‘technologies’. At least one of the four candidates, Siarhei Haidukevich, was a virtual, ‘technical’ candidate. More importantly, the authorities kept control of the dramaturgiia, so as to isolate the main opposition (Milinkevich) from a hinterland of broader social support, by depicting him as a foreign stooge bent on social chaos. Belarusian strategists clearly leant from the pro-Yanukovych dramaturgiia in Ukraine in 2004, which had been too narrowly anti-American. Even the leading Russian technologist Sergei Markov admitted after the debacle in Ukraine in 2004, “I told them [the Yanukovych team] to use anti-Polish rhetoric.“ [37] Lukashenka’s ‘technologists’ added the anti-Polish element and successfully demonised Milinkevich as a stooge of the Vatican (possibly helped by the new German Pope) and Warsaw kresy – politics, as well as the USA. Milinkevich’s popularity in foreign capitals was therefore a double-edged sword.

The use of economic pressure as a type of hard power is a whole extra subject that I don’t have time to address. Although we need not detain ourselves with denials that Gazprom’s actions in 2005-7 have been purely motivated by commercial realities, one reason for raising prices to the CIS states has indeed been higher profits. But not the only reason. The broader campaigns of economic pressure against Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and finally even Belarus have clearly restricted national sovereignties in broad areas of foreign and privatisation policy, and clearly helped weaken Ukraine’s two orange governments in 2005-6.

Soft Power: Russia Abroad

Russia has also been developing its soft power.[38] Joseph Nye’s definition of soft power is the ‘ability to get what you want through attraction rather than through coercion or payment’;[39] but the Kremlin’s version of ‘attraction’ once again involves political technology. In March 2005, Modest Kolerov, a former colleague of Gleb Pavlovskii, was appointed to head a department for ‘cultural and inter-regional relations with foreign countries’ within Putin’s Presidential Administration. Kolerov has devoted much attention to the above-mentioned ‘selling Russia’ project, but he has also been busy deploying ‘cloning’ technology, helping produce ‘our’, Russia-friendly NGOs, ‘our’, Russia-friendly internet and even ‘our’, Russia-friendly parties and politicians abroad.[40] Kolerov is also an expert in what in the US is quaintly termed ‘astroturfing’ – the creation of artificial rather than real ‘grassroots’ campaigns.

Kolerov’s original brief sent him to the Baltic states, Latvia especially, where he has shifted support from narrowly Russian (or Russian-speaking) parties to all-Latvian ones like the National Harmony Party (TSP) and ‘For Human Rights in a United Latvia’, and even banks like Parex, ‘important for its political influence in Latvia’. Significantly, this shift was first proposed in an inside strategy report drawn up for the Kremlin as far back as 2002.[41]

Kolerov has also showed up in Moldova, Crimea, Abkhazia, Armenia, and Uzbekistan.[42] Kolerov’s has channelled back the Kremlin line, via its local cut-out politicians, to Moldova. Sites like, whose provenance is uncertain but certainly derive much material from Russian sources, played a key role in ‘softening up’ Viktor Yushchenko and the orange parties, the apparent initial victors of the March 2006 Ukrainian elections, before the takeover of power by the Party of Regions in July. In November 2006, Kolerov, Pavlovskii and Markov helped organise a conference in Uzbekistan to promote the oxymoron that ‘the state and civil society are parts of a single whole’.[43] In Armenia, Kolerov plans to help Robert Kocharian’s uncertain regime, if it plays by Russia’s new rules.[44]Kolerov has also been extremely active among the ‘de facto states’. In Transnistria he has helped set up shadowy web sites and propaganda organs like, and, as well as ‘NGOs’ like the ‘International Council for Democratic Institutions and State Sovereignty’ at (see in particular the latter’s fake report at[45]
In South Osetia Kolerov marshaled a virtual chorus of approval for the referendum on independence
in November 2006: the ‘Block of European Leftist Parties-Anti Imperialist Camp’, the ‘Free Europe Foundation’ (from a Moscow conference in July 2005), the ‘Caucasus Institute for Democracy’, at (with obvious links to Kolerov’s, and the ‘Community for Democracy and Rights of Peoples’, set up in June 2006, whose Interparliamentary Assembly acts as a kind of rebel OSCE.[46] Kolerov has also promoted the Proryv ‘Corporation’, a sort of paramilitary NGO umbrella, and a series of faux-academic, faux-international conferences on the ‘Kosovo precedent’ to justify ‘parallel’ claims to secession in the region.


If there is a contest in the region, it is not one between Ukraine and Russia. Nor is it a simple struggle between ‘democratic’ and ‘non-democratic’ states, or between a ‘Community of Democratic Choice’ and an informal autocrats’ club. The struggle is between political technology and its antidotes, and it therefore cuts across state boundaries. (Antidotes would be defined by negative poles in the original four conditions for virtual politics: namely elites who actually believed in democracy, a more engaged citizenry, a freer media, exposure to, or even the embrace of, outside influence.) In Ukraine, for example, the Party of Regions will revert to type if it can.

Revolutions are both events and symbols. The ones that stay longest in the historical memory are those that mark the cresting of some broader underlying patterns of change. We remember 1848 as the ‘springtime of nations’; to its supporters the Cuban Revolution symbolised the rise of anti-colonialism in the then Third World; to both friends and enemies the Iranian Revolution in 1979 marked the rise of militant Islam; and so on. If the Orange Revolution is to symbolise something, rather than find itself retrospectively reclassified as nothing more than a changeover of elites (Elitenwekselung ), or as merely ‘orange’, given that is has disappointed in so many other respects, then its best hope is to be remembered as a successful revolt against the post-Soviet corruption of democracy. In Russia, on the other hand, political technology is more likely to be the victim of its own success.

[1] See Laurence Whitehead, Democratization: Theory and Experience , (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002) for a critique of ‘procedural’ definitions of democratic consolidation.

[2] Jeanette Goehring (ed.), Nations in Transit 2006. Democratization from Central Europe to Eurasia , (New York: Freedom House, 2006), pp. 669 and 485.

[3] Alexander J. Motyl, ‘Communist legacies and new trajectories: Democracy and dictatorship in the former Soviet Union and East Central Europe’, in Yitzhak Brudny, Jonathan Frankel and Stefani Hoffman (eds.), Restructuring Post-Communist Russia , (Cambridge,UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp. 52-67.

Michael McFaul, ‘The Fourth Wave of Democracy and Dictatorship: Noncooperative Transitions
in the Postcommunist World’, in McFaul and Kathryn Stoner-Weiss (eds.), After the Collapse of Communism: Comparative Lessons of Transition , (Cambridge, UK: CUP, 2004), pp. 58-96.

[5] Compare Alexander Lukin, ‘Electoral Democracy or Electoral Clanism? Russian Democratization and Theories of Transition’, Demokratizatsiya , vol. 7, no. 1 (Winter 1999), pp. 93-110, and Fareed Zakaria, The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad , (New York: W.W. Norton, 2003) on the ‘preconditions’ for democracy.

[6] Alexander Motyl, ‘Ukraine’s New Political Complexion’, 24 March 2006,; Motyl, ‘Ukraine and Russia: Divergent Political Paths’, 17 August 2006,

[7] Andrew Wilson, The Ukrainians: Unexpected Nation , (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002), chapter ten.

Peter Reddaway and Dmitri Glinski, The Tragedy of Russia’s Reforms;
Market Bolshevism against Democracy
, (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 2001).

[9] See Herbert Kitschelt et al , Post-Communist Party Systems. Competition, Representation and Inter-Party Competition , (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999) for the notion of ‘patrimonial communism’.

[10] Nikita Garadzha (ed.), Suverenitet , (Moscow: Evropa, 2006).

[11] Andrew Wilson, Virtual Politics: Faking Democracy in the Post-Soviet World , (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2005); Alena Ledeneva, How Russia Really Works. The Informal Practices That Shaped Post-Soviet Politics and Business , (Ithaca and London: Cornell UP, 2006), especially chapters 2 and 3; Petr Kopecký, ‘Political Parties and the State in Postcommunist Europe: The Nature of Symbiosis’, The Journal of Communist and Transition Politics , vol. 22, no. 3 (2006), pp. 251-73; Hans Oversloot and Ruben Verheul, ‘Managing Democracy: Political Parties and the State in Russia’, ibid., pp. 383-405. An excellent parallel study is Andreas Schedler (ed.), Electoral Authoritarianism: The Dynamics of Unfree Competition , (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 2006). See also note 38 below.

[12] Whitehead, Democratization , chapters 3 and 5.

[13] Anonymous interviewee, quoted in Ledeneva, How Russia Really Works., p. 70. Emphasis in original.

[14] Ledeneva, How Russia Really Works , chapter four.

[15] Lucan Way, ‘Sources and Dynamics of Competitive Authoritarianism in Ukraine,’ in Derek Hutcheson and Elena Korosteleva (eds.), The Quality of Democracy in Post-Communist Europe , (New York: Routledge, 2006); Way, ‘Pluralism by Default and the Sources of Political Liberalization in Weak States’, available online at

[16] Valentin Yakushik, ‘Ukraïns’ka revoliutsiia 2004-2005 rokiv (Sproba teoretychnoho analizu)’, Politichnyi menedzhment , no. 2, 2006, pp. 30-33. See also Andrei Mal’gin, Ukraina: Sobornost’ i regionalism , (Simferopil’: Sonat, 2005); and my review of the book in Ab Imperio , no. 2, 2006.

[17] On the role of elites in the Orange Revolution, see the many excellent articles in the special issue of Communist and Post-Communist Studies , vol. 39, no. 3 (September 2006).

[18] Andrew Wilson, ‘Ukraine’s Orange Revolution, NGOs and the Role of the West’, Cambridge Review of International Affairs , vol. 19, no. 1 (March 2006), pp. 21-32; ‘Ukraine’ in Ted Piccone and Richard Young (eds.), Strategies for Democratic Change: Assessing the Global Response , (Washington, DC: Democracy Coalition Project, 2006); and Oleksandr Sushko and Olena Prystayko, ‘Western Influence’, in Michael McFaul and Anders Aslund (eds.), Revolution in Orange: The Origins of Ukraine’s Democratic Breakthrough , (Carnegie Endowment, January 2006).

[19] Beissinger, ‘Structure and Example in Modular Political Phenomena’.

[20] See the analysis of Ukrainian media ownership and control by Serhii Leshchenko, ‘Orbity politychnykh media: sfera vplyvu Pinchuka, Akhmetova, Poroshenka, Yushchenka…’,, accessed 2 January 2007, also translated by BBC Monitoring Service, 23 December 2006.

[21] Vasyl’ Vastonin, ‘”Yerokhingeitom” po parlam’, 7 September 2006,

[22] Keith A. Darden, ‘Blackmail as a Tool of State Domination: Ukraine under Kuchma’, East European Constitutional Review , vol. 10, nos. 2–3 (Spring–Summer 2001).

[23] See Ledeneva, How Russia Really Works., pp. 78-9.

[24] ‘S’ohodni BYuT opryliudnyt’ zapysy, shcho svidchat’ pro pidkup Moroza’, Hazeta po-ukraïns’ky , 15 September 2006,

[25] Oleg Varfolomeyev, ‘Did Berezovsky Finance Ukraine’s Orange Revolution?’, Eurasia Daily Monitor , vol. 2, no. 173, 19 September 2005.

[26] Wilson, Virtual Politics , pp. 85-6.

[27] Ol’ga Sagareva, Eto “Rodina” moia , (Moscow: Kraft+, 2004); Alexei Titkov, Party No. 4: Rodina, Whence and Why? (Moscow: Panorama, 2006), also available online at

[28] Evgeny Morozov, ‘Moscow’s Last Refuge: The Blogosphere’, International Herald Tribune , 25 October 2006.

[29] The author is grateful to Evgeny Morozov of Transitions Online for his help in preparing this section.

[30] Ledeneva, How Russia Really Works., pp. 66-72.

[31] Ibid, p. 85.

[32] Vladislav Surkov, ‘Suverenitet – eto politicheskii sinonim konkurentosposobnost’’,, posted 22 February 2006; and Surkov, ‘Nasha rossiiskaia model’ demokratii nazyvaetsia “suverennoi demokratiei”’,, posted 28 June 2006; Neil Buckley, ‘Putin Aide Defends Russian Democracy’, The Financial Times , 29 June 2006.

[33] See Graeme P. Herd, ‘Colorful Revolutions and the CIS: ”Manufactured” versus “Managed” Democracy?’, Problems of Post-Communism , vol. 52, no. 2, pp. 3-18; and Herd, ‘the “Orange Revolution”: Implications for Stability in the CIS’, Conflict Studies Research Centre, Central & Eastern Europe Series 05/01, January 2005, at; Joshua A. Tucker, ‘Enough! Electoral Fraud, Collective Action Problems and the ‘2nd Wave’ of Post-Communist Democratic Revolutions’,

Mark R. Beissinger, ‘Structure and Example in Modular Political Phenomena: The Diffusion of the Bulldozer/Rose/Orange/Tulip Revolutions’, draft at

Michael McFaul, ‘Transitions from Post-Communism’, Journal of Democracy , vol. 16, no. 3 (2002), pp. 5-19; Vitali Silitski, ‘Has the Age of Revolutions Ended?’,, 13 January 2005; Gerald J. Bekkerman, ‘The End of the Last Dictatorship in Europe: Four Keys to a Successful Color Revolution in Belarus’, at

[34] Larry Diamond, ‘Authoritarian Learning: Lessons from the Colored Revolutions’, in The Brown Journal of World Affairs , Vol. XII, No. 1. Summer/Fall 2005; Vitali Silitski, ‘Preempting Democracy: The Case of Belarus’, Journal of Democracy , vol. 16, no. 4 (October 2005), pp. 83-97; Silitski, ‘Still Soviet? Why Dictatorship Persists in Belarus’, Harvard International Review , vol. xxviii, no. 1 (Spring 2006), pp. 46-53;

Silitski, ‘Contagion Deterred: Preemptive Authoritarianism in the Former Soviet Union (The Case of Belarus)’, CDDRL Working Papers, no. 66, June 2006, available at

[35] See Kolerov’s lecture ‘Chto my znaem ob postsovetskikh stranakh’, at

[36] See the account of Pavlovskii’s press conference in Minsk on 10 February 2006, at

[37] As cited in Francesca Mereu, Spin Doctors Blame Yanukovych’, The Moscow Times, 30 November 2004.

[38] See Ivan Krastev, ‘Democracy’s “Doubles”’, Journal of Democracy , vol. 17, no. 2 (April 2006), pp. 52-62; Krastev, ‘Russia’s Post-Orange Empire’, , 20 October

2005, at

Krastev, ‘”Sovereign Democracy”, Russian-style’, , 16 November

2006, at; and

Nicu Popescu, ‘Russia’s Soft Power Ambitions’, CEPS Policy Brief , no. 115, October 2006.

Cf Fiona Hill, ‘Moscow Discovers Soft Power’, Current History , October 2006,

[39] Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics , (New York: Public Affairs, 2004), p. x.

[40] Kolerov’s above-mentioned lecture can be read as a statement of intent.

[41] The report can be found in Russian at

[42] Emil Damielyan, ‘Armenian Opposition Attacks “Criminal Elements” in Government’, Eurasia Daily Monitor , vol. 3, no. 184, 5 October 2005; ‘A high representative from Kremlin made a review of anti-Moldovan forces, at Tiraspol and Chisinau’,, 25 June 2005.

[43] RFE/RL CentralAsia Report , vol. 6, no. 28, 24 November 2006.

[44] For background, see Emil Danielyan, ‘Armenian Opposition Attacks “Criminal Elements” in Government’, Eurasia Daily Monitor, vol. 3, no. 184, 5 October 2006.

[45] See the critique by Ed Lucas at; Luke Allnutt, ‘In Cyberspace, Transdniester Doesn’t Look That Bad’, RFE/RL , 15 September 2006, Vladimir Socor, ‘Dezinformatsiya Alive But Transparent’, Eurasia Daily Monitor, vol. 3, no. 139, 19 July 2006.

[46] Vladimir Socor, ‘Moscow’s Fingerprints all Over South Ossetia’s Referendum’, Eurasia Daily Monitor , vol. 3, no. 212, 15 November 2006.



Distinguished University Professor, University of Alberta

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