The Color Revolutions

In This Review

The Color Revolutions
By Lincoln A. Mitchell
University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012
256 pp. $65.00

The three so-called color revolutions were doubly misnamed. First, flowers, not colors, were the symbols for two of the three: the 2003 Rose Revolution in Georgia and the 2005 Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan. And if, at a minimum, “revolution” stands for discontinuity, neither those two dramas nor the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine measured up. Rather than the major course corrections that many in the West hoped for, they were minor interruptions in the steady evolution away from democracy and toward deeper corruption in all three countries. Mitchell has crafted a lucid—albeit minimalist—tour d’horizon of the events themselves and of all three countries’ subsequent backsliding into the illiberal patterns of the past. He also situates the three “revolutions” in a brief but useful reflection on the background factors that shaped the outcome in each case. In particular, he carefully assesses how these interludes figured in U.S.-Russian relations and how U.S. and Russian policies figured in them. For those who want a clear-eyed, dispassionate analysis of cases that too often lack both, this is a good source.

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