Tulip Revolution Revisited

Revolution are often written backwards. An event may be declared a revolution from the outset but whether that event actually becomes the social phenomenon we call “revolution” can only be assessed after the fact. The result of narrativizing revolutions backwards has left us with very few revolutions in human history. For example, the French Revolution of 1789 was a major revolution, if not the model for the world. But the French Revolution of 1852 appears to us now as a blip on the historical screen. It is interesting for sure. After all it inspired Marx to write one of his most beautifully written and analytically difficult texts, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon. However, 1852 is so forgettable because it was a restoration rather than a revolution. Because of, rather than despite of mass peasant revolt, Louis Napoleon became Emperor of France. In the end what appeared as a revolution was shown to be nothing of the sort. It was because of this, that Marx called 1852 a “farce.”

With this in mind we may begin thinking about the so-called “Colored Revolutions” in the Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan. Were they indeed revolutions as many quickly declared? Or did they appear as revolutionary when in reality it was one political clan toppling another via populist means?

Many are beginning to answer the latter question with in the affirmative. Or, that is how Haaretz reporter Avinoam Idan did in his article, “The Colors Have Faded” which was part of the Israeli paper’s Yom Kippur Supplement, which features fifteen articles about the CIS. Idan wrote:

In retrospect, it seems that economic interests, local political alliances and the desire of the United States and Russia for influence in the region were the primary factors that precipitated those events. The Colored Revolutions did change regimes, but they did not produce real change in the nature of the regimes.

Promoting democracy was not necessarily the organizers’ central goal. The confrontations were more a backdrop for domestic struggles among the politically and financially powerful than they were spontaneous events tinged with the romance of revolution – less a desire for fundamental change in the system, more a matter of political rivalries, with each side supported by local and foreign oligarchs (especially in the Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan).

The news site Eurasia.net has also begun to evaluate these and many other questions. The site already did an extensive evaluation of Georgia’s Rose Revolution of 2003 by examining it from the perspective of its regions. Now they’ve complied a special feature on Kirgizia’s Tulip Revolution of 2005.

Perhaps their insight will give us some answers to these difficult and often polemicized questions.