What caused “color revolutions”? Why were they happening simultaneously in several countries that used to be part of the USSR? The authors of the first refashioned issue of Pro et Contra analyze general trends of post-Soviet transit and specific developments that led to the emergence of new ruling elites in a number of CIS countries, as well as the impact of these processes on the Russian domestic and foreign policies.
Russia and the End of Eurasia
Whereas each of the new states that formed after the collapse of the USSR is now undergoing something of a consolidation, the post-Soviet space as a whole is differentiating and disintegrating. Despite new accusations of neo-imperialism leveled against Russia, that which is now happening looks more like a new phase of the country’s continuing geopolitical setbacks, which began with the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. In this sense, the events in Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and other countries are a continuation of the line chartable as Kabul–Berlin Wall–Belovezhskaya Pushcha (the site of the 1991 signing of accords that officially dismantled the Soviet Union)–Balkans, i.e. phases of NATO expansion and the expansion of the EU to include states of Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltics. The zone of Moscow’s genuine influence is continuing to shrink, now within the CIS states.
Moscow Up Against the Challenge of “Color Revolutions”
Until several CIS countries were hit by “color revolutions,” the Russian ruling elite did not notice (or did not want to notice) that the agendas relevant during the first stage of transformation in those nations were done with. However, events in Ukraine, Moldova and Kyrgyzia forced the Kremlin to realize that the processes that had led to revolutionary changes in those neighboring countries are by and large characteristic for Russia as well. Hence, the elite now in power found itself faced with the acute challenge of counteracting the spread of the “orange” threat. Some experts close to official circles proposed a plan for “managed revolution” – a “revolution from above” via a “true restoration of a dialogue between the authorities and society.” However, decision-makers in the Kremlin opted to use this plan only in the usual media/propaganda way; in terms of real policy, meanwhile, the ruling elite has taken a hard line geared toward retaining the status quo.
Much Is Damaged, but Not All is Lost
In a certain sense, every cloud has a silver lining. Russia’s policy toward East European countries has been so destructive in recent years that we can only be grateful to the “orange revolution” if the events in Kiev force the Kremlin to start revising it. In terms of the future of the “New Eastern Europe”, the “orange revolution” has hardly resolved anything. It has only highlighted a great many problems both for Ukraine and its neighbors and for the EU and the West at large.
Ukraine Has Chosen the West, but Without the East
Between 1994 and 2004, one social stratum significantly altered its electoral orientation: the peasantry. Until recently, the peasantry was nationallyoriented only in Western Ukraine, that is, in areas that did not experience the social cataclysms of collectivization and famine in the 1930s. In the agricultural heartland of Central Ukraine, the peasantry tended to vote Socialist or Communist. It was 1917-1918 all over again, although for different reasons: the national movement conquered the West, the capital and some urban areas of the Center, but could not penetrate the countryside. Yushchenko’s greatest achievement was his capacity to rally rural Ukraine under his banner. It began with the parliamentary elections of 2002 and became hegemonic with the final round of the 2004 presidential saga.
Central Asia: Prospects for Transfer of Authority
The messy exit of President Akayev may not mean that his colleagues in the region will also be pushed from office, but it certainly does increase the likelihood that secular and religious opposition groups will try and oust them. The current presidents may still be strong enough to retain power or stage-manage its passage, but not to create risk-free environments for their successors to try and secure their authority. Throughout the region disgruntled members of the elite, some long-time opponents and others who previously were silent, are likely to try and take advantage of what most view as the growing weakness of each of the region’s presidents.
Democracy’s Sobering State
Although a troubling number of countries that were initially counted as part of the “third” wave have experienced a reassertion of authoritarian forces, quite a few others have managed to go from initial democratic openings to the establishment of reasonably open pluralistic systems. Many of these countries, however, are facing a different challenge to the consolidation of democracy: they are not succeeding in providing better lives for their citizens socially or economically.
Migration’s New Payoff
Devesh Kapur and John Mchale
Every day, migrants working in rich countries send money to their families in the developing world. It’s just a few hundred dollars here, a few hundred dollars there. But last year, these remittances added up to USD 80 billion, outstripping foreign aid and ranking as one of the biggest sources of foreign exchange for poor countries. Following a boom in the 1990s, this flow of money is lifting entire countries out of poverty, creating new financial channels, and reshaping international politics.
Migrants’ Money Transfers In the Russian Context
Realistically, the number of migrants from other states working in Russia is estimated at 4-5 million, among them up to 1.5 million from the Transcaucasian states, at least 1 million each from Ukraine and the Central Asian region and 200-300 thousand from Moldova. Russia is home to representatives of one out of every four households in Georgia and one out of every three households in Moldova and Tajikistan. According to official data from the Russian Finance Ministry, in 2003 non-financial institutions exported USD 12 billion from the country. Money transfers from migrant workers to their native countries account for at least half this amount.