Date of Award

Winter 2009

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


International Studies

Committee Director

Regina Karp

Committee Member

David Earnest

Committee Member

Dana Heller


This dissertation has been spurred by the surprising turn of events that took place in Georgia and Ukraine in 2003 and 2004 respectively. Both countries were scheduled to have elections—parliamentary in Georgia and presidential in Ukraine. Though fraud, voter intimidation and opposition harassment were widely expected, few predicted the magnitude of popular response that swept away the regimes of Leonid Kuchma and Eduard Shevarnadze. Grappling with the unexpected, many heaped praise on the so-called “people power” that was able to bring masses to the streets and sustain their involvement in what were quickly labeled “color revolutions.” Civil society groups like Pora in Ukraine and Kmara in Georgia became the cause célèbre for Western media.

Few questions were asked as to what made the civic organizations in Ukraine and Georgia so effective. This neglect of deeper investigation is especially puzzling, given the vast array of past assessments that decried the civil societies in those and other post-Soviet states as weak, overly dependent on Western aid and unable to relate to the local populace.

The analysis that this dissertation will perform is critical not only for our understanding of contemporary political events in transitioning societies, but also for the evolution of major theoretical debates in the field. By stressing the primacy of civil society's involvement in “color revolutions,” it lends substantive support to the participatory approach, confirming the leading role of ordinary citizens over domestic elites in democratic transformations. At the same time, because the research is focused on the specific features which enhance the effectiveness of civic groups, it contributes to the scholarly discussion (often dating to the times of Locke, Kant and the Scottish Enlightenment) on the merits and weaknesses of civil society as well as its connections to the political and societal realms. Finally, the research suggests how the particular circumstances of “color revolutions” can enhance our general appreciation of democratic transitions.