The Color of Money

Privatization, Economic Dispersion, and the Post-Soviet "Revolutions"

Article appearing in Comparative Politics, Volume 42, Issue 2

What accounts for the “colored revolutions” of the former Soviet Union? Analysis of postcommunist political economies reveals that states that underwent reform saw the emergence of a new capitalist class whose interests sometimes put them at odds with the regime. Following fraudulent elections, business elites played an active role in financing mobilization and signaling mass discontent, which undermined regime support and hastened regime change. Countries that did not privatize failed to develop an independent capitalist class and therefore faced smaller and weaker oppositions. This argument is demonstrated by analyzing mass protests that toppled regimes in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan, and by the negative cases of Azerbaijan, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. It has implications for the study of hybrid regimes, social movements, and postcommunist political development.