Communist and Post-Communist Studies 39 (2006) 365e386
Civil society, youth and societal mobilization
in democratic revolutions
George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA
Available online 5 September 2006
Youth have played an important role in mobilizing support for democratic revolutions during elections that have facilitated regime change. In Serbia (2000), Georgia (2003) and Ukraine (2004) youth led the way in organizing democratic coalitions among hitherto warring opposition parties that the authorities had successfully divided and ruled over. In the three countries used as case studies, youth dominated civil society and election monitoring NGOs. The article outlines a ﬁve fold framework and discusses the issues that help understand the role of youth in democratic revolutions as well as those essential conditions that lead to success. Regime change only proved successful during certain time period, in our case electoral revolutions when the authorities were at their weakest. Organization of youth groups led to the creation of Otpor (Serbia), Kmara (Georgia) and Pora (Ukraine) and provided the youth movements with structure and purpose. The training of these organized youth NGOs became a third important condition for success and often was undertaken with Western technical and ﬁnancial assistance. The choice of strategies to be employed during elections was an important fourth feature. In the three country case studies, discussed in this article, the response of the authorities proved to be ineﬀective, weak and counter-productive. Ó 2006 Published by Elsevier Ltd on behalf of The Regents of the University of California. Keywords: Ukraine; Serbia; Georgia; Electoral revolution; Organization; Training; Strategy; Authorities response; Youth NGOs; Pora; Otpor; Kmara
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T. Kuzio / Communist and Post-Communist Studies 39 (2006) 365e386
In the pre-revolutionary era, young people had dominated the civil societies of many post-communist states, including countries which experienced democratic revolutions in Serbia (2000), Georgia (2003), Ukraine (2004) and Kyrgyzstan (2005). Most members of post-communist civil society NGOs were under 35 and it was they who provided huge numbers of activists and volunteers. One Orange Revolution activist recalled how: ‘‘this was a real extreme, underground, creative youth movement. People sat in oﬃces all day not for money or because they were forced to, but because simply this was the place to be cool’’ (Ukrayinska Pravda, January 26, 2006). Similarly, in Serbia a ‘‘sophisticated market campaign’’ of posters, badges and tee shirts led to a ‘‘political youth cult’’. Identifying with Otpor (Resistance) became ‘‘cool’’ and ‘‘Otpor made it fashionable to be against Milosevic’’, one Otpor activist said (Collin, 2001, p. 208). Young people have played a central role in all democratic revolutions going back to the Philippines people’s power protests in the mid-1980s to Nepal in 2006. Democratic revolutions in Serbia (2000), Georgia (2003), and Ukraine (2004), the three countries under investigation in this article, would not have taken place without the energy of young people. Youth NGOs in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine were crucial in three inter-related areas. First, they assisted in the mobilization of protestors. Second, they provided logistical support to the protests. Third, they were often the ﬁrst wave of protestors (McFaul, 2005, p. 13; Pora, 2005; Demes and Forbrig, 2006; Kaskiv, 2005a,b; Kuzio, 2005a,b; Way, 2005).
In Ukraine, those in the age group up to 30...
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