Friday, October 9, 2020

Kyrgyz and Belarusian Events Show Era of Velvet Revolutions is Ending, Popkov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 7 – The events in Kyrgyzstan where violence led to the overthrow of the regime and in Belarus where the absence of violence by the protesters has allowed the incumbent dictator to survive show that the era of largely bloodless “velvet” revolutions is coming to an end, Roman Popkov says.

            The “velvet” revolutions of 1989 and their echo or “second wave,” “the color revolutions of 2000-2005, were “the result of a unique combination of unique and not to be repeated factors, the Russian commentator says. That must be recognized by all who want change; it has already been recognized by those who don’t (

            “In the legendary 1989,” he continues, the consolidated West and the East in the form of Gorbachev’s USSR came out on the side of those protesting against the old and cowardly partocracies, as did part of the local communist force elites.” That meant there were no forces on which those in power could confidently rely.

            Something similar happened during the period of the color revolutions of 2000-2005, Popkov says. The West was still united, Moscow was not ready to act, and the people could count on divisions in the elites to overthrow “the corrupt, criminal, weak-willed and disintegrating bureaucracies.”

            But in the period since then, all three things have changed. The West is divided and uncertain, Moscow is committed to maintaining authoritarian leaders unless they are challenged by a population ready to use violence to overthrow the incumbents, and elites have ceased to be divided as they were two decades ago.

            As a result, those in power are far better positioned to defend themselves than they were. They can act with confidence that outsiders are not going to come to the aid of the people in the streets, Popkov continues.

            To be sure, he acknowledges, there have been some echoes of that era since 2005, including events in Kyrgyzstan in 2010, in Ukraine in 2013-2014, and in Armenia more recently. Indeed, “the last significant event of the velvet-color era was the fall of the Karabakh clan in Armenia in 2018.

            That must be recognized by those who believe they can bring down governments in the post-Soviet space and in Russia in particular, instead of their continuing to feed upon “harmful illusions” that what was possible in 1989 is still possible for them. It isn’t, and it is unlikely to be in the coming decades, Popkov argues.

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