Since 1999, the post-Communist states have seen a series of attempts to overthrow semiauthoritarian governments, with the successful attempts known as the “colored revolutions.” However, not all such attempts have succeeded. This paper seeks to explain the variation in outcomes. Most accounts have focused on the development of grass-roots activist movements. The central argument here is that elites, and in particular security services, play a much more significant role in these revolutions than has generally been appreciated. This hypothesis is elaborated through a threshold model of protest, in which the central question is whether protests achieve a “tipping point” that makes them continue to grow larger until success is inevitable. The actions of elites, it is argued, play a decisive role in whether mass protests reach a tipping point. The argument is examined through a paired comparison of two failed attempts to overthrow governments through street protests (Serbia 1996e1997 and Ukraine 2001) with two successful cases (Serbia 1999 and Ukraine 2004). By studying cases with variation on the dependent variable, this paper seeks to improve the empirical and methodological basis of research on post-communist revolutions.

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