MOSCOW – Vladimir Putin’s regime is warning Russians that their budding “Snow Revolution” will be as big a mistake as Ukraine’s Orange Revolution of 2004. But, while the similarities between these two popular movements are palpable, their differences are essential, so comparing them might help the Russian opposition to avoid some mistakes.
Like the Snow Revolution, the Orange Revolution was a broad middle-class reaction against corruption and the absence of the rule of law. In contrast to the Arab Spring, the Orange Revolution was entirely peaceful, as the Snow Revolution has been, and neither was triggered by economic or social crisis. In 2004, the Ukrainian economy grew faster than ever, by 12%, and Russia’s GDP increased last year by a respectable 4.3%.
But there are also significant differences. Ukraine has a big ethnic divide between Russian speakers and Ukrainian speakers. The Ukrainian opposition was well entrenched in the parliament and media, rendering it part of the old system.
The outstanding achievement of the Orange Revolution was political and civil freedom. But its ultimate flaw was a nearly complete political stalemate, which led to even worse corruption and authoritarianism. Having been in Ukraine during and after the Orange Revolution, and having just spent time in Moscow, some pitfalls facing the Snow Revolution seem evident to me.