American Political Science Review

Research Article

The Semblance of Democratic Revolution: Coalitions in Ukraine's Orange Revolution


Princeton University


Using two unusual surveys, this study analyzes participation in the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine, comparing participants with revolution supporters, opponents, counter-revolutionaries, and the apathetic/inactive. As the analysis shows, most revolutionaries were weakly committed to the revolution's democratic master narrative, and the revolution's spectacular mobilizational success was largely due to its mobilization of cultural cleavages and symbolic capital to construct a negative coalition across diverse policy groupings. A contrast is drawn between urban civic revolutions like the Orange Revolution and protracted peasant revolutions. The strategies associated with these revolutionary models affect the roles of revolutionary organization and selective incentives and the character of revolutionary coalitions. As the comparison suggests, postrevolutionary instability may be built into urban civic revolutions due to their reliance on a rapidly convened negative coalition of hundreds of thousands, distinguished by fractured elites, lack of consensus over fundamental policy issues, and weak commitment to democratic ends.


Mark R. Beissinger is Henry W. Putnam Professor, Department of Politics, Princeton University, 237 Corwin Hall, Princeton, NJ 08544-1013 (


  The author wishes to express his appreciation to the Institute of Sociology of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences (and in particular, Viktor Stepanenko) for access to the data from the Institute's March 2005 Monitoring survey, as well as Valery Khmel'ko, Dmytro Khutkyy, and Tatiana Petrenko of the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) for access to the data from the KIIS December 10–14, 2004 survey. The author also thanks Chris Achen, Valerie Bunce, Stathis Kalyvas, David Laitin, Nolan McCarty, Grigore Pop-Eleches, Sidney Tarrow, and three anonymous APSR reviewers for comments on earlier drafts. Earlier versions were presented at Brown University, George Washington University, Princeton University, University of Bremen, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Uppsala University, and at the 2011 American Political Science Association convention in Seattle.