Ukraine's Revolutions: 2004 vs. 2013
This essay aims to offer comparison between Ukrainian protests of 2013 with the case of the 2004 Orange Revolution. In the following paragraphs, I will identify several differences that lead me to the conclusion that these two events are not alike. Although I must admit that there are several similarities - the same actors, people in the streets, international involvement - that might lead to a different conclusion, there are many stronger arguments why it would be misleading to consider these two events principally similar.
Nine years ago, Kiev's Orange Revolution and Rose Revolution in Tbilisi were widely seen as continuation of the European Velvet Revolutions. This essay follows similar logic, however with different intentions. It strives to bring deeper understanding into the whole case by explaining why crucial differences between both cases make predictions based on the 2004 Orange Revolution very limited in 2013.
For this purpose, I will conduct a comparative analysis of events known as the Orange Revolution that took place in 2004 after the third round of presidential elections on the one hand, and demonstrations that burst out few days before 2013 Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius on the other. Both events took place mainly in Kiev and paradoxically both started on 21 November. Firstly, I will analyse domestic differences followed by international dissimilarities. In the final sub-chapter, I will highlight interesting conclusions that we can take from the offered comparison.
First difference between the Orange Revolution and events that started 9 years later is the trigger, which started demonstrations. In the case of the Orange Revolution the main trigger was the electoral fraud, which enraged masses of protesters and provoked them to come to the streets on 21 November 2004. Case of 2013 was different, because there was no one definite event, which would cause general dissatisfaction and take people to the streets. The first wave of people marched to the streets after the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine adopted a resolution to suspend preparations for signing the Association Agreement.  However, these protests quickly lost their power and only small groups of protesters prevailed on the main square. The second wave of rallies and marches erupted after violent crackdown of protesters few hours after the end of the Vilnius summit on 30 November 2013.  These protests prevail until now, but with big fluctuations in number of protesters.
This brings me to another important difference - use of violence. Protests in 2013 undoubtedly differ in the way they are conducted. Not only evidence of police brutality, but also aggressive crowds of protesters attacking riot police with cobble-stones, flares and tear gas. These are unprecedented events in the history of independent Ukraine. Very different story is told about the Orange Revolution. Instead of tough clashes between protesters and police, festive-like atmosphere is mentioned. Several authors called Orange Revolution 'the longest rock concert in history'.  What is more, police authorities started contemplating about the dispersion of the crowd only a week after protests started. As Wilson writes, it was already too late, because the costs to supress such a big crowd would be too high. 
Looking at a broader perspective, each event has a very different political and economic background. Ukraine underwent many changes in the course of nine years between both protests, but several important features can be compared. Economically, in 2004 was Ukraine at the rise. GDP growth in 2003 and 2004 was 9% and 12% respectively. Whereas, in 2013 Ukraine barely got out of the crisis and its growth in previous years remained very low at 5% in 2011, 0% in 2012, following the historical low point of -15% in 2009.  From the political point of view, both events followed one and half year after parliamentary elections, but the political setting was rather different. In 2004, wide enthusiasm followed Yushchenko-Tymoshenko cooperation. Economic growth was often attributed to their economic reforms, however there are great doubts about what the real source was. Local export boom might have instead been caused by parallel devaluation of Ukrainian currency and increase in world demand for Ukrainian products (steel).  Political reality in 2013 was slightly different. First of all, people felt more distrust towards the opposition after they saw what happened to the 'orange government'. Also, performance of Verkhovna Rada after 2012 elections was rather controversial in Ukrainian history, witnessing fights, shouting and standards that are far from democratic country, but also inability to effectively pass legislation. These causes further contribute to the fact that there is no one actor that could clearly represent protesting masses at the negotiating table. Although Vitali Klichko became kind of a symbol of the Revolution, it is caused more by the his own popularity before coming to politics and people's curiosity to see a boxing champion become a politician, than his ability and willingness to represent the diverse crowd.
Another important difference emerges from the following question: Who is protesting and what do they want? In 2004 people marched to the streets of Kiev because of long-lasting disaffection with the political reality - massive corruption, egoism and selfishness of elites, dysfunctional political system. In principle, these features remain the same to this day, however protests in 2013 include also the question of Ukraine's future foreign policy vector. People in the streets speak about better economic conditions in the EU, their decision to step away from the old towards the new and about their European future. This question of Ukraine's international future is, however, much more complicated than people imagine and solutions and demands are not as straightforward as in 2004. Thus, the difference is that whereas in 2004 people were mainly interested in the internal dimension of Ukrainian politics, protests in 2013 build on the internal and add on the top of that the external dimension of Ukrainian future heading.
As the external dimension of Ukrainian interest is introduced, we have to follow this argument a little deeper through examination of the international response. In 2004, president Vladimir Putin supported Yanukovich and promised many economic benefits ranging from better trading terms and more possibilities to work or travel. 
The EU rushed in under Polish-led international mediation (primarily led by Polish president Kwasniewski) and organized three roundtable discussions with main protesters and with Russian presence.  What remained the same is the discussion inside the EU about 'Russia-first policy'  versus the 'pro-enlargement policy inspired by Poland. 
In comparison, events developed differently in 2013. President Putin's offers were challenged by the economic proposal of the EU - the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. This might have been the reason that caused retreat of president Putin to more threat-oriented pragmatic rhetoric. On the one hand, Russia offered Ukraine membership in the Customs Union of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan, but on the other threatened Ukraine to cut off most of its ties with Russia that are seen as standard by Ukrainians and as privilege by Russians. Although the biggest concern for Ukraine is Russian gas on which it is fully dependent, many other questions arose already in the summer of 2013, when we witnessed trade bans on several important Ukrainian goods to the Russian Federation.  Russian approach truly changed after the Vilnius summit when Ukraine refused to sign the Association Agreement. Since then, we witness mostly positively laden rhetoric of "creation of favourable conditions for Ukrainians working in Russia", "military-technological cooperation" and "normalising bilateral trade"  from president Putin. Moreover, deal has been finalised to decrease price of gas for Ukraine in the middle of December.  Actions taken by Russia follow very well model built by Randall E. Newnham, who explains that Russia manipulates the Ukrainian economy by exploiting its dependence on Russian oil and gas to influence its domestic politics.  By decreasing gas price, Russia offers Ukraine short-term growth to strengthen Yanukovich's position before 2015 presidential elections.EU approach was also slightly different from the 2004. Instead of rushing in and trying to mediate the conflict, the EU kept its distance. We have seen numerous statements and also visits of European officials to the protest-site in Kiev, however there was no institutionalised effort to mediate, or negotiate. What is more, EU remained absolutely resolute and rejected not only offer for trilateral negotiations between the EU, Ukraine and Russia, but also proposal for revising the Association Agreement with Ukraine. 
As we can see, international background changed very dramatically so as its response to happening in Ukraine since 2004. Russia consolidated its power in the international arena and employs much more complex foreign policy towards its neighbours. The European Union also developed remarkably in the course of nine years and even despite the crisis it grew much stronger than it ever was. It achieved good results with the Eastern Partnership in Georgia and Moldova. Yet, EU's ability to influence its neighbourhood comes under question with Ukraine's alternating behaviour.
Lessons to be learned?
The main thesis of this essay calls for proceeding with caution when drawing lessons from the past. In spite of the fact that we do not know what the future will bring, on behalf of the changes that took place in nine years we can at least contemplate on what future most probably will not bring. Here, I would like to concentrate on three important points that significantly influence the current situation and arise from the comparative.
The big question behind Ukrainian politics is its internal popular division between those who would prefer closer ties with the European Union and those who would like to deepen their ties with Russia (to be precise, also those who do not really care, or have mixed feelings). Study by Katchanovski shows that Ukraine's internal division is structured according to its regions that correspond with support for major political parties and presidential candidates and support for principal foreign policy issues. 
Question of splitting the country in 2004 emerged on the meeting in Donbas region, which proclaimed no recognition of the 'orange coup' and threatened to split the country.  Demonstrations in 2013 were much more modest and careful with claims about dividing the country. There are various reasons for this, but I presume that pro-European attitudes in Ukraine usually correlate with nationalist tendencies. I suppose that nationalists are principally opposed to division of what they perceive as their country. What is more, proponents of the Association Agreement with the EU also have to bear in mind that any separatist conflict within the country would probably critically hinder Ukraine's integration with the EU. Although contra-argument could stand that the EU signed agreements with Moldova and Georgia that both carry the burden of frozen conflicts. Nevertheless, the comparison between a frozen conflict and the possibility of a newly emerged separatist clash proves insufficient to falsify the initial claim that it would impede European integration of Ukraine.
Photo: Reuters/Gleb Garanich
From this we can deduce that the division of Ukraine is much less likely if Ukraine upholds the status quo or takes small steps towards Russia. Vice versa, if Ukraine would sign the Association Agreement with the European Union, we can expect much stronger separatist tendencies of pro-Russian groups and the odds of division of the country would rise.
Second point to be mentioned is the institutional involvement in the demonstration. In 2004, Supreme Court played a crucial role when it ordered to repeat rigged presidential elections. Since Yanukovich came to power in 2010, Ukraine witnessed critical deterioration of freedom and independence of judiciary.  Throughout the time between both events Ukraine changed dramatically not only in terms of politics and economics as mentioned above, but also regarding its regime. Ukraine experienced constitutional changes that transformed it into hybrid parliamentary-presidential system.  This was followed by a turnaround under president Yanukovich who strived to re- centralise presidential power. Moreover, decision of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine ruled abovementioned constitutional amendment unconstitutional and returned Ukraine back to the presidential system. 
Protesters in 2013 have very little hope for an unexpected breakthrough as in 2004. This is further demonstrated by very low trust in institutions in Ukraine.  Current situation of severely dependent judiciary on the executive powerrules out the possibility of issuing a decision against the ruling authority. Probably the most important lesson learned from the Orange Revolution for president Yanukovich was to aim part of his power to govern not only the post of president, but also the judicial branch of power. This has severe consequences for the possible solution of 2013 demonstrations.
Final point that is worthy of attention is the understanding of underrepresentation of opinions of approximately half of Ukrainian citizens in the media. Protests are usually taking all the headlines, however if we look at polls and election results, there is very equal competition between both camps in number of proponents. The fact I want to demonstrate here is that Ukrainian officials are challenged by a very complex task. Diving slightly deeper into the decision that Ukraine has to take, we find out that the question of choice is not between the EU and Russia. But instead they have to think how to mitigate the negative consequences of choosing one or the other. This could be the reason for Ukraine's long-lasting balancing between the EU and Russia and the ultimate reason why Ukraine chose not to sign the agreement with the EU. This eventually leads me back to the point in 2004 when the Donbas group threatened to split the country. The decision not to sign the agreement with the EU was much safer in terms of country's unity even despite all the on-going protests.
Decision to associate with the EU or join the integration project of Russia would mean a very strong decision, ignoring Ukraine's internal politics and specificities. Ukraine is undoubtedly not a nation-state and its unity is now assured only by pursuing policies that are sensitive towards this question. Alfred Stepan identified several features in Ukrainian approach that make it a 'state-nation' instead of a nation-state. One of them is that it "recognise[s] more than on cultural nation."  Later, he concludes that if Ukraine pursued aggressive nation- state policies, its democracy would get worse, peace would be in danger and ultimately its territorial integrity will be put at risk.  I believe that any definite decision on the future of Ukraine's foreign policy vector would be perceived by the opposing group as an 'aggressive nation-state policy' and would go against the principles that helped Ukraine stay united peacefully for so many years.
Despite the fact that many philosophers claimed that negativity pursued by thinkers such as Plato and Kirkegaard does not bring any constructive ideas, I believe that this sort of contribution is equally valuable for the intellectual discourse. One of the most important points of this essay is the limitation of predictions based on historical events due to many external changes taking place in time. As I mentioned at the beginning, we should be rather careful what conclusions and prognoses we infer. On the top of that, it is important to realise that it is not only similarity, but also difference that could lead to useful answers.
More specific conclusions on the situation in Ukraine are the following. On behalf of the results that emerged from the comparative framework above, it can be concluded that the Orange Revolution and demonstrations of 2013 are not alike. Also data in this essay identified three problematic points for Ukrainian future. Firstly, it is the question of division of Ukraine. This essay argues that it is more likely that Ukraine would face the challenge of division of the country in case that Ukraine signed the Association Agreement with the EU. Secondly, this essay claims that owing to political development through different internal struggles in Ukraine, current protests will have to deal with domestic institutional inertia that originates in lessons drawn from the Orange Revolution. Finally this essay challenged claims that decision-makers in Ukraine face nowadays. It argues that the final decision is not only about the choice between the Association Agreement with the European Union, or the Customs Union of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan, but rather about looking for ways how to alleviate negative consequences of choosing one or the other. Final claim of this essay concludes that choosing single foreign policy vector is against policies that helped Ukraine to uphold its unity since its independence.
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