March 25, 2005


After popular uprisings, concern in Russia (Steven Lee Myers, March 25, 2005, The New York Times)

In the past year and a half ... popular uprisings have claimed the sclerotic leaders of three former Soviet republics. In Georgia in November 2003, in Ukraine a year later, and now in Kyrgyzstan, simmering discontent accomplished what not long ago seemed improbable: the peaceful (so far, in Kyrgyzstan's case) overthrow of governments that ceased to represent the will of the people.

What is most surprising really is how quickly those governments fell in the face of protesters asserting the rights they had been promised when the Soviet yoke was lifted: the right to express themselves, to elect their representatives, to dream of the better life that their leaders kept promising but all too often failed to deliver.

For opposition leaders and even for some of those in power in other republics, the events that began in Georgia with the toppling of Eduard Shevardnadze and continued with the extraordinary challenge to a fraudulent election in Ukraine last fall have come like a contagion - one spreading in fast and unpredictable ways.

Nowhere is the fear and anticipation greater than in the largest and most powerful center, Russia. There President Vladimir Putin has steadily strengthened state control even as he presents himself as a democrat.

"People are tired everywhere," Aleksandr Rondeli, president of the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International studies, said in a telephone interview from Georgia's capital, Tblisi, referring to popular discontent in the former Soviet republics.

The uprisings in Georgia and Ukraine, he added, served as a demonstration what was possible.

"They saw how easy it looked on TV," Rondeli said.

Those who misapprehend the End of History are doomed to be surprised when it repeats itself.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 25, 2005 8:15 AM
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