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Post-revolutionary state building in Ukraine and Georgia


Corruption is organized, common and highly institutionalized element in post-soviet countries. In these countries both governmental officials and citizens are corrupted and give and get bribe in favor of their problems, work. Informal rules and norms are more powerful than laws and formal rules between public and private sectors, even in very low level relations such as citizens and police officers, doctors – patients, students – teachers’ relations and so on. High rang officials and their family have unlimited power in such countries. These corruption and abuse of power create inequality in society which ends with revolution in most cases like in Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and attempts to revolution like in Azerbaijan, Belarus.

Rose Revolution happened in Georgia in 2003 after the parliamentary elections. Although main opposite party of Georgia claimed that election was distorted and protested election results president Eduard Shevardnadze accepted the results and ignored protest. As a result, during the speech of president in the new session of parliament supporters of Michael Saakashvili (who came to power after revolution) came to parliament building and burst into the session with roses in their hands. Civil society organizations and free media had a significant role at Rose Revolution. This change was also supported by Western countries.

The Orange Revolution took place in Ukraine from late November 2004 to January 2005 after the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election. Supporters of Yushchenko began to protest the result of the election because the official result was different from and exit poll result in favor of Yanukovych who was supported by the last president of Ukraine. Mass media and NGOs supported a lot Yushchenko during protest.

Corruption, political manipulation, economic decline fueled revolutions in these 2 post-soviet countries. In both countries revolutions happened by people and nonviolently rather than foreign will and order. Despite these similarities in revolutions the political stability and economic development could not be achieved after revolution in Ukraine, but rose revolution brought many positive political and social changes to Georgia.

In this paper, I will try to find an answer to “Why despite the similar factors of revolutions, state-building was successful in Georgia, but not in Ukraine aftermath revolutions?” question by analyzing situation before revolution: differences and similarities, which causes lead to revolutions; and also the results of revolutions in both countries. First, I will give information about Ukrainian and Georgian economic and political situation, standard of living, corruption and bribery level after independence till Orange and Rose revolutions. Then I will analyze revolutions: the role of supporters in revolutions, negative and positive results of revolutions and compare two revolutions and answer question above. In order to be unbiased I will limit my research with 5 years after revolutions (till next presidential election) for both countries.

Prerevolutionary situation in Georgia and Ukraine

In 1991 Georgia and Ukraine got independence after the collapse of USSR. There was not proper governance in Post-Soviet countries as well as in Ukraine and Georgia, because they have depended on Soviet Union almost 70 years. Widespread corruption, bribery, dishonesty, embezzlement, abuse of authority, etc. were the lasting legacy of Soviet Union in post- soviet countries. Additionally, all types of production reduced significantly or stopped totally, inflation, unemployment rate rose dramatically, in one word, all economy went down in Post-Soviet countries, as well as in Ukraine, Georgia.

Shevardnadze was the president of Georgia from 1992 till 2003. In that year he forced to retire as a consequence of Rose Revolution. Shevardnadze started economic reforms when he became president in 1992, but those reforms were not applied till 1995. V.Papava in her “Economic Achievements of Post-revolutionary Georgia” article divides economic development of Georgia into three stages. First period lasts from 1991 to first half of 1994 and she calls this period as “ignoring the economy”. In the first period production fell almost threefold and high inflation has happened (50-70% per month in 1993-94) in Georgia. Also, national currency was faced with exceptional devaluation. Near the end of 1994 Georgian government started to make reforms toward to economic development and by that step the second period “purposeful reform” began and lasted till the end of 1998. In this period Georgian government stopped to print excessive amounts of money by the National Bank of Georgia’s (NBG) and prohibited overdraft credit extensions for the commercial banks, and changed currency to lari successfully. By these steps, hyperinflation was stopped and lari – new currency of Georgia replaced Russian ruble and Georgian coupon (which was used until that time) as well. Till 1994 government kept cheap the price of bread and did not allow privatizing of bakeries, but in the second period bakery system was privatized and gradually bread prices went up. All these reforms were taken by the help of IMF (International Monetary Fund) and the World Bank. Georgia suffered from the default in Russian in August in 1998 because government did not have control over the boundary with Russia (South Ossetia and Abkhazia) and cheap goods from Russia were brought illegally during default in Russia. However, NBG played well and did not let any banks go bankrupt.

Finally, third “growing corruption” period began in 1999 with the corrupted people who were designated to governmental posts. During this period shortage in state budget increased,   and there were huge differences between planned budget and actual budget from 1999 till 2003. Georgia had “war” with its regions about transferring tax revenues to state budget and the leaders of regions claimed that they did not fully receive money from the central budget. Georgian government also did not apply properly program by IMF. In 2003, President Shevardnadze accepted decree for “economic development and poverty reduction” which was prepared by governmental, non-governmental organizations, experts, Georgian academics. But this program was not implemented, that is why the relation between Georgia and IMF became complicated. Budget crisis climbed to the pick when debt to wages in public sectors and pensions reached to $120 million. As public workers could not be paid their wages they got bribes from people and corruption went up.

Kidnapping, stealing cars and robberies of homes or banks were widespread in Georgia. Actually it was a type of getting illegal money for police and criminalists. Police set criminals free for bribe. A survey conducted by the Georgian Opinion Research Business International (GORBI) in 2002 found out that 92% of respondents thought that corruption increased in the public sector, especially among customs officers, tax officials and police officers. Survey also shows that unemployment and corruption are the most important problems that have to be solved.

In 2003, poverty level was 52% in Georgia. All these factors increased social problems, inequality and dissatisfaction, which ended with revolution.

After getting independence in 1991 Ukraine elected its first president, Leonid Kravchuk and he lost in re-election in 1994 to Leonid Kuchma who has been in post till 2005 – Orange Revolution. According to Hans van Zon (Why the Orange Revolution Succeeded?), Ukraine made a transition toward to a neo-patrimonial society after the independence rather that market economy and parliamentary democracy. Ukrainian new government was ineffective to control and govern new country and set new economic frameworks for development. The privatization process started only in the late of 90s which the law on privatization was accepted by new constitution in 1996. As same as in many post-soviet countries Ukraine also faced with inflation during transition period. Production fell dramatically, so that the output in 1999 had collapsed to less than 40% of its level in 1991.[1] Till 1996 Ukraine did not formulate its currency – hryvna and used Russian ruble which brought inflationary effects from other countries. In 1993 consumer prices in the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States)   increased by 875 percent in Russia, 4,085 percent in Georgia, and 4,735 percent in Ukraine.[2] This inflation had negative effects on Ukrainian citizens such as: it ruined bank accounts of consumers and banks went to bankruptcy, so they could not give deposits back. Additionally, real value of wages in 1997 was worth only 26% of the wages during their 1991 levels[3]. Like in Georgia, Ukrainian government also did not pay salaries in time (for months) because of budget shortages. People could not afford to survive with their salaries and often they had to take second, third job in order to live on. Bankruptcies, inflation and currency devaluation created mistrust to government. Ukrainians did not trust administrative and legislature system in the country. Report by Central and Eastern Eurobarometer in 1995 showed that only 13% Ukrainians were satisfied with overall situation in the country. In the same year, only 16% and 18% of respondents were satisfied with the level of democracy and the human rights in the country, respectively Hope for future financial improvement was also very low, so that 14% of respondents believed that it will be better in the following 12 months, 17% and 41% responses were unchanged and worse, respectively.[4]

During the presidency of Kuchma independent civil society, civic organizations, NGOs, and unions did not exist in Ukraine, all they were under the control regime. Mass media was also controlled by oligarchs, businesmen who were close to president and his family, opposite and critical journalists were harassed and even some of them were killed by regime. In the press freedom index in 2004 Ukraine ranked in 138th place[5]. Corruption and injustice were spread, and the quality of public services such as education, health care decreased drastically. The report by Transparency International Corruption Perception Index in 2004 shows Ukraine in 122nd place. Human development indicator decreased from 0.920 to 0.7666 between 1987 and 2003 in Ukraine.[6]

All abovementioned statistics lead to increase of dissatisfaction from current government and as a result Orange revolution happened in 2004.

Rose Revolution and its consequences.

The Rose Revolution was a symbolic revolution against to Shevardnadze and continuity of the post-Soviet regime. The people who gathered for revolution did not fed up only dictatorship and restrictions on human rights and freedom of expression in Georgia, but also poor economic condition, criminal gangs, economic decline in the country and the government’s widespread corruption which made them dependent on corrupt and criminal Georgian elites. In 2003 when opposites and their supporters protested parliamentary elections they hoped only to get thrust for next presidential elections, but as Shevardnadze did not compromise to protestors, this nonviolent protest caused his quit. What did make this revolution bloodless and nonviolent? In Rose Revolution was not violence because some of security and military forces refuse to attack and to fight aganist demonstrators. Opposition groups – Kmara (Enough) also did not use violence and tried to build sympathy. Kmara was a youth group which funded by Open Society Institute (USA) and had an important role in revolution, they mobilized young people and supported United National Movement leader – Michael Saakashvili. Another important actor in revolution was Rustavi-2 TV channel. Before, president Shevardnadze supported some civil society groups and media such as Rustavi-2, in 2001 he stopped to support and even tried to shut down Rustavi-2. That is why this channel promoted Rose Revolution by providing a forum for opposition parties and NGOs who criticize current government. Channel also conducted exit-polls which was different from official election results.[7] In this case, Saakashvili’s and Burjanadze’s parties claimed that results were invalid referring to non-official results. Opposition leaders met with president Shevardnadze, but did not agree on anything. President considered their demand as individual interests and added that if there were at least a million of people, it would be different. On November 20, more than 100.000 people from all over Georgia came to Freedom Square in Tbilisi and protested election. In the middle of Shevardnadze’s speech demonstrators entered to parliament building, and on November 23 he resigned. In January, 2004 new presidential election was held and Saakashvili became president with 96.2 % of the vote.

Many scholars consider Rose Revolution as a freedom era for Georgia and show 2 main successes of revolution: the reduction of corruption and the centralization of power. In February 2004, with the initiative of newly elected president Saakashvili, parliament made constitutional change in favor for president. With this change power of parliament weakened significantly and president authority strengthen. The first thing that new president did was to reduce corruption in public sectors such as police, education and health care. During 2003-2005 many corrupted government officials were arrested and money they gained with corruption and bribe transferred to state budget. According to the World index of perceptions of corruption, the country moved from the 124th place in 2003 to 67th place in 2008.[8] One of the most corrupt systems in Georgia – traffic police is an example of revolutionary change. Saakashvili removed all old police officers and brought new, trained officers to that position. Additionally, to avoid them getting bribe president increased their salary from 150-210 to 350-500 lari. In the first time its history, people believed police according to public opinion in 2005. [9] Education system was also cleaned from corruption and government created fair admission test system for high education. Another system was military sector which symbolized weak and inefficient state under Shevardnadze’s government was cleaned from bribery. Transparency International CPI showed that Georgia’s rank rose from 124 (out of 133) in 2003 to 67 in 2008. [10] The other success of new government was to reduce corruption in energy sector and provide whole Georgia with electricity. But judiciary system was still under the control of government and was not free. According to survey conducted by The Weekly Palette – Georgian newspaper in 2007, 53.7% of respondents did not trust courts. [11]

Considering all factors, the Rose Revolution brought positive changes to Georgia’s formal system of authority as well as the informal political system of corruption. Mikhail Saakashvili kept his promise to abolish corruption immediately after election. Former oligarchs and government officials were arrested for corruption. Taxes has been lowered and reduced by his new government. Also, he reduced the number of documents needed to open new business and created fruitful conditions for entrepreneurship. Trust to government was increased significantly.

Orange revolution and its consequences

Some scholars say that presidential election in 2004 was the best time for making revolution. Poll conducted before election showed that only 15,8% of Ukrainians believe fair election, while 70,4% believe opposite. [12] Also it was the dirtiest election of Ukraine as president candidate Yushchenko who was prime minister of Ukraine between 2000 and 2001, was poisoned by his opponents in September. Before poisoning, three times truck attempted to crush Yushchenko’s car when he was campaigning. Due to illness, Yushchenko hardly continued to campaign. In the first round of elections he did not have economic program yet. For mentioned reasons, his chance to be elected was declining. And contrarily, Yanukovych got some support as he promised to raise pensions and make Russian second native language. Russian President – Putin openly supported Yanukovych, and he prohibited Russian oligarchs to support Yushchenko. Unlikely Russia, West helped NGOs, political parties, free media in Ukraine. Pora – campaigning movement which had a great role in Orange revolution was financed by Western money. Election was held with 4000 foreign observers. There was a difference between official and non-official results, so voters became angry and soon people, organizations and journalists started to support Yushchenko. On October 28, 42 TV journalists agreed not to show lies and distortions anymore. In the following 2 days 18 TV channels and 180 journalists joined them. People in revolution were well organized and supported by Pora. Most of Pora activists came from Galicia. Demonstrators were also supported by small and medium businesses. Cafes gave them free food, taxi drivers did not get money who went to Maydan, Kyiv residents offered shelter to demonstrators. In spite of public protest, on November 24, Yanukovych was declared winner of election, but West announced that they did not recognize results. People, some officials also did not recognize and support the result of election. Minister of defense declared that army will not act against people on 25 November; 300 Ukrainian diplomats declared that election was not fair; mayor of Kyiv also joined opposition side. On November 28, one million people spread to Kyiv streets. Finally, on 26 December in re-election Yushchenko was elected with 51, 99% of votes and he appointed his ally Yulia Timoshenko as prime minister.

Why Orange revolution could not bring expected results? Orange coalition leaders, Timoshenko and Yushchenko could not work together and they criticized each other publicly and continually. As a result coalition divided in the end of 2005. And Viktor Yanukovych again became Prime Minister in the middle of 2006. Orange coalition leaders promised too many transformations such as: joining NATO and EU, being free from Russian dependence, stopping corruption and sending corrupted officials to jail, creating effective and efficient state, making economic reforms, development and living like West.[13] Unlikely Saakashvili, Yushchenko could not centralized power, instead of this on 1 January 2006, constitutional change limited president’s power and authority and gave some of his power to prime minister. In fact, the prime minister became the key person in the political system with this reform. But reform showed its ineffectiveness in April- June 2007 as institutional crisis in parliament. Many things remained unchanged after revolution. No corrupt officials were arrested; no serious step had been taken against corruption. New president continued Kuchma’s legacy on appointing incapable person significant official posts. According to Transparency International report, in 2005 Ukraine came in 107th of 158 countries in level of corruption. Even traffic police officers who dismissed for corruption in 2005 by Yushchenko, were returned back by Yanukovich in 2006 after he became prime minister. New government neither change fiscal policy and nor reduce taxes as they promised before revolution. Grigore Pop Eleches and Graeme Robertson say that, the only positive change of Orange revolution was in electoral process and media freedom, but expected reforms for reduction in corruption has not been realized unlikely Georgia. [14] The result of public survey about Orange revolution conducted in December 2012 shows that, only 18.7% respondents saw this revolution as a positive event, 34.5% thought that it was negative. 29.3% respondents thought that orange revolution leaders betrayed their its main goals [15] Another statistics shows that, the percentage of people who consider themselves in “losing” position rose from 11.7% in 2005 to 34.7% in 2006. And contrarily, the percentage of people in “winning” position decreased from 32.1% to 16.4 in 2005 and 2006, respectively.[16]

In comparison with Rose revolution Orange Revolution achieved less at building a law-bound and limited state and fighting corruption. According to my research, I conclude that presidents, their characters and personalities are the main reasons of building state successfully after revolutions. Yushchenko was corrupt person himself, and he had no agenda to make reforms. And finally, he was too ill to make reforms.


By: Aygun Gurbanli 


  1. Alexander J. Motyl, “Ukrainian Blues: Yanukovych s Rise, Democracy’s Fall”, July/August, 2010
  2. Alexandre Kukhianidze “Corruption and organized crime in Georgia before and after the ‘Rose Revolution’, June 2009
  3. Christoph H. Stefes, Governance, the state, and systemic corruption: Armenia and Georgia in Comparison, 2008
  4. David Lane, “The Orange Revolution: ‘People’s Revolution’ or Revolutionary Coup?”, 2008
  5. Giorgi Kandelaki, Georgia’s Rose Revolution, United States Institute of Peace, Special Report 167, July, 2006.
  6. Grigore Pop Eleches and Graeme Robertson, “After the Revolution Long-Term Effects of Electoral Revolutions”, Problems of Post-Communism, 61, no. 4, July–August 2014
  7. Hans van Zon, “Why the Orange Revolution Succeeded?”, 2005.
  8. Marta Dyczok , “Breaking Through the Information Blockade: Election and Revolution in Ukraine 2004”, September-December, 2005.
  9. Press Freedom Index, 2004
  10. Public Opinion and European Union, Central and Eastern Eurobarameter, March, 1995
  11. Taras Kuzio, “From Kuchma to Yushchenko: Ukraine’s 2004 Presidential Elections and the Orange Revolution”, March/April, 2005.
  12. Teodor Kostandinov Penov, Investment Prospects in Ukraine: Transition from a Planned to Market Economy, 2003
  13. Thomas O’Brien, “Problems of political transition in Ukraine: leadership failure and democratic consolidation”, December, 2010.
  14. Verena Fritz “State building – a comparative study of Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus and Russia” 2007
  15. Vicken Cheterian, “Georgia’s Rose Revolution: Change or Repetition? Tension between State-Building and Modernization Projects”, September, 2008.
  16. Viktor Stepanenko, “How Ukrainians View Their Orange Revolution: Public Opinion and the National Peculiarities of Citizenry Political Activities”
  17. Yuri Matsievski, “Change, Transition or Cycle”, Russian Politics and law”, vol.49, September/October, 2001.
  18. Yuri Matsievski, “Change, Transition or Cycle”, Russian Politics and law, vol.49, September/October 2001.


[1] Teodor Kostandinov Penov , “Investment Prospects in Ukraine: Transition from a Planned to Market Economy”, 2003.

[2] Kaser, Michael. “Escape routes from post-Soviet inflation and recession. Finance and Development”, June 1999

[3] Kaser, Michael. “Escape routes from post-Soviet inflation and recession. Finance and Development”, June 1999

[4] Central and Eastern Eurobarometer – Public opinion and European Union, March, 1995.- http://www.ab.gov.tr/files/ardb/evt/1_avrupa_birligi/1_6_raporlar/1_4_eurobarometers/EUROBAROMETER_PUBLIC_OPINION_AND_THE_EUROPEAN_UNION_18_COUNTRIES_SURVEY_1995.pdf

[5] http://en.rsf.org/spip.php?page=classement&id_rubrique=550

[6] Verena Fritz “State building – a comparative study of Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus and Russia” 2007

[7] Giorgi Kandelaki, Georgia’s Rose Revolution, United States Institute of Peace, Special Report 167, July, 2006.

[8] http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview

[9] http://alpe.ge/nedit/assets/Patrol_Police_eng_final.pdf

[10] http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview

[11] http://nregion.com/news.php?i=12453#.VT4qq_mUf1Y

[12] Taras Kuzio “From Kuchma to Yushchenko” March/April 2005, p.31

[13] Yuri Matsievski, “Change, Transition or Cycle”, Russian Politics and law, vol.49, September/October 2001,

[14] Grigore Pop Eleches and Graeme Robertson, “After the Revolution Long-Term Effects of Electoral Revolutions”, Problems of Post-Communism, vol. 61, no. 4, July–August 2014.

[15] Grigore Pop Eleches and Graeme Robertson, “After the Revolution Long-Term Effects of Electoral Revolutions”, Problems of Post-Communism, vol. 61, no. 4, July–August 2014

[16] David Lane, “The Orange Revolution: ‘People’s Revolution’ or Revolutionary Coup?”, 2008

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