Youth Movements in Post-Communist Societies: A Model of Nonviolent Resistance

Over the past decade, the rise of youth movements applying nonviolent methods of resistance against autocratic incumbents occurred in the post-Soviet region. This protest cycle was set in motion by the spectacular mobilization of Serbia's social movement Otpor against Slobodan Milosevic in 2000. Similarly, Ukraine's Pora in 2004 and, to a lesser extent, Georgia's Kmara in 2003 mobilized large numbers of young people to demand political change in the aftermath of fraudulent elections. In contrast, Belarus' Zubr in 2001/2006 and an assortment of Azerbaijan's youth groups in 2005 were less effective in staging nonviolent struggle against autocratic incumbents. This paper provides an explanation for divergent social movement outcomes in non-democracies by investigating the dynamics of tactical interaction between challenger organizations and the ruling elite. The paper argues that both civic activists and autocratic incumbents engaged in processes of political learning. Hence, tactical innovation was vital to the success of youth movements, especially late risers in the protest cycle.