The Dynamics of Political Protests: A Case Study of the Kyrgyz Republic

by Kevin Jones

UMD Dissertation dated August 2007

On March 24th, 2005, after ten weeks of non-violent protests across the country, the President of the Kyrgyz Republic, Askar Akayev, fled the country. The protests in the Kyrgyz Republic followed closely after the events in Georgia and Ukraine and policy analysts and the international media initially saw it as another example of the new wave of democracy in the post-Soviet states. This dissertation explores the reasons for the non-violent protests from January to March 2005 and how they led to the government’s collapse. I use a combination of macro-level data, household opinion surveys, and field interviews to show that common causal explanations of protest behavior are poor predictors in the case of the Kyrgyz Republic. Individual levels of well-being, dissatisfaction with the government, and perception of conflict had little influence on where or when protests occurred. The role of international funding, western government influence, and local civil society were minor and relatively unimportant in determining the final outcome. The thesis of this dissertation is that the protests started for local causes, were sustained by local political entrepreneurs, increased because of political repression and succeeded because of the failures of the government. I argue that the decisive factor that determined the final outcome of the protests was the government’s repressive action against the protesters. Understanding the causes, conditions, and process of the protests in the Kyrgyz Republic is important for current U.S. policy towards other post-Soviet countries and for these countries own internal political succession dynamics. The methodology is a within case study process tracing using survey data taken immediately before the protests and event analysis based on in-depth field interviews and media reports.