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Last Updated: Friday, 26 November, 2004, 02:55 GMT
Revolutions: What's in a name?
By Kathryn Westcott
BBC News

Orange, chestnut, rose, daisy, velvet, singing - peaceful, popular demonstrations in Eastern Europe get the best names.

Although no government has been overthrown, the mass protests in Ukraine are already being referred to as the Orange Revolution or Chestnut Revolution, depending on where you live.

In the West, the tens of thousands of protesters wearing orange hats, shawls, scarves and bin liners and holding aloft orange flags and banners have captured the attention of the media.

In Ukraine itself, as well as in Russia, the action is becoming known as the Chestnut Revolution after the trees lining the capital Kiev's main thoroughfare, the leaves of which are virtually a national symbol.

Crowds hold orange flags and banners aloft in Kiev
The "Chestnut Revolution" quickly became the Orange Revolution"
Most mass protests have their symbols - the patriots of the French Revolution had a bonnet rouge, or red cap of liberty.

In Ukraine, the colour orange was chosen to represent a broad coalition of opposition parties purely on the strength of it being a vibrant colour, instantly distinguishable from the traditional blue and yellow Ukrainian colours.

According to colour psychologists, the colour orange is associated with good feeling. In Ukraine, orange is also becoming the symbol of change.


Symbols appear to be all important. In acknowledgement of last year's revolution in Georgia, Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko has addressed his supporters holding aloft a single rose.

A year ago this month, tens of thousands of Georgians fed up with the corruption, poverty and political stagnation of President Eduard Shevardnadze's regime demanded his resignation.

Viktor Yushchenko, opposition leader
Viktor Yushchenko holds up a rose, the symbol of last year's peaceful revolution in Georgia
Opposition supporters led by Mikhail Saakashvili marched on the parliament building holding long-stemmed roses - a sign of their peaceful intentions. Mr Shevardnadze fled with his bodyguards and the term Rose Revolution was coined.

Demonstrators on the streets of Kiev have also placed flowers in the metal shields of the riot police who have been put on stand-by in the city. Political commentators say this could be interpreted as a sign that the demonstrators aim to achieve their ends in a peaceful fashion.

Some commentators are putting the demonstrations in the wider context of the bloodless Velvet Revolution, which put an end to communist rule in Czechoslovakia in 1989.

The term was coined by Vaclav Havel, the former Czech president, who led the demonstrations. He also penned the revolution's slogan: Love and truth will prevail over lies and hatred.

Georgia's Rose Revolution was also referred to by many as a Velvet Revolution.

Singing for freedom

Estonia's own bid for freedom has been given an equally poetic name: the Singing Revolution.

For decades, Estonians had sung in subjugation, anthems and folk songs that evoked the humiliation of Soviet occupation. In 1989, they sang in defiance. Tens of thousands of people attended a national song festival, which became the impetus for a bid for freedom.

Evocative names for mass demonstrations in Eastern Europe are not new. The short-lived, so-called citizen's democracy in Hungary in 1918 is also known as the Michaelmas Daisy Revolution.

Such names are not restricted to Eastern Europe. The Carnation Revolution was a left-leaning revolution in Portugal in 1974, which ushered in a liberal democracy.

In Kyrgyzstan this week, one politician referring to next year's planned parliamentary and presidential elections spoke of "underground proclamations of opposition groups about preparing various kinds of revolution - rose, chestnut and the like".

Given that more than 60 different species of tulip are found in Kyrgyzstan maybe any such move would be called the Tulip Revolution.

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