American Professor Uncovers Nature Of Modern Civil Uprisings
1 July, 2015

What You Need To Know:

✓ Non-violent resistance movements can be considered 'hard power' as they are twice as likely to be successful as violent resistance movements
✓ Russian-engineered protests bring hundreds of people to strategic locations, like occupied buildings or protecting 'little green men'
✓ It's important for people to see large protests as this shows them that they are not alone in their grievances; making them braver in the face of repression
✓ “Activists in Yerevan are quite strategic. This is not a battle against Russia, but a battle against the corrupt country that they are living in”

Professor Maciej Bartkowski, from The Johns Hopkins University, has been working on a novel approach to non-violent resistance movements – classifying them as ‘hard power’ and not ‘soft.’ His reasoning is that after analyzing over 300 non-violent movements he and his colleagues have determined that they were able to successfully challenge the regime 53% of the time. Violent resistance campaigns were successful in 26% of cases. In this way, non-violent campaigns can and should be viewed as very legitimate challenges to authoritarian regimes.

“They are protesting the price hike in electricity; although they are doing this under the banner of ‘No Loot’. So they are against corruption and not just electricity.”

“Activists in Yerevan are quite strategic. They know which battles to pick and where and when. This is not a battle against Russia, but a battle against the corrupt country that they are living in,” says Bartkowski.

“Authoritarian regimes are so afraid of ‘colored revolutions’. They recognize the threats (posed by non-violent) movements to their regime,” he continues saying that Russians are orchestrating their own protests “..directly from the philosophy that these protests can be engineered because that is the perception that this is how the colored revolutions happened.”

At the same time, Russia cannot engineer millions into the streets. Russia is, however, very good at mobilizing small groups of several hundreds of people in strategic locations. These protesters were seen protecting the ‘little green men’ in Crimea and protecting buildings that were captured by separatist and Russian forces, preventing any Ukrainian forces from retaking them.

Prof. Bartkowski also talked about Lithuania’s non-violent memorandum that was circulated on Ministry of Defense websites, as a way to prepare Lithuanians to meet aggressor states like Russia.

“25% of that manual is talking about how they should engage in non-violent resistance… You mobilize society to oppose any kind of collaboration, assistance to the invader.”

“Once there is an opening for the civilians to go out they will start questioning the ones who are controlling the territory… Contain the government to as much extent possible. Once the conflict stops, its contained, non-violent actions can be planned.”

On the visualization of such protests, Prof. Bartkowski places extreme importance on this as this will create a sense of community of ‘believers’ in the cause; to make people feel like they are together and not alone.

“Those people who are seeing each other… this is where people stop being afraid. When they visualize how many people are sharing the grievances,” he contends.

“Before they were sitting at home and they didn’t know the preferences of even their neighbors.. but they never knew how many shared the perception of injustice. People, by visualization of these protesters and activists, they are becoming braver.”

Hromadske International's Nataliya Gumenyuk and Ian Bateson spoke with Maciej Bartkowski on June 28, 2015.