One year ago, the world witnessed what appeared to be a spontaneous uprising by angry voters in the streets of Kiev. But for months, Ukrainian activists had been carefully honing their message and tactics. They did it with the help of American-backed "uprising consultants" - veterans of opposition movements in Serbia, Belarus, and Georgia. Bob speaks with one of them, Serbian student activist Ivan Moravic.
BOB GARFIELD:: And I'm Bob Garfield. A year ago, amid optimism verging on euphoria, the Orange Revolution swept Ukraine. A rigged election was voided and a heroic democrat took power. In the year since, the ascension of Viktor Yushchenko has not yielded quite the utopia the street demonstrators envisioned. The government is riven with internal conflict, the press is again repressed, and due process remains overdue. Maybe this ambiguity was foreshadowed by the Orange Revolution itself, which was a bit less - or more - than met the eye. Far from being spontaneous, it was fomented with lots of help - and 40 million American dollars - from the outside. Last year, I spoke with Ivan Moravic, a founder of Otpor, the Serbian political student group that helped provide the Orange revolutionaries with their template for success. I asked him to explain first how Otpor did it in Serbia and then how he exported the creation of a whole brand of protest to other countries.
IVAN MORAVIC:: As a student activist and organizer, I was trying with my colleagues to find a way how to reach broader audience. Our inspiration came from multinational companies and things like Coca-Cola and - or Levi's. What we needed was a simple message. What we needed was a simple logo, so people could recognize it after one second. So that's why we picked a name Otpor, which means resistance, and also we picked a clenched fist. Our slogan was "Gotov je," which means "He is finished." And that was the most simple way to tell to the people that if they vote against Milosevic, he will be finished. It showed the good way of attracting one portion of the society which doesn't respond to classical political messages, and this is exactly what we were trying to pass to our friends and colleagues in Georgia and Ukraine, which is some sort of a package, but also the content of that package has to be carefully developed, because a package cannot do the job for itself.
BOB GARFIELD:: Well, there are striking similarities between the Ukrainian disputed election and the one in Belgrade that marked the beginning of the end for Milosevic, but obviously the details were very different, and the sloganeering was different as well. What logo and slogan was embraced by your colleagues in Ukraine?
IVAN MORAVIC:: What they did is that they made a slogan, "Pora," which means "It's high time." And their logo is actually the ticking clock, which symbolically means that the clock is ticking for Kuchma and for his regime and the oligarchs that are controlling Ukraine at the moment. And that is different from Otpor's clenched fist, which was more a result of 10 years of civil war and economic sanctions and totally different situation.
BOB GARFIELD:: I want to ask you about the potential downside of the underlying reality that the populace is being manipulated by the pro-democracy forces in approximately the same way it had been for decades manipulated by this [CHUCKLES] sitting government. Is there no chance for backlash when the people realize that they have been, I don't know, toyed with?
IVAN MORAVIC:: This is not a manipulation. You can fool some people for some time, but they're in the street for ten days now, and they don't seem fooled. They seem that they're fighting for what they want, and what they want to fight for is their right to vote.
BOB GARFIELD:: Now, the United States has a long and often very sorry history of interfering in the affairs of sovereign governments. Is there no risk that you will be perceived as an agent of Washington, wherever you consult?
IVAN MORAVIC:: I wouldn't think that branding or training that I and my colleagues did were the most important. We maybe helped them, like maybe one percent. Maybe foreign funding helped them five percent. But 95 percent or 99 percent was thanks to their effort and their readiness to fight for their cause. It's up to them to seek funding. The only thing that we need to know before we start trainings is whether the groups we are working with are fighting for democracy, human rights and better society in their countries, and that they use non-violent methods.
BOB GARFIELD:: I think it's easy to dismiss branding as just the very essence of superficiality in the, you know, the commercial culture and so forth, but one thing we learn here is that brands are not nothing - that they are actually the convergence of recognition and meaning. No?
IVAN MORAVIC:: Yes. In the 20th century, branding was done by connecting a movement to the leader, so everybody remembers Lech Walesa or Nelson Mandela or Mahatma Gandhi. In Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine, branding was done not connecting to leaders. Leaders could have been blackmailed or bribed or even maybe killed. [CHUCKLES] You can't do that with brands or ideas.
BOB GARFIELD:: So where next? Uzbekistan comes to mind. Zimbabwe. Is your phone ringing off the hook with pleas for help from around the world?
IVAN MORAVIC:: It does ring every now and then, and if they are asking for help, we are willing to help and to share our experience with them.
BOB GARFIELD:: At the moment, you're in the United States creating a video game for the next generation of activists. Tell me about it.
IVAN MORAVIC:: This game, I think the working title is "A Force More Powerful," is a game where a player will be able to organize a mass movement against a dictatorship. It's going to be violent game with prosecutions, with arrests, with kidnapping. The only person that will not be allowed to be violent is the player.
BOB GARFIELD:: Well, Ivan, thank you very much.
IVAN MORAVIC:: Thank you.
BOB GARFIELD:: Ivan Moravic is a founding member of the Serbian student movement Otpor. We spoke to him last year. The video game he mentioned is due to hit stores in January. [MUSIC UP AND UNDER]