Broers, Laurence & Anna Ohanyan, eds. (2020) Armenia's Velvet Revolution: Authoritarian Decline and Civil Resistance in a Multipolar World. London: IB Tauris. 252 pp., index.

​ISBN: 978-1-78831-717-7

Shaazka Beyerle

Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center, George Mason University

Read more about this book: www.bloomsbury.com

​This volume constitutes the type of scholarship that can inform domestic and international policymaking and donor assistance for countries transitioning from authoritarianism and violent conflict following nonviolent social movements. Ten authors, though not always in agreement, cover vast ground, from the strengths and weaknesses of competitive authoritarian regimes to the dynamics of professionalized versus grassroots civil society in citizen mobilization, to the positive and negative roles of the diaspora. We learn how the deployment of the three 'engines' of nonviolent resistance – unity, strategic planning, nonviolent discipline – was critical for Armenia's Velvet Revolution, as was the people power learning curve, that is, the legacy of previous civic initiatives that seemed modest or inconsequential. The book also provides an overview of Armenia's domestic and geopolitical realities that speak to the present, including the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that again erupted into war last year. Small states such as Armenia are often caught in the crosshairs of intractable or unreliable neighbors and big powers. This volume captures the interplay between geopolitics and domestic transformation. For example, on the one hand, Big Brother Russia did not overtly interfere in the Velvet Revolution, in part due to the social movement's adroit messaging and diplomacy. On the other hand, the Putin regime targeted the post-revolution government's efforts to curb corruption, particularly around Gazprom's Armenian subsidiary. If there is one topic that merited greater attention, it is corruption. Gross malfeasance enabled competitive authoritarianism but also was its Achilles heel. Citizens grew increasingly aggrieved and affected by it, ultimately bringing forth nonviolent political change.