By Filip Stojanovski

"I am sick of Fear, I want Freedom!" Photo by Vanšo Džambaski, CC BY-SA.
“I am sick of Fear, I want Freedom!” Photo by Vanšo Džambaski, CC BY-SA.

For over two weeks, tens of thousands of Macedonian citizens from over a dozen cities participate in the “Colorful Revolution,” holding daily protest marches against state capture, demanding justice and democracy. They are eager to share their methodology through DIY tutorials in order to incite further citizen participation.

Step 1: Identity – Define who you are and what you stand for

The protests are organized ‘horizontally’ by a loose network of activists, including members of NGOs and civic initiatives, as well as some opposition parties – and any individual citizen who joins. The defused and decentralized approach based on a core set of values is essential both as means to attract more participants and as prevention measure from “hijacking” the credit for the protest by any particular stakeholder.

In essence, anyone adhering to these principles can claim being a part of the “Colorful Revolution.” In contrast to strict hierarchical discipline of the ruling parties requiring their supporters to repeat messages sent from the top, the protesters often experiment and disagree on various approaches, and resolve differences through open discussion. Making the common principles known is essential in defining the movement.

Why do I protest and what is the Colorful Revolution?
1. This is a struggle against the authoritarian and corrupt regime, personified by Nikola Gruevski.
2. This struggle is not peaceful [in the sense of passive], but it is strictly nonviolent.
3. No civil society group holds the monopoly over the struggle against the authoritarian regime.
Every citizen adhering with these principles is part of “I protest” (#протестирам) and the #ColorfulRevolution.
We call upon all who agree with these principles to come out and protest.

Reflecting the linguistic diversity of Macedonia, the protesters have been sharing information about the demands in various local languages, like Macedonian, Albanian (#protestoj!), Roma… and in English as well.

Even the English translation of the term #ColorfulRevolution was a result of “the wisdom of crowds” (Surowiecki). The Macedonian term #ШаренаРеволуција (“sharena revolucija” in Latin alphabet) refers to mix of various colors, and can be translated as “Multicolored” too. However ‘Colorful’ stuck, esp. after Deutche Welle used it within the article titled “Protesters hit Macedonia’s capital with paint balls and soap suds in a ‘Colorful Revolution’.”

Which translation is more suitable: Multicolor Revolution, Multicolored Revolution or Colorful Revolution?

Step 2: DIY Means – share resources, knowledge and skills

Resource sharing started with t-shirt designs. The original shared design presented a stylized logo of the three most prominent Special Public Prosecutors: Lenče Risteska, Katica Janeva and Fatime Fetai. The people have been downloading the logo with the Macedonian acronym “СЈО” and taking it to print shops to make their own t-shirts, wearing them as a sign of support for the anti-corruption efforts of the prosecutors.

Colorful Revolution t-shirts.
Photo by Vančo Džambaski, CC BY-SA.
Photo by Vančo Džambaski, CC BY-SA.
Photo by Vančo Džambaski, CC BY-SA.

Soon, over a dozen designers started making logos and other visual materials, and posting them online in high resolution for public use. The web page collects these designs in one place, providing an easy to use digital resource. The people use them to make more diverse t-shirts, banners, stickers, various badges, flags

All paraphernalia is self-financed by the protesters. The protests also lead to blossoming of cottage industry catering to their needs – entrepreneurial street vendors offering whistles or bottled water follow the marches. They quickly switch to selling umbrellas when it rains.

Screen shot of with all the various logo designs used by protesters.
Screen shot of with all the various logo designs used by protesters.

Then comes the protest activity in the streets. Violent acts that bring criminal liability are strictly forbidden. This includes any activity that can harm another person, especially police officers. People throwing stones or other dangerous objects, hitting others etc. are considered provocateurs. This is in line with the established tradition of nonviolence.

Activities such as throwing eggs or paint, writing graffiti at buildings or statues are considered misdemeanors under Macedonian law, with penalty of about 50 euros. To prevent any physical harm in case of accidents, protesters desiring to redecorate public buildings use balloons filled with paint and sand (for aerodynamics).

The following online tutorial explains how to make use simple household items to make spread some colorfulness with the simple ingredients of gloves, sand, paint, and balloons.

Дали сакате да се приклучите на #ШаренатаРеволуција? Многу е лесно, треба да следите само неколку чекори:

1. Земете што е можно поширока инка или направете сами
2. Вметнете го исечениот крај во еден празен балон
3. Наполнете го балонот до пола со обичен песок
4. Наполнете едно шишенце (полесно е ако е со цуцла) со боја
5. Закачете го балонот на шишенцето и наполнете го балонот со боја
6. Заврзете го балонот и исплакнете го со вода
7. Спремни сте за шарена револуција

Would you like to join the #ColorfulRevolution? It’s easy, just follow these few steps:

1. Take a wide funnel or make your own from a big syringe
2. Put the cut end into an empty baloon
3. Fill half of the balloon with sand
4. Fill a plastic bottle with paint (used to transport the paint from home to protest site)
5. Tie the balloon to the bottle noose to fill it with paint
6. Tie the balloon and rinse it with water
7. You are now ready for a colorful revolution.

Do it yourself (DIY) Colorful Revolution Instruction

There’s a loose consensus among the protesters to paint only objects that symbolize the power and the arrogance of the regime. For instance, the Triumphal Arch and the statue of clothed Prometheus, which bears resemblance to the works by Arno Breker symbolizing “The Party” as bringer of light and knowledge to the people.

Skopje 2014 Prometheus turned Pink. Photo by Filip Stojanovski, CC BY.
Skopje 2014 Prometheus turned Pink. Photo by Filip Stojanovski, CC BY.

In response to punitive government actions, the protesters are also sharing legal information about the citizen’s rights in case one is detained or arrested in Macedonian and Albanian.

What to do if you are summoned by the police – know your basic rights and resources for legal aid [in Albanian], including the tool-free number by Macedonian Helsinki Committee.

Step 3: Counter propaganda

At the public discourse level, the Colorful Revolution branding directly ridicules and deconstructs the government propaganda claims, parroted during the previous year that the protests are part of externally imposed “Colour Revolution” “scenario.”

To people acquainted with the history of Macedonian political scene, these claims sound a bit ironic. In 2006 it was actually the currently ruling party VMRO-DPMNE which modeled its whole election campaign on the “Color Revolution” theme. They tried to appear pro-Western and progressive, and to capitalize on the reputation of the 2004 Ukrainian Orange Revolution, they changed their “Rebirth in 100 steps” election campaign color scheme from red-and-black to orange. Their oligarch cronies even brought the singer-activist Ruslana to Macedonia as part of their ‘orange’ PR efforts.

VMRO-DPMNE publicity photo from 2006, part of their "Orange" phase, emulating the Ukrainian "Color Revolution.
VMRO-DPMNE publicity photo from 2006, part of their ‘Orange phase,’ emulating the Ukrainian “Color Revolution.”

Meanwhile, on the international scene, VMRO-DPMNE is trying to play both sides against the middle, sending different messages to different audiences. They simultaneously attempt to present themselves as supported (as European People’s Party member) and victimized by “the West,” while receiving declarative support from Russian state and its propaganda machine.

On one hand the Party has poured several million dollars for lobbying in the US, planting articles by hired PR experts in US publications presenting the opposition as pro-Russian. The perception that “the great powers” are somehow on your side is important to maintain the image of invincibility to local voters throughout the Balkans. This went to such lengths that the US had to issue a denial of their support for VMRO-DPMNE or any other particular party. Pro-government media spin statements by EU officials who do not unequivocally state that the early elections scheduled must be postponed as sign of support for government’s stance.

Colorful Revolution humor, featuring ruling Party boss Nikola Gruevski

On the other hand, president Ivanov and Party leader and Former Prime Minister Gruevski blame the West for instigating a “Color Revolution” as part “an Ukraine scenario” with the opposition to remove the regime from power. Russia issued diplomatic note of support, while Russia Today attempts to amplify the main message of the counter-protests, that they are more numerous than the protests, to show that majority citizens in fact love their government.

Colorful Revolution protesters. Photo by Vančo Džambaski, CC BY-NC-SA.
Colorful Revolution protesters. Photo by Vančo Džambaski, CC BY-NC-SA.