By Alex Kingsbury

Since the Cold War, the world has seen a hosting of challenges to governments

In the twenty years since the end of the Cold War, the world has seen a host of popular uprisings, coup d'états, and other challenges to governments from Indonesia, to Venezuela, to Egypt.

By historic standards, most of these recent events have been remarkably bloodless. All of them have occurred in smaller states where citizens lack basic freedoms and had been subjected to government's rife with corruption or worse. In nearly all instances, there is usually a triggering event, often an election or spike in food prices, coupled with festering problems, like unemployment, corruption, and state-sponsored violence.

In 1998, demonstrators in Indonesia ousted a long-serving and corrupt President Suharto. In 2001, demonstrators took to the streets of the Philippines ousted a corrupt president as well.

Disputed elections led to uprisings in Georgia in 2003, Ukraine in 2004, Kyrgyzstan in 2005, and Iran in 2009.

Of course, challenges to authority can come from many corners: in 1999, both the Ivory Coast and Pakistan experienced military coups. Military officers tried the same thing in Venezuela three years later, but the coup was reversed in a scant 48 hours.

Spikes in food prices are a familiar trigger, as appears to be the case in Tunisia and Egypt. That was also the cause of the 2007 uprisings in Burma. Food problems are also nagging concern today in countries like Jordan and Syria, which has experts concerned that other countries are ripe for revolt. The King of Jordan dismissed his cabinet this week, presumably an effort to appease demonstrators who have taken to the streets there in recent days. "While I wouldn't say that the past twenty years have been historically violent or tumultuous by historic standards, the difference now is that these revolts are carried live so that the risk of contagion is large," says David Gordon, the Eurasia Group's head of research and director of global macro analysis.

A look at 15 examples of these uprisings -- by no means an all-inclusive list -- reveals interesting parallels and shows how challenges to national governments have become more common with the end of the super power standoff that defined the Cold War.

Analysts say that the decline in superpower support for these smaller states has placed unpopular governments in greater peril. "These revolts and uprisings over the past two decades have been allowed to happen because the stakes for the superpowers are much, much lower than they were during the Cold War," says Peter Zeihan, the vice president for analysis at the private intelligence group STRATFOR. "During the Cold War, it was always important for the superpowers to unconditionally back their allies, even if that meant looking the other way. You would never have had a situation like we now have in Egypt during the Cold War, because the U.S. would simply turn a blind eye to a crackdown in the streets of Cairo and urge that the situation be resolved quickly."

During the Cold War, challenges to authority often meant bloody government crackdowns. The 1956 Hungarian uprising saw the Soviet army tramping and shooting its way through Budapest, while the Prague Spring of 1968 saw those thousands of Soviet tanks roll through Czechoslovakia. In 1989, the Chinese government sent the military on students calling for reforms in Tiananmen Square.

And the crackdowns didn't just come from communist nations: Between 1969 and 1998, the British government waged an extensive military campaign against paramilitary groups seeking a united Ireland. And in Latin America, right-wing regimes backed strongly by the United States, violently snuffed both individual liberties and opposition groups, from Chile under Augusto Pinochet to Cuba under Fulgencio Batista.

Indeed, many of the same demands voiced by protestors in those countries are echoed by more recent uprisings, from calls for a more representative government, an end to abusive treatment from government security forces, and a better chance for economic prosperity.