The paper reconstructs and explains the patterns of collective protest in four Central European countries, Hungary, former East Germany, Poland, and Slovakia, during the early phases of democratic consolidation (1989-1994). Analytical perspective is provided by protest event analysis. The empirical evidence comes from content analysis of several major papers in each country. The patterns found in the data are com pared with the predictions derived from four theoretical traditions: (a) relative deprivation; (b) instrumen tal institutionalism; (c) historical-cultural institutionalism; and (d) resource mobilization theory. Two main conclusions are reached. First, the levels of "objective" or "subjective" deprivation are unrelated to the magnitude and various feature of protest, which are best explained by a combination of institutional and resource mobilization theories. Second, democratic consolidation is not necessarily threatened by a high magnitude of protest. If protest's demands are moderate and its methods routinized, it contributes to the political vitality of new democracies.