By revolution, I mean a violent overthrow of a system of government, from within the country itself. So, the American Revolution doesn't count for my question, since it was a revolution to push out an external power. Specifically, I'm drawing a line between revolutions that wanted to destroy an existing government, and revolutions that wanted to create a new government independent of the one it was under. What would count would be the French Revolution, Russian Revolution, Cuban revolution, etc. I realize this isn't the general definition of "revolution," but it's the type of revolution that I'm particularly interested in.

Ideally, the revolution would be more populist in nature. The French revolution of 1848 seems like a decent example, but I'd still like to know if there were others.

In essence, this is the thesis I hope to see disproved:

Violent, populist revolutions that seek to completely depose an existing form of government end in totalitarian/authoritarian/tyrannical regimes.

EDIT: I've narrowed my question slightly, and tightened the definitions I was using. My apologies for under specifying the question in the beginning, I hope that as it stands this question can be answered.

  • 2
    The answer is trivially yes, because there are too many instances of such: Foundation of the Roman Republic. Reforms of Draco and then Solon in Athens followed a period of widespread civil unrest that would seem to be a revolution". "Glorious Revolution" of 1688 in Great Britain. French Revolution of 1848. Unification of Italy. I would even argue that the Reconquista in Spain, though it took centuries, was one such. Likewise the Eighty Years War of liberation in the Netherlands - as the very concept of *nationalisim that you use to eliminate the American Revolution is post-Napoleonic concept Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 3:58
  • Independence of Belgium in the 1830's from the Netherlands. Overthrow of the German Monarchies in 1919 leading to formation of the Weimar Republic. Poland probably has a few (maybe more) examples, but I don't know Polish history well enough of the top of my head to list them. Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 4:02
  • 2
    Do you consider modern Russia a "totalitarian regime"? Do you consider the velvet revolution pushing out a foreign power? Also, most people in the American Colonies prior to 1775 would have found the idea that Britain was a "foreign power" entirely shocking.
    – user15620
    Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 4:08
  • Fair enough. I guess my question was misguided. Still, the Glorious Revolution ended in a monarchy, which at least for me isn't much better, I was more looking for populist revolutions, but that's on me for not specifying. The independence of Belgium didn't overthrow the government of the Netherlands, it was for independence, so that doesn't count.
    – ThatGuy
    Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 4:08
  • 1
    The problem with a question like this is, I think, that you have to be very careful and clear with the details and terms. You're right, it is bit of a minefield but I hope it will stay open as it is basically a good question. Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 7:14

3 Answers 3


Examples are abundant, beginning with the "Glorious revolution" in England. July revolution 1830 in France, overthrow of the Communist regime in Roumania, the Ukrainian revolution of 2014. All these were violent overthrows of the governments which did not lead to a totalitarian regime. There were also many non-violent revolutions, and many "in between". For example the February 1917 revolution in Russia was non-violent, violence started later, and it did not establish a totalitarian regime. (Totalitarian regime was established in November 1917, but this is considered another revolution by most historians).

  • the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014 was not a revolution, it was a foreign invasion.
    – jwenting
    Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 6:07
  • 3
    I was not talking of Russian invasion. Ukrainian revolution overthrew the president, was violent, but did not lead to establishment of totalitarian state.
    – Alex
    Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 6:17
  • Okay, I suppose this mostly answers the question, thank you. I will research these events more. Though, I feel that's a bit of a technicality with the Russian revolution. I agree there's a spectrum between what can and cannot be considered a consequence of the revolution, but for the purposes of discussing the effects of a revolution 8 months hardly seems like long enough to discount it.
    – ThatGuy
    Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 6:20
  • 1
    @ThatGuy: Yes, Russian revolution(s) of 1917 are questionable in many respects. The most difficult question is whether the November revolution was an inevitable consequence of the February revolution. But this is undecidable.
    – Alex
    Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 12:50

The Carnation Revolution

Many good examples have already been provided, but I would add the Carnation Revolution in 1974 in Portugal, that overthrew Salazar's authoritarian Estado Nuovo and resulted in the Republic of Portugal.

  • This seems like a good example to me. Would this be an example of a revolution that could be considered violent, despite the fact there were relatively few dead, such as Lars Bosteen referenced?
    – ThatGuy
    Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 7:56
  • @ThatGuy It depends of the degree of violence you are looking for. The Carnation Revolution was certainly not a bloodbath (4 deaths are recorderd during the first coup on 25th of april 1974), but it led to 2 years of instability (including the "hot summer" of 1945) with sporadic fights before the new Consitution and the elected government took full control.
    – Evargalo
    Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 9:10
  • *1975, not 1945
    – Evargalo
    Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 11:50

The English revolution that pitted the Crown against parliament with the final settlement we see today, a constitutional monarchy where parliament is sovereign.

I’d dispute that the American Revolution was about pushing out a foreign power. They were - after all - a British colony - and more broadly, a European colony.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Robert Columbia
    Commented Sep 30, 2021 at 10:16

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.