Revolutions are when a fundamental change in either the organizational structure or the power of the ruling class takes place, and it occurs within a relatively short period. Most of them called for sharp and prompt political change.
Several revolutions have taken place all through human history, and each one is unique in terms of their duration, their cause, and methods. They have resulted in remarkable changes within the institutions of economies, cultures, and especially politics.
Here we will discuss the seven (7) most influential revolutions in the history of humankind. These revolts led to massive change and repainted the cultural landscape for millions of people.
The Iranian Revolution
The Iranian Revolution resulted when their leader, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, fled the country in January 1979. Fierce Anti-Shah protests and demonstrations began in 1978 and gained momentum from that point. There was much discontent among the working and middle class who were fundamentally opposed to the “White Revolution” implemented by the shah that many felt only supported members of the elite.
Many Islamic leaders were vehemently opposed to what they believed was the westernization of Iran. A Shiite cleric named Ayatollah Khomeini was especially vocal and demanded the removal of the shah, and the birth of an Islamic state in Iran.
A significant flashpoint of this revolution was reached on September 8, 1978, when the security force of the shah fired upon a massive group of protesters. Hundreds of these protesters died, and thousands were wounded.
Subsequently, thousands of Iranians rioted in the streets of Tehran and began destroying the symbols of westernization like banks and liquor stores.
The Haitian Revolution
The Haitian Revolution was a complicated sequence of conflicts that took place from 1791 to 1804. It involved Haitian slaves, colonists, the armies of both French and British colonizers, and several other parties. Throughout this prolonged struggle, the Haitian people eventually won their independence from France, becoming the first nation to be created by former slaves.
The Spanish enslaved the native Ciboney and Taino people shortly after Italian navigator Christopher Columbus first discovered the island in 1492. The indigenous citizens of the island were forced to mine gold by the Spaniards. After falling victim to the horrific working conditions and European diseases, the island’s people were virtually wiped out by the close of the 16th century. This led to the importation of thousands of slaves from nearby Caribbean islands.
Once the gold mines were mined out, the French became rulers of the island. They established permanent settlements. Wealthy landowners increased the African slave population — which was estimated to be over 5000 by the end of the 17th century.
Haitian society became incredibly divided by class, skin color, and gender. These slaves were forced to endure backbreaking workdays, and they died from infections, injuries, and tropical diseases. If this wasn’t bad enough, they also suffered from starvation and malnutrition. It was from this backdrop that the fires of revolution were spawned.
The Young Turk Revolution
The Young Turk Revolution took place in July 1908 and reversed an earlier suspension of the Ottoman parliament, which was previously enacted by Sultan Abdul Hamid II. This suspension was intended to implement a Constitutional government.
The Young Turks was a collection of various dissidents and intellectuals. Many of them had been living in exile, while others were army officers that were based at the Third Army Corps HQ in Salonika. Their movement was an example of the nationalism fever that was moving across Europe at that time. The nationalism swarm had already claimed most of the Empire’s Balkan provinces as it promoted a democratic multi-national state that gained enormous support. It attracted supporters from every corner and had many Arabs, Jews, Bulgarians, Greeks, and Greeks.
After the first Ottoman parliament was restored by the revolution, it was discovered that the process of installing constitutional institutions was far more complicated than was expected. Eventually, power was given to a brand new elite group that established the Grand Vizier as a leader.
While this nationalist movement sought to democratize and modernize, it also tried to preserve the remainder of the original Empire — at least what was left of the Empire. And because security was compromised while trying to implement decentralization policies, the new leaders were forced to abandon the plan altogether.
Not only this, but this once powerful Empire also kept splintering from the pressure of smaller, local revolutions. And then former allies like the French and British were Indifferent to these problems and began to have their own ambitions in the region. This was why the Ottomans allied themselves with Germany during World War I — this was a last-ditch effort to save the Empire.
Ultimately, their alliance with the Germans led to their defeat and the end of their power.
The Cuban Revolution
In 1952, the Cuban president, Carlos Prìo Socarrás, was removed from office by General Fulgencio Batista. All elections were promptly canceled by Batista as well. A young lawyer named Fidel Castro was enraged by this action and spent the next seven years planning to overthrow this new government of Batista.
In July 1953, Castro organized an attack on military barracks in Santiago, but his forces lost the battle, and he was later arrested. Even though Castro gets a prison sentence of 15 years, Batista decided to demonstrate his supreme power by releasing him in 1955.
Castro refused to back down and immediately gathered another army of rebels within Mexico. In December 1956, he was once again defeated by the armies of Batista and then fled to the Sierra Maestra. He started using guerrilla tactics to battle Batista’s armed forces and began combining other rebellious groups that were springing up Cuba. Castro not only forced Batista to resign, but he also forced him to flee the country altogether in January 1959.
Fidel Castro then became the new Prime Minister of Cuba in February 1959 and immediately executed over 500 of Batista’s associates. He subsequently suspended elections and proclaimed himself as “President for Life.” He either jailed or executed anyone who opposed his power. He installed a communist government and became an ally with the Soviet Union.
The October Revolution
The October Revolution was strictly a political revolution and a portion of the 1917 Russian Revolution. It happened when armed insurgents took over Petrograd on October 25, 1917. It was technically the second leg of the Russian Revolution after the first leg, which occurred in February of the same year.
The October Revolution displaced the Russian Provisional Government in Petrograd while giving power to the local Bolsheviks. Initially, this revolution was not officially recognized beyond the streets of Petrograd, and because of this, many struggles ensued. This evolved into the Russian Civil War (1917–1922) and ultimately, the birth of the Soviet Union in 1922.
This revolution was executed by the Bolsheviks, who had influence within the local Petrograd government that was powerful enough to organize an army. This Bolshevik Red Guard started taking over vital government building on October 24, 1917. The powerful Winter Palace was captured the next day.
The French Revolution
The French Revolution was a huge event pertaining to the overall history of Western societies and has had a huge impact on the world today. In the year 1789, the French people began to revolt against the absolute monarchy under which they had been living. Their objective was to create a republic that would embrace the principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity.
Prior to the French Revolution, society throughout France was structured by the old feudal system, which was also referred to as the Estates System. Under these rules, a person’s societal status and rights were determined exclusively by the estate to which that person belonged.
It was typical for a person to belong to one estate for the duration of their lives. Any upgrade of their family’s status in this estate system would literally take several generations. The first of these estates were the clergy, the nobility made up the second estate, and peasants were in the third estate. Even though peasants made up over 96% of French society, they had virtually no economic and political power.
These factors caused intense anger to build within the peasant class as they started questioning the authority of Louis XVI, their Monarch. In addition to this, the Age of Enlightenment had been transforming thought all over Europe for decades.
This new Enlightenment was an intellectual movement where famous philosophers and thinkers were beginning to challenge many of the most basic principles of society. The populous in Europe started questioning things like human nature, the role of government, and sources of authority. These new visions and ideas would ultimately inspire the French to overthrow their monarch.
The American Revolution
The Revolutionary War was the result of increasing tensions between the residents of the original 13 colonies and the British colonial government. In April 1775, skirmishes between colonial militiamen and British armies took place in Concord, and Lexington led to a full-blown war for independence.
In 1778, it became an international event as France joined arms with the colonists in the American Revolution. This alliance with the French ultimately forced the British to surrender in 1781 at Yorktown, Virginia.
For over a decade prior to the American Revolution, tensions grew between British authorities and colonists. After the French & Indian War, which took place in 1756 to 1763, resulted in new territories under British authority, it led to new unpopular taxes.
The British government continued trying to raise capital with aggressive forms of taxation on the colonies. The most notable among these actions was the Stamp Act of 1765, the Townshend Acts of 1767, and the famous Tea Act of 1773. These new tax acts were met with outrage and heated protests from many colonists as they resented not having representation within Parliament as other British subjects had.
Prolonged resistance among colonists resulted in violence during the year 1770. This was when British soldiers fired upon an angry group of colonists. This becomes known forever as the Boston Massacre, where five men were killed.
Later in December 1773, a group of Bostonians who dressed up as Indians boarded British ships during the darkness of night. They threw over 300 chests of tea into Boston Harbor in what became known as the Boston Tea Party. An angry Parliament responded by passing a series of measures (known as the Intolerable Acts) designed to reassert the crown’s imperial authority in colonial Massachusetts.