Though revolutions are often bloody, confusing, and chaotic, they are the driving force behind the formation of countries. Independence is won, dictators overthrown, and the will of the people forms new governments to rule infant nations. But beyond the influence revolutions have in their own countries, the effects of major regime changes can be felt worldwide and international systems of governance are always impacted.
Not surprisingly, the American Revolution was kind of a big deal. Beyond forming the nation that would become a world superpower, it forever changed the dynamics of colony-mother-country relationships. The demand for local representation spurred colonists to take up arms against the British government, and eventually win independence in 1781.
French society was forever changed when the absolute monarchy collapsed as the bourgeoisie rose up against King Louis XVI, and a period of conquest in Europe followed. The French government that followed the French Revolution was marked by democracy and secularism, something that hadn’t truly existed in Europe up to that point.
A major facet of the Arab Spring, the Egyptian people revolted against President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. When Mubarak came into power following the assassination of former president al-Sadat, the country was placed under martial law. This gave Mubarak enormous power, which he used to aggressively put down dissent and religious fundamentalism. Prolonged conflict finally lead to Mubarak stepping down, and the Muslim Brotherhood, led by Mohamed Morsi, was elected to power in the first democratic election in Egyptian history. However, as of June 2013, the people revolted once more and removed Morsi from power.
The 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran overthrew the monarchy and established an Islamic Republic led by Ayatollah Khomeini. It was a unique revolution for the speed by which change was enacted, the massive support it initially achieved country-wide, and the success it had in removing a heavily-armed and protected regime. Though Iran felt the effects of the Arab Spring, it remains an Islamic Republic in tense relations with the West due to its nuclear program.
Between 1911 and 1949, China experienced massive political upheaval, eventually becoming the People’s Republic of China, a communist regime led by Mao Zedong. This was monumental as China grew in size and power and become a major world superpower. Its tactics at maintaining power strained relations with the West, however, and reported human rights violations are frequent. The country remains fractured, as Hong Kong and Taiwan both have independent governing bodies.
The Russian Revolution of 1917 came to a head Oct. 25, 1917 with an armed insurrection in Petrograd, which effectively threw over the Russian Provisional Government and put the Bolsheviks in power. It wasn’t until 1922 when the Soviet Union was formed, as the October Revolution was only recognized in Petrograd, but it was the turning point in establishing the socialist regime in Russia.
Younger generations probably have no idea why they can’t buy Cuban cigars in the U.S., or take a vacation in Havana. It goes back to the 1960s, when Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista was taken down by rebels led by Fidel Castro. When Castro and his fellow fighters assumed office, they established a communist regime rather than a democratic one, and cut off ties with the U.S. despite initial support of the revolution.
A bit different from other, more traditional revolutions, the First Crusade took place from 1096 to 1099, representing an attempt by Roman Catholics in Europe, led by Pope Urban II, to take Jerusalem from Islamic rule. Though they succeeded in taking Jerusalem, it resulted in the massacre of Muslims, Jews, and even other Christians. While it was short-lived, it did re-open international trade in the West, as well as represent a massive genocide based on religious grounds — a theme that would tragically occur again and again throughout history.
Remember the Ottoman Empire? Well, the Young Turk Revolution is the reason it no longer exists. In 1908, the revolution was actually an attempt to preserve the empire, but resulted in allies such as Britain and France distancing themselves. Thus, the Young Turks turned to Germany, and the alliance would be the founding point of World War I. After the Ottoman Empire and its allies were defeated in the war, their power was largely erased. The groundwork for Turkey was laid during this time, leading to the formation of the new nation-state.
One of the lesser-known revolutions out there, the Haitian Revolution was a slave uprising in 1791 that resulted in massive civil war throughout the then-French colony. Within a year, slaves had taken control of a third of the island, and the French government realized it had an insurmountable problem on its hands. France decided to grant civil and political rights to free people of color — an unheard-of move at the time — and eventually formally abolished slavery.