The Carnation Revolution or Revolução dos Cravos was a largely bloodless coup which occurred in the nation of Portugal in 1974. The result of the Carnation Revolution was the toppling of a dictatorship which had prevailed for almost 50 years. After a brief period of turmoil, Portugal emerged as a democratic country, to the great delight of many of its citizens and the world in general.
The history of this event began in 1926, when a military coup established the Estado Novo, overthrowing the nascent First Republic of Portugal, a democratic government which had replaced Portugal's monarchy in 1910. Portuguese citizens chafed under the Estado Novo, but the end of this regime was ultimately brought about by the actions of the military, rather than the citizens. Military officers with left-wing inclinations masterminded their coup d'état in response to the sacking of a Portuguese general who spoke out against Portuguese colonial policy.
In the early hours of 25 April 1974, the Carnation Revolution began in the Portuguese city of Lisbon. The military forces quickly overwhelmed the government, sparking spontaneous demonstrations in the street, in which civilians ran out to mingle with the soldiers, despite orders to stay inside. At the time, carnations were flooding the famous central flower market of Lisbon, and many citizens put them into the gun barrels of the soldiers, inspiring the name “Carnation Revolution” to describe this event in Portuguese history.
Government forces managed to kill four people before it was clear that they were not going to win the Carnation Revolution. The relative peacefulness of the coup has also been credited to a determined desire to avoid violence on the part of the revolutionary soldiers. Individual citizens also encouraged members of the regime to surrender, rather than fighting, making it easier for the coup to remain free of violence.
As often happens when a government is overthrown, even with the support of the populace, Portugal underwent a period of instability after the Carnation Revolution. It took several years to create a strong democratic government, and during this period Portugal divested itself of almost all of its foreign colonies and underwent severe economic turmoil, as the dictatorship had controlled the Portuguese economy with such a stranglehold that it took some time to stabilize. For the Portuguese and their former colonies, this was a very difficult period, but many feel that the short-term effects of the Carnation Revolution were well worth the trouble. Today, Portuguese celebrate Freedom Day on 25 April every year.