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The Carnation Revolution – In Portugal 1974

Updated on November 27, 2011

Revolução dos Cravos – On the 25th April, 1974, one of the most peaceful revolutions ever documented took place in Portugal. It began in the capital, Lisbon, and was staged as a means of overthrowing some 50 years of dictatorship.

The following is an account of what led to the 'bloodless' rebellion that occurred in Portugal in the mid-seventies. It demonstrates that despite living within an oppressive society, you don't have to resort to violence and aggression as a means of reaching a single objective - peace. Democracy is achievable without shedding the blood of those that oppose our individual right to live as equals - and free from fear.

The Carnation Revolution was preceded by years of major upheaval in Portugal. In 1910, an independent, egalitarian government had supplanted the ruling monarchy – and the First Republic of Portugal was born. This new mode of leadership was replaced in 1926, when the Portuguese military deposed the ruling administration, resulting in a repressive and dictatorial leadership of the country. By 1933 Estado Novo – New State – was founded. It was led by António de Oliveira Salazar, the man who was at the forefront of the initial 1926 defeat of the FirstRepublic.

Salazars’ basic principles were founded upon stabilising the country – he wanted to achieve financial solidity and promote economic growth. During the 16 years that the FirstRepublic had governed Portugal, fundamental stability had not been achieved. It had been a badly implemented system; there was an absence of public order and the administration was chaotic at best.

Antnio de Oliveira Salazar - Prime Minister of Portugal from 1932 to 1968.
Antnio de Oliveira Salazar - Prime Minister of Portugal from 1932 to 1968.

Carnation Revolution And Dictatorship

The Carnation Revolution and dictatorship became, in the end, mutually exclusive. Under Salazars’ reforms, the country did indeed begin to flourish. This was a huge positive, not least for the people of Portugal. It gave them a sense of new-found security and in return Salazar – and his innovative leadership - gained popularity. Many things were to change for the better under his rule. As an example, all Portuguese citizens were given the right to an elementary education and Salazar invested huge sums of money into the educational system.

Unfortunately, there was a downside to living under Salazars’ control. Salazar was a dictatorial leader. His beliefs were based upon Portugal living under a Catholic social dogma. This would suggest a collective oneness – social Catholicism is fundamentally related to the wellbeing and security of humanity. However, Salazar was discriminatory in his use of social Catholicism and chose instead to implement a suppressive version.

Salazars’ statutes closely resembled the ones used to govern Italy and Germany. He was supported by the military and had his own security police force; combined with his principles, he maintain his control of Portugal for over 35 years. Due to his reforms, the oligarchy grew wealthy and the nation continued to grow economically – yet due to taxes introduced by Salazar to pay off national debt, the Portuguese became among the most impoverished people in Europe.

Fighting for freedom ...  ... no bullets - just carnations.
Fighting for freedom ... ... no bullets - just carnations.

Throughout the war years, the 50’s and 60’s, Portugal continued to live under Salazars’ dictatorship. The start of the sixties brought with it the Portuguese Colonial War. Salazar had refused to give up Portugals’ colonies in Africa – Angola, Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique. This added to the weight that the nation was already burdened with. An oppressive government, low income, lack of freedom and now a war that would require vast financial resources, was to prove too much for the nation of Portugal.

By the early 1970’s, Salazar had died. He’d suffered a stroke in 1968 and was replace by Marcelo Caetano. The regime continued as lead by Salazar. The colonial war continued unabated. The military budget was increasing, the army was over-extended. The global community was putting pressure on Novo Estados to find a resolution – and heavily criticising the handling of its affairs. The ruling administration was finding itself progressively more cut off from the rest of the world.

Portugal began to feel the impact of this external condemnation: the people themselves were becoming increasingly disenchanted. The war had entered into its second decade, young men were emigrating, often illegally, as a means of avoiding conscription. The long years of living under a repressive regime proved too much for the nation and, in April of 1974, the country staged a military coup.

Just past midnight, on the 25th of April, tanks moved into Lisbon. The SalazarBridge was taken control of, as were television and radio centres and the airport. Marcelo Caetano had taken flight to some barracks, along with some of his ministers, as a means of seeking sanctuary. Military troops took the barracks, whereby Caetano yielded his position and was subsequently exiled to Madeira. Only four people lost their lives, killed by the government forces in an attempt to retain power, at the start of the military coup.

Several hours later, the newly formed MFA – Movement of Armed Forces – had taken control. Despite the fact that the populace had been warned to stay indoor, thousands took to the streets of Lisbon, in support of the military coup. Civilians merged with soldiers and shouted “O Povo unido, jamais será vencido!" – The people united shall never be defeated – and thronged through the streets, calling for change.

The rebellion was named the 'carnation revolution' due to the fact that the soldiers exchanged bullets for a carnation - placed in the barrel of their guns. Many civilians held or wore carnations – all united in bringing peace and democracy to Portugal and its colonies – without the use of violence. The people of Portugal had liberated their nation – without resorting to hostility and aggression.

Revoluo dos Cravos 25 de Abril de 1974
Revoluo dos Cravos 25 de Abril de 1974


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    • Nick Hanlon profile image

      Nick Hanlon 

      6 years ago from Chiang Mai

      Good hub...knew about this but it's good to see people making the effort to publicize it.We think of 1945 and all Western European countries being free.Not true at all.Democracy is spreading very quickly.

    • ethel smith profile image

      Ethel Smith 

      7 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      We tend to think of all the middle east uprisings as unusal and forget how many have happened in the past. Interesting Hub froggy

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I think you did a great job about our Portuguese "25 de Abril".

    • frogdropping profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      lxxy - hey! How very nice to see you!

      And yes - there's always hope ...

    • lxxy profile image


      9 years ago from Beneath, Between, Beyond

      Its awesome to see a peaceful revolution. There just may be hope for your species yet! ;)

    • frogdropping profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      thelesley - thankyou very much :)

    • thelesleyshow profile image


      9 years ago from US

      Great history lesson! Very well written and easy to read. Thumbs up!

    • frogdropping profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago

      Janetta - ok, the morra. Then I'll let you know my thoughts.

      There may be many :)

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      tsk tsk...I think you should look it up on youtube. They have everything on youtube :)

    • frogdropping profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago

      Janetta - ooooohhhhhhhh I C ... I kinda watched it. Sort of. Fell asleep about 20 minutes in ... so I don't know if I've seen that bit. Can't remember :(

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Haven't you ever seen "Babe" ?? "That'll do, Pig. That'll do." If not you need to watch cute :)

    • frogdropping profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago

      Lisa - thankyou very much :)

    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 

      10 years ago from Massachusetts

      What a nice (and informative) contribution to the peace Hubs.

    • frogdropping profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago

      Teresa - Thankyou. I worked from the same kind of format as yours. I wanted to tell a story rather than give my personal opinion :)

      Haunty - Thankyou. The two languages are similar - and yes, I can speak a little portuguese.

      Janetta - hey! Thankyou for dropping by! And that'll do?? ;)

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Great job Frog! I relly liked the paratroopers video. That'll do Frog, that'll do... :)

    • Haunty profile image


      10 years ago from Hungary

      Great concise article, frog! Brings to mind the time when my bro moved to another town for a year. He speaks Spanish and always brags about it. I knew that Portugese is close to Spanish, yet it's very different, especially the pronunciation. So I swore a terrible oath that I'd pick up some Portugese while he's away and then tell him it's Spanish and drive him crazy. :) (He's always been picky about the right Spanish pronunciation.) Managed to pick up some language yet?

    • Teresa McGurk profile image


      10 years ago from The Other Bangor

      Great hub -- thanks for the history and the great links (I love the sound of spoken -- Iberian -- Portuguese).

      Carnations, eh? Lots of symbolism for Catholics? doesn't crava also mean nail -- as in the nails on the cross? (At least, clava in Spanish is treated this way.)

    • frogdropping profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago

      Dynamic - hey :) I too love history. There's a lot more to the rebellion than I wrote here, both during Salazars rule and the first few years after the uprising. But - I'd have probably ended up writing a short novel!

      Glad you liked it, thankyou!

    • DynamicS profile image

      Sandria Green-Stewart 

      10 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Hi Frogdropping, very informative. As a person who likes histroy, I enjoyed reading your Hub. It just goes to show that peaceful measures can be most effective in resolving a conflict. It is a beautiful thing - Carnation Revolution - sounds like a movie....

    • frogdropping profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago

      Cris - hey ;) Thankyou! It was tough simply because there's so much info on it. Trying to collate it into one place and be original was a little hard. But - I learned an awful lot at the same time!

      Living here, I'm aware of the revolution - April 25th is always celebrated now - so I gained further insight into the relatively recent political events of Portugal. I have to say - the reforms put in place have made it a great place to live.

      Apart from the the bloomin' paperwork side of things ...

    • Cris A profile image

      Cris A 

      10 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      Hey FD

      This was a great and inspiring hub, it brings to mind our (the Philippines) own People Power Revolution in 1986. Where people stood in the way of tanks and soldiers.

      Thanks for sharing this piece of Portuguese history - another testament that there are ways and means to achieve peace if we really so desire it!

      Great hub! :D


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