Successful political revolutions in the last three decades have been dominated by masses of unarmed people. They have challenged the present political establishment and refused to obey orders, often at central places in the capitals. Different from the traditional armed guerillas confronting the state army these movements have not used deadly means, not even when confronted with violent police and militaries. These cases are on crucial points different from the traditional revolutions like the French, Russian, Chinese or Cuban ones. The understanding of these movements draws on research on social movements as well as revolutionary theories and the nonviolent tradition within peace research. The role of the nonviolent means by large groups has been vital but not sufficient for the successful outcomes. A revolution is a social change that happens relatively fast and in which a society goes from one social system to another. It is distinguished from a “reform” by being carried out outside the established channels for societal changes (parliament, constitution etc) and can take place in any combination of the political, cultural or economic systems in a society. If all these three social systems are changed simultaneously we may talk of a social revolution. Most of the peaceful revolutions are limited to the political system, but with frequent unintended effect on the economical system as well. Large peaceful masses are not the only feature these revolutions have in common. In addition most cases take place in connection with elections. Often a domestic coalition confronts the people in position and there are frequently external actors involved in one way or another. Almost everyone of these peaceful revolutions seems to have short or limited preparations; they take place when there is a “window of opportunity”. When they are successful and the old leadership falls, they often face serious problems both with internal cooperation and...
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