Carnation Revolution

revolution in Portugal

The Carnation Revolution (Portuguese: Revolução dos Cravos), also referred to as the 25 April (Portuguese: 25 de Abril), was initially a military coup in Lisbon, Portugal, on 25 April 1974 which overthrew the regime of the Estado Novo.

This is the dawn I waited for
The new day clean and whole
When we emerge from night and silence
To freely inhabit the substance of time
~ Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen

The name "Carnation Revolution" comes from the fact that almost no shots were fired and when the population took to the streets to celebrate the end of the dictatorship and war in the colonies, carnations were put into the muzzles of rifles and on the uniforms of the army men. In Portugal, the 25th of April is a national holiday, known as Freedom Day (Portuguese: Dia da Liberdade), to celebrate the event.

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  • Thus, in Europe in the 1970s, there was to be no ‘roll-back’ of Communism, and, crucially, no equivalent to the transformative changes that were to occur in Greece, Portugal and Spain, as conservative dictatorships collapsed in 1973, 1974 and 1975 respectively. At the same time, there was also the assumption that the Soviet Union and its allies would not seek to ‘roll forward’ by destabilising these and other European countries. Although the coup in Portugal on 25 April 1974 by the ‘Armed Forces Movement’ was followed, until April 1976, by instability, social turbulence and low-level revolutionary strife, and by talk of Communists gaining power through a rebellion, the Communists lacked sufficient support in the army. A coup attempt failed in March 1975. Moreover, the coup attempted in November 1975 by elements of the army opposed to a rightward move of the government failed. The army and the Socialists held the Communists off. The Soviet Union did not intervene, which it would have been risky for it to do, and Portugal remained in NATO. Kissinger had feared that Portugal would be lost to ‘the enemy bloc’. However, Portugal had no contiguous border with a Communist state, the Soviets had no direct overland connection to Portugal, and Soviet maritime connections to it were shaky.
  • Esta é a madrugada que eu esperava
    O dia inicial inteiro e limpo
    Onde emergimos da noite e do silêncio
    E livres habitamos a substância do tempo
    • This is the dawn I waited for
      The new day clean and whole
      When we emerge from night and silence
      To freely inhabit the substance of time
    • Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen, "25 de Abril", as translated by ‎Richard Zenith in Log Book: Selected Poems (1997), p. 78
  • I remember vividly in 1974 being in the mass of people, descending the streets in my native Lisbon, in Portugal, celebrating the democratic revolution and freedom. This same feeling of joy was experienced by the same generation in Spain and Greece. It was felt later in Central and Eastern Europe and in the Baltic States when they regained their independence. Several generations of Europeans have shown again and again that their choice for Europe was also a choice for freedom. I will never forget Rostropovich playing Bach at the fallen Wall in Berlin. This image reminds the world that it was the quest for freedom and democracy that tore down the old divisions and made possible the reunification of the continent. Joining the European Union was essential for the consolidation of democracy in our countries. Because it places the person and respect of human dignity at its heart. Because it gives a voice to differences while creating unity. And so, after reunification, Europe was able to breathe with both its lungs, as said by Karol Wojtiła. The European Union has become our common house. The “homeland of our homelands” as described by Vaclav Havel.
  • In Portugal in April 1974, before the liberals in the army turned on the oldest Fascist dictatorship in Europe and broke open all the literal and metaphorical prison gates, there had been only one legal party. On May Day of that year, the Socialist and Communist Parties were able to fill the streets of the capital city. Within days, a conservative and a liberal party had been announced, and within a very short time Portugal was, so to say, a “normal” European country. Those parties, with their very seasoned leaders, had been there all along. All that was required was for the brittle carapace of the ancien régime to be shattered.

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