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A revolution is a relatively sudden and absolutely drastic change. This may be a change in the social or political institutions over a relatively short period of time, or a major change in its culture or economy. Some revolutions are led by the majority of the populace of a nation, others by a small band of revolutionaries. Compare rebellion.

Social and political revolutions

Political revolutions are often characterised by violence, and the vast changes in power structures that result can often result in further, institutionalised, violence, as in the Russian and French revolutions (with the "Purges" and "the Terror", respectively). A political revolution is the forcible replacement of one set of rulers with another (as happened in France and Russia), while a social revolution is the fundamental change in the social structure of a society, such as the Protestant Reformation or the Renaissance. However, blurring the line between these two categories, most political revolutions have basic philosophical or social underpinnings which drive the revolution. The most common of these underpinnings in the modern world have been liberal revolutions and Communist revolutions. In contrast, a coup d'etat often seeks to change nothing more than the current ruler.

Some political philosophers regard revolutions as the means of achieving their goals. Most anarchists advocate social revolution as the means of breaking down the structures of government and replacing them with nonhierarchal institutions, while Marxist communists take revolution to be one strategy, possibly accompanied by the use of electoral politics to take over, rather than overthrow, the institution of government, their aim being to create a communist society.

Social and political revolutions are often "institutionalized" when the ideas, slogans, and personalities of the revolution continue to play a prominent role in a country's political culture, long after the revolution's end. As mentioned, Communist nations regularly institutionalize their revolutions to legitimize the actions of their governments. Some non-communist nations, like the United States, France, or Mexico also have institutionalized revolutions, and continue to celebrate the memory of their revolutionary past through holidays, artwork, songs, and other venues.

Ancient revolutions

Anarchist revolutions

In addition to the below, anarchists influenced many other revolutions, in particular the Mexican Revolution (1910), the Russian Revolution of 1917 and rebellions such as the May 1968 revolt.

Liberal revolutions

Socialist revolutions

Anti-Soviet revolutions

Communist revolutions

Lenin speaking

Vladimir Lenin, one of the leaders of the Russian revolution, addressing a crowd in 1920.

Islamist revolutions

Cultural, intellectual, and philosophical revolutions

Technological revolutions

(although these revolutions always have an influence on culture)

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