On this day April, 25 1974

The song “Grândola, Vila Morena” by Zeca Afonso was broadcast on radio, signalling the start of the Carnation Revolution, a bloodless coup against the Estado Novo regime in Portugal.

Zeca Afonso

The Carnation Revolution (Portuguese: Revolução dos Cravos), also referred to as the 25 de Abril, was a left-leaning military coup started on April 25, 1974, in Lisbon, Portugal.

The revolution effectively changed the Portuguese regime from an authoritarian dictatorship to a democracy after two years of a transitional period known as PREC (Processo Revolucionário Em Curso, or On-Going Revolutionary Process), characterized by social turmoil and power dispute between left and right wing political forces.

Despite repeated appeals from the revolutionaries on the radio inciting the population to stay home, thousands of Portuguese descended on the streets, mixing themselves with the military insurgents.

Inspired by the pro-independence guerrillas they had been fighting in the Portuguese empire‘s territories in Africa, a group of Portuguese officers organised in the Armed Forces Movement rose to overthrow the fascist and authoritarian Estado Novo (New State) regime that had ruled Portugal since the 1920s.

Portugal’s new regime pledged itself to ending the colonial wars and began negotiations with the African independence movements. By the end of 1974, Portuguese troops had been withdrawn from Portuguese Guinea and the latter had become a UN member. This was followed by the independence of Cape Verde, Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe and Angola in 1975.

The Carnation Revolution in Portugal, also led to Portugal’s withdrawal from East Timor in Southeast Asia. These events prompted a mass exodus of Portuguese citizens from Portugal’s African territories (mostly from Angola and Mozambique), creating over a million Portuguese destitute refugees — the retornados.

Although the regime’s political police, PIDE, killed four people before surrendering, the revolution was unusual in that the revolutionaries did not use direct violence to achieve their goals. The population, holding red carnations (cravos in Portuguese), convinced the regime soldiers not to resist.

The red carnation is a symbolic flower for Socialism and Communism, which were the main ideological tendencies of the anti-New State insurgents. The soldiers readily swapped their bullets for flowers. It was the end of the Estado Novo, the longest authoritarian regime in Western Europe, and the final dissolution of the Portuguese Empire.

In the aftermath of the revolution a new constitution was drafted, censorship was formally prohibited, free speech declared, political prisoners were released and the Portuguese overseas territories in Sub-Saharan Africa were immediately given their independence.

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