Notion of Revolution in the Historical Context: Part 2

Read the first part first.

Revolt and revolution

Perhaps it should be stated that revolt is considered to be one of the historical phenomena, which often occur in the context of history regardless the temporal and spatial factors. We can bring examples both from the world’s history and ours: the revolt of Spartak, the revolt of Vardanians etc. And what is the revolt itself, and which are its characteristics? Let us answer immediately that first of all it implies an armed struggle. Though against whom it is directed or what purpose it follows is not absolute. Sometimes the struggle is a rebellion against the foreign domination to build its own statehood, to improve a little bit the lives of rebels and other intentions like that. Sometimes the rebellion is directed against their own leadership. In this case the main goal is either the total capture of the power or to force the authorities to make interest-based concessions for the rebels. And as a rule the Revolts have unsuccessful endings, after which the participants of the revolt are considered by the acting authorities as disobedient lawbreakers and rebels. Here we would like to draw the readers’ attention to a very important point on author’s view: if some historically known revolts had had successful endings, today they would have been qualified as revolutions. To make clear the above point let us discuss specific examples by breaking the stereotype that the story does not like “if’”-s and imagine for a moment that the peasant revolt in the 14th century led by Watt Taylor was threatening England to abolish the feudal right. It is needless to mention that in case of the victory what consequences would have the above mentioned revolt. For the reality of the 14th century the abolishment of the feudal right was nothing but revolution. During the history such phenomena, which threat to abolish any fundamental clause of the existing regime, which are, though, failed and called revolution, are not few. The above mentioned is enough to justify the viewpoint that some political events have been called revolts and not revolutions only because they have had inglorious endings. Moreover, by developing this viewpoint we can insist that some revolutions in case of unsuccessful endings today would have been qualified as revolts. In fact it can be said that every revolution first of all is a revolt. Finally it should be mentioned that the above mentioned does not refer to all the revolutions, as not all the ones suppose radical changes by the creation of something new. Furthermore, the failure of revolts is largely connected with the historical specific period where political and social prerequisites, which exist in case of revolutionary actions, are absent because of the objective reasons.

Reforms and revolution

At first glance, it is difficult to find common ground between the revolution and the ruling elite which is carrying out the reforms.  According to the understanding of today’s political thought one of the most important characteristics of revolution is the change of the current government, which has nothing to do with the phenomenon of reform. However, we know that the most important tag is the creation of  something new, at least not denying the fact, that the existing regimes  have almost always passed into the history as a result of the above-mentioned new creation, unable to adapt to the existing situation. But there is at least one precedent in the history when the ruling elite correctly estimates the seriousness of the situation and demonstrates an unprecedented flexible diplomacy, able to adapt to the new idea and to gradually transform. This refers to the Great Britain (England). The Anglo-Saxon elite once crossing the path of revolutionary processes, is charecterized by its unique flexibility: understanding that ignoring the hictorical inevitable facts will lead to unpredictable consequences, so it turns to the gradual reforms, which have revolutionary significance for England during the centuries. It is true, however, that it is not accompanied by violence, the active involvement of street masses and the rest of characteristic features of the classical revolution.

In all other cases the reforms which had been done externally, have not aimed at solving vital problems for further developement of the state. Unlike the Anglo-Saxon elite, others, instead of solving the political challanges, occured in front of their ethnos,  prefered to do mere cosmetic reforms hoping to preserve their dominant position in that way.  The question here is not that Anglo-Saxons were more patriotic or like their people more than others: not at all, sometimes even it was the quite opposite.  The problem is that they understand all those changes that have taken place in every area of the intercultural life, are the part of the indisputable reality, and to fight against those changes is fraught with tragic consequences both for them and for the public.  In the same way, the secret is in the intellectual potential of the current authorities, and, why not, in the real desires.  We do not want to undermine the intellectual potential of other nations at all, but we find that, to put it mildly,  they were not always at the top of the power, though we do not deny the influence of their ideas on the authorities at a certain time in history (especially France).

In fact, if we do not take into account the precedent of Anglo-Saxon, the reforms externally carried out really have nothing to do with the revolution, as they are not aimed at radical changes, and inspite of that, they are devoid of all typical characteristics. Only the precedent of Anglo-Saxons has been the reason to put the suject into consideration in the frame of the analysis.

Coup and revolution

In the frame of the analysis in the discussed historical phenomena one can find most of the generalites between these two.  There are many cases when in history, because of objective or subjective reasons, one of them has been presented under the other’s name. And indeed, borderline between the coup and the revolution is very bleak. According to the accepted viewpoint:

  1. The coup is the violent usurpation of power by a group of people,
  2. It is not a must the presence of masses of people,
  3. The coup is accompanied by violence,
  4. Changing the social status of some social groups,
  5. Forming new dividing lines inside society,
  6. Such measures are implemented that are considered to be illegal by the ruling authorities.

As we can see, except the second point, all the rest is typical to revolution as well. But to our deep conviction coup also can be accompanied by the active participation of the vigorous masses. As a proof of what is said we will refer to the events in Russia in October 1917. It is undeniable that the majority of Russian people have been actively involved in the above mentioned events. But is it right to qualify what happened as revolution? We think it is not. And we justify it with the simple truth that the events of October qualitatively did not become the beginning of anything new, despite the ambitious statements of the Communists that they would create qualitatively a new society based on the principles of socialism. Many would agree that Europe was closer and is close to socialism than the Soviet Union and especially its  successor Russia today. So what happened in October 1917 was more coup than revolution, the only major result of which was the replacement of the ruling czarist family with the Communist Party. Of course we do not underestimate the role of the above-mentioned events in the history of Russia and other nations of the USSR, and do not ignor the fact that the seven decades of the existence of the USSR had a number of positive sides for the member states.

In this case, what is the difference between coup and revolution? We think that the essential is the creation of a qualitatively new one, not the replacement of the existing authorites with new ones. This idea allows us to conclude that each revolution theoretically has the potential to become an impetus for the further revolutionary processes.

In fact, in this case everything depends on the capabilities of new powers come at the result of coup, the real desires and political will, unlike revolution, in which radical changes do not depend on any power, as they are the products of the historical inevitability.

With one thing, revolution developes during decades by having its economic, political and social backgrounds, and the coup is nothing but the usurption of the power by a group of people, in addition sometimes with the participation of dissatisfied people, sometimes with the sponsorhsip of outside powers.

Armenian reality

As we have repeatedly mentioned, there should be historically ripe prerequisites for the revolution. Without denying the fact that the country is in a difficult socio-economic situation and is rather corrupted , we find that there are no needed prerequisites yet. To make the statement more convicing, it is enough to compare the pre-revolutionary situation of revolutionary states with the current Armenian reality. The above-menioned naturally does not refer to the so-called “imported revolutions”, which, in reality, have nothing in common with the phenomenon of real revolution. Especially the latter in our case is dangerous, if we take into account how many forces are interested in destabilizing the inner situation in Armenia, and, why not, to see their obedient power in our country.

If we take a moment to realize that in Armenia a pre-revolutionary situation has truly matured, one must realize the seriousness of the moment. Not wanting to fill the hands of the current authorities, let us imagine the consequences of the revolutionary processes, which, by the way, may last for years (surounded with enemies) in a coutntry like ours. Without doubt, Azerbaijan will hurry to use the created situation, to which Turkey will provide its unconditional support. The attitude of our other neighbours is unpredictable. What refers to the internal situation, as Robespie says, the revolution will devour its own children, and it is not clear, what forces will try to catch a fish in muddy water. In the current situation the national elite should have something to say, which should try to bring the country out of the situation with fewer losses. By the way, by saying the elite, we mean the potential of the nation, which is not only intellectual or, let us say, rich, but also to all those, who feel responsible for the rest of the citizens and who put forward their possibilities not to narrow, but to pan-national interests.

As we have seen, the revolution is not quite a good prospect for our society.

What regards the above-mentioned reforms, it should be noted beforhand that in our case it is not realistic. It was mentioned at the top that the reforms can only give the expected result when the representatives of the elite are in power, who realize the seriousness of the moment and make the reforms, really aiming to bring the country out of the grave situation. In all other cases the reforms are false, cosmetic, the purpose of which is to shatter the eyes of the citizens and to maintain their own power. And as our current government, to put it mildly, is quite far from being a national elite, it is clear the real cause of the “reformations”.  The latters are advised to study and not to ignore the history lessons. All those who hope to maintain the power with such reforms, have maximum gained some time, the end of which is  an inglorious death.

In the case of a coup it should also be mentioned, that it is extremely dangerous and in some case is even adventurous for our country, as it is not clear who will come to power, what goals will have and to what central forces interests will serve. The lessons of the same history show that most of the coups, even nowadays, have been implemented and are implemented largely by the support and sponsorship of external forces. And now we consider, that a coup is permissible only in one case, when the power of the country will be the national elite, which will implement only the national-centered policy.

As we can see, in the case of three phenomena the role of national elite is greatly appreciated and highlightined. As Arnold Toynbee said “Civilazitional challanges that societies face are capable to be solved not by the collective crowd, but only by the national elite”. Therefore and inspite of the possible developements of inner-Armenian political (and also economical) life, everything will depend on the elite. And if the representatives of the latter realize all the responsability, unite and make every effort to bring the country out of the grave situation, we are covinced that they will succeed, otherwise the consequences will be tragic…


  1. Hannah Arendt. On revolution, 1963.


  1. Аптекер Г., История американского народа. Т. 2. Американская революция 1763 ”
  2. Манфред А.З. Великая французская революция, М., 1983.
  3. Токвиль А.Старый порядок и революция.СПб.: Алетейя, 2008.
  4. Токвиль А. Демократия в Америке, М.: Прогресс, 1992.

Author: Hayk Paytyan. © All rights are reserved.

Translator: Lilit Kzhdryan.