On April 25, 1974, a unique and remarkable event unfolded in Portugal that would change the course of its history, the Carnation Revolution. This bloodless coup d’état, which ended nearly five decades of dictatorship, stands as a testament to the power of peaceful protest and the enduring human spirit.

Crowd Protesting 1974 | Source: Wikipedia

Years of Oppression

Portugal had been under an authoritarian regime since 1926, initially under a military dictatorship and then, from 1933, under the Estado Novo (New State) led by António de Oliveira Salazar. This regime was characterized by its repressive policies, censorship, and the suppression of political dissent. The country was economically backward and socially conservative, with a rigidly controlled society.

António de Oliveira Salazar | Source: Wikipedia

After Salazar’s death in 1970, Marcelo Caetano took over as Prime Minister. However, Caetano’s government continued the same oppressive policies, and discontent grew, particularly among the younger generation and military officers. The colonial wars in Africa (Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bissau), which had been dragging on since the early 1960s, further drained Portugal’s resources and morale, leading to widespread dissatisfaction within the armed forces.

Estado Novo Regime Flag | Source: Wikipedia

The catalyst for the revolution came from within the military. The Armed Forces Movement (Movimento das Forças Armadas, MFA), composed of middle-ranking officers disillusioned by the colonial wars and the lack of political freedom, orchestrated a coup to overthrow the regime. The plan was set in motion in the early hours of April 25, 1974.

Armed Forces Parade | Source: Wikipedia

One of the most striking aspects of the revolution was its peaceful nature. The MFA’s signal to initiate the coup was a broadcast of the song “E Depois do Adeus” (And After the Farewell) by Paulo de Carvalho, followed by “Grândola, Vila Morena,” a song by Zeca Afonso that had been banned by the regime. As the MFA troops moved into Lisbon, civilians joined them, placing carnations in the soldiers’ rifle barrels, a powerful symbol of non-violence and unity. By the end of the day, the government had fallen with minimal bloodshed and only a few casualties.

Aftermath: Building a New Portugal

The immediate aftermath of the Carnation Revolution was a period of intense political activity and transformation. The revolutionaries quickly moved to dismantle the old regime, releasing political prisoners, dissolving the secret police, and abolishing censorship. A provisional government was established, and power was handed over to a civilian administration.

April 25 Monument | Lisboa, PT | Source: Wikipedia

In 1976, Portugal adopted a new constitution, which enshrined democratic principles and guaranteed civil liberties. The country also moved to decolonize its overseas territories, granting independence to its African colonies, which had been a major source of conflict and economic drain. The Carnation Revolution is remembered as one of the most peaceful and successful transitions from dictatorship to democracy. The revolution paved the way for modern Portugal, transforming it into a democratic state with a commitment to social justice and human rights.

April 25 Parade | Source: Wikipedia

During the Carnation Revolution in Portugal, the banknotes in circulation were part of the escudo currency system. One of the notable banknotes from the period around the Carnation Revolution is the 100 escudos note.

Portugal 100 Escudos Banknote, 1960 | Source: Banknote World Educational

The obverse of this 100 escudos note features a portrait of the mathematician and cosmographer Pedro Nunes, with the coat of arms at the top center. The reverse displays an image of the cloister of the Monastery of Batalha alongside the Bank of Portugal logo. This banknote remained in use throughout the transition period following the Carnation Revolution, like others in circulation.

Portugal 2 Euros 2014 Carnation Revolution | Source: Numista

The 2 Euro commemorative coins were released in 2014 to honor the Carnation Revolution, commemorating the 40th anniversary of the 25th April Revolution. The obverse of this bimetallic coin features two curves representing the general shape of a carnation flower, along with a coat of arms in the center, the date of the event “25 DE ABRIL” (25th April), and the inscription “40 ANOS” (40 years) indicating the time elapsed since the revolution. On the reverse side, the coin displays a map of the European continent alongside its face value.

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