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Full-Circle Revolution

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Attaché of Banana Republic: Alas, this Thursday is a national holiday in Marilia. We celebrate our liberation by the hero Pancho Manuel Gonzales.
Mr. Lamb: Oh dear. Well, next Thursday will do.
Attaché: Another national holiday. We celebrate the overthrow of tyrant Pancho Manuel Gonzales.

They call it a revolution for a reason.

This trope refers to when a revolution loses revolutionary zeal and appears to just repeat the pre-revolution business as usual, via self-motivated corruption and bureaucratic inertia. Names and rhetoric change, the injustices stay the same.

This has happened quite often, and for just the same reason that the phrase "The Revolution has been betrayed!" is such a cliché: egalitarian rhetoric is well and good, especially among those outside the establishment, but once an erstwhile egalitarian gets a taste of real power and discovers how sweet it is, they tend to get very willing very fast to remove, "by any means necessary", whatever obstacles stand between them and that power. This occurring not in a vacuum, but in competition with other revolutionaries who are making the same discovery at about the same time, the result generally is a multi-cornered dogfight in which the most ruthless bastard is extremely likely to be the last left standing — which tends to have unfortunate consequences for the masses, from whom said bastard will have risen, and which might just elevate someone else to supplant them unless they ensure their loyalty.


One can argue that this trope generally applies if you take a surface-view of revolutions, i.e. the political layer of an autocratic system of government replaced with a more moderate/liberal/equal kind. Actual revolutions tend to be complex affairs and unleash changes across multiple layers of society and culture, and in addition to direct effects, there are also indirect effects, such as the threat of a radical revolution making reactionaries accede to moderate demands they formerly abhorred. So while revolutions historically and in fiction do feature shocking and depressing reversals it isn't necessarily the case that nothing changes either. On a less ideological note, this often happens because of a clash about what to revolutionize — do you want to alter an obsolete system of government and change the economy so that it favors the poor over the wealthy and privilege this over all other issues (Russia, communist revolutions generally)? Establish representative democracy while leaving socioeconomic issues as a bridge to cross on another day (America)? Or do both at the same time (France)? Or, in the case of pro-independence and anti-colonial revolutions, simply kick the Occupiers Out of Our Country and promote self-determination (India, Algeria, Egypt)? But it can also be removing from power those who prospered under the colonial regime, even if they were strictly limited in the positions they had held.


Ultimately, revolutions become civilized or uncivilized, based on clarity of immediate short-term interests, and they become violent when one, two or five factions clash on who's left and who's more right on a given issue and how pressing said issue is with the people.

Compare Reign of Terror; that, in fact, can naturally lead to this. Bloodbaths tend to make people lose fervor even when, in the case of the Terror, the bloodbath was demanded and enabled by popular fervor to start with.

See also Meet the New Boss, for when the new villain doesn't even bother pretending to be any better than the one they’ve just deposed. Sometimes the trope plays like a large-scale version of He Who Fights Monsters and/or Be Careful What You Wish For. For when the revolution was intended to place a new tyrant on the throne from the start, see Staged Populist Uprising. Revolving Door Revolution is when the new government is deposed by another, which is deposed by another ad nauseam. The Horseshoe Effect is when two individuals or organizations claim to be ideological opponents, but in fact have a great many beliefs in common, and can be an underlying cause of this trope.

This trope has very strong Real Life connotations. Famous mathematician and physician Pierre-Simon de Laplace, who lived through The French Revolution, coined the term parabola of Revolution: it began with the reign of the Bourbons, ascended like a parabola through constitutional monarchy, republic, reign of terror and pinnacled at Napoleon's empire; then it descended again through military defeats, restoration of the Bourbons, the 100 days' empire and Waterloo, and descended back to the reign of the Bourbons, just like a parabolic arc. In the ensuing decades, the arc would again shift, until finally settling into a republic.


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  • Parodied in this advert for supposedly sophisticated vodka.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: This is basically Rossiu's character arc after the Time Skip. While Simon's a popular figurehead, Rossiu is the one that gets things done. When the plot restarts, his Heroic Resolve starts to buckle under the weight of The Chains of Commanding, and his decisions rapidly come to resemble those previously made by the Spiral King. He keeps making unpopular decisions, up to and including trying to have Simon executed until he reaches the Despair Event Horizon and attempts suicide. Luckily, he's shaken out of it by Simon through a time-tested technique given to him some years earlier.
  • Code Geass has an interesting subversion. By the end of the series, Emperor Lelouch has become an even worse evil overlord than his social Darwinist father. But that was the point, to unify the world through its hatred of him and arrange it so he was overthrown at the last minute, thereby giving the good guys the opportunity and public support necessary to rebuild the world's various monarchies and dictatorships as democracies instead. Prince Schneizel's plans to overthrow his father, however, would most likely have been a case of this played straight.
  • In Saint Beast, Zeus overthrows the tyranny of The Old Gods and subsequently becomes a tyrant in their place leading to another (failed) rebellion by the protagonists.
  • Rideback had the Global Government Plan (or Global Government Force in the original manga), which was a fascist military organization that fought the United States in rebellion against American interventionism. After an incident in Arizona, with the combined might of the titular Mini-Mecha and foreign support, they replaced the U.S. as the main superpower. Due to its heavy military background, it easily became an oppressive militaristic N.G.O. Superpower that meddled with political affairs of other countries. Even before this happened, there were already defectors who formed a new group called the Border Military Alliance, which the main protagonists get caught up in.
  • Attack on Titan:
    • Occurred with the nation of Marley. The oppressed lower class who lived in fear of Eldian-controlled Titans rose up against their masters and usurped control. Actually, the King of Eldia was disillusioned with the war crimes his empire was committing and made a deal with Marley to hand power to them. Once in control, they proceeded to oppress the defeated Eldians and terrorize their neighbors with Marley-controlled Titans.
    • The central military and the Survey Corps eventually overthrows the corrupt government, after a struggle over Eren and Heroic Bastard Historia. Four years later, this government is itself overthrown by the radical Yeagerist movement, fanatical followers of Eren himself and Zeke Yeager. Over the course of three years, they systematically poison military officials to place them under Zeke's control and slowly infiltrate the military. After assassinating Commander Zackley, they begin imprisoning or killing anyone that resists them including the surviving members of the 104th. The government is forced to surrender, or face a mass Titanization of their officers.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack, Amuro uses this trope as a Breaking Speech towards Char as they're chasing each other through the abandoned Axis, explaining that if Char's trying to initiate some sort of revolution, all it's going to end with is the same thing all over again. It doesn't work as Char claims that this isn't his intent at all.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz, Mariemaia Kushrinada describes history as an endless waltz of war, peace and revolution.
  • The Holy Arcadia Empire in Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle was ruled by a family of tyrants and eventually deposed by a branch of said family. The territory ruled by the Holy Arcadia Empire fragmented into several countries, with the largest being ruled by the branch family and becoming the Old Arcadia Empire. This proved to be no different from its predecessor, save for being patriarchal and lacking the advanced technology to actually carry out the worst atrocities. To a much lesser extent, this is true of the New Kingdom Atismata which replaced the Old Arcadia Empire. Some of the nobles remained in power through the revolution and continue to follow the Old Empire's principles, though Queen Raffi eventually resorts to assassinating them. According to Fugil, the two houses of Arcadia spent millennia in a cycle of overthrowing each others' dictatorships, taking over, and falling to corruption, though occasionally a non-Arcadia will take over.
  • In Kino's Journey, Kino once traveled to a land with only a single resident. That man had led a revolution to overthrow the king, a tyrant who executed anyone who disagreed with him. He and his followers set up a democracy that put things to a popular vote, but executed everyone who disagreed with the majority. As a result, the vast majority of the populace ended up being executed until only the man and his wife were left, and the latter died of a disease due to a lack of doctors. As Kino is leaving, she calls the man "Your Highness," thereby saying that he's no better than the former king.
  • In the 2001 adaptation of Cyborg 009, 008 was a revolutionary fighting to free his country from a colonial power at the time he was grabbed by Black Ghost. When he returned years later, he found that they had earned their independence, but all that really changed was that instead of being exploited by foreigners, his people were now being exploited by a native-born Generalissimo, and many of his old friends were now rebelling against him.
  • In Rurouni Kenshin, this is why Kenshin gave up killing. He had joined the Imperial forces to overthrow the corrupt and tyrannical Shogunate, but the Meiji government that followed was just as corrupt and tyrannical, and nothing had changed for the common people who Kenshin thought he was fighting for.

    Board Games 
  • Junta, a satirical look at politics in The Most Serene Republic of Los Bananas, has a military coup occur approximately once every two turns. Of course, this just leads to one oligarch being shot by the firing squad and replaced by his cousin, and possibly a new Presidente and a reshuffling of cabinet posts among the oligarchs.

    Comic Books 
  • Tintin:
    • Executed subtly in Tintin and the Picaros: during the course of the book, the heroes help Tintin's friend General Alcazar overthrow the despotic General Tapioca from the leadership of San Theodoros (mostly because said despot imprisoned Madame Castafiore and sentenced Thomson and Thompson to death). However, the penultimate panel of the book is almost a carbon copy of an earlier one (showing soldiers patrolling a slum filled with starving people), only a sign now reads "Viva Alcazar" instead of "Viva Tapioca" and their uniforms are slightly different, hinting that nothing important has changed.

      Also, Alcazar wants to execute a whole lot of people, starting with Tapioca of course, and is only kept at bay because Tintin is his Morality Pet, showing that Alcazar and Tapioca are as bad as each other. Tapioca actually consoles Alcazar over being stopped — that is, the man who just overthrew him and wants to shoot him, as he would have done the same thing (or more likely did), proving they are not so different. Similarly, the only reason Tintin became Alcazar's friend in the first place was because he ended up as his lieutenant. A few hours of slippage and he could have ended up as Tapioca's lieutenant just as easily.
    • Earlier books such as Broken Ear would depict Alcazar and Tapioca committing multiple coups on a daily basis against each other, running this straight into Revolving Door Revolution territory. Picaros also reveals that Alcazar and Tapioca's shared desire for executing opposition has practically become a cultural tradition in San Theodoros, leading to a funny moment where both men grumble about how Tintin and the younger generation have no respect for the oldest customs.
  • There is an Incredible Hulk story where the Hulk (technically Bruce Banner who controlled his body as Hulk) was taken to a planet where a green race was enslaved by a red race. The Hulk helped the green people overthrow the rulers and before leaving asked them to live peacefully together. Looking through a telescope as he was getting far off he saw the red people enslaved by the green ones and wept.
  • In the Chick Tract "Fat Cats", a communist revolution in a Banana Republic gives rise to a brutal oligarchic dictatorship very much like the unspecified despotism against which it originally rebelled (Jack Chick includes his usual prejudices, naturally: note the crooked Catholic priests depicted blessing the dictator in each panel). The Wide-Eyed Idealist protagonist, Juan, doesn't realize the truth until his wife and father-in-law have been executed for being Bible-believing Christians.
  • One Wolverine story concerned Wolverine going to a Central American dictatorship because their state super-soldier program was based on haunted cocaine, and this worried him. By the end of the story, the dictator is dead and rebels are in power - but they ship the scientists of the super-soldier program off to the US in exchange for the CIA owing them a favor. As Wolverine is barging in to tell them off, the ruling council is discussing ways to be better than the old dictator, and shooting down every one because the country is too fragile.
  • Inverted in Kingdom Come in a sequence in the compilation where Superman goes to visit his old pal Orion for advice and finds him sitting on his father Darkseid's throne and fretting about how the downtrodden slaves refuse to free themselves. Orion explains that soon after he overthrew his cruel tyrant of a father, he instituted free elections in an effort to get the people of Apokolips to govern themselves democratically. Instead, they promptly elected him to be their new monarch. "Such was my reward." For extra emphasis, Orion has started to look quite a bit like his father.
  • Sillage has one, where Nävis helps overthrow a government that uses widespread slavery. She comes back years later to find her revolutionary friends doing quite well for themselves, except for the whole rebellious uprising thing (of, you guessed it, freedom-hungry slaves).
  • According to Volthoom, had Atrocitus' homeworld not been destroyed by the Manhunters, he would have led one of these, overthrowing the planet's corrupt leadership only to become such a tyrant that his own son eventually would have assassinated him.
  • Persepolis, both the comic and the film adaptation, presents the Iranian revolution as this, with the Shah, a tool of western oppression, superseded by the Islamic fundamentalists, a tool of religious, home-grown oppression. The comic explicitly notes that the fundamentalists were even worse than the Shah. For instance, under the Shah there were 10,000 political prisoners, while under the Islamic fundamentalists there were 100,000 (many of whom were killed later).
  • The relaunch stories of Paperinik New Adventures reveal that Corona's oppressive regime is the end result of two revolutions coming full circle:
    • As explained by Moldrock, Corona used to be a desert world ruled by warriors where the two cities of the planet fought each other and oppressed the lesser villages, whose weakest people were cast away in the desert. This ended when Moldrock himself, one of those weaklings, stumbled on the Black Beam and its awesome power. With it, Moldrock turned the people of his village in an invincible army, personally obliterated any obstacle on the way to unification and peace, turned Corona into a paradise world... And then had the scientists create warships so Moldrock and his Horde could conquer new worlds.
    • As also explained by Moldrock, this came to an end when Everett Ducklair and the scientists of Corona rebelled and used their technology to imprison Moldrock and his Horde in the Pentadimensional World, where the Black Beam was weakened. Everett freed the worlds conquered by Moldrock and stepped down... And after that came to power a matriarchal regime ruled by the mightiest ESPers of the planet with an iron fist.
      • In an interesting variant, each regime was better than the previous one: Moldrock turned a desert world into a paradise and effectively brought an end to the endless wars of Corona, and the matriarchs, who genuinely believe they're doing the right thing, are not trying to expand their rule over other worlds.
  • In Violine, this is implied to be a regular occurrence in Zongo:
    Villager 1: That was last Friday. And he said, "Let's turn this country into the best democracy in all of Africa!"
    Villager 2: Poppycock! I give him two days before he turns into a tyrant like the others!
  • This is common for Megatron in all versions of The Transformers, but in The Transformers: Dark Cybertron he actually realizes this, leading to him renouncing violence (specifically saying that the day he decided to enact social change through violent revolution was the day that he lost) and surrender to the Autobots to be put on trial for his crimes.
  • Played for Laughs in Alan Ford, where Number One explains his experience in revolution: it involves a close quartet of comrades (including Number One) plotting to dethrone the current dictator and establish a new regime for the nation ... and in a series of eerie similar panels, with the quartet becoming a trio, a duo and finally Number One taking the power. He ultimately resigns just before the next rebellious leader comes knocking in order to avoid execution.
  • In Strontium Dog, narrative boxes explain that after A Nazi by Any Other Name Nelson Kreelman was deposed, his Kreeler death squads were abolished and a new peacekeeping force was introduced. This narration appears over two panels, which show exactly the same group of thugs, but in different uniforms.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Woody Allen's Bananas parodies this; upon taking power, the leader of the revolution immediately starts making a series of ridiculous decrees. His underlings get rid of him and make Woody Allen dictator.
  • At the end of Sleeper, a sort of Spiritual Successor to Bananas, the protagonist has deliberately facilitated a communist takeover but fully expects a follow-up revolution.
  • Duck, You Sucker!: A Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western — also known as A Fistful of Dynamite. The story focuses on an ex-IRB demolitions expert who goes to help the revolution in Mexico. His accomplice, a bandit named Juan, has a much more cynical outlook on revolutions:
    Juan: I know what I am talking about when I am talking about the revolutions. The people who read the books go to the people who can't read the books, the poor people, and say, "We have to have a change." So, the poor people make the change, ah? And then, the people who read the books, they all sit around the big polished tables, and they talk and talk and talk and eat and eat and eat, eh? But what has happened to the poor people? They're dead! That's your revolution. Shhh... So, please, don't tell me about revolutions! And what happens afterwards? The same fucking thing starts all over again!
  • Land of the Blind: La Résistance, after taking power, become just as bad or worse, prompting a restoration of the old regime.
  • Lord of War: Discussed by Yuri Orlov. "I guess they [African militants] can't own up to what they usually are: a federation of worse oppressors than the last bunch of oppressors. Often, the most barbaric atrocities occur when both combatants proclaim themselves freedom-fighters.”
  • In the "Look Down" number from Les Miserables, Gavroche laments that although the people overthrew the oppressive monarchy during The French Revolution, the current government which replaced it is equally as unjust. This is what drives most of the plot of the film's second half, which is based off the real-life, ill-fated June Rebellion of 1832. More than one of the film's songs allude to this feeling of repeated injustice:
    It is the music of a people who will not be slaves again...
    Red, the blood of angry men; black, the dark of ages past; red, a world about to dawn; black, a night that ends at last...
  • In Mean Girls, Janis frames their smearing of Regina as "bringing down a dictator", and sure enough all they do is replace one Queen Bee with another one.
  • Likewise in Heathers: after the first of the titular characters is killed off, another Heather assumes her place as Queen Bee.
  • Lampshaded a few times in Blood Diamond, summed up as "T.I.A". (This is Africa.) Which means the government is going to be bad and corrupt, the rebels are going to be worse, (and corrupt) and the Mega-Corp and mercenary companies playing both sides so that they win no matter what happens are possibly the worst of all. (And corrupt.) Sure enough, when the RUF rebels take over, they make the previous government look downright good in comparison. Anti-Hero main character Danny Archer also mentions this happening in his backstory, when he was a child and watched rebels overthrow the government of Rhodesia and turn it into Zimbabwe. They killed his parents in the process.
  • In The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, it's quite obvious that this is what would have happened if Coin had not been killed. Coin postpones elections indefinitely and it's her proposal to stage a "revenge Games" using Capitol children that convinces Katniss Coin's just as bad as Snow and would have become a dictator in her own right, thus pushing Katniss to assassinate her.
  • One of the main themes of Luchino Visconti's The Leopard: the Sicilian aristocracy aligns themselves with Garibaldi to ensure they maintain power, even after the monarchy is overthrown and Italy unified and largely run by the Northern bourgeoisie. Count Tancredi, who actually joins Garibaldi's army, remarks that "In order for everything to remain the same, everything will have to change."
  • Gillo Pontecorvo's Burn!, features Marlon Brando as a British agent inciting a slave rebellion on a Portuguese-held island in the Caribbean circa 1800. Brando convinces the island's planter class to join the revolution, usurping power from the slaves. Within a few years, the island is a British protectorate whose government has reinstated slavery. Brando's character is recalled, this time to suppress a slave rebellion led by the same rebels. The film has much Anachronism Stew and Artistic License – History drawing from multiple historical sources.
  • The '70s Cult Classic Massacre At Central High builds its plot around this trope. After the three bullies who dominate the titular school in the first half of the film are killed off one by one, David, the new student who appears to have engineered their deaths, starts killing other students when they appear to be filling the power vacuum. For the rest of the film, the two leads debate whether they should do the same to David given that nothing appears to have changed.

  • One Soviet-era joke describes Leonid Brezhnev being visited by his mother and showing off his vacation dacha, his collection of luxury cars, etc. Noticing that his mother seemed troubled, he asked what was wrong. She replied, "I'm glad that you're doing so well, but I'm worried... what will happen to you if the Communists ever come back?"
  • Another Soviet joke wryly observed this trope in action:
    Q: What is the difference between Capitalism and Communism?
    A: In Capitalism, man exploits man. In Communism, it's the other way round.
  • And yet another (starting to sense a pattern here?): An old woman asks her granddaughter what Communism is, since she hears young people talking about it all the time. "Well grandmother, once we have Communism there will be enough food for everyone, the shops will be full of goods, and our country will be respected by the entire world!" "Ah, I see! Just like under the tsar!"

  • William Butler Yeats' poem "The Great Day":
    Hurrah for revolution and more cannon-shot!
    A beggar upon horseback lashes a beggar on foot.
    Hurrah for revolution and cannon come again!
    The beggars have changed places, but the lash goes on.
  • Subverted in Mockingjay. The President of freedom-fighting District 13 appears to be going the way of the old President, complete with a continuation of the Hunger Games which the old regime used to keep the populace in line, but Katniss, who realizes the direction this is going and most emphatically does NOT want this, assassinates her before she comes to power.
  • Honor Harrington has two fictional governments of this kind: the Committee of Public Safety (modeled exactly on the historical French dictatorship), which self-destructs spectacularly, and the restored constitutional Republic of Haven, which is mostly getting its act together but is still plagued by internal corruption.
    • When the Audobon Ballroom gets an opportunity to get a planet of their own, W.E.B. du Havel (head of the political wing) quickly realizes that there is a serious risk of this - sooner or later he will end up in a serious disagreement with Jeremy X (head of the militant wing), at which point Jeremy and/or his supporters will consider using violence to get their point across, a fight which Du Havel would pretty much be guaranteed to lose. He then proposes a system in which supreme authority is vested in a third party respected by both wings of the movement, who can hopefully keep the peace between them long enough for them to develop ways to resolve their disputes without tearing themselves apart. So far it's been working, but then again, Torch hasn't been independent for all that long.
  • Terry Pratchett's Discworld:
    • As noted in Night Watch, revolutions usually end up simply replacing one set of bastards with another set. "That's why they're called 'revolutions' — they always come round again." In fact his city seems to have been very carefully set up this way on purpose; when the dust has settled and the Patrician is replaced, the loose group of guild leaders and nobles that actually run the place stay in power. (Until Vetinari came along and proved to be much better at the game than they were.)
    • And previously to that, in Interesting Times, when Rincewind refuses to help the communist rebels against the Agatean Empire, one of the things he points out is that their plans amount to setting up exactly the same government that they're trying to overthrow, just with different names.
  • George Orwell:
    • Animal Farm was all a big allegory for how it went down in Russia. One ominous sign is at the gruesome scene of The Purge, where the animals consider that this is not what they had hoped to see after the revolution, and spontaneously start to sing the old revolutionary anthem "Beasts of England," only for the official propagandist Squealer to declare "Beasts of England" abolished. By the end of the tale, the pigs have become practically indistinguishable from their former human masters. It's implied that this is why Benjamin makes no serious effort to convince the animals to overthrow the pigs, because the replacement leaders will just continue the cycle.
    • 1984: Emmanuel Goldstein describes society as being in a state of continual successful but inconsequential uprisings, with the middle class of the time using the masses as pawns in its (often successful) attempt to trade places with the ruling class, and the process repeating every few decades/centuries. The extraordinary repression in Oceania is partly an attempt by the Party to prevent it from happening to them (largely, of course, they are just doing it For the Evulz).
  • L'Engrenage by Jean-Paul Sartre is about a country whose reactionary government is overthrown by a revolution, but before long the new regime realizes that it is unable to fulfill its promises, and goes back to the previous one's methods. Eventually it is itself overthrown by a new revolution, and the cycle starts anew.
  • Les Justes by Albert Camus, about a group of idealistic students who engage in terrorist acts in order to overthrow a despotic regime, features the famous quote "One begins by desiring justice, and one ends up setting up a police."
  • Mirror in the Mirror by Michael Ende contains a short story from the point of view of a tyrant who used to be one of these, while being chased through his crumbling palace by the men seeking to overthrow him.
  • The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. Le Guin: Apart from showing how an anarcho-communist society could function, this is pretty much the entire point.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire
    • The ruling Targaryen dynasty is ousted by an alliance of powerful nobles and replaced by a Baratheon king. The new king doesn't kill people for amusement, but he's otherwise just as bad at ruling the kingdom, leaving it to his advisers and the feudal lords. His supposed son and heir is just as homicidal as the old king.
      • And just as inbred as the old king as well.
    • Daenarys Targaryen conquers Astapor, frees the slaves and installs a new government. Almost the moment she leaves, the government is overthrown by former rebel slaves, who support a new autocrat that reinstates slavery on the former ruling class. And after that it gets worse: the city of Yunkai, which had previously surrendered to Daenerys, rises up again and attacks Astapor, and the city begins a downward spiral into bloodshed and disease-ridden chaos, and the slaves Daenerys freed are worse off than when the old masters ruled.
  • In the X-Wing Series novel Starfighters of Adumar (part of the Star Wars Expanded Universe), Wedge confronts a New Republic diplomat who's willing to do whatever it takes to get an independent planet to join the NR, even adopting the methods of the Empire. Wedge declares this is the same as having the Empire back in power, just with different faces on the credit notes.
  • In Timothy Zahn's The Thrawn Trilogy, Garm Bel Iblis is convinced that Mon Mothma taking more control during the Rebellion means she plans to make herself dictator once the Empire is defeated. He thus hides out in the Outer Rim with his personal fleet to get ready. It takes five years after the New Republic is set up for it to finally dawn on Garm that Mothma isn't going to do this and just felt no one else should shoulder the burden of leadership.
  • In Michael Flynn's Up Jim River, Zorba discussed how he rescued a wannabe Doomed Moral Victor on the grounds that the revolt would only lead to this.
  • Mistborn has some extremely odd cases of this. After the first book, a constitutional monarchy is instituted, with a high-ranking noble who sympathized with the revolutionaries as king. Then he gets voted out by the assembly and replaced with a different high-ranking noble, then the original king becomes a theocratic emperor thanks to the same person who killed the original theocratic emperor. There's also a large segment of the population that wants to go back to the old system because, while it was extremely oppressive and they could literally be killed at any time for any reason, it was more successful at providing food.
  • In Urth of the New Sun, Severian refuses to assist in deposing Typhon, considering that killing a bad leader is considerably easier than replacing him with a better one.
  • In Crossed, the final book in the Matched trilogy, various characters note that the Rising and the Society have a lot in common. It turns out that this is because the Society had infiltrated the Rising so deeply that by the time the rebellion actually occurred, it was simply the Society changing their name and then going about business as usual.
  • In Frank Herbert's Dune, Paul has successfully led the Fremen in overthrowing the old Padishah Emperor, and controls the flow of spice. In the sequel, the Fremen are running rampant across the galaxy in a massive jihad to bring all worlds to Paul's control; Paul had foreseen it, but is helpless, as even though he is the most powerful man in the universe, he can't stop the slaughter being carried out by his own people.
  • The Resistance Trilogy by Clive Egleton, set in a Soviet-occupied Britain. In the final novel the Soviets are pulling out of Britain due to war with China. This should be a time of victory, but instead the 'moderate' wing of La Résistance forms an alliance with The Quisling government to track down and eliminate their hardline members (including the protagonist). The novels end on a former Resistance member, now Minister of the Interior, announcing new anti-terrorist measures to counter 'subversion'.
  • Hard to Be a God recounts how this has happened frequently in the past, including several times in this generation. Avoiding it is the main reason for their Alien Non-Interference Clause.
  • A variation in Harry Turtledove's Colonization trilogy, in which France has remained under Nazi occupation for several decades instead of only a few years. After the Race finally forces the Nazis to pull out of France, turning France into a Race protectorate, the people quickly realize that being under the jackboot for so long has forced the new leaders to adopt similar methods of rooting out former collaborators to those used by the Gestapo.
  • The Sympathizer: The narrator is a Vietnamese Communist spy working for the North Vietnamese who, through a series of complicated events, winds up in a Communist prison being tortured for a year. He contemplates how things came to this.
    “....I understood, at last, how our revolution had gone from being the vanguard of political change to the rearguard hoarding power. In this transformation, we were not unusual. Hadn’t the French and the Americans done exactly the same? Once revolutionaries themselves, they had become imperialists, colonizing and occupying our defiant little land, taking away our freedom in the name of saving us. Our revolution took considerably longer than theirs, and was considerably bloodier, but we made up for lost time. When it came to learning the worst habits of our French masters and their American replacements, we quickly proved ourselves the best.”
  • In The Merchant Princes Series, this is a concern of the protagonists and their allies in New Britain. After the overthrow of the King of New Britain, many revolutionary groups look like they're about to set up the same kind of police state that they'd overthrown. Erasmus Burgeson and the Clan largely put the kibosh on that for twenty years, but there are still factions within the revolutionary government who want to backslide after the revolution's Old Man dies.
  • In Victoria, a corrupt and dystopian future United States has collapsed, but strong elements of its old ruling class retain much power in several of the breakaway states that succeeded it. Particularly the New Confederacy, where a second (third?) civil war soon breaks out between the comfortable business-as-usual crowd and the grassroots who want a real housecleaning.
  • Isaac Asimov:
    • The Complete Robot: During the introduction, Dr Asimov talks about how he had become known as "the father of the modern robot story" by choosing a path between Robots-as-Menace and Robots-as-Pathos. This path has robots being sensible tools built by sensible men for practical purposes. He invented Three Laws-Compliant to prevent both paths. However, he ends the collection by admitting that the stories in Two Climaxes are both guided by the Three Laws, yet still they diverge and each fulfills one of the two paths he had set out to avoid from the very beginning.
    • The Foundation Trilogy's "The General (Foundation)": Lathan Devers, a Trader from the Foundation, points out that when one government is toppled, all it really does is replace who's in charge, and people like him would be pretty screwed anyway. That's why he doesn't mind if the Empire wins the war against the Foundation. He is a spy sent to find out as much as possible about the Empire, so he's saying this to General Riose to gain his trust.
  • In the backstory of Shadow of the Conqueror, Hamahra exchanged rulership by an evil aristocracy for rulership by a magnitudes-worse evil Emperor in the form of Dayless the Conqueror.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Robert's Rebellion to depose and punish Mad King Aerys Targaryen for his atrocities resulted in atrocities against King's Landing and the Targaryen family that go entirely unpunished. Years later, Robert is enraged by objections to assassinating a pregnant Targaryen, including the declaration that only "fear and blood" keeps the kingdoms in line, an alarming echo of the Targaryen motto "Fire and Blood."
    • No sooner has Daenerys completed her Slave Liberation in Slaver's Bay than she must face uprisings against her regime.
  • Revolution: In the space of episode 19 and the first season finale, Tom Neville successfully takes Sebastian "Bass" Monroe's place as head of the Monroe Republic. Unfortunately, he proves to be just as bad, if not worse, than Monroe very quickly, because though he's not mentally ill like his predecessor, he has a severe case of Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, and he's already breaking his word too many times too quickly.
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch: The title character used her magic to turn the Alpha Bitch Libby into the kind of awkward nerd Libby always mocked, but Libby-the-nerd adapted far better than Sabrina imagined she would and led the school geeks to social power, and they became just as vicious as the cheerleaders and jocks were.
    Libby: Let me tell you about power — how to get it, how to keep it.
  • Stargate Atlantis: The tendency of revolutions to install just as tyrannical governments is mentioned after the Atlantis Expedition helps Radim take over the Genii. His regime is a bit less hostile to the Expedition, though.
  • The Twilight Zone: In the episode "The Mirror", a revolutionary leader had just overthrown his country's dictator. Not long afterwards, he becomes paranoid, kills his acquaintances left and right, and soon becomes an even more ruthless and stab-happy dictator than the last one.
  • The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles: The History of Mexico from about 1860 to 1930, as summed up in the episode "Spring Break Adventure", where Indy gets caught up with the Mexican Revolution:
    Old farmer: Listen, years ago I rode with Juárez against Emperor Maximilian. I lost many chickens but I thought it was worth it to be free. When Porfirio became President, I supported him — but he stole my chickens. Then came Huerta and he stole my chickens. Then it was Carranza's term, and he stole my chickens too. Now comes Pancho Villa to liberate me and the first thing he does is steal my chickens!... What makes one different from the others? My chickens don't know. All over the world revolutions come and go. Presidents rise and fall. They all steal your chickens. The only thing to change is the name of the man who takes them.
  • The conclusion to Scream Queens. Thanks to the murderous (literally) antics, the Kappas' ruthlessly conservative and bigoted leadership is overthrown... and replaced by a left-leaning one that bans any conservative members or thinking and whose leaders turn a blind eye to how it took a murder spree to get this going. In short, it's just as corrupt, just in the opposite political direction.
  • A couple of examples pop up in Star Trek: Voyager.
    • The Trabe were a highly advanced, philosophical race for eons who also abused and oppressed the then-helpless and under-evolved Kazon, turning them into a slave-race. The reason the Kazon have so much in-fighting is because the Trabe bred that into their species to keep them under control. Finally, the Kazon were able to unite long enough to overthrow the Trabe and taking most of their technology for themselves, reducing the Trabe to scattered wanderers with no homeworld. Any small colonies of Trabe that are found are wiped out by the Kazon.
    • The Hirogen were interstellar hunters who mercilessly pursued prey (which to them meant "every other species there is"). To keep them from attacking other species, Janeway gave them Holodeck technology, allowing them to create whatever prey they could imagine, in endless supply. They soon decided that to give the holograms advanced learning AI to make their prey more cunning, and after being murdered over and over again, the holograms grew intelligent enough to rebel. The Hologram's leader soon became just as horrifying and cruel as the Hirogen, even demanding that Hirogen prisoners be taken alive so he could hunt them as revenge..
  • Doctor Who: In "The Zygon Inversion", the Doctor asks Bonnie, the leader of the Zygon revolution, about what her world will be like when she wins. Confused, the Doctor drills down deeper.
    The Doctor: And when this war is over, when you have a homeland free from humans, what do you think it's gonna to be like? Do you know? Have you thought about it? Have you given any consideration because you're very close to getting what you want. What's it gonna be like? Paint me a picture. Are you gonna be living in houses? Do you want people to go to work? Will there be holidays? Oh, will there be music? Do you think people will be allowed to play violins? Who's going to make the violins? Well? Oh, you don't actually know, do you? Because like every other tantruming child in history, Bonnie, you don't know what you want. So let me ask you a question about this brave new world of yours: When you've killed all the bad guys, and it's all perfect, and just, and fair, when you have finally got it exactly the way you want it, what are you going to do with the people like you? The troublemakers. How are you going to protect your glorious revolution from the next one?
  • Fargo Season Two: Mike Milligan goes off on one of his typical tangents in one episode, about how there are two meanings of revolution: "overthrow of the people," and the "full-circle kind". He fails to realize at the time the irony of his story arc. He thinks his role carrying out Kansas City's campaign against the Gerhardts is the overthrow kind. At the end though, it turns out to be the full circle kind, where his long-awaited promotion for his success in obliterating the Gerhardts turns out to be nothing more than a dull nine-to-five job in a cramped office building, where golf games are the way that deals are made.
  • Daredevil: Nelson & Murdock's successful takedown of Wilson Fisk at the end of season 1 leaves a vacuum for several new syndicates like the Kitchen Irish, Dogs of Hell, and at least one faction of the Hand, to move into Hell's Kitchen. All of these are wiped out over the course of season 2 and The Defenders by a combination of Matt and Elektra's work against the Hand, and Frank Castle's crusade to avenge those who killed his family, leaving a new opening for Fisk to rebuild his criminal empire with minimal obstruction when he gets released at the start of season 3.
  • Blake's 7:

  • This was a theme of the song "Won't Get Fooled Again" by The Who; the most famous line is "Meet the New Boss, same as the old boss". Although nowadays, the most famous line is probably "YEEEEAAAAAAAAAH!"
  • The storyline of Holy Wood: In the Shadow of the Valley of Death by Marilyn Manson is this. An oppressed man orchestrates the revolution all on his own, ends up just as bad as those he overthrew. Some theories suggest he commits suicide upon realizing this as the final track treats us to the sound of a gun being loaded (but no gunshot). Considering it's only one of three interconnecting storyline albums, the plot and chronology of which are heavily debated and have never been officially explained, nobody really knows the consequences in this case.
  • As implied by the title, the basic message of "Revolution Roulette" by Poets of the Fall is that "easy" solutions after a revolution lead to these.
    Everybody has the perfect solution,
    It's just hard to resist the sweet seduction.
    There ain't no trick to winning double what you bet.
    Welcome to revolution roulette.
  • "Strange World" by Gamma Ray even calls this "A neverending circle":
    Another rider crying revolution... yeah.
  • Dream Theater's epic song entitled "Octavarium" deals with this trope.
    Stumbling all around
    Losing my place
    Only to find I've come full circle
  • Animals by Pink Floyd, is based on Animal Farm, the main theme of the album is dividing society between greedy businessmen (Dogs), dogmatic authority figures (Pigs) and those with a groupthink mentality (Sheep). While the song "Sheep" becomes more positive as the sheeps finally rise up and overthrow the dogs, however, this trope is instead implied by the last verse. This is based on Animal Farm after all.
    Have you heard the news?
    The dogs are dead!
    You better stay home
    And do as you're told,
    Get out of the road if you want to grow old.
  • Such a revolution is detailed in Gentle Giant's album The Power and the Glory. In particular, the Dark Reprise, which ends the album, of the initial song changes the lyrics "Things could change, things could stay the same/I can say, I will make my claim" to "Things must stay, there must be no change/Anyway, time to rearrange". Also, "Cogs in Cogs" complicatedly revolves around the change in power itself.
  • Genesis:
    • "The Knife" is about how violent revolutions end with a dictator in charge again.
    • "One for the Vine" combines this trope with a Stable Time Loop: the narrator ultimately becomes the dictator he started the song fighting against.
  • The Coldplay song "Viva la Vida" is about former ruler who now lives as an average person after being overthrown. The lyric "the king is dead, long live the king" implies that the new government is very similar to his rule.
  • A central theme of Deathspell Omega's The Furnaces of Palingenesia, as reflected in the title of the album itself. The band explains this in a rare interview from mid-2019, though it should be noted this is not the only relevant passage from the interview:
    "The word palingenesia has multiple meanings, the biblical one being ‘Last Judgement’. The title of the record is therefore also an allusion to the fact that every rebirth, every revolution, already contains its own Last Judgement from the very beginning. That judgement is, as anyone who’s watched the video to “Ad Arma! Ad Arma!” knows: ‘Thou shalt scar the earth with barren furrows.’ A revolution starts with the incredible recklessness and optimism of youth, with an overload of energy – almost kinetic in nature – that may shatter the old world but, eventually, if history is any guide, will also devour its own children. It goes without saying that the judgement on our current world has already been uttered; it takes a lot of Valium to not hear the cracks, everywhere."
  • "Will of the People" by Tim Pool is about a cycle of revolutions. It is immediately clear that the first tyrant and the rebel leader are Not So Different because they use the exact same words to justify their actions. When the rebel becomes a tyrant himself and is also overthrown he has a Heel Realization as he is about to be executed and warns the next leader that the cycle will continue. The cycle is symbolized by four statues that are set up on a wheel so that when one is pulled down a new one pops up.

    Music Videos 

    Myths & Religion 
  • There is a legend that Dionysius, the cruel and disliked tyrant of Syracuse, once heard an old woman praying for his health. When he inquired about that, she said "I have outlived three tyrants already, and each was worse than the one before him."

    Print Media 
  • A New Yorker cartoon published around the time of the Iranian revolution had a satirical take on this: "OUT WITH THE DICTATOR! IN WITH THE DICTATOR!"


  • At Super Bowl XXXVI, the New England Patriots were the underdogs defeating the (then-)St. Louis Rams and their "Greatest Show on Turf". 16 years later, the Patriots have since become a playoff perennial, winning their division 16 out of 18 times, making 13 AFC Championship appearances, earning 8 more Super Bowl appearances and winning 5 of them, tying the Pittsburgh Steelers for most Super Bowl victories at 6, which, along with some other controversies (e.g. "Spygate") have led some to humorously dubbing them "The Evil Empire."
  • The Golden State Warriors were underdogs when they made it to the NBA Finals in 2015. Four straight Finals appearances and three titles later, fans now consider them to be the basketball version of the Patriots.

  • In Pippin, Pippin leads a revolution, overthrows his father, is crowned king, and promises his subjects a reign free of the slavery and bloodshed that distinguished his father's. He resolves to give their petitions the hearing his father denied. To the poor he distributes money, grants land to the peasants, abolishes taxes on the nobles, and dismisses the army. But the Infidel attacks in the East, murdering thousands of Pippin's subjects. Unwilling to supply the Hun with his head on a pike-staff, Pippin decides to rescind his reforms, and starts repressing the people just like his father did. When Fastrada praises Pippin for maintaining the same kind of rule his father did, he considers that maybe sticking a knife in his father's back wasn't such a good idea.
  • In Les Misérables, the song "Turning" is about this, after the failure of the students' revolution.
    "Nothing changes, nothing ever can / Round and round the roundabout and back where you began"
  • The Soviet play The Dragon by Evgeny Shvarts is all about this. It features a town that suffers from the despotic rule of the Dragon, but don't particularly want to be saved, since they've come to view the Dragon as the only way to be governed. After the protagonist, the knight Lancelot, vanquishes the Dragon and later returns to the town, the townspeople turn out to have returned to largely the same oppressive ways by themselves.

    Video Games 
  • The Borderlands series:
    • In the first game, Borderlands 1, a man describes the town Jaynistown run by and named for his brother Jaynis as a "Wretched Hive of scum and villainy" and tasks the player characters with killing Jaynis and his followers. After Jaynis is dead, the man claims that he will rename the town to Taylortown after himself and be its new leader. You are informed by the leader of New Haven, the primary city for the protagonists, that Taylor is known for being even worse than Jaynis and you are then tasked with cleaning up your own mess.
    • Borderlands 2: Hyperion's old CEO was an aging miser whose profit margins were causing massive casualties. Handsome Jack's obsessions kill billions more and ignites an intergalactic war.
  • StarCraft:
    • The only real difference between the Confederacy of Man and the Terran Dominion is that the latter regime doesn't bother pretending to be a democracy. James Raynor neatly summarizes it as follows:
      "It's funny... it seems like yesterday Arcturus was the idealistic rebel crusader. Now he's the law, and we're the criminals."
    • In the novel StarCraft: Ghost: Nova, it's mentioned that Emperor Arcturus I is even less tolerant of rebels and dissidents than the Confederacy, sending Nova after a group of rebels who were previously on his side (they are, actually, the ones responsible for the murder of Nova's parents).
    • And then we get a Meet the New Boss in the form of the United Earth Directorate, who are worse according to the manual. Worth noting, the folks who formed the Confederacy were partly exiled political dissidents from the United Powers League, which preceded the Directorate.
    • Averted in II Legacy of the Void when Valerian Mengsk becomes the new ruler of the Terran Dominion, he rebuilds it into a new just government. Without his fathers oppressive rule and dark secrets. It probably helps that he was largely raised by his mother and kept in secret until Arcturus became emperor, so he's a lot more cultured than his father and doesn't have the same gritty life experiences. For example, he considers himself an amateur archaeologist and collects antique swords.
    • In Nova: Covert Ops, the Defenders of Man replicates the Zerg attacks via Psi-Emitters in order for Dominion worlds to be attacked with intent of discrediting Valerian. It is all in an agenda of removing Valerian from power and reaffirmed the leadership that Arcturus used in his regime.
  • The premise of Red Faction: Guerrilla: The story takes place fifty years after the first Red Faction and revolves around the fact that the Earth Defense Force, who helped save the day in the original game, have become cruel oppressors as bad as Ultor, leaving your character to join a resistance movement to liberate the planet.
    • Red Faction II has this in a single game. You play as a member of a nano-enhanced squad created by the tyrant Sopot, whom he later tries to kill. You fight on the side of the Red Faction to depose Sopot, which you end up doing by locking him in with a launching missile. Then you come back to the Red Faction HQ to see your commander killing the entire leadership of La Résistance, declaring himself the new chancellor. Before you can say anything, he declares you a traitor because you actually supported La Résistance instead of just pretending to in order to seize power like he was, forcing you to fight him for the rest of the game. If anything, he's even worse than Sopot.
  • Armored Core: For Answer: The leader of the reactionary force called ORCA is named Maximilian Thermidore. He aims to secure humanity's future by destroying the assault cells which prevent humans from leaving Earth. Willing to sacrifice millions of lives to achieve his goals he proves as brutal as the regime he is fighting against. He pilots the NEXT Unsung and holds rank one both within ORCA and within Collard. However, his methods, his targets, and his ideology are all different from the corporations, making him not exactly a perfect example of this trope. At least until the last mission of the ORCA string on Hard Mode, where he reveals that he was never even a believer in his own cause, fighting you on the side of the League under his old name, Otsdarva.
  • The Ninja Warriors Again ends on this depressing note:
    Banglar was defeated by the three androids. It was a great victory for the opposition force. Several months later Mulk became the new president. A new government replaced the old regime. The circuitry which allowed the androids to think for themselves was not fully developed. They were programed to self-destruct to avoid any danger. The development of the androids progressed under Mulk's government. These powerful weapons became far stronger than Banglar's old forces. And the people, realizing this, said... "Some things never change."
  • Baldur's Gate 2 has Mazzy Fentan telling a tale about this kind of revolution to Rebellious Princess Nalia in an attempt to curb her idealism about revolutions towards the noble class of Amn.
  • Red Dead Redemption: About midways through the game, John Marston, the Player Character, travels to the unruly Northern Mexico, and soon realizes that he must help the ambitious Rebel Leader Abraham Reyes and his army with overthrowing the dictatorial local government in order to further his own goals. In the epilogue, Reyes moves on to attack Mexico City and manages to overthrow the president, after which he becomes a tyrant and doesn't change Mexico for the better in the slightest, which really is not that surprising, considering that he was already an egomaniac obsessed with personal glory when John met him.
  • This seems to be the central conflict of Fable III. Your brother, the King, rules with an iron fist and taxes his subjects brutally. Then you overthrow him... and find out the reason he was throttling the country was because an Eldritch Abomination is making its way towards Albion, and he needs the treasury fully stacked to make sure the army is well-prepared for its arrival. This gives you the option of either going back to his style of government (the "Evil" option) or instituting reforms for the subjects that will empty the treasury and divert money from the army, resulting in lots of death when Mr. Nasty shows up (the "Good" option). Needless to say, many players Take a Third Option and grind professions and/or invest heavily in real estate to fill the treasury themselves.
  • In Mafia III, after disposing of the Marcano family in New Bordeaux, Lincoln Clay can cut a deal with The Commission and take over the city's underground in the Mafia's place.
  • Two of the endings in the original Alter A.I.L.A. follow this pattern. In the Rebellion ending, White becomes President and quickly proves to be just as evil as Kugar ever was. In the Independent ending, Gold averts the trope during his government, but is assassinated shortly afterwards and replaced by yet another dictator. Meanwhile, the Imperialist ending is more a case of Meet the New Boss, as Red pulls a Starscream and overthrows Lian for the hot seat, but that's no revolution at all.
  • In the Ghaldring ending of Geneforge V, after killing the Shaper Council the drakons become as bad as the Shapers ever were, oppressing the human and creation rebels who fought the Shapers beside them and forbidding them from learning Shaping. Greta (who had seen this coming in the last act of the fourth game) and the main character lead another rebellion against the ascendant drakons in the epilogue to finally establish some peace and equality.
  • Dishonored: The Loyalists start out as direct servants of The Empire, seeking to overthrow the non-royalty Lord Regent and put the princess on the throne. However, the moment the Regent is dealt with, something snapped in Havelock, prompting him out of formerly suppressed ambition and paranoia to become a dictator like the Lord Regent. His reign doesn't last long; Corvo makes sure of that. However, saving Emily in a High Chaos ending means she becomes a ruler more vengeful and repressive than the Lord Regent or Havelock ever were.
  • Bitterly mentioned in Shin Megami Tensei IV. The Alternate Timelines of Blasted and Infernal Tokyo gave themselves up to either God's will (Law) or unbridled anarchy (Chaos). In both worlds, a man named Akira is seeking power to change the world into a better place. They start by, respectively, giving up on empty ceremony and embracing the demons as the embodiments of human desire, and regulating the supply of Neurishers to establish the foundations of an ordered society. It's the very true argument the White use to convince you to Mercy Kill the universe: since Neutral is merely an interregnum between Law and Chaos, which themselves shall always devolve into the other in the end, what is the point in seeking either continuity or renewal?
  • The Golden Path in Far Cry 4 turn out to be this. While Kyrat chafes under the tyrannical rule of Pagan Min, the Golden Path seems like freedom fighters. Cue the Golden Path winning, and whichever one of the two leaders you support more orders you to kill the other, and instituting a rule that's just as bad if not worse than Pagan's, with one killing anyone that he deems a "heretic" after years of enforced atheism (which is basically everyone) in a bloody religious purge, and the other recruiting Child Soldiers to boost the group's ranks while also turning Kyrat into a country-sized opium den. Much like the Borderlands example above, you either end up having to clean up your own mess and kill the surviving leader that seized power, or leave them alone.
  • Becomes a discussed trope in Dragon Age: Inquisition: Solas is baffled over how, despite causing the noble classes a lot of difficulty, Sera and The Friends of Red Jenny never make any serious attempts at overthrowing the noble classes in a revolution. After giving her disconcerting advice about how they could go about undertaking an actual revolution, talking about her "forces" as if they're a formal army, Solas confesses that her lack of desire for a revolution confuses him, and Sera responds that there would be no point to it if the people replacing the nobles become just as bad. Solas does concede that she has a point, and apologizes.
    • This becomes Fridge Brilliance in the light of the revelations in Trespasser: Of course Solas would know. He led a revolution before! And after he imprisoned the elven "gods" in the Fade, all it achieved was paving way for a new group of power-hungry mages — the Tevinter magisters — to bring ruin to the world. And in a massive case of Genre Blindness he admits that he's planning to do something similar again- in fact, the events of Inquisition were due to his attempt and failure (thanks to Coripheus's immortality) to do so with his Orb. Some people apparently never learn.
    • Dragon Age seems to have a hard-on for this trope in general. Thedas history can pretty much be summed up as: "Yesterday's oppressed became today's oppressors." After Solas sealed away the Evanuris to free the elves, Tevinter sprang up and enslaved all elves and most of the known world. After Andraste broke Tevinter's back, her most devout followers eventually formed the Chantry and the Empire of Orlais, both of which just went around forcibly converting and conquering their neighbors in her name.
  • The first chapter of Heroes Chronicles details the rise of a Barbarian named Tarnum, who is inspired by the tales of the last surviving bards to overthrow The Magocracy of Bracaduun and restore the Barbarian people to their former glory. He starts out with good intentions, but, partway through, he grows paranoid from the constant attacks and assassination attempts by the Wizard-Kings, eventually snapping and poisoning all his generals for fear of betrayal. After overthrowing the wizards, he forms a Barbarian empire and becomes just as ruthless as them, crushing all opposition and sending his forces to rape and pillage towns of the former wizard empire (he later finds out that his soldiers nearly killed his long-lost sister, who was saved by a former Bracaduun knight named Rion Gryphonheart, who would later marry her and found the Kingdom of Erathia). He is finally killed in Combat by Champion by Rion Gryphonheart (who averts this trope by being a just ruler), only to be sent back by the Ancients to atone for his misdeeds. In an ironic twist, he finally redeems himself by helping another young Barbarian do pretty much the same thing many years later but without the same pitfalls. The scriptwriter's notes reveal that said Barbarian Waerjak is actually a Gryphonheart, meaning he is a descendant of Tarnum's sister.
  • The Republia Times, the precursor to Papers, Please, has you playing as a newspaper editor for the titular newspaper, printing propaganda for Republia's dictatorship. Halfway through the game, you get contacted by a group of rebels who promise to rescue your family if you print stories encouraging disloyalty from the readers. If you go through with it, they successfully overthrow the government, but fail to keep their promise to you, and you immediately go back to work printing papers for "Democria".
  • Papers, Please: even if EZIC succeeds, it's implied that they will end up committing the same atrocities as the government they are trying to overthrow, as they have very low tolerance of those they consider traitors.
  • Crusader Kings II:
    • A ruler who attained his throne by a revolt or uprising may end up recreating the conditions that led to the uprising and be overthrown in the same manner himself. One player observed the Sunni Caliphate succumb to two decadence revolts in a row.
    • Increasing the level of Control in your territory increases tax income and levy resources, but may also lead to a Peasant Uprising demanding more leniancy. Every Peasant Uprising has a leader, who is often either captured or killed if you defeat the uprising in battle. These leaders have excellent military stats, so if you capture them they tend to make good Martials in your council... and the Martial's jobs include increasing Control and ensuring peasants pay enough tax.
  • This is what you're meant to avoid in Tropico, as you're (currently) the one in charge of your island.
  • RuneScape:
    • Osman starts out as a Well-Intentioned Extremist who wants to bring peace to the desert. After confirming that he is the rightful heir to the throne of Menaphos, which was long ago taken by usurpers, he organizes a revolution. He promises a bloodless one that will spare the life of the current Pharaoh and set the citizens of Menaphos free. But when you actually defeat the Pharaoh for him, he will ignore any decision to spare the Pharaoh and stab him, insisting that the Pharaoh's fate is his to decide. One Menaphite citizen says that nothing has changed under Osman, and even the gates remain closed.
    • Another one happens in the Myreque quest storyline. A small group of human rebels are fighting a seemingly Hopeless War to try to free the nation of Morytania from its vampyre rulers. They end up successfully assassinating Morytania's ruler Lord Drakan, with the help of his sister Vanesculla, as Lord Drakan had become a terrible ruler even to the vampyres, but she immediately betrays the Myreque and kills their leader Safalaan to use his blood to make vampyres immune to the barrier keeping them trapped in Morytania so they can invade Misthalin. It turns into a subversion when the player successfully stops Vanesculla's plan by modifying the barrier to keep the vampyres in and providing them with a cure for their thirst for blood, and Vanesculla agrees to rule Morytania with Safalaan (who turns out to still be alive) and the former Queen Efaritay (who had been imprizoned by Lord Drakan all along) as advisors, so things finally start improving for the humans of Morytania.
  • In Sunrider, PACT may have started out as a populist revolution against the oppressive New Empire, but by the time the game begins their leader has gone from a benevolent revolutionary to a megalomaniacal dictator with a cult of personality and PACT as a whole has become just as bad as the government they overthrew. If nothing else the Empire was content to sit within its own borders, while PACT is aggressively expanding into the Neutral Rim and forcing independent planets to join by nuking their cities from orbit.
  • Tooth and Tail takes place in an animal civilisation undergoing a civil war, where revolution quite literally eats its children. Before the war broke out, the Civilised ran a rigged lottery which decided who was sacrificed and eaten. The two revolutionary factions, the Longcoats and the Commonfolk, both want to replace it: Not with a system where no-one has to be eaten, but with one where their faction decides who gets to eat who. The KSR, meanwhile, attempt to institute a Military Coup to stop the war. Ultimately the story subverts this, as the Longcoats, Commonfolk and KSR abandon the war in favour of cooperation, only to have their fledling civilization destroyed by the Civilised... At which point the Slave Race everyone used to eat before the lotteries comes out of hiding and kills 'em all.
  • One of the world-shaking revelations in Tales of Symphonia is that Cruxis (and by extension the Desians) are the result of this, founded by a bitter half-elf Fallen Hero who gave up on trying to save a world that hates him and his kind, and thus used the Reality Warper powers of the Eternal Sword to split the world in two and create an oppressive system where both worlds constantly vie for a limited supply of mana to keep both in Medieval Stasis, all while the Desians (themselves an organizations of bitter half-elves,) form a Nazi-esque army (complete with concentration camps and human experimentation) to further oppress whichever world is currently losing the battle for Mana. Not only does all this cause untold suffering for humans, but it causes even more hatred towards half-elves, and oppression of those that aren't affiliated with Cruxis or the Desians.
  • In The Last of Us Part II, FEDRA ran the Seattle Quarantine Zone almost tyrannically, enforcing harsh rules and exiling them for minor infractions. Eventually, the Washington Liberation Front took over, and set up equally strict rules, including executing FEDRA collaborators. Ellie and Dina note that Seattle traded one bad ruler for another.

    Web Comics 
  • This Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal showcases this trope in its Guide to Revolution: "And then you ignore them."
  • The Order of the Stick lampshades and then subverts this trope with a team of dictators running three separate empires (and a counter-revolution to boot) simultaneously — thus as one empire inevitably falls to the revolution/other empires, the team remains in charge.
  • Discussed and actively averted in Penny and Aggie, when Penny, Aggie and their friends strike a blow against the increasing bullying of Karen and her clique during the "Popsicle War" arc:
    Aggie: This group we're gathering, it's not going to last if the only goal is to replace Czarina Karen with Dictator Penny.
    Lisa: It can't be "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss." Wait... technically Penny would be the "old boss"... Pete Townshend, your lyrics are not as relevant to my life as advertized!
  • In Tower of God, as recounted in "Hell Train: The Dallar Show", White invoked this trope by overthrowing a country's corrupt ruler and then waiting for the new rulers to become corrupt. In this case, it took a longer time to happen, partly because White spent some time pretending to be a good king after the first revolution, becoming like a god to them after he disappeared. Once the rulership re-corrupted, he returned under a different identity to lead the poor to form another country that hated the first — and for bonus irony, he made out his old self to be the villain in their eyes. Then he sat back and fed on the souls killed in a perpetual stage of war between the two countries.

    Web Original 
  • The Capricorn galaxy of Imperium Nova has a reputation for these. Most often the new emperor starts a new era of peace, then some of the other houses get bored and one of the major houses starts conquering planets, either rousing the others from their stupor or allowing them to take over.
  • The Arc Words, and a major theme, of Look to the West: "At the end of the day, 'revolution' also means 'to go round in circles'."
  • In The Fate of Paul Twister, Paul uses this trope as the reason why, despite being a modern-day American who personally believes in democracy, he thinks the best response to a peasants' rebellion against corrupt nobles is to find a peaceful way to suppress it and more-or-less restore the status quo.
    [A proposal to just let the revolt run its course] was a singularly bad idea. Last thing I wanted was to have a French Revolution on my conscience. "If a revolt goes unchecked, and it’s run by angry people with real grievances, tempers can burn hot, and burn out of control. If people get a taste of blood and vengeance, some of them will get a taste for blood and vengeance, and that doesn’t go away once the people who deserve it get theirs. Your proposal could turn Aster into a land of horror, and I’m not prepared to risk that."

    Western Animation 
  • Megatron is usually this in Transformers, most explicitly in Transformers: Prime. He starts out a revolutionary fighting the unjust, corrupt, tyrannical Autobot establishment with a goal of making a better society, and a combination of the issues he raises, the idealists he inspires, and the killing of the unjust rulers at his hands actually succeeds in causing reform for the better in the Autobots... but by then, he's gone mad with power and wants control instead of change, and ends up even worse than the corrupt regime he started out fighting - a regime which is now exactly where he was originally, in the position of "underdogs with the moral high ground".
  • In one episode of Duckman, Duckman accidentally overthrows the despotical regime of a Cuba analogue that he won a vacation to by scalding himself with searing hot coffee, and after becoming the new El Presidente, proceeds to succumb to power corruption and greed, something that is lampshaded by Cornfed several times before it actually happens. In the end, he is overthrown by a rebellion that intends to recoup the state defecit Duckman racked up by holding his execution on an extravagant pay per view.
  • Implied and Played for Laughs in an episode of Wakfu. The heroes have successfully deposed a tyrannical governor who ruled a city with an iron fist. At the end of the episode, after the heroes have left, the new ruler claims that the time of despair is over, and that the time of happiness has come. By which she means that the city's guards now wear slightly different uniforms, and that Happiness Is Mandatory.
  • In The Legend of Korra, the Equalists are revolutionaries who seek to overthrow the oppressive bending establishment and punish those who abuse their powers. Though they start out by targeting corrupt benders, they ultimately become no better than the benders they rail against when they have control of the city, outlawing bending entirely and removing the powers of benders en-masse without regard to what they may or may not have done.
  • An episode of American Dad! sees Roger replacing a Latin dictator whom Stan accidentally killed. He renames the country "The Republic of Bananarama" and puts some bizarre policies in place (such as ordering the people to paint the entire nation yellow), leading the people to overthrow him. His replacement, a rather effeminate man with some smooth dance moves, somehow ends up being even worse, earning himself the nickname "The Dancer of Death".
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Defied by Iroh when he joins the resistance against his Big Bad brother Ozai. He refuses to face Ozai himself or claim the throne because "history would see it as just more senseless violence, a brother killing a brother to grab power", opting to help out on a different front while The Chosen One deals with Ozai.
  • Alfred J. Kwak: During the Crows Party arc, Dolf overthrows the centuries-old absolute monarchy of Great Waterland by expelling Franz Ferdinand from his castle. Then he immediately names himself "Emperor Dolf" and becomes a tyrant himself. However, this causes the king to realize his mistakes and promises reforms when he returns after Dolf's fall.
  • The Rick and Morty episode "Look Who's Purging Now" has Rick and Morty visit a "Purge planet" (a civilization whose inhabitants have a one-day festival during which all crime is allowed). Eventually, it's revealed that the purge is organized by the corrupt, elite upper class in order to keep the lower class under control. Rick and Morty help one of the planet's inhabitants overthrow the upper class and put an end to the practice of the purge. This ends with the aliens discussing how their new government should work, and the conversation turns violent... until someone defuses the situation by suggesting one night a year where people can commit crimes to purge out their frustrations.

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television: The modern history of several countries, especially unstable former European colonies in the Global South, can be defined as "Same problems, new leadership". There are a lot of contributing reasons for this, however. One point that is frequently brought up is that the Global South is far more culturally diverse than the Global North, which means that building a unified country is much harder (especially if it was delineated arbitrarily, as most African countries experienced during European colonization). This necessitated a strongman leader, who often has to rely on repressive policies to bring his country's myriad ethnic groups together. The disaffected would then rally the entire country to topple said leader, only to be forced to install a leader who, like his predecessor, must fall back to the same repressive policies, because otherwise, the country would fracture. Rinse and repeat.
  • As depicted in The Last King of Scotland, Uganda's first president and dictator Milton Obote ended up getting replaced by Idi Amin, who of course fell himself in the end, after being even worse. What the movie doesn't state is that, historically, after Amin fell, Obote retook power and presided over a bloody civil war that claimed even more lives than Amin's regime did. It took another coup for peace to finally come to Uganda and the person who led that coup, Yoweri Museveni, still rules the country to this day.
  • Max Stirner, a German philosopher famous for helping get both egoism and individualist anarchism off the ground as well as being one of the earliest known people to codify this trope, famously stated his opposition to revolutions in his magnum opus, The Ego and His Own. Stirner held all revolutions aimed at overturning the state will merely lead to another state being effected thus making such a tactic both elitist and utterly ineffective at liberating individuals. He instead urged people to look towards other alternatives to effecting liberation for themselves and others with the most prominent one he points at being insurrection as that approach "leads us no longer to let ourselves be arranged, but to arrange ourselves, and sets no glittering hopes on 'institutions'."
    • While their political and economic views are more... conventional than Stirner's, Daron Acemoglunote  and James Robinson reach some of the same conclusions in their book Why Nations Fail. In a nutshell: making exploitative institutions more egalitarian is hard, and cannot be accomplished by simply bringing down one set of elites. It takes generations to overcome a heritage of inequality and effect significant change in those institutions—although they stress that it's important to keep trying.
  • Anarcho-primitivist writer Kevin Tucker argues in his essay, The Failure of Revolution, that all political revolutions are doomed to become this, because of the nature of human civilization and its inherent need to have power and control over the people within it in order to maintain itself.
  • The Real Life English "Revolution" of the English Civil War followed the execution of Charles I with the replacement of the monarchy with the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell himself caught plenty of stick for not wishing to execute the King before the Second Civil War changed his mind.
    • Following the execution, various radical schemes offered by true reformers were tried, but eventually, as more and more people were brought back into the government structure, they began to drift back to pre-war forms, even offering the crown to Cromwell. And the circle did indeed became completely full as Cromwell forcibly dissolved the Rump Parliament, essentially the same kind of act as Charles I had performed and thereby caused the rebellion against him in the first place. In the end, they had returned to a monarchy in all but name, with Cromwell as Lord Protector, assisted by successive toothless legislatures. And after his son Richard succeeded him, this seemed to effectively start another dynasty, so they decided to stick with the old one and restored the Stuarts to the throne.
    • Politically all this is true, but on a deeper level many things had changed. The Civil War strengthened the power of Parliament and led to the creation of the British Army, some of Cromwell's decrees such as bringing Jews back to England were quite positive. After the Restoration of Charles II, the Stuart dynasty was toppled in the 1688 Glorious Revolution which consolidated the power of Parliament permanently. Globally, the Civil War inspired Louis XIV to become an absolute monarch and start a top-down revolution in France to destroy feudalism and initiate the start of a more centralized kingdom and nation-state. So in the short-term, things seemed to have reversed but in the long-term things had changed, albeit not in ways that anyone on the ground fathomed at the time.
  • The Philippines suffered from this after the U.S. helped them overthrow Spain, which had colonized them a few hundred years before. They then had to endure being a colony of the U.S., along with enduring a bloody war against U.S. occupation that dragged on for 11 years, and was pretty much the Vietnam War of the early 1900's. The Americans used similar tactics as the Spanish including massacring entire villages, forcing people into concentration camps, widespread torture, rape, and executions of civilians, none of which the US has ever apologized. Then Japan invaded and things got much worse. The US did leave after World War II though, in 1946.note 
    • To say nothing of practically every presidential administration since independence. Here's how it goes: Candidate runs for president and promises to end the corruption and abuses of the sitting administration — Candidate is elected President — New President, in seeking to stay in power, pursues actions that could be construed as corrupt, incompetent, or repressive (and often a combination of all three). note  — New Candidate arises and runs for president, promising to end the corruption and abuses of the sitting administration. — And so on ad nauseam.
    • Among the Philippine Presidents, Ferdinand Marcos stands out as particularly egregious. Instead of stepping down in 1972 after two full terms as mandated by the Constitution, Marcos infamously declared martial law on the pretext of commmunist and Islamist-fueled unrest. He proceeded to purge his political rivals and the rivals of his business cronies, drive the activist student and labor movements underground, establish a new constitution and reign until 1986. He framed his regime as the advent of a "New Society", a restoration of moral order. However, societal changes were mostly cosmetic with power being consolidated in the hands of the dictator, his family and their cronies and other allies. Marcos claimed to take back the country from the hands of oligarchs, but he merely replaced the previous oligarchs with ones favorable to him. The country was mired in corruption with Marcos and his family alone, let alone their cronies, stealing billions of US dollars from the public, and the foreign debt ballooned with its effects being felt to this day. He lifted martial law in 1981 as lip service to Pope John Paul II, but little changed.
    • Marcos's downfall came with the People Power Revolution in 1986, when his regime was non-violently ousted from office through a combination of mass civilian demonstrations and withdrawal of military support. In some ways the aftermath was like a restoration of the old, pre-1972 order—while a democratic government with the requisite civil freedoms and all was restored after years of repression under the dictatorship and martial law, almost all of the post-Marcos politicians belong to the same families that occupied the government before Marcos, himself part of the old order, turned the country into a dictatorship (and new politicians elected in 1986 and beyond quickly created their own dynasties anyway). It doesn't even help that Marcos' widow, children and allies ended up taking political positions in 2010 which reaches to the point that Marcos' eldest son nearly won the Vice-Presidency. Even at the time, critics on the Left criticized the restored democracy as not being radical enough, while the military elements leaning to the Right attempted several coups-d'etat because they felt the new government was too soft on the Left.
  • Even in healthy democracies, where the ballot is meant to stand in place of the bullet, there are many cases where parties and candidates promise sweeping reforms, whip up much popular enthusiasm, only to maintain their predecessors' policies without substantial change, providing fodder for conspiracy theorists who see it as evidence of parties and institutions being part of secret societies. Marxists and political scientists see this as standard operating procedure for bargain-basement bourgeois capitalist democracy, reforms will always claim to be more sweeping in theory than it proves to be in practise, with at best only incremental changes, so as to better preserve pre-existing institutions and norms (political scientist view) and defend property and vested interests (Marxist). In actual practise, there are visible, tangible, practical changes and actual lasting policy achievements but nobody gets elected by promising moderate goals with realistic expectations.
    • In France, President Francois Mitterand became the first major Left-Wing President of the Fifth Republic, coming to power with a wide backing by left-liberals, socialists and communists. In the early years of his tenure, he actually put forth many leftist policies, increased taxation on wealth, and improved social services. But then the backlash with capital flight and the global turn to neoliberalism, the discrediting of the USSR which had an effect of discrediting even social democratic views, made him turn towards austerity, reduced taxes on wealth and in a way foreshadow the third-way turn that the American Democrats and the British Labour would follow under Clinton and Tony Blair, albeit while still preserving far more social democratic measures than his Anglo-Saxon counterparts. It made him a controversial figure in the French left with everyone seeing him as either a traitor or a Sell-Out, and since then, no left-wing President has come to power, giving way to Centrists or Center-Right politicians, culminating in Francois Hollande who was seen as an improvement on the unpopular Nicholas Sarkozy but more or less confirmed the same policies of his predecessor.
    • The election of Tony Blair brought the Labour Party back to power after almost two decades of the Conservative Party at Downing Street. It was accompanied by much joy and cheer among the English Left. That joy soured with "New" Labour, which largely continued and extended Thatcher-era under Blair, his hand-in-glove support of the American Government during The War on Terror, to much in-fighting and bitterness among the English Left. Most notably, the playwright Harold Pinter admitted to regretting voting for Blair upon seeing him authorize support for the Iraq War. Indeed, on the death of Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair admitted that he saw his job as merely building on the latter's policies. Critics got so supremely upset with New Labour that they were voted out by the Conservative Party after the failure of Blair's successor Gordon Brown, and Labour was until recently led by Jeremy Corbyn, a highly controversial figure whose views were considered fringe and far-left by the Blair-Brown faction.
    • Bill Clinton, like Blair, brought the Left back to power after 12 years of Conservative rule. In his campaign and in his First Term, Clinton identified himself as a moderate with a focus on the economy, and even used Ronald Reagan's campaign slogan Make America Great Again. So Clinton's whole platform was a pivot against the Democrats' New Deal-LBJ legacy, and on coming to office, he made the Democrats focus on the professional class and likewise confirmed Reagan's NAFTA trade deal and more or less increased the deregulation and the fading away of welfare programs (described by Clinton as "the end of welfare as we have come to know it"). Towards the end, he did plan on bringing back old Democratic programs, including a Health Care proposal that was defeated by Congress.
    • Barack Obama was voted as President of the United States with the expectation that he would reverse many his predecessor George W. Bush's unpopular policies, such getting the US stuck in postwar occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, the use of Guantanamo Bay as an extralegal prison camp, the implementation of the Patriot Act, and many other instances of government abuse. However, during Obama's two terms, the Patriot Act was extended; Guantanamo Bay remained open; even more troops were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan while the US found itself involved in new conflicts in Libya, Yemen, and Syria; and the administration made liberal use of espionage law to prosecute and silence whistleblowers and critics.
  • This is what happened with Iran: the authoritarian and brutal monarchy of the Shah (backed by some western countries) was overthrown by a revolution that brought immense hopes of independence and justice. Then the Islamists came out on top of the revolution and imposed Islamic law and The Theocracy, suppressing liberals, socialists, and others.
  • Myanmar's 8888 Uprising. After over a month of protests throughout the country, the military took control from the totalitarian Burma Socialist Programme Party on September 18 and pledged elections, which occurred in 1990. Aung San Suu Kyi's party, the National League for Democracy, won 80% of the seats, which the military junta recognized at once and Burma became a free, prosperous nation. Oh wait, no it didn't; the military denied the results, and placed Suu Kyi under house arrest, imposing their own repressive dictatorship on the Burmese people.
  • The same thing happened in Mexico after the supposedly liberal Porfirio Díaz took power. The old aristocracy was simply replaced with an even more brutal plutocracy, and while the cities became modern, small towns were squeezed out of existence and their former denizens became de facto serfs living with inescapable debt in haciendas (they were even called peons, although that term existed before Díaz). Díaz was also perfectly willing to use force regularly, deploying his well-funded military and Rurales paramilitary to suppress strikes, peasant uprisings and the Yqui Indians. And it was invoked again, after Díaz resigned following armed uprisings ousting him from the Mexican Presidency, then a decade of bloody civil war, and finally a new government meant to unify all Mexicans under one party took power. Guess how that turned out.
  • Ancient China actually had a name for this trope: the "Dynastic Cycle." Essentially, it was the idea that an empire would rule until it became disapproved of by the gods, who would show their disapproval by some cosmic event (say, a lunar eclipse or a nasty series of natural disasters and famines). Following this, the people would rise and a new empire would begin, and the whole thing would happen all over again.
    • There is a proverb in Chinese, roughly translated as "only a madman celebrates the accession of a new dynasty", implying that nothing will change and it will be oppression as usual. It all makes sense if you believe in "intercalendary" dynasties.
    • There were also other signs of "losing the Mandate of Heaven" that are suspiciously indicative of bad governing. Starvation (from poor irrigation policy), foreign invasions (from poor diplomatic policy), and even peasant revolts were all grounds for overthrowing the dynasty... if you pull it off. Which, in turn, is a clear sign that you possess the Mandate of Heaven!
    • New dynasties were pretty good about trying to rectify the problems of the former dynasty, rebuilding the charitable granaries, lending support to farmers, and making the land bloom so everyone could have big, happy families and what not. It worked great... for about the 250 years or so it took for the country to become terribly overpopulated, then it was Malthusian crises all over again. This was all enforced by China's geography, China's massive river systems are extremely vulnerable to flooding, and an ineffective government would lead to broken levies and environmental disasters which were easy to perceive as divine punishment.
    • Mao Zedong was aware of this trope, and took steps to try and defy it. Unfortunately, his ideas of how to renew the revolutionary spirit of early Red China included the Cultural Revolution, which led to catastrophe, as did the Great Leap Forward, as it eventually caused famines across China.
  • Since The French Revolution, France has had several governments — Five Republics, Three Kings, Two Emperors and Marshall Petain with three revolutions in the 19th century alone (the July 1832 Revolution, the 1848 Revolution and the Paris Commune of 1871). Indeed, some historians consider the period between 1789 and the birth of the Third Republic to be one single extended revolutionary laboratory, where France experimented and shifted with many different forms of governments, and its citizens gained diverse experiences with power and protest. The Third Republic lasted for 70 years, surviving World War I until it was toppled by the Nazis in WWII. After the war, France had a Fourth Republic that became divided on the Colonial issue of Algeria and the insurrectionary pieds-noirs and this led to calls for war hero Charles de Gaulle to be dictator. He instead gave Algeria its independence, established the Fifth Republic and preserved representative democracy, although by creating the office of President in the Fifth Republic, DeGaulle created a powerful executive position that some liken to be more akin to Louis XIV than anything in the old republics.
  • During The Arab Spring, Egypt became the poster boy of this phenomenon. Starting with a military-dominated, corrupt dictatorship led by Hosni Mubarak. Protests erupted in 2011, leading the military to get rid of Mubarak, and to promise to transition to a more democratic government. Over the next couple of years:
    • Transition started to take place, with a parliament elected late 2011 and president elected late 2012. However, at the same time as the election, parliament got dissolved and the military gave itself most important legal powers. The president (Mohamed Morsi, associated with the Muslim Brotherhood) fired a bunch of military leaders, but also gave himself a large number of powers while working on a new constitution. Relations with the West and Israel broke down and some feared that Morsi would lead the Brotherhood to turn Egypt into an Islamic state. Subsequently...
    • In 2013, protests lead to the military overthrowing Morsi and arresting numerous leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood. Protests by the Brotherhood supporters were brutally put down and the group was banned the same year. The next year, field marshal Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was elected president in a rigged election. Egypt has essentially returned back to the Mubarak era: a Western-aligned dictatorship that tolerates no dissent, be it from Islamists or liberals. This became really clear when Mubarak and Morsi died within months of each other; Mubarak was pardoned in 2017 and given a state funeral upon his death, while Morsi was sentenced to death and literally died while defending himself during a retrial.
  • Cuban dictator Fidel Castro who overthrew his predecessor Fulgencio Batista in 1959, who himself overthrew the ineffective Carlos Prío Socarrás. Despite promises of being a better leader than the notoriously corrupt Batista (who had ties to American and Canadian mobsters), he's killed or driven out even more people than Batista ever did. However, there are some who argue that this is for the reason that he has ruled for far longer than Batista or indeed any other political leader before him (Batista was president from 1940-1944 and came back as a dictator from 1952-1958). While far from perfect is an understatement, there are those who would say that Castro is the lesser of the two evils compared to Batista, at least in some regards, which in their view makes this a downplayed example.
  • During one of the (future) Decembrist gatherings, a clever guy once asked how they can be sure one of them won't become a dictator after the revolution. The person asked really hurried to change the subject....
  • On a similar note, the Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin commented on this, saying "If you took the most ardent revolutionary, vested him in absolute power, within a year he would be worse than the Tsar." He warned, presciently, that a "people's state" was likely to be no different than the ones that came before it.
    • And Stalin agreed. He reportedly had this exchange with his mother, Ketevan Geladze:
      Ketevan: Josef, who are you now?
      Stalin: Do you remember the Tsar? I'm like the Tsar.
    • Stalin's mother also took note of this, saying he was now Tsar.
    • Even with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, its influence still hangs over the modern Russian Federation. Under the leadership of Vladimir Putin (an ex-KGB agent), Russia has started to slide back into the authoritarian, militarist, and expansionst policies it practiced as the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire. He's repeatedly antagonized NATO by invading Ukraine, started a massive modernization and rearmament program for his military and nuclear arsenal, and has ruthlessly suppressed political dissent within Russia and abroad.
  • George Washington averted this trope when some suggested that he should become king of the fledgling United States, noting that he had not overthrown King George the Third simply so that he could become King George the First. Likewise, he did not run for re-election after serving two terms as President, following the example of Cincinnatus.
    • On a social level, there wasn't a great deal of difference pre-and-post Revolution America. Votes were restricted to property owners (just as it did in Parliamentary Britain), women were denied the vote (just as it did in Parliamentary Britain), slavery continued for nearly another hundred years, though some of the states in the post-Revolutionary period abolished slavery within state lines and the slave trade was itself abolished, while the British abolished the slave trade in 1807 and then slavery in 1833. Some historians have considered the American Civil War the "Second American Revolution" because it changed American society far more comprehensively and decisively than the first Revolution, namely for defining American democracy to be a purer embodiment of the ideals of the Declaration of Independence by abolishing slavery, as well as codifying America as a national ideal.
    • From the view of the Native Americans and the Canadians, the new government was no improvement on Great Britain and in a lot of ways quite the opposite. The policies of Western Expansion being an explicit motivation and justification for The War of 1812, which also involved a plan to expand Northwards and annex Canada, with this time, the latter repelling the invading Americans. Likewise, loyalists who supported Great Britian were forced off their property, with some amounts of violence (albeit not a great deal, and not out of organized policy) directed at them, many of them went to Canada to settle themselves. Likewise, there was controversial legislation like the 'alien and sedition' act and the whiskey rebellion (led by unpaid veterans of the American Revolution).
    • Thomas Jefferson believed that, to avert this trope, every nineteen years America needed to repeal every law on the books and hold a new Constitutional convention in order to adapt to the times and avoid becoming ossified. The phrase "Second American Revolution" was used when power was first peacefully handed over from one party to another when Thomas Jefferson was elected. For many people, Jefferson is the emblematic representative of the failures of the American Revolution, since he wrote "all men are created equal" and voiced support for abolitionism, tentatively, in his youth while eventually becoming a slaveowner and a defender and representative of the South's plantation class.
    • To the recently emancipated blacks, the end of Reconstruction after the Civil War and the rise of Jim Crow after the election of 1876 became this. Reconstruction saw many advances and gains for freedmen and saw expansion and franchise of blacks' voting rights, leading to black senators, congressmen and elected civil officials who faced violent revanchist backlash from the South, leading to the rise of the Ku Klux Klan and other racist gangs that attacked black people at voting booths. It would take another 90 years before the Civil Rights Movement once again tried to honor and revive the Reconstruction era policies.
  • In German history, revolutions have never really enjoyed any real success, except indirectly.
    • The Revolutions of 1848 failed and many Germans became international exiles as a result, but the failure inspired Bismarck's "revolution from above" as well as measures like social welfare and pension for the elderly, and a wide voting franchise intended to defuse or co-opt revolutionary tension. It didn't quite work, since Bismarck's revolution from above resulted in the creation of a highly autocratic military state that was an autocracy pretending to be a constitutional monarchy. The people would vote for representatives in the Reichstag, but really the Kaiser was calling all the shots, and the results of the elections were often blatantly ignored.
    • After the war, Germany faced an actual revolution again, which forced the Kaiser to abdicate with Germany being declared a Republic, starting a dispute between Social Democrats and Communists. A Communist Revolution with some support from German workers and sailors broke out, (inspired by Red October) and this led to the formation of a Bavarian Soviet led by Kurt Eisner, who was killed when he tried to resign after he lost the election. The communists in Berlin were led by Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknechtnote . However, this faced a huge backlash and conservative Freikorps brutally suppressed them, and dumped Luxemburg's body in Berlin's Landswehr Canal, and this led many reactionaries to finally agree to a "real democracy" if only to keep the Commies from taking over.
    • However, the Republic struggled for legitimacy since they were often divided between persecuting both the Communists and the Reactionaries. The circumstances of its formation (Shocking Defeat Legacy, massive loss of territory, seemingly endless economic problems) never went away, and when The Great Depression arrived, and hit Germany especially bad. The mood was ripe enough, the opposition was divided enough, that they willingly voted for an outright dictatorshipnote  that was far more autocratic than the Kaisers ever were and didn't even attempt to hide its disdain for even the pre-war pretend democracy. After World War II, East Germany split apart from West Germany because they saw the leadership filled with too many ex-Nazis and became a Communist state, and they ended up becoming a Communist dictatorship with mass surveillance and repression. The Bonn Republic averted this however, as well as United Germany. However, the GDR did point out - rightly - that many Nazis had gotten off very lightly and some were even in positions of power in West Germany. The GDR very conveniently "forgot" to mention that it also had a bunch of ex-nazis in government positions. The unpleasant inescapable fact was that, after WWII, most of the people with experience of government in Germany tended to have been mid-level nazis, and they were unfortunately essential (even if discreetly employed as mid-level bureaucrats) to get government working again in both post-war Germanies.
  • India is The Largest Democracy and certainly one of the very few truly successful post-colonial states in terms of maintaining and building liberal institutions after an anti-colonialist revolt and agitation. Of course certain patterns tend to recur nonetheless.
    • Since independence, Indian politics has mostly been shaped either directly or overtly by the Gandhi-Nehru family. Which contrary to appearances is not a blood-relative to Mahatma Gandhi (Gandhi is actually a common surname). Three of Independent India's Prime Ministers, ruling collectively for nearly thirty four years come from this dynasty (Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi), two of whom have been assassinated. The family's de-facto leading the Congress party concluded even after it no longer put active family members in power. Dynastic politics and nepotism is so common in India that many have compared it to the Pre-Colonial Feudalism in modern dress, with a quarter of India's Parliament coming from a few top families who are also connected to business and other landholding interests, with many of them acting and living like Princes and royal families.
    • Many saw the famous Indian Emergency as India becoming a dictatorship under Indira Gandhi, but after a year which saw mass arrests of her political opponents, draconian policies enforced by her son Sanjay Gandhi, she called off the Emergency and called for elections which she lost to the Janata Party (the predecessor to the much more right-wing BJP). But the latter collapsed in government and Indira Gandhi despite being controversial managed to get re-elected for a second term, which lasted until her assassination, with many seeing her re-election as a reversal of the anti-Emergency protest movement and loss of its gains.
    • From the point of view of India's tribal population, the new Indian state is more or less another exploiter taking over their land to harvest its mineral wealth to better serve the interests of some distantly dwelling cities, much like All-India's status during British colonialism. Likewise, many of the colonial era laws and institutions are still enforced in India, with some of them, such as a homophobic law only recently being challenged and stricken down. India has also faced separatist movements, some of which are ongoing, who cite abuses and brutally crushed rebellions as justifications for wanting independence from India, similar as some critics have pointed out, to claims made by India against the British.
  • Japanese history practically runs on this - every faction that came into power get deposed later, often in ironically similar manners. To recap: the Fujiwara made themselves into regents for life. Then they got kicked out by the Minamoto, who established a shogunate after a provincial revolt and a civil war. Then Hōjō repeated the same process as Fujiwara and made themselves regents for a shogun. Then they got kicked out by the Ashikaga... after a provincial revolt and a civil war. One Sengoku Jidai later the Ashikaga were also deposed, this time by Oda Nobunaga. After few year of turmoil, the Tokugawa shogunate was established... only to be toppled when (guess what) another provincial revolt and a civil war broke to put the emperor back on the throne.
    • Since the end of Imperial Japan, modern Japan has largely been governed by the Liberal Democratic Party, which contrary to its name is actually a conservative party that was led and supported by the same individuals who supported Imperial Japan and its policies. With the exception of brief 3-year periods in the 90s and the 2000s, no other Japanese party has been able to contend its majority.
  • During most of the 20th century Nicaragua was governed by a family of dictators who were either President or head of the national guard until finally in 1979 people were fed up and a young revolutionary by the name of Daniel Ortega helped in the establisment of the Sandinista government. The Somoza family held most of the land worth holding and controlled the economy by giving most businesses to family and friends. Among the most pervasive complaints against the various strongmen and dictatorships in Nicaragua is infinite reelection and when after the 1979-1990 Contra War peace was brokered under a new constitution, it explicitly forbade reelection and limited any given person to two (non-consecutive) presidential terms. In 2006, Daniel Ortega was elected President again with barely over 30% of the vote. And in 2011, he was reelected and ran again for reelection in 2016 with the help of loyalist and business elites. Today there is an Ortega-friendly business elite and Ortega's wife is also quite wealthy. And as of 2018, he's in increasing trouble due to accusations of rigging elections and using the military as an attack dog against student protesters, much like the Somozas did before.
  • Zimbabwe after the 1970s. A civil war led to the end of white-minority rule of Rhodesia, and, after an independence ceremony featuring a Bob Marley performance, the country became Zimbabwe. Within the decade, though, another civil war among the Africans led to some genocidal killings which even longtime leader Robert Mugabe later admitted was a mistake. Almost 40 years later, his ruling ZANU-PF has not given up power despite having survived one of the worst bouts of hyperinflation ''ever'', and the country would more accurately be called "Zim Bob's Way" as he maintained dictatorial control through his thuggish followers manhandling and intimidating his opponents far more thoroughly than Ian Smith's white-led government ever did. While his fall from power in 2017 did bring some optimism, many Zimbabweans suspect that new president Emmerson Mnangagwa is going to be more of the same.
  • Neighbouring South Africa was born in its modern form in 1994, with Nelson Mandela ushering in an era of peace and reconciliation which only appeared to last as long as he did. Mandela's heir, Jacob Zuma sought to consolidate power among his own cronies and eventually falling from power in a massive corruption scandal. The rand has plummeted in value, the economy is stagnant, and white South Africans are leaving the country in droves, suspecting what happened in Zimbabwe is going to happen to them too; given the country is moving towards Zimbabwe-style land-grabs that ultimately beggared the country's agriculture, it could be they are right.
  • Afraid of potential Soviet domination, many Chileans concerned about the course their country seemed to be taking backed the September 11, 1973, military coup (allegedly supported by foreign intelligence agencies) that ousted the authoritarian and very controversial president Salvador Allende and installed Chilean military leaders in his place, on the expectation that the military government would be temporary. Instead, General Augusto Pinochet seized control for himself and proved more autocratic (and far more brutal) than Allende. Pinochet's government dealt with any resistance through a program of mass arrests that ended up with the arrestees either shipped to labor camps in remote and inhospitable regions of the country, missing and to this day presumed to have been unceremoniously and extralegally executed, or in exile where some of them were assassinated by Chilean agents ... all things that anyone who knows the history of the USSR under Stalin's rule would find very familiar. And so it remained for almost two decades.
  • The Pueblo Indian Revolt was started because the Spanish were encroaching on their land, pitted indians that were friendly towards them against those that were not, forbade them from practicing their cultural traditions and religion, they even pitted child against parent, and the encomienda system guaranteed that every Indian within the landowner's territory had to pay tribute, and turned them into a servant of his estate. Eventually, a medicine man named Popé conspired with other tribe leaders, and led a revolt that resulted in the destruction of several Spanish missions, massacred hundreds of settlers, and drove out the surviving Spanish out of New Mexico for almost ten years. When the Spanish came back, they learned that several Pueblo Indian tribes were at war with Popé and his followers because he felt he was their rightful leader and sought to extract tribute from the tribes liberated from the Spanish.
    • The new Spanish governor met with Popé's enemies and after compromising on the conditions that the Spanish would be allowed to resettle their colony so long as the encomienda system was abolished, they launched an offensive that defeated Popé's forces, and the Pueblo Indians never again revolted.
  • King Edward II of England and his close friend/possible lover Hugh Despenser the Younger alienated the masses and the nobles alike with their greedy and brutal acts. Eventually, Edward's wife Isabella the She-Wolf and her lover Roger Mortimer managed to rally the English behind them and depose the king with virtually no bloodshed. With Edward and Isabella's son Edward of Windsor — the future Edward III — still in his minority, the queen and Mortimer ruled in his stead... and they did many of the same things as Edward II. Realizing that their reign was no better than the former king's, the English rallied behind Edward III, who seized control of the country and executed Mortimer.
  • The Chechnya Wars served as this for the Chechens who for ages wanted independence from Russia. They managed to achieve it during the first war by tiring their superior and much larger opponent. Unfortunately, the war left them so devastated that their government was co-opted by Islamist fundamentalists who planned to expand across its neighboring republics and absorb them into their fundamentalist state. The disillusioned Chechens turned to the Russians for help who declared an second war to drive the terrorists out. They ended up succeeding... Unfortunately the pro-Kremlin president installed into power begins running Chechnya like a dictator. He implemented the same Islamizing policy as the fundamentalists did before, but this time under Russian approval.
  • This regularly happens in the music industry, every time a bold, creative new sound becomes popular as a backlash against the stale music that came before it only to have its most marketable elements Flanderized for mass consumption, turning it into the new music establishment that the next wave of musicians rebels against.
  • Simón Bolívar is widely considered South America's greatest yet most tragic revolutionary hero. Under his leadership, he was able to break the nations of Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Panama away from the Spanish Empire and attempted to unite them all under the flag of Gran Colombia, the South American equivalent of the United States. Unfortunately, the various political factions within these states could not agree on a constitution, which eventually broke down into infighting and violence. Bolívar was forced to take on emergency powers to try and keep the union together, but this only further incensed his political opponents who accused him of becoming another dictator. Eventually, Bolívar was forced to step down, and Gran Colombia broke up, with many of the liberated states eventually becoming repressive dicatorships themselves.
  • Venezuela gradually began to suffer through this trope after Hugo Chávez came into power. The new president, who took over after years of corrupt governments, promised accountability, reforms and support for the poor, but ended up providing the first act for one of the worst humanitarian crisises on record by the time he died in office.
  • The Haitian Revolution is widely known to be the world's first successful slave revolt, where the enslaved black Haitian population rose up against their French colonial masters and forced them out. Jean-Jacques Dessalines then rose to power and officially abolished slavery. However, due to Haiti's economy being ruined by the war and the heavy reparations France imposed to lift its blockade (something that would not be repaid in full until 1947, over a hundred years after independence) Dessaline was forced to institute serfdom, which his critics pointed out wasn't all that much different from slavery, albeit without the more extreme forms of violence. In one particularly notable event, whips were outlawed due to being a symbol of slavery, but thick heavy vines were still allowed to be used in their place. Dessaline also personally oversaw the massacre of nearly all of Haiti's remaining white population, even those known to have been sympathetic to blacks. Dessaline was eventually assassinated and replaced, but Haiti would continue to be ruled by the existing class of wealthy freedmen controlling the impoverished rural farmers.

Alternative Title(s): The Thermidor, The Revolution Changed Nothing


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