We often see history as a long chain of events influenced by revolutions, wars, and technological advancements. But have you ever stopped to consider the role of military coups in shaping history?


The term ‘military coup’ might sound intimidating, bringing to mind scenes of violence, chaos, and abrupt political change. For the uninitiated, a military coup is when a faction within a country’s defense forces overthrows the government. It often leads to drastic changes in the country’s direction. 

While the connotations may be grim, these power transitions can sometimes be pivotal moments that shift the global tide, with lasting impacts that echo through generations.

This piece is not about glorifying the forceful change of leadership. Instead, it is about understanding how such moments of strife and struggle have shaped nations, influenced global politics, and even paved the way for positive transformation.

Understanding Military Coups

In the simplest of terms, a military coup is when a nation’s armed forces overthrow its government. But, of course, this simplifies events usually steeped in political tension, social unrest, and conflicting ideologies.

The impact of a coup can range from immediate regime changes to civil wars or even long-lasting repercussions that influence global alliances. Some coups are swift and sudden, while others are the culmination of brewing unrest. 

Whatever their form, military coups, without a doubt, reshape the national – and often international – landscape.

Tales of Transformation: Impactful Coups in Modern History

Now, let’s dive into some military coups that have been real game-changers in modern history.

The Tale of Chile

Our first stop is Chile in the 1970s. On September 11, 1973, the Chilean military, led by General Augusto Pinochet, overthrew the elected socialist president Salvador Allende. 

The coup sparked a 17-year-long dictatorship marked by human rights violations and economic reform. This chapter in Chilean history is significant because it starkly demonstrates the Cold War tensions in Latin America. 

Ultimately, it significantly influenced regional politics and international relations.

The Coup in Turkey

Moving on to Turkey, a country that’s experienced multiple military coups. 

Particularly notable was the coup of 1980, where the military assumed control, citing a need to establish law and order after a period of political violence. 

A constitution was later adopted that significantly expanded the powers of the military, casting a long-lasting impact on Turkish politics and civil-military relations.

Why does Turkey have a long history of coups?

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The Myanmar Military Takeover

Fast forward to the 21st century, the coup in Myanmar in 2021 stands out. The military seized control after alleging election fraud, detaining elected leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi. 

The event resulted in widespread protests and international concern, escalating tensions between democratic aspirations and authoritarian tendencies in the country.

Ripples Beyond Borders: Global Impact of Military Coups

So why should global citizens care about military coups that may seem worlds away from our everyday lives? The answer lies in the ripple effects. 

Military coups often lead to shifts in international relationships, changes in economic policies, and alterations in human rights standards, affecting everything from global trade to migration.

Look at the coup in Iran in 1953, for instance. Orchestrated by the U.S. and the U.K., the coup against Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh had repercussions for the Middle East and global oil politics still felt today.

In this era of interconnectedness, the effects of military coups are no longer confined to national borders but reverberate internationally.

The Human Element: People Amidst the Politics

While we discuss military coups in terms of politics and power, let’s not forget the human element. 

Coups are often accompanied by turmoil, conflict, and uncertainty, profoundly affecting the people of a nation. Their lives, stories, and resilience in the face of such upheavals are as much a part of the narrative of military coups as the leaders and armies.

From Chileans living under Pinochet’s rule to the people of Myanmar fighting for their democratic rights, the stories of ordinary people caught up in these extraordinary events underscore the profound personal impact of military coups.

Understanding the Significance of Military Coups

Military coups aren’t merely maneuvers or political strategies. They’re a powerful testament that history can pivot unexpectedly, with worldwide impacts.

It’s not just about the leaders who rise and fall or the armies that march on capitals. It’s also about ordinary folks – people affected by these seismic shifts. Every coup reminds us of our collective human resilience in the face of such upheavals and how we strive to navigate the choppy waters of change.


Understanding the past significance of military coups helps us appreciate how these events shape the nations where they occur and the wider world. Our shared human story continues to unravel, and military coups, for better or worse, have a significant role in it.