The Ethiopian Revolution after 40 years (1974–2014): Plan B in progress?

G.J. Abbink

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In this article, I reflect on the sociopolitical impact and memory construction of the Ethiopian revolution of 1974. Decades have passed and a new political leadership has reshaped Ethiopian society after the demise of the Ethiopian revolutionary regime in May 1991, but the effects are still felt. The violent political drama of the 1970s and 1980s redefined the Ethiopian political tradition and the practices of (political) violence in the light of new revolutionary ideologies, mainly imported from abroad. The post-1991 regime has shown a particular way of handling the aftermath of the 1974 events, but evinces a number of continuities with the ideologies and practices of that era – if only because all participants and current rulers were part of the same revolutionary (student) generation. The regime presently in power is thus partly a successor regime to the “socialist” regime, having started with largely a similar socioeconomic and Marxist-ideological program. At least in one central aspect, the two regimes differ: in their practical response to the “nationalities question.” The handling of this issue after 1991 by the current regime of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front – Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (EPRDF-TPLF) has confirmed that today we in fact may see “Plan B” of the 1974 revolution being consolidated. We analyze the two strains of the Ethiopian revolution and comment on the how and why of their different paths since 1974.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)333-357
JournalJournal of Developing Societies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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