20+ Differences between Civil War vs. Revolution (Explained)

Both civil war and revolution are the outcome of widespread discontent within a country; however, unlike civil war, which can be battled among numerous cultural and religious clusters instead of straight against the authorities or the governing large percentage, revolutions are often guided against the current government.

Civil war and revolution are phrases used to describe conflict and upheaval within a particular nation. Although there are some parallels between the two ideas, some significant distinctions preclude us from using the phrases interchangeably.


Key Differences:

Civil War

  1. Greed appears to be the catalyst for civil conflicts (i.e., individuals seek to maximize their profits).
  2. In addition, opportunity and resentment (i.e., a fragile social and political balance) provoke it (i.e., social inequalities, poverty, oppression).
  3. The fundamental reason that civil wars are waged is to defend collective and individual rights that are not upheld by either the ruling class or other minority groups.
  4. Civil wars may, in fact, seek to overthrow the system of government in place, but this is not their main objective.
  5. Civil conflicts may break out between minority religious, racial, socioeconomic, and cultural groups.
  6. It could or might not regard the participation of the government as one of the combatants.
  7. Civil wars are, by definition, violent conflicts.
  8. In reality, the majority of academics use the 1000-casualty threshold to classify an internal struggle as a “civil war.”


  1. Five factors, according to recent studies, are likely to produce an unstable climate that might inspire revolutionary activities.
  2. The factors include elite opposition, a sense of resistance among the populace, favorable foreign relations, the pervasive rage among the populace, and economic inequalities.
  3. Revolutions always strive to alter the current situation, regardless of their underlying reasons.
  4. Most of the time overthrows the current political system by rewriting the current constitution and getting rid of the ruling class.
  5. The goals of revolutions are frequently higher ideals, and new social and cultural paradigms are created as a result.
  6. In most revolutions, the populace rises up in opposition to the ruling class (and possibly against government security forces).
  7. Violent or non-violent revolutions are possible (i.e., Gandhi’s peaceful protests). Additionally, they utilize it to expose the true nature of the oppressors to the public.
  8. The people have occasionally used nonviolence as a tool to demand a shift in the dominant worldview.

Comparison Between Civil War And Revolution

ParameterCivil WarRevolution
DefinitionA civil war is a conflict between members of the same nation.A revolution is the violent overthrow of a social or political system in favor of a new one.
OutcomeThe civil war’s breadth, duration, and outcome determine its effects. While shorter battles may result in fewer deaths, longer and more violent wars may result in killing thousands of people and displacing untold numbers of civilians. A nation’s political, economic, and social landscape may undergo significant changes during civil wars.Change occurs during revolutions. The basic objective of revolutionaries is to alter the current situation. The revolutionary sentiment is a strong social cohesion that is likely to flourish even if the revolution does not produce the desired outcomes, despite the fact that some revolutions are put down or simply fail.
DurationThe duration of a civil war is arbitrary. Others may go on for years, like the Syrian civil war, which has been going on since 2011. Some may end in a matter of days or months.Civil conflicts typically last longer than revolutions. They could develop into civil wars as they grow in duration.
TerminationCivil conflicts can come to many conclusions. They could end when one of the sides involved surrenders, they could be gained by a few of the parties, or they might be prevented by outside action.Civil wars and revolutions both have various outcomes. However, most revolutions come to an end when the opposing masses are violently subdued by the governing forces or when the people succeed in overthrowing the current political order.
EqualityIn a civil war, both sides are often equally powerful.A lesser party rebels against the ruling party in a revolution.
People involvedTypically, a civil war breaks out between two factions of a single nation’s inhabitants.It usually starts with a revolution between the populace and the ruling party.

Major Differences Between Civil War And Revolution

What Exactly Is A Civil War?

It is nearly hard to give an all-inclusive and thorough description of civil war due to the wide range of internal conflicts worldwide, the varying combat intensity, and the severity of internal unrest.

The word “civil war” is rarely used in international relations and international law, and scholars and political scientists have never come to an agreement on a single meaning. 

As previously established, neither the Geneva Convention nor international law utilizes the phrase “civil war.”

On the other hand, the term “non-international (or domestic) armed conflict” is used in international humanitarian law to describe a situation of violence brought on by lengthy armed conflicts between armed groups or between governmental forces and one or more armed organizations.


Characteristics of a Civil war:

  1. Researchers looking into the origins of civil war are drawn to two competing theories: avarice and grievance.
  2. The conclusion drawn from academic studies is that economic and structural variables influence the likelihood of civil war more than identity-related ones.
  3. National diasporas, which can support uprisings and insurrections from abroad, are the second source of funding.
  4. According to the study, the likelihood of a civil war increased by a factor of six when the size of a nation’s diaspora was changed from the smallest to the largest.
  5. The majority of proxy measures of unhappiness, such as economic equality, political rights, and racial and religious division, were statistically insignificant.
  6. These studies reveal that weak states are to blame for civil conflicts.
  7. If they have the resources and military might quell uprisings, authoritarian and democratic nations can both be stable.
  8. The contending forces of a state divided by civil war frequently lack the capacity to commit or the faith to believe in the other side’s resolve to stop the conflict.
  9. According to political scientist Barbara Walter, the majority of current civil wars are simply reruns of prior conflicts.
  10. When leaders are not answerable to the people, these battles frequently break out.
  11. Or when there is minimal public participation in politics and little communication between the public at large and the executives.
  12. The likelihood of violence was raised by both the existence of hilly terrain and the high levels of population dispersion.

What Exactly Is A Revolution?

The term “revolution” is equally as difficult to define. As a matter of fact, revolutionaries and dissidents have always spent time and effort debating the nature and principles of the revolution; the “defining process” is just as drawn out and difficult as the revolution’s inception. Aristotle was one of the first academics to examine the idea of revolution. 

The Greek philosopher described the revolution as an abrupt shift in the structure of the state or in the balance of political power that results in populace uprisings against the ruling class.

Aristotle believed that a political revolution might result in the amendment of the current constitution or in the complete overthrow of the political system, drastically altering laws and constitutions.


Characteristics of a Revolution:

  1. It is true that there have been many revolutions around the world. A revolution is a process in which a state changes its political course.
  2. However, it is hard to define a precise, all-encompassing pattern of revolution or even a sufficient, time-neutral description.
  3. This loses credibility in the eyes of either the general populace or a particularly important segment of it.
  4. Such a process may result in a revolution or other things like an uprising, agitation, outburst, or a more peaceful change of administration.
  5. Revolution denotes a change in the existing order or of the government at a specific moment by the use of force once the process has started.
  6. Furthermore, the transition should be abrupt rather than gradual. Here, just rejecting authority is insufficient.
  7. Existing authority should be replaced with a new, “righteous” one since it lacks “legitimacy” for this reason.
  8. As a result, it differs from a disorderly, rebellious, or rebellious action. All adhere to a well-coordinated plan of action to get the best results achievable.
  9. A more or less well-coordinated plan of change in a state’s political, social, or both is also referred to as a revolution.
  10. It is brought on by the political establishment following a revolution and the transfer of power.
  11. Whether it is a liberal, communist, quasi-revolutionary, restricted or limitless, proper or subversion, or any other type of revolution.
  12. A revolutionary transition’s political leadership may be granted legendary stature in addition to temporary legitimacy as the state’s lawful government.

Contrast Between Civil War And Revolution


  • Civil War- Conflicts between nations seem to be sparked by greed (i.e., individuals seek to maximize their profits).
  • Revolution- Five factors, as per recent studies, are likely to produce an unstable climate that might lead to revolutionary action. Elite hostility, a perception of population resistance, advantageous international relations, persistent populist wrath, and economic inequality are some of the contributing causes.


  • Civil War- Civil wars are typically waged in order to protect collective and individual rights that are not recognized by either the ruling class or other minority groups. Civil wars may, in fact, strive to overthrow the established political system, but this is not their main objective.
  • Revolution- Whatever their root reasons, revolutions always seek to alter the status quo and, in the majority of cases, to overthrow the political system in place by replacing the present constitution and overthrowing the governing class. The goals of revolutions are frequently higher ideals, and new social and cultural paradigms are created as a result.


Similarities between Civil war and Revolution

  1. Both words are challenging to define and categorize.
  2. In both situations, the persons concerned want to alter the current situation.
  3. Both revolutions and civil conflicts may be long and bloody.
  4. Both have the potential to alter a nation’s political system.
  5. Both frequently take place inside a nation’s boundaries.
  6. Both are not expressly prohibited under international law.
  7. Both can develop rapidly and can be brought on by a variety of issues and situations.
  8. Both are capable of causing significant social, economic, and cultural changes within a certain nation.
  9. The two phrases can occasionally be used interchangeably, particularly when it comes to the size and breadth of civil wars, which is a contentious topic among academics and researchers.
  10. Finding the “turning point” that turns a revolution into a civil war is difficult.


  • Civil War- Religious, racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and cultural minorities may engage in civil wars, and the government may or may not be a fighting party.
  • Revolution- Civil conflicts are, by definition, bloody. In reality, the majority of academics use the 1,000-casualty threshold to determine whether an internal struggle qualifies as a civil war.

Involvement Of Groups: 

  • Civil War- Religious, racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and cultural minorities may engage in civil wars, and the government may or may not be a fighting party.
  • Revolution- In most revolutions, the populace rises up in opposition to the ruling class.


Causes of a civil war

  1. By definition, coups d’état are swift attacks on the head of a government without the extensive carnage of a civil war.
  2. Occasionally, a botched or just partially successful coup might start a civil war between opposing factions.
  3. Purges or genocide against a population can be seen as a kind of civil war by the governing authority.
  4. These purges are carried out under the name of safeguarding the dictatorship against espionage, but they are frequently carried out to quell dissent or thwart any public movement.
  5. Religiously motivated civil conflicts have a tendency to occur more frequently in monotheistic civilizations than in polytheistic ones.
  6. Inter-religious conflict often grew as faiths tended to become more strictly defined and understood by their adherents.
  7. A revolution is typically viewed as a civil war waged for ideological matters, such as how power should be organized and dispersed, rather than just over who has the most authority.
  8. Separatist violence has been one of the most frequent causes of civil conflicts, particularly in the post-Cold War world.
  9. When used as a justification for war rather than as the main cause of conflict, nationalism may be compared to both a religion and an ideology.
  10. As in the American Civil War, different economics may accentuate regional divisions. Sometimes a brief coup or small-scale rebellion helps the revolutionaries seize control.
  11. When counterrevolutionary forces band together to put down the revolution, a civil war erupts.
  12. A failed religious movement in China resulted in the Taiping Rebellion, the worst civil war in history.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. What are the types of revolution?

There are three main methods of revolution: psychological, sociological, and political.

Q2. Give examples of some revolutions?

The French Revolution (1789-1799), the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804), the Spanish American War of Independence (1808-1826), the European Revolts of 1848, the Cuban Rebellion in 1959, and the European Uprisings of 1989 are notable recent revolutions.

The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), which resulted in the founding of the United States, was another.

Q3. Name a famous civil war.

The Congo Civil War, one of the worst conflicts of the past 100 years, killed 5.4 million people over the course of five years.

As a result, there are nearly 3,000 fatalities every day, a startling figure gave the absence of traditional, decisive warfare in general.

Q4. Name one of the longest civil wars in history.

In Kayin State, Myanmar, there is a conflict called the Karen conflict (formerly known as Karen State, Burma). It is a component of Myanmar’s larger internal struggle, the longest-running civil war in history.

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