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Russia (1904-06)

Georgii Gapon, a St. Petersburg priest, organizes Russian workers to petition Tsar Nicholas II for an eight-hour work-day, constitutional government, and freedom of speech, press, and religion. On January 9, 1905 – "Bloody Sunday" – more than 150,000 hymn-singing Russian workers marching toward the Winter Palace to present the petition are attacked by the Tsar's cavalry. When a general strike immobilizes the country later that year, the tsar announces plans for a new representative assembly, or Duma, while cracking down on violent revolutionaries.

The Ruhr (1923)

The Treaty of Versailles, which ends World War I, requires Germany to make reparations of cash, coal, and other resources to the nations on whom it waged war. By 1921, Germany has made less than half its first payment. France, growing impatient, moves its army into Düsseldorf, Duisburg, and Ruhrort, and in January 1923, French, Belgian, and Italian regiments take Germany's industrial heartland by force. German president Friedrich Ebert counsels "passive resistance." Local officials and German citizens disobey the occupiers and block coal shipments. Flustered, the French begin to try ordinary civilians and imprison Germans for minor offenses. Nonviolent resistance unravels, however, when harsh French countermeasures are triggered by German extremists' violence.

El Salvador (1944)

After General Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez assumes the presidency in 1931, he begins to assume authoritarian powers. Although the Salvadoran constitution forbids a third presidential term, Martinez decides in 1939 that he is not ready to retire and suspends the constitution. An opposition develops, but its cause is nearly lost in 1943, when a violent insurrection is quickly put down, ushering in martial law and firing squads. On May 5, 1944, a nationwide civic strike organized by university students unites taxi and bus drivers, bank employees, meat cutters, physicians, lawyers, and merchant women, bringing "business as usual" to a halt. When the general's ministers of defense and internal security abandon him, Martinez capitulates and leaves the country.

Argentina (1977-1983)

On March 24, 1976, a military coup unleashes a multiyear wave of terror. The junta browbeats the press, the judiciary, the Church, and trade unions. As kidnappings of civilians mount, mothers of "the disappeared" join together. In April 1977, 14 mothers – Las Madres – hold a vigil in front of the presidential palace in Buenos Aires. Their numbers growing, the women continue to gather despite beatings, arrests, and the disappearances of nine of their members. Las Madres also circulate petitions, take out newspaper advertisements, and hold prayer services for the missing. A severe economic crisis in the early 1980s and the disastrous invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982 further discredit the junta, ending the timidity of religious, business, and labor leaders. Demonstrations that begin in 1982 eventually succeed in forcing the junta to hold elections and cede power to a civilian government.

Philippines (1986)

After the assassination of Benigno Aquino, a popular opponent of President Ferdinand Marcos who has held power via rigged elections for over a decade, a new coalition between the moderate and liberal opposition takes shape. Under pressure from the United States, Marcos calls for presidential elections in February 1986, with Benigno Aquino's widow, Corazon, as his opponent. Although the National Assembly declares Marcos the winner on February 14, it is clear that the election has been stolen. When leading military officers mutiny, millions of Filipinos flood the streets to protect their camp. With his military rendered unreliable, Marcos also loses U.S. support and flees the country.

Burma (1988-1998)

In 1987, a pro-democracy movement against Burma's military regime is sparked when police brutally crack down on student protests. By early August 1988, nearly a million people have marched in opposition in Rangoon and other large towns. On August 8, soldiers open fire on an unarmed demonstration, killing at least 1,000 people. Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of the man who led Burma's 1948 liberation from British rule, defies martial law and helps establish the National League for Democracy (NLD). In 1990, despite Suu Kyi's lengthy house arrest, NLD wins a landslide victory. Burma's military government, however, refuses to transfer power and a decade-long worldwide nonviolent campaign is mounted via financial sanctions and boycotts, constricting the regime's means of support.

In 1991 Aung San Suu Kyi is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, but the situation in Burma fails to improve. In 1996, students again organize major protests on the streets of Rangoon, and the regime responds again with force. Images of the beatings are shown on CNN and other news stations. In May 2003, Burma grabs international headlines when Suu Kyi, just released from house arrest a year earlier and traveling on a speaking tour, is attacked by military backed mob. Up to 100 of her supporters are brutally beaten to death. Suu Kyi is held in prison, and then released again to total house arrest. Today, pro-democracy activists are pushing the United Nations to adopt a Security Council resolution which would place international pressure on the junta to implement a national reconciliation pro­gram, and give U.N. relief agencies and disease con­trol organizations unhindered access to Burma.

Czechoslovakia (1989)

In the Soviet bloc state of Czechoslovakia, two organizations – Charter 77 and the Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Persecuted – demand that the government abide by the human rights guarantees in its own constitution. These small groups face steady police harassment and struggle to expand their membership beyond dissident intellectuals. By the mid-1980s, resurgent Catholicism combines with a pervasive disaffection toward the Communist Party to provide the impetus for more large-scale demonstrations of social solidarity. On November 17, 1989, 30,000 defenseless Czech students are beaten by riot police in Prague, sparking the "Velvet Revolution." Motivated students fan out across the country to persuade industrial workers to join a general strike, showing them videotapes of the beatings. Enormous crowds convene for demonstrations in Prague's Wenceslas Square, and a two-hour strike draws widespread participation. By early December, overwhelmed by the united front that the working class and intellectuals present, the ruling communists step down, and a noncommunist coalition government takes power – as other communist governments in Eastern Europe fall to similar popular movements.