A classic trope in media is the country that is constantly having a revolution, with the logical extreme being a geographical region where any map older than a year is woefully out of date as new nations rise, borders shift, old nations fall and more coups are had than courses at the following inaugural banquets.

However, I want to be able to explain how this region manages to stay so politically active when every settlement in the area would have lost their entire population of 20-40 year olds after about ten years.

So, how does a reasonably large geographical area (at least a moderate country, preferably larger) sustain regular and drastic shifts in power (the more rapid the better) over a long period of time (at least living memory)?

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    $\begingroup$ You are assuming bloody coups- there are bloodless coups. $\endgroup$ – user2617804 Oct 1 at 10:59
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    $\begingroup$ Study US foreign policy past and present, they're managed pretty well $\endgroup$ – Evelyn Shepard Oct 1 at 18:03
  • $\begingroup$ Have a look at the period known as "The hundred years war"; low-lethality feudal skirmishing can go on for a long time. $\endgroup$ – pjc50 Oct 2 at 9:47
  • $\begingroup$ If a country with constant revolution is a classic trope in media, why not name an example? The closest I’ve seen to that isn’t revolution, but war, where in 1984 three major powers keep switching alliances but ludicrously, no two can ever defeat the third. Duh? In your scenario, why would the population of 20-40-year-olds last anything like ten years? If you could name a reasonably large geographical area (at least a moderate country, preferably larger) meeting your conditions, you’d need no more than to study that area… Again, can you name any such areas, countries or whatever? $\endgroup$ – Robbie Goodwin Oct 2 at 19:35
  • $\begingroup$ @RobbieGoodwin: The Roman and Byzantine Empires both had a succession of short reigns at one point as a real life example, the Western Continent in OotS is the hyperbolic example, and Junta is a boardgame example. The first one is the easiest to study the causes for, but doesn't quite have the map-changing effect I'm after. $\endgroup$ – Kyyshak Oct 2 at 20:56

11 Answers 11


You should study Banana Republics

In political science, the term banana republic describes a politically unstable country with an economy dependent upon the exportation of a limited-resource product, such as bananas or minerals. In 1901, the American author O. Henry coined the term to describe Honduras and neighbouring countries under economic exploitation by U.S. corporations, such as the United Fruit Company. Typically, a banana republic has a society of extremely stratified social classes, usually a large impoverished working class and a ruling class plutocracy, composed of the business, political, and military elites of that society. The ruling class controls the primary sector of the economy by way of the exploitation of labour; thus, the term banana republic is a pejorative descriptor for a servile dictatorship that abets and supports, for kickbacks, the exploitation of large-scale plantation agriculture, especially banana cultivation.

A banana republic is a country with an economy of state capitalism, whereby the country is operated as a private commercial enterprise for the exclusive profit of the ruling class. Such exploitation is enabled by collusion between the state and favored economic monopolies, in which the profit, derived from the private exploitation of public lands, is private property, while the debts incurred thereby are the financial responsibility of the public treasury. Such an imbalanced economy remains limited by the uneven economic development of town and country, and usually reduces the national currency into devalued banknotes (paper money), rendering the country ineligible for international development credit. (Source)

Banana Republics are unstable because...

  • A rigid class system guarantees the labor force is always impoverished.

  • The elite ruling class includes political and military leaders who are kept in power by external businesses. In the case that a political/military leader happens to stage a coup and take control, they cannot maintain that control without the benefit of external businesses.

  • External businesses are required (OK, preferred) because they never have a ruling interest in the country nor have incentive to humanize the labor force. Unlike the governments of other countries, which can be influenced more by their own populations, businesses are frequently capable of acting without any kind of independent oversight.


While there are still many instances of Banana Republics in the world today (business will always try to capitalize on cheap labor), the more technologically advanced the world (think "fast communication and cheap pictures/video"), the easier it is for grass-roots activists to enact change that limits the influence of business. So, while Banana Republics still exist today, it's nothing like it was in their heyday of the 1900s.


It is possible for governments to do this, although Hollywood makes it look simpler than it really is. It's almost a trope in itself that the CIA is constantly forming, supporting, and dismantling 3rd-world governments. However, while I strongly suspect that this isn't as ubiquitous as any James Bond movie would suggest, it has happened. Consider Manuel Noriega of Panama or the Marcos' of the Philippines, both of which were supported by the U.S. until they were overthrown. Similar stories could be told about Asian countries in the 60s-70s (Cambodia, Korea, Vietnam...) and the Cold War era. There are further examples as recent as the 2010s.

The point here is that the overlord (usually a business) doesn't really care who's in power so long as their interests are protected — and will often provoke changes in the government themselves to ensure their interests are protected. From the perspective of a Banana Republic, there's nothing more inconvenient than a leader who gets too greedy or grows too much of a conscience.

And if you want to get a better handle on this while having a good time, track down a copy of the game "Junta", which will do a great job of teaching you how the instability works while letting you experience your inner dictator.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 for mentioning Junta. $\endgroup$ – o.m. Oct 1 at 4:58
  • $\begingroup$ Banana Republics have an unstable cast of top officials at times. The regimes do not tend to be particularly unstable and do not tend to be involved in wars with their neighbors or civil wars at unusual rates, and likewise aren't particularly note for high rates of violence not sanctioned by the regime itself (sometimes illegally) or its backers. They aren't great things but they rarely lead to total war, scorched earth violence, mass death of young men, international war, or changing boundaries. Even their coups tend to be largely bloodless. $\endgroup$ – ohwilleke Oct 1 at 21:33
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    $\begingroup$ @ohwilleke The OP asked for instability, not war. Granted, borders shifting, etc., may indicate war, but the reality is that wars consume resources and can be rarely sustained for long periods of time without a fairly low technology level. That's why I suggested banana republics - the "war" is between the businesses, who may have interests in the property owned by their competitors. You really don't want all-out war. $\endgroup$ – JBH Oct 1 at 22:12
  • $\begingroup$ @ohwilleke As I think about it, the "wars" between the modern drug cartels would better reflect the instability (from a violence perspective) the OP is looking for without the need for organization-ending war (war requires organization, which is why it's ultimately self-defeating. Wage a war long enough and the organization required to prosecute the war disappears). $\endgroup$ – JBH Oct 1 at 22:19

Have a lot of players with similar power levels on the board:

You essentially described medieval europe on steroids. Honestly not even on steroids, just with a different mentality. Combine European feudalism wth the Chinese idea of "The mandate of Heaven", which basically says that the ruler has a mandate to reign given by the heavens, however unlike in Europe where the idea was that a dynasty had it unconditionally in China if you were a shitty ruler you could lose it. How did you lose it? Well, piss off the people enough and they will try to take over.

If they succeed you have lost the mandate, if they fail then clearly you're still worthy of being a ruler. In Europe disposing the monarch was an almost unthinkable action let alone the entire dynasty. Mind you it happened, but in most cases the dynasty died out naturally and somebody just wormed their way in for example by marriage if the sole heir was a female. Quite often in Europe people tried to make it look like they weren't usurping the royal family, nono you had just become a part of the royal family.

This should make it socially acceptable to usurp the leader if things go too poorly.

Secondly ensure everyone is sort of similar in terms of power. If one guy gets too powerful,the others team up on them, until he's dealt with or no longer an issue and then they can war with each other again.

That said how advanced do you want these societies to be? If you want a modern setting with cellphones and such then you will need someplace to be stable enough to actually produce these sorts of products. Such warring states would not be capable of creating the production and supply lines, give the needed technical education,...to build them themselves.

In that case you would need a external power to supply them with such tech and need a reason why that power isn't curbstomping them. Maybe the land is too poor to be bothered with or the deathtoll would be too high and/or maybe they prefer them warring wth each other as that keeps them weaker than the external power,...

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    $\begingroup$ Europe had its own "Mandate of Heaven" concept. Look up the "Divine Right of Kings". $\endgroup$ – The Daleks Sep 30 at 22:13
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    $\begingroup$ Actually, this is essentially describing Europe up until the start of WW2. $\endgroup$ – Ian Kemp Oct 1 at 12:41
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    $\begingroup$ @TheDaleks The Divine RIght of Kings differed with the Mandate of Heaven in that only god could judge a monarch unworthy of ruling, not the subjects. It was very much not an acceptable practice in Europe to overthrow the monarchy if they did a bad job in the same way it was in China. $\endgroup$ – TheShadowOfZama Oct 1 at 12:55
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    $\begingroup$ "In that case you would need a external power to supply them with such tech and need a reason why that power isn't curbstomping them" -- That shouldn't be too difficult: as long as there is instability, they can sell their products. Peace would mean they can produce it themselves and the export would stop. They don't actively need to keep the war going, just keep from interfering. $\endgroup$ – CompuChip Oct 1 at 14:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Graham Did you even properly read my answer? I never claimed people didn't try to launch coups, I said it wasn't socially acceptable the same way as it was in China. In China you could start out as a peasant and gain the throne (see Zhu Yuanzchang), try to find a similar case in European kingdoms. Most of those coups in Europe included somebody backing a different family member of the royal family. Your argument about the Tudors falls flat on its face when you simply look up his lineage. It was a shitty claim both through a female line and of illegitimate descend, but he did have a claim. $\endgroup$ – TheShadowOfZama Oct 2 at 16:57

how does a reasonably large geographical area (at least a moderate country, preferably larger) sustain regular and drastic shifts in power (the more rapid the better) over a long period of time (at least living memory)?

Proxy wars

The never ending war scenario you are describing is best exemplified by Afghanistan which has been embroiled in wars more or less continuously since the 1970s, leaving it the least developed country outside of sub-Saharan Africa in the real world. Initially, this was a part of the Cold War with fighters on the respective sides supported by the Soviet Union and the United States. When the Cold War waned, Saudi Arabian elites funded a new wave of proxy wars using this as a place to test run their Islamist political ideas via the Taliban against opium cartel fueled warlords loosely aligned with the "decadent" West.

The nearby example of Kashmir is another example of a sustained proxy conflict.

Another similar example is the Hundred Years' War "waged between the House of Plantagenet and its cadet House of Lancaster, rulers of the Kingdom of England, and the House of Valois over the right to rule the Kingdom of France. It was one of the most notable conflicts of the Middle Ages, in which five generations of kings from two rival dynasties fought for the throne of the largest kingdom in Western Europe." It was the primary model for the fictional Game of Thrones series of books and television adaptations of the books.

A third example would be the Islamic empire's seizure of Moorish Spain followed by hundreds of years of the Reconquista, and parallel Christian-Muslim proxy wars in the Balkans (most notable for creating Vlad the Impaler, the model for Dracula, who due to events in his life played both sides of the conflict as it suited him), and in the Crusades in the Levant.

This would ebb and flow, however, as exogenous forces in the competing countries waging the proxy fights are able to devote more or less attention to the conflict. Infusions of resources from the proxy fighters keep the conflict going despite the limited capacity of the focal point of the conflict to maintain it otherwise.

Climate change

There have been long running, near genocidal wars from coast to coast in the African Sahel for the entire post-Colonial period. At their root, these are being driven by global warming, which is slowly pushing the Sahel ecological zone previous occupied by Muslim herders to the South into Christian/animist marginal farmers in the next ecological zone to the South (who are less flexible and mobile since they own only the land that they own and are struggling as that land becomes less viable to farm upon) as the Sahara desert expands.

While particular groups in particular countries along that swath of Africa can make peace or have it imposed upon them for a little while, ultimately, it is an inevitable and existential fight between two ethnically and religiously distinct communities with different culture who have different means of food production and "business models" that are incompatible with each other and with the status quo. You can't herd and farm in the same place.

This wouldn't be stable, however, because while climate change means a long term steady trend in one direction, weather inevitably shifts on short and medium term scales, so two steps in the direction of the long term change are followed by one back in the other direction. Factors like major weather systems (El Nino type systems) and volcanic eruptions, can interrupt the long term trends in the short run.

Your world wouldn't have to have an expanding desert. It could be getting steadily colder (e.g. ice ages), hotter, drier, more moist, windier, or anything else you could care to mention.

Pandemics and Droughts and Floods

Major disease outbreaks like small pox and the black plague tend to be devastating for several years, then die down for a few years, then come back with a vengeance, over time frames that can last decades or centuries before they entirely run their course.

Pandemics, major floods (see China), catastrophic storm damages (see South Asia), and droughts often lead to civilizational collapses, that then usher in "barbarian" invasions of societies better suited to weak states and poor food production. When these disruptors ease up, however, society gets its act together a bit, drives off the barbarians or assimilates them and has a fragile new civilization until another disruptor screws it up again.

There is debate over whether some of the periodic disruptors on Earth are caused by our solar system's period trips through unfavorable parts of its larger area of the galaxy environment and comet routes, etc. But whether that does or does not happen on the real Earth, it certainly could drive these kind of periodic disruptors at scales that would be tough for even technologically advanced civilizations to handle.

Civilizational collapses of the Ancient Puebloans, the Mayans, the Incas, and the Mississippian peoples in the Americas are examples of that in the New World. Bronze Age collapse (ca. 1200 BCE), the fall of the Roman Empire (ca. 450 CE) and an earlier civilization collapsing arid period ca. 2000 BCE are examples of this kind of model.

Economic development

Monarchies and colonial empires rely on "rent based" economies like farming and mineral exploitation (e.g. oil and gas) or natural resource exploitation (e.g. lumber, "spice") to survive.

Economies that are not "rent based" require the consent of the class of people who generate wealth (e.g. a diverse commercial and industrial sector) to function and tend to overthrow monarchies.

If you start with a monarchy or colonial system and the economic viable of its source of rents becomes minor relative to other sources of economic wealth in the economy, revolution sooner or later, is inevitable.

The revolutions and instability strike at the marginal point when neither the rents that supported the monarchy, nor the commercial and industrial economy that replaced that, is dominant, and when "current events" can upset the balance in one direction or the other.

For example, the invention of the cotton gin, and of industries powered by water mills and coal and steam, meant that sooner or later, the American slave based plantation farming system of the American South in the 1800s was going to collapse eventually. But lots of factors influenced when and how this happened and could have led to an oscillation if something got in the way of that trend.

Every country that has undergone economic development sees at least one and usually several regime changes near that margin of transition from undeveloped and resource based to an industrial economy.

Side Issue On Timelines and Long Term Conflict Mortality

A classic trope in media is the country that is constantly having a revolution, with the logical extreme being a geographical region where any map older than a year is woefully out of date as new nations rise, borders shift, old nations fall and more coups are had than courses at the following inaugural banquets

While maps change rapidly, there is a pretty much inevitable tradeoff between how long the conflict endures and how rapidly things change. If the situation is so dynamic that maps are changing in the region every year or two, the conflict is going to resolve itself in less than a decade or two. If you want a conflict that endures for half a century or a century, for example, while there is going to be significant change from time to time (and even that tends to happen in synchronized waves followed by periods of stagnation and stalemate) the conflict isn't going to progress quite that fast.

However, I want to be able to explain how this region manages to stay so politically active when every settlement in the area would have lost their entire population of 20-40 year olds after about ten years.

While you can have a world like that, there is really no precedent for that level of devastation happening that quickly as a result of war.

Most people who die in this eras aren't battle field casualties but casualties of the breakdown of civilization including war induced famine and disease that make the age breakdown of deaths more spread out. And, there are pretty much no historical military conflicts that killed more people than, for example, the Great Northern War over twenty years (which was a proxy conflict) in Finland in the 18th century that reduced Finland's population by about 50% and was followed by several other major conflicts in the 18th century that reduced the population somewhat further (but again, not primarily from battle deaths of military aged men).

Basically, people surrender no matter what the cost, or become refugees, before an entire generation of men is entirely eliminated, and conflicts that have that depth of impact take more than a decade.

You generally only lose an entire generation of men in historical scenarios of conquest, akin to those described in the Biblical books of Judges and Numbers, or in parts of the New World in the Conquistador era, for example, where an invading Army kills all the men and all of the women unfailingly loyal to them, and then the invading Army takes the remaining existing women as wives replacing the existing men entirely but taking their place, rather than leaving a vacuum.

Also, it is worth noting, that major wars like these generally lead to very high childbirth rates, approaching biological limits, although it is a less strong factor in leading to polygamy than you might naively expect (see, e.g., the case of very high rates of monogamy or non-remarriage among Southern Civil War widows even in communities losing a very large share of their marriage aged men).


I've touched on lots of big picture interpretations at a very high level of historical events as examples. But, for these purposes, the accuracy of those interpretations doesn't matter. What matters is that those interpretations could explain what is going on in your world.

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  • $\begingroup$ Also, you need an editor. May I have permission to beautify your post (regardless of my opinions about climate change, I won't change what you have to say on that subject). $\endgroup$ – The Daleks Sep 30 at 22:44
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    $\begingroup$ @TheDaleks I'm still reviewing it. If you'd wait a half an hour or so, there would be less to fix. $\endgroup$ – ohwilleke Sep 30 at 22:45
  • $\begingroup$ As you wish. Let me know when you're done reviewing. If you don't like any changes I make, you can do a version revert or another edit. $\endgroup$ – The Daleks Sep 30 at 22:47
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    $\begingroup$ @TheDaleks Please don't confuse the present-day US political malarkey for science. The scientific consensus disagrees with your assertion. Frankly I do not even see the reason you brought it up, given that the question is about hypothetical circumstances, and surely you do not agree that climate change is impossible to even conceive? $\endgroup$ – KeizerHarm Sep 30 at 23:01

Badly designed democracy

Look at the recent history of the United States. The person who loses the popular vote gets to be president because of the Electoral College system. Power swings back and forth between two increasingly polarized positions, with badly designed institutions like the Supreme Court becoming key battlegrounds.

It's very hard to fix because by design changing the rules is difficult.

Because each side is so far from the other policy keeps swinging from one extreme to the other (or in the United States' case from hard right to centre-right), with huge changes like affordable healthcare or limits on bodily autonomy happening every few years.

Or look at the UK. It can't even keep to international treaties that it agreed to only months previously.

Such democracies are also highly vulnerable to attack by other states and even individuals or small groups with relatively few resources, because one of the primary means of attack is now social media.

Compared to democracies that promote coalition governments and cooperation these examples are highly unstable. It's not hard to imagine that with a bit more effort other countries could use propaganda and social engineering to keep them in a constant state of flux, which is essentially what Russia is doing today by sowing division.

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A generous, loving religion allows you to free your parents/friends from hell.

The prominent religion of the region states that:

  • The land was created by God as a gift to his people.
  • If their flag is flying from (these few sacred sites), their citizens will have eternal life.
  • The sacred sites aren't suitable for holding in a siege. They're easily accessed from all sides, difficult to fortify, and lack their own food / water supplies.
  • If someone dies while they're loyal to a group who doesn't hold those points, they're sent to hell.
  • When you capture all the places, all your recently deceased people in hell get released and get into heaven.
  • If you're in heaven and your side loses control of the sacred ground, you can stay in heaven.
  • Those whose death was violent, or who killed others (including in self defense) do not get into heaven and will be in hell eternally.

This will result in armies armed with non lethal weapons, evicting near bloodlessly other armies from the sacred ground every few years.

Once you have held the sacred ground, the motivation for holding it goes down (No one is suffering. You only wish to prevent future suffering). If you haven't held it for a while, your motivation to seize it goes up (people you know are suffering). A motivated attacker and an unmotivated defender will change hands quickly.

Very few people will be willing to seize the castle by deadly force, as it excludes them from the reward of heaven. Most will attempt to fight non lethally, there'll be lots of capturing and exiling and imprisoning and then revolution and overthrowing.

Some may fight lethally (they don't believe that part of the religion, or are just fanatical). You're better off running away from them, letting them take the grounds and then sneaking up on them later with non lethal.

This should create an unstable map, different sides constantly gain motivation, gain ground, be unable to fortify it, lose motivation, and relinquish it.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is a quite good answer. About how many sites do you think would be needed to maintain feudal europe sized upheaval? $\endgroup$ – Salami-tsunami Oct 1 at 14:28
  • $\begingroup$ How did I know that this edit approval would be a Glorfindel suggestion? :-) Half the time I do these reviews I see an edit suggestion that makes me guess correctly, then I scroll down and... yep... Glorfindel. $\endgroup$ – SurpriseDog Oct 1 at 16:05
  • $\begingroup$ 5? Small enough that you can blitzkrieg it in a single massive campaign without losing momentum. Large enough that your army divided into that many chunks is too weak to hold it from a single advancing army. $\endgroup$ – Ash Oct 2 at 3:23

Very Simple

Just put one or more groups of humans in the region. That's all you really need! Precious resources and odd geography are icing on the cake! You could have a broad steppe or a wide desert and any humans living there will, sooner or later, turn the place into a permanently unstable political region.

So long as the technological landscape remains stable, the factions will harmoniously agree to disagree by thumping each other on the head with clubs. Once technology gets going, all hope is not lost! Sooner or later one group of humans will realise that they can throw big sticks at each other, thus ensuring greater survival for their own faction and greater loss to the other faction. But fear not! The other faction will catch on and start throwing sticks of their own...and maybe a couple rocks for good measure!

Sad but true: Humans are strange in being broken in their minds and hearts and will almost always spontaneously form factions. And these factions will almost invariably be at loggerheads with one another. You don't need to anything but sit back make some metaphorical pop corn and enjoy the show!

The real question is much more difficult: how is it that some regions have managed to escape the usual situation for any great length of time?

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    $\begingroup$ Humans aren't broken, they're just like every other living being in this regard. $\endgroup$ – Erik Oct 1 at 5:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Erik No, not really. The way I understand it, Elemtilas is bringing up the concept of massa damnata, the philosophical belief that humans have a unique tendency to attack and kill each other over trivialities. While other creatures do similar things, they don't do it on the same scale or level of bloodshed. For more information on the subject, reference St. Augustine's books The City of God and Contra Julianum. $\endgroup$ – The Daleks Oct 1 at 14:30
  • $\begingroup$ @TheDaleks hm, if it's a religious concept, it might be worth pointing that out in the answer itself (and explaining it) for those who aren't familiar with those religious ideas. $\endgroup$ – Erik Oct 1 at 15:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Erik Although it is featured strongly in many religions, I was referring to it's application in philosophy. $\endgroup$ – The Daleks Oct 1 at 17:13

Polynesia was like this.

All you need is belligerent chiefdoms vying for something that can never be satiated. For many this was 'mana' which is a spiritual power you're born with and can accrue through your achievements. Leaving the protection of your village or being banished could mean sudden death at any time.

Then blood feuds, head hunting and all the rest go with it.

Polynesians and others lived with this as the normal state of affairs for centuries. Any stranger was a potential danger and dependent on context were usually killed on sight, and everyone trained from children as warriors that may need to repel an attack at a moments notice.

Leaders were always changing and trying to enhance their reputations, so politically it was constant flux.

Most chiefly societies had something similar, the Europeans certainly did.

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Revolution or Coup?

There is some imprecision in the word "revolution," but one might make a difference between a violent overthrow of the current regime and a violent overthrow of the current social order. Only the latter is properly termed a revolution.

  • Imagine a country with several large, rural provinces and just one real city, the capital. Each clan is based in one or more of the provinces and they battle for control of the capital. Fresh fighters come down from the mountains or up from the coast, to meet in the customary battleground. The capital looks like a war zone, the rest is just poor and underdeveloped, yet taking the capital with the port facilities allows the clan which holds them to extract rents.
  • Similar for an area with mines, see blood diamonds.
  • Imagine a country which is de-facto ruled by organized crime. Every couple of years a new syndicate comes to power. The people might be caught in the crossfire, but the syndicates don't deliberately shoot people who do pay their protection money.

The key to such a scenario is that the fighting factions don't see the population as citizens, they see them as a resource. There is an expectation that they'll tend their farms and pay their taxes, no matter who is in charge. Sure, there might be some scorched earth every now and then, omelets and eggs, but why kill the golden geese if you plan to reconquer them? And terror "makes an example" out of individuals only to terrify the rest of the village.

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Most countries where either artificially introduced poverty or class jealousy have a tendency to constantly have fighting. Also lack of education can help this along, the closer people are to their animal selves, and nothing brings this out like starvation and misery, the more violent they tend to be.

Unclean work conditions etc, however the people also have to believe they can win, so a surly or disgruntled soldier or police class is often a good place to start as well.

If we're talking outside intervention, creating scandal most especially scandal that makes the man on top look like he's living like a literal king often helps, and lets not forget, almost EVERYONE has to be in the same state of living.

Another major historical factor we have seen is having parallel living religious identities such as the difference between the sunni and shite muslims in the middle east, being many of them are raised to be COMPLETE zealots this is one way. The bosnian muslims and serbs were a more educated example.

In general if a class of people is kept living well and seem to be either attainable by the poor class or that slightly privileged class is large enough to be larger than the poor class there is a high likelihood that the a revolution will never happen, most especially if they have been raised towards overtures of non vioelnce and civility in a state such as our own which either beats people down who turn this way or pacifies them through over civility. In such cases there it is highly unlikely a revolution will ever happen. There is also a question of personal identity, do people feel like they are property or like they are people who's lives matter.

** if this seems familir, thats because this is familiar**

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Looking at history, here's a few important factors.

  1. Surrounded by oceans, mountains, or other impassible terrain on two (or if other factors are present, possibly 1) sides. This creates a bottleneck, forcing empires to go through your poor country. It's standard practice for empires to set up puppet-kings in conquered lands. Every time a new empire invades they'll end up with a new king.

  2. Gold (of any variety). This creates a volatile climate, with various power-hungry demagogues constantly vying for control.

  3. Blood-Feuds. Capulets and Montagues (these two actually existed outside of Shakespeare's play), Guelfs and Ghibellines, White and Black Guelfs, Amidei and Buondelmonti, the list goes on and on. Whenever you have two or more groups in a blood-feud you are guaranteed to have constant Revolving Door Revolutions, as each group takes power from the other(s).

  4. Even better than Blood-Feuds, Religious Feuds. If the Middle East (and, for that matter, Reneissance Italy) is any indication, these are even more destabilizing than than Blood-Feuds.

  5. Marx. Like it or not, Socialism is inheritantly unstable. Power-hungry Comissars and Dictators Benevolent, All-Knowing Philosopher Kings are given complete power over their subjects. Power corrupts. As a result, their political adversaries have a tendency to die in "accidents." While this doesn't comprise a full-on revolution, it does result in significant political instability.

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    $\begingroup$ RE #5. The Soviet system lasted from 1917 to 1989. In East Asia, it started in the 1940s and is still going. Socialist one party regimes have empirically lasted longer than Western style parliamentary style capitalist systems, or military regimes, without regime change, in almost every country where they have been attempted in the 20th and 21st centuries. Gold rushes are disruptive, but rarely result in long lived military conflict even if they depose existing regimes. $\endgroup$ – ohwilleke Sep 30 at 23:55
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    $\begingroup$ @ohwilleke : the "system" lasted, but that's the point. Internally there was a lot of political instability, and purges, and infighting, and power struggles, and murdering the political opponents. Especially in the early decades, in socialist systems the people on (or near) the top got routinely replaced, betrayed, arrested, and so on. $\endgroup$ – vsz Oct 1 at 6:15
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    $\begingroup$ @voz The question appears to be looking for situations that give rise to violent military conflict between regimes, and regime instability. While Communism sucked, and ate up a lot of mid to senior level officials involved in it and still does where it persists, it is very stable at the regime level, and good at avoiding violent warlike interactions once established. So, it is pretty much the opposite of what the question is looking for. $\endgroup$ – ohwilleke Oct 1 at 6:20
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    $\begingroup$ Aside from brief forays into democracy, totalitarian dictatorship, usually hereditary, usually theocratic, has been the most common and stable form of leadership for the bulk of the history of humanity. That we currently have an extended stable period of democracy in some western nations can be considered an anomaly, and considering the world as a whole, is definitely an anomaly. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Oct 1 at 13:13
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    $\begingroup$ @Separatrix I completely agree. The key word is "Hereditary" - since positions usually don't have a predetermined line of succession, less people need to have "accidents" in order for a bureaucrat to get a higher position. Look up Klingon Promotion. $\endgroup$ – The Daleks Oct 1 at 14:46

It's all a big Conspiracy!

There's a stable hidden power behind the ever-changing ostensive power. The hidden power is relatively secure by being unknown, any revolts stop at changing the ostensive power. The hidden power itself triggers a revolution against the ostensive power if it starts acting up, gets too unpopular, or too unpleasant to deal with for any reason.

As done masterfully by The Order of the Stick (recommended).

As commented by the TvTropes link in the question, under Webcomics:

In The Order of the Stick, the Western Continent's empires rarely last a year, constantly getting overthrown by someone who sets up their own empire. Tarquin, after witnessing all this, decided to take advantage of it. He and his allies act as "advisors" to the rulers of the three largest territories, happily jumping ship whenever they get overthrown. Thus, the entire Continent is slowly being absorbed by three nations, but because their names are constantly changing, almost no one has noticed.

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