Whether attainment of independence is different from revolution has long been contested, and has often been debated over the question of violence as a legitimate means to achieving sovereignty. While some revolutions seek and achieve national independence, others aim only to redistribute power — with or without an element of emancipation, such as in democratization — within a state, which as such may remain unaltered. Nation-states have been granted independence without any revolutionary acts. The Russian October Revolution, for example, was not intended to seek national independence; the United States Revolutionary War, however, was.
Autonomy refers to a kind of independence which has been granted by an overseeing authority that itself still retains ultimate authority over that territory (see Devolution). A protectorate refers to an autonomous region that depends upon a larger government for its protection as an autonomous region. The dates of established independence (or, less commonly, the commencement of revolution), are typically celebrated as a national holiday known as an independence day.
Sometimes, a state wishing to achieve independence from a dominating power will issue a declaration of independence; the earliest surviving example is Scotland's Declaration of Arbroath in 1320, with the most recent example being Azawad's declaration of independence in 2012. Declaring independence and attaining it however, are quite different. A well-known successful example is the U.S. Declaration of Independence issued in 1776.
Historically, there have been three major periods of declaring independence: the years from 1776 to the Revolutions of 1848 in Europe; the immediate aftermath of the First World War with the breakup of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires; and the decades from to 1945 to 1979, when seventy newly independent states emerged from the wreckage of the European colonial empires.
Causes for a country or province wishing to seek independence are many. Disillusionment rising from the establishment is a cause widely used in separatist movements, but it is usually severe economic difficulties that trigger these groups into action. The means can extend from peaceful demonstrations, like in the case of the Indian independence movement, to a violent civil war.