Now, as it turned out, the Rebellion was achieved much earlier and more easily than anyone had expected.
It's from Animal Farm - Chapter 2. To my understanding, it seems not simply refer to the current time.
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This is a discourse marker. It marks a shift in the topic and to highlight a new fact. It is used more often in spoken English, and in this context, it also establishes a spoken style. It is written as if the narrator was having a conversation with you.
There is a great deal of academic analysis of discourse markers in English and comparatively with other languages. You might consider which words are used as discourse markers in your language. An incorrect literal translation of one language's discourse markers to another language is a typical sign of a non-native speaker.