A military dictatorship is a
dictatorship A dictatorship is a form of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state. In the case of its broad associative definition, government normally consists of legislature ...
in which the
military A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare War is an intense armed conflict between State (polity), states, governments, Society, societies, or pa ...

exerts complete or substantial control over
political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions In psychology, decision-making (also spelled decision making and decisionmaking) is regarded as the Cognition, cognitive process resulting in the selection ...

authority, and the
dictator A dictator is a political leader who possesses absolute power. A dictatorship A dictatorship is a form of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state. In the c ...
is often a high-ranked military officer. The reverse situation is to have
civilian control of the military File:050218-N-3333H-011 Admiral John B. Nathman, far right, and Admiral William J. Fallon salute during honors arrival of Secretary of the Navy, Gordon R. England.jpg, 300px, Admiral John B. Nathman (far right) and Admiral William J. Fallon salut ...

Creation and evolution

Most military dictatorships are formed after a ''
coup d'état A coup d'état (; French for "blow of state"), often shortened to coup in English, (also known as an overthrow) is a seizure and removal of a government and its powers. Typically, it is an illegal, unconstitutional seizure of power by a politic ...
'' has overthrown the previous government. There have been cases, however, where the civilian government had been formally maintained but the military exercises ''
de facto ''De facto'' ( ; , "in fact") describes practices that exist in reality, even though they are not officially recognized by laws. It is commonly used to refer to what happens in practice, in contrast with ''de jure'' ("by law"), which refers to th ...
'' control—the civilian government is either bypassed or forced to comply with the military's wishes. For example, from 1916 until the end of
World War I World War I, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war A world war is "a war engaged in by all or most of the principal nations of the world". The term is usually reserved for ...

World War I
, the
German Empire The German Empire or the Imperial State of Germany,, officially '.Herbert Tuttle Herbert Tuttle (1846–1894) was an American historian. Biography Herbert Tuttle was born in Bennington, Vermont Bennington is a New England town, town ...
was governed as an effective military dictatorship, because its leading generals had gained such a level of control over
Kaiser Wilhelm II en, Frederick William Victor Albert , house = Hohenzollern , father = Frederick III, German Emperor , mother = Victoria, Princess Royal , religion = Lutheranism (Prussian Union (Evangelical Christian Church), Prussian United) , signature = ...

Kaiser Wilhelm II
that the Chancellor and other civilian ministers effectively served at their pleasure. Alternatively, the
Empire of Japan The was a historical nation-state and great power that existed from the Meiji Restoration in 1868 until the enactment of the post-World War II Constitution of Japan, 1947 constitution and subsequent formation of modern Japan. It encomp ...

Empire of Japan
after 1931 never in any formal way drastically altered the constitutional structure of its government, but from that point, it is typically seen as a military dictatorship, since the Army and Navy had the effective legal right to veto the formation of undesirable governments (and also to compel the resignation of an existing government that had lost their favor), and since key cabinet posts traditionally held by civilians (especially the Premiership) were instead filled by active flag officers. Military dictatorships may gradually restore significant components of
civilian Civilians under international humanitarian law are "persons who are not members of the armed forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare War ...

government while the senior military commander still maintains executive
political power In social science Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within those societies. The term was formerly used to refe ...
. As an example, the Chilean military dictatorship under
Augusto Pinochet Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte (, also , , ; 25 November 1915 – 10 December 2006) was a Chilean Army Captain general#Chile, General, politician and military dictatorship, military dictator who ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990, first as the ...

Augusto Pinochet
conducted a
plebiscite A referendum (plural: referendums or less commonly referenda) is a direct and universal vote in which an entire electorate is invited to vote on a particular proposal and can have nationwide or local forms. This may result in the adoption of a ...
in 1980 that instituted a new constitution, thus legitimizing the regime's rule.


In the past, military juntas have justified their rule as a way of bringing political stability for the nation or rescuing it from the threat of "dangerous ideologies". For example, the threat of
communism Communism (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Repu ...

socialism Socialism is a political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with Decision-making, making decisions in Social group, groups, or other forms of Power (social and political), power relations between individuals, ...
, and
Islamism Islamism (also often called political Islam Political Islam is any interpretation of Islam as a source of political identity and action. It can refer to a wide range of individuals and/or groups who advocate the formation of state and society a ...
was often used. Military regimes tend to portray themselves as non-partisan, as a "neutral" party that can provide interim leadership in times of turmoil, and also tend to portray civilian politicians as corrupt and ineffective. One of the almost universal characteristics of a military government is the institution of
martial law Martial law is the temporary imposition of direct military control of normal civil functions or suspension of civil law by a government, especially in response to a temporary emergency where civil forces are overwhelmed, or in an military occ ...
or a permanent
state of emergency A state of emergency is a situation in which a government is empowered to be able to put through policies that it would normally not be permitted to do, for the safety and protection of its citizens. A government can declare such a state duri ...

Comparison with other forms of authoritarianism

Military dictatorships are not the only form of
authoritarianism Authoritarianism is a form of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a mon ...
or even, especially in the 21st century, the most common one.

Comparison with monarchies

A military dictatorship is distinct from an
absolute monarchy Absolute monarchy (or absolutism as doctrine) is a form of monarchy in which the monarch holds supreme autocracy, autocratic authority, principally not being restricted by written laws, legislature, or customs. These are often hereditary monar ...
, although there are some similarities, especially concerning how the two are (or historically have been) established. Virtually all absolute monarchs (and even most
constitutional monarchs A constitutional monarchy is a form of monarchy A monarchy is a form of government in which a person, the monarch A monarch is a head of stateWebster's II New College DictionarMonarch Houghton Mifflin. Boston. 2001. p. 707. ...
) are commanders-in-chief of their nations' militaries, wear military uniforms at least on a ceremonial basis and hold military ranks and/or titles. Also, senior members of royal families, especially if they are male and/or heirs apparent or presumptive, are expected to perform military service prior to ascending the throne. Moreover, almost all monarchies (both current and defunct) established themselves over the past centuries and millennia by force of arms. A key difference between a monarchy and a military dictatorship is that once they are established and recognized by their subjects (a process that has often taken many generations) a monarchy typically establishes some form of hereditary succession to legitimately transfer power from generation to generation, and while there historically have been many cases of disputed claims to a throne, attempting to seize power through sheer force of arms without some sort of credible hereditary claim is usually regarded as illegitimate and/or illegal by monarchists. In constitutional monarchies the monarch is usually the commander-in-chief and is often formally the highest-ranking military officer but in practice is expected to defer to the advice of civilian ministers, especially when appointing flag officers who will exercise actual operational command, thus maintaining
civilian control of the military File:050218-N-3333H-011 Admiral John B. Nathman, far right, and Admiral William J. Fallon salute during honors arrival of Secretary of the Navy, Gordon R. England.jpg, 300px, Admiral John B. Nathman (far right) and Admiral William J. Fallon salut ...
. On the other hand, modern military dictatorships typically eschew hereditary succession with long-lasting juntas often emphasizing the traditional methods of promotion within the officer ranks as the eventual path to civil power. Military dictatorships which have attempted to establish themselves as monarchies or otherwise implement hereditary succession, whether or not by attempting to establish themselves as monarchies, have often collapsed very quickly. In one example,
Oliver Cromwell Oliver Cromwell (25 April 15993 September 1658) was an English general and statesman who, first as a subordinate and later as Commander-in-Chief, led armies An army (from Latin ''arma'' "arms, weapons" via Old French ''armée'', "armed" e ...

Oliver Cromwell
after deposing and executing King
Charles I of England Charles I (19 November 1600 – 30 January 1649) was King of England This list of kings and queens of the begins with , who initially ruled , one of the which later made up modern England. Alfred styled himself King of the from a ...

Charles I of England
refused all offers to take the
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...

Crown, but nevertheless attempted to have power transferred after his death to his son
Richard Cromwell Richard Cromwell (4 October 162612 July 1712) was an English statesman who was the latter Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland and son of the first Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell. On his father's death, Richa ...
; however, the younger Cromwell lacked the respect or support of the English military establishment, and was thus quickly forced to relinquish power. In another, a few years after staging a coup and establishing himself as the
French First Republic In the history of France, the First Republic (French: ''Première République''), officially the French Republic (''République française''), was founded on 21 September 1792 during the French Revolution. The First Republic lasted until the dec ...
's dictator,
Napoleon Bonaparte Napoleon Bonaparte ; co, Napulione Buonaparte. (born Napoleone di Buonaparte; 15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a French military and political leader who rose to prominence during the French Revolution The French Revolution ( ) r ...

Napoleon Bonaparte
crowned himself
Emperor An emperor (from la, imperator The Latin word "imperator" derives from the stem of the verb la, imperare, label=none, meaning 'to order, to command'. It was originally employed as a title roughly equivalent to ''commander'' under the Roma ...
. Although he subsequently married a
Habsburg The House of Habsburg (), alternatively spelled Hapsburg in English (german: Haus Habsburg ; es, Casa de Habsburgo ; hu, Habsburg-család), also known as the House of Austria (german: link=no, Haus Österreich; es, link=no, Casa de Austria), ...

princess and sired an heir to his newly established throne, Napoleon's claim to power was never fully accepted by French royalists who supported the deposed
House of Bourbon The House of Bourbon (, also ; ) is a European of French origin, a branch of the , the royal . Bourbon kings first ruled France and in the 16th century. By the 18th century, members of the held thrones in , , , and . Spain and have monarchs ...

House of Bourbon
, nor by other European monarchies. Eventually, Napoleon's armies were defeated and he was forced to abdicate and go into exile. Although
Napoleon's nephew
Napoleon's nephew
eventually re-established the
Bonapartist Bonapartism is the political ideology supervening from Napoleon Bonaparte Napoleon Bonaparte ; co, Napulione Buonaparte. (born Napoleone di Buonaparte; 15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a French military and political leader who rose to ...
monarchy for a time, his seizure of power might be better described in the context of a civilian dictatorship as described in the next section.

Comparison with civilian dictatorship

A military dictatorship is also different from civilian dictatorship for a number of reasons: their motivations for seizing power, the institutions through which they organize their rule and the ways in which they leave power. Often viewing itself as saving the nation from the corrupt or myopic civilian politicians, a military dictatorship justifies its position as "neutral" arbiters on the basis of their membership within the armed forces, which in many countries are nominally expected to be apolitical institutions. For example, many juntas adopt titles along the lines of "Committee of National Restoration", or "National Liberation Committee". Military leaders often rule as a junta, selecting one of themselves as a head.

Current cases of Military Dictatorships

Former cases


# ( 1965–1976; 1992–1994;
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) # ( 1968–1969; 1977–1979) # ( 1999–2000) # ( 1953–1956; 1981–2011; 2011–2021) # ( 1979–1992) #
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( 1969–1977) # (1972–1976) # (
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, 2021–present) # ( 1978–1979; 1979–1992; 2005–2007; 2008–2009) # ( 1974–1987;
; 1996–1999; 2010–2011) #
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; 1975–1976; 1976–1979;
; 1985–1993; 1993–1998; 1998–1999) # ( 1973–1994) # (1995; 2003) # ( 1967–1968; 1992–1996; 1997–1998) # ( 1969–1976; 1980–1991) # (
; 1985–1986; 1989–1993; 2019–present) # ( 1967–2005) # (Bantu Holomisa, 1987–1994) # (Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, 1987–2011) # (Uganda under Idi Amin, 1971–1979; Tito Okello, 1985–1986) # (Gabriel Ramushwana, 1990–1994) # (Mobutu Sese Seko, 1965–1997) # (2017 Zimbabwean coup d'état, 2017–2018)


# (Juan Manuel de Rosas, 1835–1852; 1930 Argentine coup d'état, 1930–1932; 1943 Argentine coup d'état, 1943–1946; Revolución Libertadora, 1955–1958; Argentine Revolution, 1966–1973; National Reorganization Process, 1976–1983) # (1839–1843; 1848; 1857–1861; 1861; 1864–1871; 1876–1879; 1899; 1920–1921; 1930–1931; 1936–1940; 1943–1946; 1951–1952; History of Bolivia (1964–1982), 1964–1982) # (Deodoro da Fonseca, 1889–1891; Floriano Peixoto, 1891–1894; Brazilian Military Junta of 1930, 1930; Estado Novo (Brazil), 1937-1945; Brazilian military government, 1964–1985) # (Government Junta of Chile (1924), 1924–1925; Government Junta of Chile (1925), 1925; Carlos Ibanez del Campo, 1927–1931; Government Junta of Chile (1932), 1932; Military dictatorship of Chile (1973–90), 1973–1990) # (1854; 1953–1958) # (1868–1870; 1876–1882; Dictatorship of the Tinoco Brothers, 1917–1919) # (1933; Fulgencio Batista, 1952–1959) # (1882–1899; Rafael Trujillo, 1930–1961; 1963–1965) # (1876–1883; 1935–1938; 1947; 1963–1966; 1972–1979; 2000) # (1885–1911; Military dictatorship in El Salvador, 1931–1979; Revolutionary Government Junta of El Salvador, 1979–1982) # (1931–1944; 1944–1945; 1954–1957; 1957–1966; 1970–1986) # (1983) # (1946; Paul Magloire, 1950–1956; 1956–1957; National Council of Government (Haiti), 1986–1990; Raoul Cédras, 1991–1994) # (1933–1949; Military Government Council, 1956–1957; 1963–1971; 1972–1982; 2009 Honduran coup d'état, 2009–2010) # (Centralist Republic of Mexico, 1835–1846; Porfirio Díaz, 1876–1880; Porfirio Díaz, 1884–1911; Victoriano Huerta, 1913–1914; Mexican Dirty War, 1964–1982) # (Somoza family, 1937–1979) # (1903–1904; Manuel Noriega, 1968–1989) # (Higinio Morínigo, 1940–1948; El Stronato, 1954–1989) # (Manuel Ignacio de Vivanco, 1843–1844; Mariano Ignacio Prado, 1865–1868; José Balta, 1868–1872; Nicolás de Piérola, 1879–1881; Óscar R. Benavides, 1914–1915; Luis Miguel Sánchez Cerro, 1930–1933; Óscar R. Benavides, 1933–1939; Manuel Odría, 1948–1956; Ricardo Pérez Godoy, 1962–1963; Revolutionary Government of the Armed Forces of Peru, 1968–1980) # (Dési Bouterse, 1980–1991) # (Venancio Flores, 1865–1868; Lorenzo Latorre, 1876–1879; Gabriel Terra, 1933–1938; Civic-military dictatorship of Uruguay, 1973–1985) # (Julián Castro (Venezuelan politician), 1858–1859; José Antonio Páez, 1861–1863; Juan Crisóstomo Falcón, 1863–1868; José Ruperto Monagas, 1869–1870; Joaquín Crespo, 1892–1898; Cipriano Castro, 1899–1908; Juan Vicente Gómez, 1908–1935; Marcos Perez Jimenez, 1948–1958)


# Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, Afghanistan (Abdul Qadir (Afghan communist), 1978) # (Ziaur Rahman, 1975–1981; Hussain Mohammad Ershad, 1982–1990) # Khmer Republic, Cambodia (Cheng Heng, 1970–1972; Lon Nol, 1972–1975; Peter Khoy Saukam, 1975) # Republic of China (1912–1949), China (Dong Zhuo, 189–192; Empire of China (1915–1916), 1915–1916; Zhang Zuolin, 1927-1928; Chiang Kai-shek, 1928–1948; Manchukuo, 1932–1945; Temporary Provisions against the Communist Rebellion, 1948–1991) # Goguryeo (Yeon Gaesomun, 642–665; Yeon Namsaeng, 665; Yeon Namgeon, 665–668) # Goryeo (Goryeo military regime, 1170–1270) # (New Order (Indonesia), 1966–1998) # (Fazlollah Zahedi, 1953–1955; Regency Council (Iran), 1978–1979; Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, 2005–2013) # (1933–1935; 1936 Iraqi coup d'état, 1936; 1937–1938; Salah al-Din al-Sabbagh, 1941; 1949–1950; 1952–1953; Abd al-Karim Qasim, 1958–1963; Abdul Salam Arif, 1963–1968; Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, 1968–1979) # (Shōgun, 1192–1867; Hideki Tojo, 1941–1944) # (Supreme Council for National Reconstruction, 1961–1963; Third Republic of Korea, 1963–1972; Fourth Republic of Korea, 1972-1979; Fifth Republic of Korea, 1981–1987) # (Sounthone Pathammavong, 1959–1960) # (Michel Aoun, 1988–1990) # (1988 Maldives coup d'état, 1988–1989) # (Khorloogiin Choibalsan, 1939–1952) # (Burmese Way to Socialism, 1962–1988; State Peace and Development Council, 1988–2011; State Administration Council, 2021–present) # Kingdom of Nepal, Nepal (Swarup Singh Karki, 1776–1777; Vamsharaj Pande, 1776–1779; Sarbajit Rana Magar, 1777–1778; Vamsharaj Pande, 1782–1785; Mulkaji, 1785–1804; Bhimsen Thapa, 1806–1837; Rana Jang Pande, 1837; Chautariya Puskhar Shah, 1838–1839; Rana Jang Pande, 1839–1840; Fateh Jung Shah, 1840–1843; Mathabar Singh Thapa, 1843–1845; Fateh Jung Shah, 1845–1846; Rana dynasty, 1848–1951) # (Abdullah al-Sallal, 1962–1967; Ibrahim al-Hamdi, 1974–1977; Ahmad al-Ghashmi, 1977–1978; Abdul Karim Abdullah al-Arashi, 1978; Ali Abdullah Saleh, 1978–1990) # (Mohammad Ayub Khan, 1958–1969; Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan, 1969–1971; Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, 1977–1988; Pervez Musharraf, 1999–2008) # (Battle of Gaza (2007), 2007) # (Dictatorial Government of the Philippines, 1898; Second Philippine Republic, 1943–1945; Martial law under Ferdinand Marcos, 1972–1981) # (1963 South Vietnamese coup, 1963–1967) # (1949; 1951–1954; Salah Jadid, 1963–1970, Hafez al-Assad, 1970–2000) # (Phraya Phahonphonphayuhasena, 1933–1938; Plaek Phibunsongkhram, 1938–1944; 1948–1957; Phin Choonhavan, 1947; Sarit Thanarat, 1959–1963; Thanom Kittikachorn, 1963–1973; Sangad Chaloryu, 1976; 1977; Kriangsak Chamanan, 1977–1979; Sunthorn Kongsompong, 1991; Sonthi Boonyaratglin, 2006; Surayud Chulanont, 2006–2008; National Council for Peace and Order, 2014–2019) # (Trịnh lords, 1533–1789; Nguyễn lords, 1558–1777) # (Ali Abdullah Saleh, 1990–2012)


# (Zog I of Albania, 1925–1939) # (Aleksandar Tsankov, 1923–1926; Zveno, 1934–1935; Bulgarian Fatherland Front, 1944–1946) # (Nikos Sampson, 1974) # (Napoleon I, 1799–1814; Cabinet of General Cavaignac, 1848; 1851 French coup d'état, 1851–1858; Government of National Defence, 1870–1871) # (Military Council (Georgia), 1992) # (Oberste Heeresleitung, 1916–1918; Adolf Hitler, 1933-1945) # (The Protectorate, 1653–1659) # (Kyriakoulis Mavromichalis, 1909-1910; Anastasios Charalambis, 1922; Sotirios Krokidas, 1922; Stylianos Gonatas, 1922-1924; Theodoros Pangalos (general), 1925–1926; Alexandros Othonaios, 1933; Georgios Kondylis, 1935; Ioannis Metaxas, 1935–1941; Greek military junta of 1967–1974, 1967–1974) # (Antanas Smetona, 1926–1940) # (Józef Piłsudski, 1926–1935; Martial law in Poland, 1981–1983) # (Joaquim Pimenta de Castro, 1915; Sidónio Pais#Government and presidency, 1917–1918; Ditadura Nacional, 1926–1933; National Salvation Junta, 1974–1975) # (Ion Antonescu, 1941–1944) # Russian State (1918–1920), Russia (Alexander Kolchak, 1918–1920) # (Fatti di Rovereta, 1957) # (Miguel Primo de Rivera, 1923–1930; Francoist Spain, 1936–1975) # (National Unity Committee, 1960–1961; Kenan Evren, 1980–1983) # (Dictatorship of Garibaldi, 1860) # Ukrainian State, Ukraine (Pavlo Skoropadskyi, 1918)


# (Sitiveni Rabuka, 1987–1999; 2006 Fijian coup d'état, 2006–2014)

See also

* Civilian control of the military * Military rule (disambiguation) * Stratocracy * Films depicting Latin American military dictatorships * Military junta * List of political leaders who held active military ranks in office


{{DEFAULTSORT:Military Dictatorship Military dictatorships, Constitutional state types Military sociology Civil–military relations