A puppet state is a state that is supposedly independent but is in fact dependent upon an outside power. It is nominally sovereign but effectively controlled by a foreign or otherwise alien power, for reasons such as financial interests.
A puppet state preserves the external paraphernalia of independence like a name, flag, anthem, constitution, law codes and motto but in reality is an organ of another state which created or sponsored the government. Puppet states are not recognized as legitimate under international law.
Etymology of the term
In the Middle Ages vassal states existed which were based on delegation of rule of a country from a King to noble men of lower rank. Since the Peace of Westphalia of 1648 the concept of a nation came into existence where sovereignty was connected more to the people who inhabited the land than to the nobility who owned the land. The term is a metaphor which compares a state or government to a puppet controlled by an outside puppeteer using strings. The first recorded use of the term "puppet government" is from 1884, in reference to the Khedivate of Egypt.
The Batavian Republic was established in the Netherlands under French revolutionary protection.
In Eastern Europe, France established a German puppet state of the Duchy of Warsaw.
In Italy, republics were created in the late 18th and early 19th centuries with the assistance and encouragement of Napoleonic France. See also French client republics.
In 1836 U.S. citizens allowed to live in the Mexican state of Texas revolted against the Mexican government to establish a U.S.-backed Republic of Texas, a country that existed less than 10 years (from May 14, 1836 to December 29, 1845) before it was annexed to the United States of America. However, in August 1837, Memucan Hunt, Jr., the Texan minister to the United States, submitted the first official annexation proposal to the Van Buren administration (the first American-led attempts to take over Mexican Texas by filibustering date back to 1819 and by separatist settlers since 1826).
In 1896 Britain established a state in Zanzibar.
World War I
Republics of Soviet Russia/Soviet Union
- in Ukraine
- in Belarus
- in Central Europe
- in Lithuania
- in Latvia
- in Estonia
- in Finland
- in Southern Russia
- in Caucasus and Caspiy
- in Turkestan
- in Russian Far East
Non-realized republics of Soviet Russia
During Japan's imperial period, and particularly during the Pacific War (parts of which are considered the Pacific theatre of World War II), the Imperial Japanese regime established a number of dependent states.
Nominally sovereign states
- Manchukuo (1932–1945), set up in Manchuria under the leadership of the last Chinese Emperor, Puyi.
- Mengjiang, set up in Inner Mongolia on May 12, 1936, as the Mongol Military Government (蒙古軍政府) was renamed in October 1937 as the Mongol United Autonomous Government (蒙古聯盟自治政府). On September 1, 1939, the predominantly Han Chinese governments of South Chahar Autonomous Government and North Shanxi Autonomous Government were merged with the Mongol Autonomous Government, creating the new Mengjiang United Autonomous Government (蒙疆聯合自治政府). All of these were headed by De Wang.
- East Hebei Autonomous Council – a state in northeast China between 1935 and 1938.
- Dadao government (Shanghai 1937–1940) – A short-lived regime based in Shanghai.
- Reformed Government of the Republic of China – First regime established in Nanjing after the Battle of Nanjing. Later fused into the Provisional Government of China.
- Provisional Government of China December 14, 1937 – March 30, 1940 – Incorporated into the Nanjing Nationalist Government on March 30, 1940.
- Nanjing Nationalist Government ( March 30, 1940 – 1945) – Established in Nanjing under the leadership of Wang Jingwei.
- State of Burma (Burma, 1942–1945) – Head of State: Ba Maw.
- Second Philippine Republic (1943–1945) – government headed by José P. Laurel as President.
- The Provisional Government of Free India (1943–1945), set up in Singapore in October 1943 by Subhas Chandra Bose was in charge of Indian expatriates and military personnel in Japanese Southeast Asia. The government was established with prospective control of Indian territory to fall to the offensive to India. Of the territory of post-independence India, the government took charge of Kohima (after it fell to Japanese-INA offensive), parts of Manipur that fell to both the Japanese 15th Army as well as to the INA, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
- Empire of Vietnam (Hán tự: 越南帝国) (March–August 1945) – Emperor Bảo Đại's regime with Tran Trong Kim as prime minister after proclaiming independence from France.
- Kingdom of Cambodia (Cambodia, March–August 1945) – King Norodom Sihanouk's regime with Son Ngoc Thanh as Prime Minister after proclaiming independence from France.
- Kingdom of Laos – King Sisavang Vong's régime after proclaiming independence from France.
Unrealized drafts for dependent states
Japan had made drafts for other dependent states.
The Provisional Priamurye Government never got beyond the planning stages. In addition to the Japanese, the Germans supported the formation of this state.
In 1945, as the Second World War drew to a close, Japan planned to grant independence to the Netherlands East Indies (Indonesia). These plans ended when the Japanese surrendered on 15 August 1945.
Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy
Several European governments under the domination of Germany and Italy during World War II have been described as "puppet régimes". The formal means of control in occupied Europe varied greatly. These states fall into several categories.
Existing states in alliance with Germany and Italy
- Hungary's Government of National Unity (1944–1945) – The pro-Nazi régime of Prime Minister Ferenc Szálasi supported by the Arrow Cross Party was a German puppet régime. Arrow Cross was a pro-German, anti-Semitic Fascist party. Szálasi was installed by the Germans after Hitler launched Operation Panzerfaust and had the Hungarian Regent, Admiral Miklós Horthy, removed and placed under house arrest. Horthy was forced to abdicate in favor of Szálasi. Szálasi fought on even after Budapest fell and Hungary was completely overrun.
Existing states under German or Italian rule
- Albania under Italy (1940–1943) and Albania under Nazi Germany (1943–1944) – The Kingdom of Albania was an Italian protectorate and puppet régime. Italy invaded Albania in 1939 and ended the rule of King Zog I. Zog was exiled and King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy added King of Albania to his titles. King Victor Emmanuel and Shefqet Bej Verlaci, Albanian Prime Minister and Head of State, controlled the Italian protectorate. Shefqet Bej Verlaci was replaced as Prime Minister and Head of State by Mustafa Merlika Kruja on 3 December 1941. The Germans occupied Albania when Italy quit the war in 1943 and Ibrahim Bej Biçaku, Mehdi Bej Frashëri, and Rexhep Bej Mitrovica became successive Prime Minister under the Nazis.
- Vichy France (1942–1944) – The Vichy French régime of Philippe Pétain had limited autonomy from 1940 to 1942, being heavily dependent on Germany. The Vichy government controlled many of France's colonies and the unoccupied part of France and enjoyed international recognition. In 1942, the Germans occupied the portion of France administered by the Vichy government and installed a new leadership, which ended much of the international legitimacy the government had.
- Monaco (1943–1945) – In 1943, the Italian army invaded and occupied Monaco, setting up a fascist administration. Shortly thereafter, following Mussolini's collapse in Italy, the German army occupied Monaco and began the deportation of the Jewish population. Among them was René Blum, founder of the Ballet de l'Opera, who died in a Nazi extermination camp.
New states formed to reflect national aspirations
States under control of Germany and Italy
Italian Social Republic
- The Italian Social Republic (1943–1945, known also as the Republic of Salò) – General Pietro Badoglio and King Victor Emmanuel III withdrew Italy from the Axis Powers and moved the government to southern Italy, already conquered by the Allies. In response, the Germans occupied northern Italy and founded the Italian Social Republic (Repubblica Sociale Italiana or RSI) with Italian dictator Benito Mussolini as its "Head of State" and "Minister of Foreign Affairs". While the RSI government had some trappings of an independent state, it was completely dependent both economically and politically on Germany.
Allied powers during and post-World War II
- Tuvinian People's Republic, also Tannu Tuva (1921–1944) Achieved independence from China by means of local nationalist revolutions only to come under the domination of the Soviet Union in the 1920s. In 1944, Tannu Tuva was absorbed into the Soviet Union.
- Second East Turkestan Republic (1931–1949) – The Second East Turkestan Republic, usually known as the East Turkistan Republic (ETR), was a short-lived Soviet-backed separatist republic which existed in the 1940s in what is now the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China.
- Finnish Democratic Republic (1939–1940) – The Finnish Democratic Republic (Suomen Kansanvaltainen Tasavalta) was a short-lived republic in those parts of Finland that were occupied by the Soviet Union during the Winter War. The Finnish Democratic Republic was also known as the "Terijoki Government" (Terijoen hallitus) because Terijoki was the first town captured by the Soviets.
- Azerbaijan People's Government (1940–1946) – A short-lived state in Iranian Azerbaijan after WWII.
- Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic (1940) – In June 1940 the Republic of Latvia was occupied by the USSR and in July a government proclaimed Soviet power, In August 1940, Latvia was illegally annexed by the USSR.
- Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic (1940) – In June 1940 the Republic of Lithuania was occupied by the USSR and in July a government proclaimed Soviet power, In August 1940, Lithuania was illegally annexed by the USSR.
- Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic (1940) – In June 1940 the Republic of Estonia was occupied by the USSR and in July a government proclaimed Soviet power. In August 1940, Estonia was illegally annexed by the USSR.
- People's Republic of Poland (1945–1988) – The war-time governments under the Polish Committee of National Liberation, the Provisional Government of the Republic of Poland, and the Provisional Government of National Unity.
- Republic of Romania (1945–1988) – The war-time National Front (FND) government under Premier Petru Groza. The FND was led by the Romanian Communist Party (PCR).
- Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (1945–1988) - The war-time pro-Communist government National Front
- People's Republic of Bulgaria (1945–1988) – The war-time pro-Communist Fatherland Front government headed by Kimon Georgiev (Zveno).
- Hungarian People's Republic (1945–1988) – The war-time government of Prime Minister Béla Miklós.
- Republic of Mahabad (January 22, 1946 – January 15, 1947), officially known as the Republic of Kurdistan and established in several provinces of northwestern Iran, or what is known as Iranian Kurdistan, was a short-lived republic that sought Kurdish autonomy within the limits of the Iranian state. Iran re-took control in December and the leaders of the state were executed in March 1947 in Mahabad.
- Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (1978–1991)
As Soviet forces prevailed over the German Army on the Eastern Front during the Second World War, the Soviet Union supported the creation of communist governments in all of Eastern Europe. Specifically, the People's Republics in Poland, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Albania were dominated by the Soviet Union. While all of these People's Republics did not "officially" take power until after World War II ended, they all have roots in pro-Communist war-time governments.
The Axis demand for oil and the concern of the Allies that Germany would look to the oil-rich Middle East for a solution, caused the invasion of Iraq by the United Kingdom and the invasion of Iran by the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union. Pro-Axis governments in both Iraq and Iran were removed and replaced with Allied-dominated governments.
- Kingdom of Iraq (1941–1943) – Iraq was important to the United Kingdom because of its position on the route to India. Iraq also could provide strategic oil reserves. But, due to the UK's weakness early in the war, Iraq backed away from the pre-war Anglo-Iraqi Alliance. On 1 April 1941, the Hashemite monarchy in Iraq was over-thrown and there was a pro-German coup d'état under Rashid Ali. The Rashid Ali regime began negotiations with the Axis powers and military aid was quickly sent to Mosul via Vichy French-controlled Syria. The Germans provided a squadron of twin engine fighters and a squadron of medium bombers. The Italians provided a squadron of biplane fighters. In mid-April 1941, a brigade of the 10th Indian Infantry Division landed at Basra (Operation Sabine). On 30 April, British forces at RAF Habbaniya were besieged by a numerically inferior Iraqi force. On 2 May, the British launched pre-emptive airstrikes against the Iraqis and the Anglo-Iraqi War began. By the end of May, the siege of RAF Habbaniya was lifted, Falluja was taken, Baghdad was surrounded by British forces, and the pro-German government of Rashid Ali collapsed. Rashid Ali and his supporters fled the country. The Hashemite monarchy (King Faisal II and Prime Minister Nuri al-Said) was restored. The UK then forced Iraq to declare war on the Axis in 1942. Commonwealth forces remained in Iraq until 26 October 1947.
- Imperial State of Iran (1941–1943) – German workers in Iran caused the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union to question Iran's neutrality. In addition, Iran's geographical position was important to the Allies. So, in August 1941, the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran (Operation Countenance) was launched. In September 1941, Reza Shah Pahlavi was forced to abdicate his throne and went into exile. He was replaced by his son Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was willing to declare war on the Axis powers. By January 1942, the UK and the Soviet Union agreed to end their occupation of Iran six months after the end of the war.
Decolonization and Cold War
In some cases, the process of decolonization has been managed by the decolonizing power to create a neo-colony, that is a nominally independent state whose economy and politics permits continued foreign domination. Neo-colonies are not normally considered puppet states.
Dutch East Indies
The Netherlands formed several puppet states in the former Dutch East Indies as part of the effort to quell the Indonesian National Revolutionː
Following Belgian Congo's independence as the Republic of the Congo (Léopoldville) in 1960, Belgian interests supported the short-lived breakaway state of Katanga (1960–1963).
East Asia during the Cold War
During the 1950–1953 Korean War, South Korea and the United States alleged that North Korea was a Soviet puppet state. At the same time, South Korea was accused of being an American puppet state by North Korea and its allies. Additionally, in 1951 Dean Rusk, the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs, branded the People's Republic of China a "Slavic Manchukuo", implying that it was a puppet state of the Soviet Union just as Manchukuo had been a puppet state of the Empire of Japan. This position was commonly taken by American propaganda of the 1950s, despite the fact that the Chinese communist movement had developed largely independently of the Soviet Union.
Following the victory of the Viet Minh in the First Indochina War, the 1954 Geneva Accords stipulated that Vietnam would be divided for two years only, until national elections could be held. However, the Americans along with Ngo Dinh Diem feared that Ho Chi Minh and the Communists would win the election. The State of Vietnam and the United States didn't sign the Geneva Accords, citing that it was impossible to hold free and fair nationwide democratic elections in the communist North, and this was later expressed by UN observers monitoring the partition of Vietnam. As a result, South Vietnam and the U.S. were not bound by its terms. In 1955 the Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem, supported by the United States, declared the independence of the Republic of Vietnam in the southern half of Vietnam. Over time, Diem grew increasingly uncomfortable with the role of the U.S. in his country, complaining that they were increasing the conflict with North Vietnam. Diem's complaints became more vocal as American soldiers, called "advisors", continued to pour into the country, and some began calling Diem an uncooperative client and a puppet pulling his own strings. After he became seen more as a liability than an asset to America, Diem was assassinated in 1963 with the complicity of the CIA and John F. Kennedy.
During the Vietnam War, South Vietnam was allied with the U.S. and other anti-communist states in Asia and the West, whereas North Vietnam was allied with China, and particularly the Soviet Union, and with other socialist and communist nations.
South Africa's Bantustans
During the 1970s and 1980s, four ethnic bantustans, some of which were extremely fragmented, were carved out of South Africa and given nominal sovereignty. Two (Ciskei and Transkei) were for the Xhosa people; and one each for the Tswana people (Bophuthatswana) and for the Venda people (Venda Republic).
The principal purpose of these states was to remove the Xhosa, Tswana and Venda peoples from South African citizenship (and so to provide grounds for denying them democratic rights). All four were reincorporated into South Africa in 1994.
After the Cold War
Republic of Kuwait
The Republic of Kuwait was a short-lived pro-Iraqi state in the Persian Gulf that only existed three weeks before it was annexed by Iraq in 1990.
- Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus – According to the European Court of Human Rights, Republic of Cyprus remains the sole legitimate government in Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus should be considered as a puppet state under Turkish effective control. Due to isolation and heavy dependence on Turkish support, Turkey has a high level of control over the country's decision-making processes. This has led to some experts stating that it runs as an effective puppet state of Turkey. Other experts, however, have pointed out to the independent nature of elections and appointments in Northern Cyprus and disputes between the Turkish Cypriot and Turkish governments, concluding that "puppet state" is not an accurate description for Northern Cyprus.
- Abkhazia is sometimes considered a puppet state that depends on Russia. The economy of Abkhazia is heavily integrated with Russia and uses the Russian ruble as its currency. About half of Abkhazia's state budget is financed with aid money from Russia. Most Abkhazians have Russian passports. Russia maintains a 3,500-strong force in Abkhazia with its headquarters in Gudauta, a former Soviet military base on the Black Sea coast. The borders of the Republic of Abkhazia are being protected by the Russian border guards.
- South Ossetia has declared independence but its ability to maintain independence is solely based on Russian troops deployed on its territory. As South Ossetia is landlocked between Russia and Georgia, from which it seceded, it has to rely on Russia for economic and logistical support, as its entire exports and imports and air and road traffic is only between Russia. Former President of South Ossetia Eduard Kokoity claimed he would like South Ossetia eventually to become a part of the Russian Federation through reunification with North Ossetia.
- Transnistria – is sometimes considered a puppet state which is supported by Russia.
- Donetsk People's Republic – is sometimes considered a puppet state which is supported by Russia 
- Lugansk People's Republic – is sometimes considered a puppet state which is supported by Russia 
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Puppet state: a country whose government is being controlled by the government of another country, much as a puppeteer controls the strings on a marionette
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In short, the electorate of Northern Cyprus votes freely for its political leaders and gives them substantial support. Nor is Northern Cyprus a Turkish puppet state. Mr Denktas and the Turkish-Cypriot case have a powerful following in Turkey...
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