Puppet state

Puppet state

A puppet state (also known as puppet government or marionette government) is a nominal sovereign of a state who is de facto controlled by a foreign power.[1] The term refers to a government controlled by the government of another country like a puppeteer controls the strings of a marionette.[2] A puppet state has also been described as an entity which in fact lacks independence, preserves all the external paraphernalia of independence, but in reality is only an organ of another state who has set it up and whose satellite it is.[3]


The first puppet states

During the Seven Years' War, Britain effectively gained its first foothold of substantial area on the Indian subcontinent by supporting Mir Jafar's claim to the title of Nawab of Bengal at the expense of Siraj ud-Daulah. However, the British demands of tribute proved to be excessive and, after Dutch intervention on Mir Jafar's behalf, the East India Company replaced him with Mir Qasim. When Qasim attempted to stand up to British policies, hostilities led to the Battle of Buxar and British rule expanded to include most of eastern India.

The first puppet state in modern European history, in the sense of a state which claimed popular legitimacy but which was significantly dependent on an external power, was the Batavian Republic, established in the Netherlands under French revolutionary protection.

The first puppet states, in the sense of new states whose creation was made possible by the intervention of a foreign power, were the Italian republics created in the late 18th and early 19th centuries with the assistance and encouragement of Napoleonic France. See French client republics.

In 1895, Japan detached Korea from its tributary relationship with China, giving it formal independence which was in reality only a prelude to Japanese annexation.

In 1896 Britain established a puppet state in Zanzibar.

Puppet states in World War I

Puppet states of Imperial Japan

During Japan's imperial period, and particularly during the Pacific War (parts of which are considered the Pacific theatre of World War II), Japan established a number of states that historians have come to consider puppet régimes.

Nominally sovereign states

  • Manchukuo (1932–1945), set up in Manchuria under the leadership of the last Chinese Emperor, Puyi.[4]
  • 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 puppet 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.[5]
  • Provisional Government of China December 14, 1937 - March 30, 1940 - Incorporated into the Nanjing Nationalist Government on March 30, 1940.[6]
  • Nanjing Nationalist Government ( March 30, 1940–1945) - Established in Nanjing by collaborationists under Wang Jingwei.[7]
  • State of Burma (Burma, 1942–1945) - Head of state Ba Maw.
  • Second Philippine Republic (1943–1945) – Collaborationist government headed by José P. Laurel as President.
  • The Provisional Government of Free India (1943–1945), set up in Singapore in October 1943 by Subhash Chandra Bose and alleged by the Allies to have been a puppet state, it 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 (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.
  • Thailand (1941–1945) - Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsonggram's nationalist regime

Other plans

Japan had plans for other puppet states.

The Republic of the Far East was a Japanese puppet régime that never got beyond the planning stages.[citation needed] In addition to the Japanese, the Germans supported the formation of this state.[citation needed] In 1943, the plans for a White Russian state died for good after the Battle for Stalingrad.

In 1945, as the Second World War drew to a close, Japan planned to grant puppet independence to the Netherlands East Indies (Indonesia). These plans ended when the Japanese surrendered on 15 August 1945.

Puppet states of 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 régimes fall into several categories.

Existing states in alliance with Germany and Italy

Existing states under German or Italian rule

  • Albania under Italy (1939–1943) 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 title. 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.
  • France (1940–1944) - 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 government 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

  • Slovak Republic under the Slovak People's Party (1939–1945) - The Slovak Republic was a German client state. The Slovak People's Party was a clerofascist nationalist movement associated with the Roman Catholic Church. Monsignor Jozef Tiso became the president in a nominally independent Slovakia.
  • Independent State of Croatia (1941–1945) - The Independent State of Croatia (Nezavisna Država Hrvatska or NDH) was a German and Italian puppet régime. On paper, the NDH was a kingdom under King Tomislav II (Aimone, Duke of Spoleto) of the House of Savoy, but Tomislav II was only a figurehead in Croatia who never exercised any real power, with Ante Pavelić being a somewhat independent leader ("poglavnik"), though staying obedient to Rome and Berlin.

Puppet regimes under control of Germany and Italy

  • Greece (1941–1944) - The Hellenic State régime of Georgios Tsolakoglou, Konstantinos Logothetopoulos and Ioannis Rallis was a "collaborationist" puppet government[8] during the Occupation of Greece by Nazi Germany. Germany, Italy and Bulgaria occupied different portions of Greece at different times during these régimes.
  • Serbia (1941–1944) - The government of General Milan Nedić and popularly known as Nedić's Serbia was a German puppet régime.[9]
  • Independent State of Montenegro (1941–1944) - The régime founded by Sekule Drljević was an Italian puppet régime from 1941 to 1943 and a German puppet régime from 1943 to 1944. Drljević was the leader of the Montenegrin Federalists and formed the Provisional Administrative Committee of Montenegro.
  • Principality of Pindus and Voivodship of Macedonia (1941–1944) - Principality of Pindus and Voivodship of Macedonia (Principatu di la Pind) was an autonomous state set up under fascist Italian and Bulgarian control in northwest Greece and southern Yugoslavia. Alchiviad Diamandi di Samarina, Nicolau Matoussi and Gyula Cseszneky were its rulers.
  • Lokot Republic, Russia (1941–1943) - The Lokot Republic under Konstantin Voskoboinik and Bronislaw Kaminski was a semi-autonomous region in Nazi-occupied Russia under an all-Russian administration. The "republic" covered the area of several raions of Oryol and Kursk oblasts. It was directly associated with the Kaminski Brigade and the Russian Liberation Army (Russkaya Osvoboditelnaya Narodnaya Armiya or RONA).
  • Belarusian Central Rada (1943–1944) - The Belarusian Central Council (Biełaruskaja Centralnaja Rada) was nominally the government of Belarus from 1943-1944. It was a collaborationist government established by Nazi Germany (see Reichskommissariat Ostland).
  • Quisling's Norwegian National government (1942–1945) - The occupation of Norway by Nazi Germany started with all authority held by German Reich Commissioner (Reichskommissar) Josef Terboven, who exercised this through the Reichskommissariat Norwegen. The Norwegian pro-German fascist Vidkun Quisling had attempted a coup d'état against the Norwegian government during the German invasion on 9 April 1940, but he was not appointed by the Germans to head another native government until 1 February 1942.

The Italian Social Republic

  • 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 in 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. When directed to do so, Mussolini provided Germany with Italian citizens to work as forced laborers.

Puppet states of the Soviet Union before 1939

The Soviet Union and Russian SFSR had several puppet states in the 1920s.

  • The Far Eastern Republic (1920–1922) was sometimes described as a puppet state of the Soviet Union. But its identity as a "state" was ambiguous at best and it was more of a "buffer" than a puppet state.
  • 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.
  • Mongolian People's Republic (1924–1992) Formed with the assistance of Red Army troops, the Mongolian People's Republic was heavily reliant on Soviet assistance.

Puppet states of the Soviet Union after 1939

  • Finnish Democratic Republic (1939–1940) - The Finnish Democratic Republic (Suomen Kansanvaltainen Tasavalta) was a short-lived Soviet puppet regime in those minor 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.
  • Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic (1940) - In June 1940 the Republic of Estonia was occupied by the USSR and in July a puppet government proclaimed Soviet power.[10][11] In August 1940, Estonia was annexed by the USSR.
  • Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic (1940) - In June 1940 the Republic of Latvia was occupied by the USSR and in July a puppet government proclaimed Soviet power,[10] In August 1940, Latvia was 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 puppet government proclaimed Soviet power,[10] In August 1940, Lithuania was annexed by the USSR.
  • Second East Turkestan Republic (1944–1949) - The Second East Turkestan Republic, usually known simply 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.

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 Eastern Europe. Specifically, the People's Republics in Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Poland 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. For example, Bulgaria's pro-Communist Fatherland Front seized power in Bulgaria on September 9, 1944. The Fatherland Front government was Soviet dominated and the direct predecessor of the People's Republic of Bulgaria (1946–1990). On the other hand, keeping with the Bulgarian example, it could be argued that the People's Republic of Bulgaria under Prime Minister Georgi Dimitrov (1946–1949) was far from being a Soviet puppet. On yet another hand, an argument for co-belligerence status could also be made for these states.

Iraq and Iran during World War II

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 (1941–1947) - 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 superior 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 Persia (1941–1946) - 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. He was replaced by his son Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. Mohammad Reza Shah 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.

Satellite states

After World War II, the states of Eastern Europe liberated by the Soviet army became communist states aligned with the Soviet Union. This extended so far as to lead to the division of Germany, in which the Soviet occupation sector became East Germany while the American, British and French occupation sectors became West Germany.

Eastern European members of the Warsaw Pact, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and East Germany, were Soviet satellite states. While Soviet leaders claimed that the Warsaw Pact nations were equals entering into a mutual alliance, the reality was different, and decisions were often enforced by Soviet Union with threats of and use of force. For example, when Polish communist leaders tried to elect Władysław Gomułka as First Secretary they were issued an ultimatum by the Soviet military—which occupied Poland—ordering them to withdraw election of Gomulka for the First Secretary or be crushed by Soviet tanks.[12]

Prague Spring in 1968 led to an invasion of Czechoslovakia by the other Warsaw Pact states. As a rationale for this action, the Soviet Union expressed the Brezhnev Doctrine, which stated that it was the duty of all socialist states to protect any socialist state from falling to capitalism. The Western bloc interpreted the Brezhnev Doctrine as an expression of Moscow's authority over other communist states.

Gorbachev ultimately renounced the Brezhnev Doctrine, jokingly calling his policy the "Sinatra Doctrine" after the song "My Way" because of its explicit allowance of Eastern European countries to decide their own internal affairs. Within only a couple years of Gorbachev's abandonment of the Brezhnev Doctrine, Eastern Europe's communist regimes all fell and their states sought better relations and integration with the West, abandoning ties to Soviet Union.

Korea, Vietnam and China

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. In 1955, the Vietnamese Catholic leader Ngo Dinh Diem, encouraged by the United States, declared the creation of the South Vietnam (RVN) in the southern part of Vietnam. The northern part of the country was then largely under control of the communist Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV). However North Vietnam was largely independent from Soviet Union and China, in 1979 Vietnam fought against China in a brief war.

The Paris Peace Accords were preceded by months of intensive negotiations over whether the National Front for the Liberation of Vietnam (Viet Cong) should be treated as an independent party or as a puppet of North Vietnam.

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.


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.

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

Middle East

In more recent times, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and 2003 invasion of Iraq have led to largely U.S.-led regime change efforts in these two nations, fostering accusations among critics of the administration that the governments established under U.S. occupation are American puppet states. Nationalist and Muslim insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan condemn the respective governments as collaborationist puppet regimes. In a January 2008 interview, Afghan President Hamid Karzai assented to being labelled America's "puppet" in return for U.S. assistance, stating, "if I am called a puppet because we are grateful to America, then let that be my nickname."

South Ossetia

South Ossetia has declared independence but its ability to maintain independence is solely based on Russian troops deployed on Georgian territory. The President of South Ossetia Eduard Kokoity claimed he would like South Ossetia eventually to become a part of the Russian Federation through reunification with his fellow Ossetian countrymen in North Ossetia.[13]. It is unclear whether this is true puppetry on the part of South Ossetia, or a recognition by Kokoity and the Russians that their desires are compatible and that each party can help the other achieve its goals.


Abkhazia has declared independence but its ability to maintain independence is solely based on Russian troops deployed on Georgian territory and Russian aid. Abkhazia however, unlike South Ossetia, is not landlocked as it borders the Black Sea and does not wish to become a part of the Russian Federation through reunification.

See also


  1. ^ Constructing the Nation-state. Greenwood Publishing Group. 1995. p. 161. ISBN 0313293988. http://books.google.com/books?id=8JKEj94TsP4C&pg=PA61&dq. "The term puppet state is used to describe nominal sovereigns under effective foreign control" 
  2. ^ Shapiro, Stephen (2003). Ultra Hush-hush. Annick Press. p. 38. ISBN 1550377787. http://books.google.com/books?id=iH6gFG1v-kUC&pg=PA38&dq. "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" 
  3. ^ Raič, D (2002). Statehood and the Law of Self-determination. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. p. 81. http://books.google.com/books?id=L7UOyPGYBkwC&pg=PA81&dq. 
  4. ^ Jowett, Phillip S. , Rays of The Rising Sun, Armed Forces of Japan’s Asian Allies 1931-45, Volume I: China & Manchuria, 2004. Helion & Co. Ltd., 26 Willow Rd., Solihul, West Midlands, England, pg.7-36.
  5. ^ Jowett, Phillip S. , Rays of The Rising Sun, Armed Forces of Japan’s Asian Allies 1931-45, Volume I: China & Manchuria, 2004. Helion & Co. Ltd., 26 Willow Rd., Solihul, West Midlands, England, pg.49-57,88-89.
  6. ^ Jowett, Phillip S. , Rays of The Rising Sun, Armed Forces of Japan’s Asian Allies 1931-45, Volume I: China & Manchuria, 2004. Helion & Co. Ltd., 26 Willow Rd., Solihul, West Midlands, England, pg.44-47,85-87.
  7. ^ Jowett, Phillip S. , Rays of The Rising Sun, Armed Forces of Japan’s Asian Allies 1931-45, Volume I: China & Manchuria, 2004. Helion & Co. Ltd., 26 Willow Rd., Solihul, West Midlands, England, pg.63-89.
  8. ^ ...managed to see the puppet Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Rallis through @ Sephardi Jewry: A History of the Judeo-Spanish Community, 14th-20th Centuries - Page 168
  9. ^ Serbia also had a Nazi puppet regime headed by Milan Nedic @ The Balkanization of the West: The Confluence of Postmodernism and Postcommunism - Page 198
  10. ^ a b c The Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania (Postcommunist States and Nations) David J. Smith from Front Matter ISBN 0415285801
  11. ^ Estonia: Identity and Independence: Translated into English (On the Boundary of Two Worlds: Identity, Freedom, and Moral Imagination in the Baltics) Jean-Jacques Subrenat, David Cousins, Alexander Harding, Richard C. Waterhouse on Page 246. ISBN 9042008903
  12. ^ Zwoje (The Scrolls) 1 (42), 2005
  13. ^ Times Online (11-Sep-2008). Retrieved on 21-Dec-2008.

Further reading

  • James Crawford. The creation of states in international law (1979)

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