A stratocracy (from στρατός, stratos, "army" and κράτος, kratos, "dominion", "power", also stratiocracy[1][2][3]) is a form of government headed by military chiefs.[4] The branches of government are administered by military forces, the government is legal under the laws of the jurisdiction at issue, and is usually carried out by military workers.[5]

Description of stratocracy

The word stratocracy first appeared in 1652 from the political theorist Robert Filmer, being preceded in 1649 by stratokratia used by Claudius Salmasius in reference to the newly declared Commonwealth of England.[6][7] Bouvier and Gleason describe a stratocracy as one where citizens with mandatory or voluntary military service, or veterans who have been honorably discharged, have the right to elect or govern. The military's administrative, judiciary, and/or legislature powers are supported by law, the constitution, and the society.[4] It does not necessarily need to be autocratic or oligarchic by nature in order to preserve its right to rule. The political scientist Samuel Finer distinguished between stratocracy which was rule by the army and military regimes where the army did not rule but enforced the rule of the civil leaders.[8] Lyon wrote that through history stratocracies have been relatively rare, and that in the latter half of the twentieth century there has been a noticeable increase in the number of stratocratic states due to the "rapid collapse of the West European thesallocracies".[7]

Notable examples of stratocracies

Modern stratocracies

The closest modern equivalent to a stratocracy, the State Peace and Development Council of Myanmar (Burma), which ruled from 1997 to 2011, arguably differed from most other military dictatorships in that it completely abolished the civilian constitution and legislature. A new constitution that came into effect in 2010 cemented the military's hold on power through mechanisms such as reserving 25% of the seats in the legislature for military personnel.[9]

The United Kingdom overseas territory, the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia on the island of Cyprus, provides another example of a stratocracy: British Forces Cyprus governs the territory, with Major-General Robert Thomson serving as administrator from 2019.[10] The territory is subject to unique laws different to both those of the UK and those of Cyprus.[11]

Historical stratocracies

Cossacks were predominantly East Slavic people who became known as members of democratic, semi-military and semi-naval communities, predominantly located in Ukraine and in Southern Russia.[12] They inhabited sparsely populated areas and islands in the lower Dnieper,[13] Don, Terek, and Ural river basins, and played an important role in the historical and cultural development of both Russia and Ukraine.

The Diarchy of Sparta was a stratocratic kingdom.[14] From a young age, male Spartans were trained for battle and put through grueling challenges intended to craft them into fearless warriors. In battle, they had the reputation of being the best soldiers in Greece, and the strength of Sparta's hoplite forces let the city become the dominant state in Greece throughout much of the Classical period. No other city-state would dare to attack Sparta even though it could only muster a force of about 8,000 during the zenith of its dominance.[15]

One of the most distinguished and, perhaps, long-lived examples of a stratocratic state, is Rome, though the stratocratic system developed over time. Following the disposition of the last Roman king Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, Rome became an oligarchic Republic. However, with the gradual expansion of the empire and conflicts with its rival Carthage which eventually led to the Punic wars, the Roman political and military system experienced drastic changes. Following the Marian reforms, de facto political power became concentrated under military leadership, as the loyalty of the legionaries shifted from the Senate to its generals.

This ultimately led to, following a series of civil wars, the formation of the Roman Empire, the head of which bore the title of "Imperator", previously an honorary title for distinguished military commanders. Following the formation of the Empire, the Army either approved of or acquiesced in the accession of an emperor, with the Praetorian Guard having a decisive role in the succession until Emperor Constantine abolished it. Militarization of the Empire increased over time and emperors were increasingly beholden to their armies and fleets, yet how active emperors were in actually commanding in the field in military campaigns varied from emperor to emperor, even from dynasty to dynasty. The vital political importance of the army persisted up until the destruction of the Eastern (Byzantine) Empire in 1453.

Fictional stratocracies

  • The country of Amestris in the Fullmetal Alchemist manga and anime series is a nominal parliamentary republic, where parliament has been used as a façade to distract from the authoritarian regime, as the government is almost completely centralized by the military, and the majority of government positions are occupied by military personnel.[16]
  • The Cardassian Union of the Star Trek universe can be described as a stratocracy, with a constitutionally and socially sanctioned, as well as a politically dominant military that nonetheless has immense totalitarian characteristics.[16]
  • In Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino's Avatar: The Last Airbender, the Earth Kingdom is very divided and during the Hundred Year War relies on an unofficial Confederal Stratocratic rule of small towns to maintain control from the Fire Nation's military, without the Earth Monarch's assistance.[16]
  • Both Eldia and Marley from the Japanese manga and anime series Attack On Titan are stratocratic nations ruled by military governments.
  • The Galactic Empire from the original Star Wars trilogy can be described as a stratocracy. Although ruled by Emperor Palpatine, the functioning of the entire government was controlled by the military and explicitly sanctioned by its leaders. All sectors were controlled by a Moff or Grand Moff who were also high-ranking military officers.[16]
  • The Global Defense Initiative from the Command & Conquer franchise is another example: initially being a United Nations task force to combat the Brotherhood of Nod and research the alien substance Tiberium, later expanding to a worldwide government led by military leaders after the collapse of society due to Tiberium’s devastating effects on Earth.
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers, the Terran Federation was set up by a group of military veterans in Aberdeen, Scotland when governments collapsed following a global war. The Federation requires Civilians to "enroll in the Federal Service of the Terran Federation for a term of not less than two years and as much longer as may be required by the needs of the Service." While Federal Service is not exclusively military service, that appears to be the dominant form. It is believed that only those willing to sacrifice their lives on the state's behalf are fit to govern. While the government is a representative democracy, the franchise is only granted to people who have completed service, mostly in the military, due to this law (active military can neither vote nor serve in political/non-military offices).[16]
  • The Turian Hierarchy of Mass Effect is another example of a fictional stratocracy, where the civilian and military populations cannot be distinguished, and the government and the military are the same, and strongly meritocratic, with designated responsibilities for everyone.
  • The five members of Greater Turkiye in the manga and anime Altair: A Record of Battles are called stratocracies, with them being based on the Ottoman Empire.[17]
  • Bowser from the Super Mario video game franchise is the supreme leader of a stratocratic empire in which he has many other generals working under his militaristic rules such as Kamek, Private Goomp, Sergeant Guy, Corporal Paraplonk and many others.

States argued to be stratocratic


The political scientist Harold Lasswell wrote in 1941 of his concerns that the world was moving towards "a world of 'garrison states'" with the United States of America being one of the countries moving in that direction.[14] This was supported by the historian Richard Kohn in 1975 commenting on the US' creation of a military state during it's early independence, and the political scientist Samuel Fitch in 1985.[14] The historian Eric Hobsbawm has used the existence and power of the military-industrial complex in the US as evidence of it being a stratocratic state.[14] The expansion and prioritisation of the military during administrations of Reagan and H.W.Bush have also been used as examples of stratocracy in the US.[18] The futurist Paul Saffo[19] and the researcher Robert Marzec[20] have argued that the post 9/11 projection of the United states was trending towards stratocracy.

African states

Various countries in Africa post-colonisation have been described as stratocracies.[21][22][23] George commented in a 1988 paper that the governments of Idi Amin and Apartheid South Africa should be considered stratocracies.[22] Various previous Nigerian governments have been described as stratocratic in research, including the government under Olusegun Obasanjo, and the Armed Forces Ruling Council lead by Ibrahim Babangida.[24][25][26][27][5] Under the 1978 constitution of eSwatini Sobhuza II appointed the army commander as the country's prime minister, and the second-in-command of the army as the head of the civil service board. This fusing of military and civil power continued in subsequent appointments, with many of the appointees viewing their civil roles as secondary to their military positions.[28] Ghana under Jerry Rawlings has also been described as being stratocratic in nature.[18] Marx's term of barracks socialism was retermed by the political scientist Michel Martin in their description of socialist stratocracies in the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa, including specifically the People's Republic of Benin.[29][30] Martin also believes the praetorianism of francophone African republics can be called stratocratic, including the Côte d'Ivoire and the Central African Republic.[31]


The philosopher and economist Cornelius Castoriadis wrote in his 1980 text, Facing the War, that Russia had become the primary world military power. To sustain this, in the context of the visible economic inferiority of the Soviet Union in the civilian sector, he proposed that the society may no longer be dominated by the one-party state bureaucracy but by a "stratocracy"[32][33] describing it as a separate and dominant military sector with expansionist designs on the world.[34] He further argued that this meant there was no internal class dynamic which could lead to social revolution within Russian society and that change could only occur through foreign intervention. Timothy Luke agreed that under the secretaryship of Mikhail Gorbachev this was the USSR moving towards a stratocratic state.[35]


English commentators such as Burton described the pre-Tanzimat Ottoman Empire as a stratocratic state.[36]

The Prussian military writer Georg Henirich von Berenhorst wrote in hindsight that ever since the reign of the soldier king, Prussia always remained "not a country with an army, but an army with a country" (a quote often misattributed to Voltaire and Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, comte de Mirabeau).[37] It has been argued the subsequent dominance of Prussia in the North German Confederation and German Empire and the expansive militarism saw a continuance of the stratocratic Prussian government.[38]

The Republic of Egypt under the leadership of Nasser was described by the political theorist P. J. Vatikiotis as a statocratic state.[39][40][41][5]

See also


  1. Mordecai Kaplan (October 2016) [1940]. Mel Scult (ed.). Communings of the Spirit, Volume II: The Journals of Mordecai M. Kaplan, 1934–1941. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 9780814341629.
  2. A Pallas nagy lexikona (in Hungarian). 15. 1897.
  3. Révai Nagy Lexikona (in Hungarian). 17. 1925. p. 755.
  4. Bouvier, John; Gleason, Daniel A. (1999) [1851]. Institutes of American law. The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd. p. 7. ISBN 978-1-886363-80-9.
  5. Alfred de Grazia (1970). "The Perennial Stratocrats". Kalos: What is to be done with our World?. Retrieved 25 May 2021.
  6. Paul W. Blackford (March 1956). "Stratocracy, a Seventeenth Century Greek Coinage". The Classical Journal. The Classical Association of the Middle West and South. 51 (6): 279–280. JSTOR 3292889.
  7. Peter Lyon (January 1985). "Introduction: Back to the Barracks?". Third World Quarterly. Taylor & Francis. 7 (1): 9–15. doi:10.1080/01436598508419820. JSTOR 3992118.
  8. Samuel Finer (January 1985). "The Retreat to the Barracks: Notes on the Practice and the Theory of Military Withdrawal from the Seats of Power". Third World Quarterly. Taylor & Francis. 7 (1): 16–30. doi:10.1080/01436598508419821. JSTOR 3992119.
  9. Burma 'approves new constitution'. BBC News. May 15, 2008.
  10. "No. 62784". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 October 2019. p. 17508.
  11. The SBA Administration. "Sovereign Base Area - Court". Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  12. Iaroslav Lebedynsky (September 2002). "Les Cosaques, de la société de guerriers à la caste militaire" [The Cossacks, from the society of warriors to the military caste] (in French). Archived from the original on 6 May 2021. Retrieved 6 May 2021.
  13. Paul Robert Magocsi, A History of Ukraine, pp. 179–181
  14. Kostas Gouliamos; Christos Kassimeris (2012). "Stratocracy: The Growing Hypertrophy of the LifeWorld Militarization". In Kostas Gouliamos; Christos Kassimeris (eds.). The Marketing of War in the Age of Neo-Militarism. Routledge.
  15. Harley, T. Rutherford (May 1934). The Public School of Sparta, Greece & Rome. 3. pp. 129–139.
  16. Matthew A Olson (5 July 2020). "Worldbuilding: 36 Types of Government (Part 2)". Chatoicanwriter. Retrieved 5 May 2021.
  17. Kotono Kato (2017). Altair: A Record of Battles. 1. ISBN 9784063731125.
  18. Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe Jr. (4 August 2004). Sounds Of Sirens: Essays In African Politics & Culture. iUniverse. ISBN 9780595326785.
  19. Paul Saffo (3 January 2006). "A stratocracy in America's future?". Retrieved 5 May 2021.
  20. Robert P. Marzec (2009). "Militarialitys". The Global South. Indiana University Press. 3 (1): 139–149. doi:10.2979/GSO.2009.3.1.139. JSTOR 40339253.
  21. Philip Ogochukwu Ujomu (19 May 2020). "Africa's Crisis of Social and Political Order and the Significance of Ubuntu Human Values for Peace and Development". Culture and Dialogue. Brill Publishers. 8 (1): 97–115. doi:10.1163/24683949-12340077. Retrieved 6 May 2021.
  22. David George (1988). "Distinguishing Classical Tyrannicide from Modern Terrorism". The Review of Politics. Cambridge University Press. 50 (3): 390–419. doi:10.1017/S0034670500036317. JSTOR 1407906. Retrieved 6 May 2021.
  23. Ross Christie (November 2004). 'Britain's Crisis of Confidence': How Whitehall Planned Britain's Retreat from the extra-European World, 1959-1968 (PDF) (PhD thesis). University of Stirling. Retrieved 13 May 2021.
  24. James Ohwofasa Akpeninor (28 February 2013). Merger Politics of Nigeria and Surge of Sectarian Violence. AuthorHouse. ISBN 9781467881715.
  25. Bayo Ogunjimi (1992). "The Herd Instinct and Class Literature in Nigeria Today". A Journal of Opinion. Cambridge University Press. 20 (2): 12–16. doi:10.2307/1166986. JSTOR 1166986.
  26. Yinka Olomojobi (17 March 2015). "Political Islam in Northern Nigeria". Social Science Research Network. doi:10.2139/ssrn.2579977. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  27. Yusuf Bangura (March 1991). Authoritarian Rule and Democracy in Africa: A Theoretical Discourse (PDF) (Report). United Nations Research Institute for Social Development. Retrieved 13 May 2021.
  28. Jeffrey Tshabalala; Cyprian Nhlengethwa; Martin Rupiya (2005). "Caught between tradition and regional warfare: The Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force since 1968". In Martin Rupiya (ed.). Evolutions & Revolutions: A Contemporary History of Militaries in Southern Africa (PDF). Institute for Security Studies.
  29. Michel L. Martin (1986). "The Rise and 'Thermidorianization' of Radical Praetorianism in Benin". In John Markakis; Michael Waller (eds.). Military Marxist Regimes in Africa. Routledge. ISBN 9781138995871.
  30. Michel Louis Martin (1985). "The rise and 'thermidorianization' of racial praetorianism in Benin". Journal of Communist Studies. Taylor and Francis. 1 (3–4): 58–81. doi:10.1080/13523278508414782.
  31. Michel Louis Martin (2006). "Soldiers and Governments in Postpraetorian Africa: Cases in the Francophone Area". In Giuseppe Caforio (ed.). Handbook of the Sociology of the Military. Springer. ISBN 978-0-387-34576-5.
  32. Castoriadis, Cornelius (February 1980). "Facing the War". Telos (46): 48.
  33. Castoriadis, Cornelius (1981). "Vers la stratocratie" [Towards the stratocracy]. Le Débat (in French). 5 (12): 5–17. doi:10.3917/deba.012.0005.
  34. Cornelius Castoriadis (1981). Devant la guerre. Paris: Fayard. ISBN 9782213009605.
  35. Timothy W. Luke (1987). "Civil Religion and Secularization: Ideological Revitalization in Post-Revolutionary Communist Systems". Sociological Forum. Springer. 2 (1): 108-134 (127). doi:10.1007/BF01107896. JSTOR 684530. Retrieved 6 May 2021.
  36. Richard Francis Burton (1854). "Journey to Medina, with Route from Yambu". The Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London. Wiley on behalf of The Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers). 24: 208–225. doi:10.2307/3698107. JSTOR 3698107.
  37. Georg Heinrich von Berenhorst (1845). Aus dem Nachlasse [From the estate] (in German). Dessau: Eduard von Bülow.
  38. F.G. Stapleton (September 2003). "'An Army with a State, not a State with an Army'". History Review (46).
  39. P. J. Vatikiotis (1968). "Some Political Consequences of the 1952 Revolution in Egypt". In Peter M. Holt (ed.). Political and Social Change in Modern Egypt. London: Oxford University Press. p. 370.
  40. Anthony, David J. (June 1980). Political Culture and the Nature of Political Participation in Egypt (PDF) (MA). Naval Postgraduate School. Retrieved 9 May 2021.
  41. Barak Barfi, ed. (September 2018). "Shaping an Elite". Egypt's New Realism: Challenges Under Sisi. The Washington Institute.