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A state under the effective control of another state. Technically independent and in charge of its own affairs, but in reality if it tries anything without the say-so of the government of the nation in charge of it its liable to end up occupied again. An old term for this is Satrapies. Calling something a vassal state, client state or satellite state is another.

The nation trying to break away and regain true independence may be a plot point. Normally part of The Empire, The Kingdom is usually a stand-alone thing.

This isn't always entirely one-sided; one reason for a state becoming a puppet state may have been in exchange for the larger state watching its back in case of war. Whether or not the puppet (or the empire) is happy with this state of affairs is another matter.

If the state is nominally democratic or republican and holds elections, and those are controlled by the parent state, see Corrupt Politician.


Anime and Manga

  • Most countries in One Piece are part of a global alliance known as the World Government. There are very harsh penalties for a country's refusal to join, and the ones that do are subject to rules that give the officials almost totally free reign to do as they please.
    • Because there are so many countries so spread out, the World Government and the Marines can't possibly watch every single place at every moment, so it's not unheard of for a country to just do things covertly or secretly own contraband.


  • In Tribesmen of Gor most of the desert tribes are vassals of either the Aretai or Kavar tribe. So when outsiders stir up trouble between those two tribes the entire desert is preparing for war with each other.
  • In Flora Segunda, the main characters' country, Califa, is a vassal state of the Huitzil empire, because it was pretty much that or be conquered entirely. Many people are still less than happy about it, though.
  • In A Dark Winter by Dave Luckett, the protagonist's homeland has become a puppet state of The Empire. A significant plot point concerns the revelation of how far another character is prepared to go secure its independence.

Tabletop Games

  • Many states in Traveller are like this.
    • In the context of the Traveller universe, any multi-system polity must be a collection of Puppet State s even though sometimes the central government is created by the substates rather then the reverse.

Video Games

  • The Last Remnant has this in Athlum, which is a vassal territory of Celapaleis.
  • Both Unification Wars and Galactic Conquest (sci-fi strategy games in which action points are a regularly renewable resource) feature Vassals, though in reality the "Lord" empire does not exert control over these vassals but instead receives tribute and can send/receive military aid in case of invasion (which is pretty darn frequent).
  • Crimea was suzerain to Begnion in Fire Emblem Radiant Dawn.
  • In one of the Expansion Packs for Civilization IV, any sufficiently powerful civ can make any sufficiently weak civ into their vassal state. If the vassal grows powerful enough (there are exact numbers), it can regain independence.
    • On the subject of Civ 5, you can't make an entire civ into one, but when you conquer an enemy city you have the option between annexing it (which simply makes it on of your civ's cities, but generates a lot of unhappiness) or making it a puppet (which gives all the science, culture, and gold it generates to your civ, but you cannot control its production, for either buildings or units).
  • A major part of most Paradox games like Europa Universalis and Hearts of Iron.
    • Crusader Kings probably has the strongest version; the player is able to create vassals by giving the aristocrats in his court titles. Assuming relations are good enough he can force these vassals to raise troops for him and even force to them to surrender their title and land (though this is very likely to result in rebellion instead.)
  • Can also be established in the Total War series; in earlier games such as Rome, these had to be established through diplomatic negotiations, and this would only rarely work due to the horrific diplomacy system. In more recent games (namely Napoleon and Shogun 2), the game gives the player an option of whether to formally incorporate a conquered nation into its empire or establish a client state.
  • The restored United States of America in Shattered Union is most likely a puppet regime of the European Union in the event that faction wins.

Real Life

  • A hegemony is when a nation has dominating influence over the foreign and military policy of other countries within its region.
  • After the Spanish-American war, newly-independent Cuba became a Puppet State when the United States passed the Platt Amendment which gave Congress the ability to override any Cuban foreign policy decision.
  • Most of the Central American Banana Republics were made that way by the machinations of the United States at the behest of the Mega Corp United Fruit Company.
    • In the case of Costa Rica, the influence was so deep that many Costa Ricans uses American names and last names despise being a Spanish-speaking country.
  • The satellite states of the Soviet Union.
  • Some of the nations conquered by the Nazis during World War II, such as Vichy France and Norway under the Quisling regime.
  • Scotland technically ended up briefly being a vassal state of England when John Baliol was persuaded to swear fealty to Edward I. John Baliol quickly reneged on this however, and Edward squandered any moral claim he might have had in the situation with a show of stunning brutality during his march north, nearly destroying Berwick upon Tweed, once considered a second Alexandria and reduced by 8,000 people after Edward was through with it to the status of a minor sea-port. Although his hold on southern and midland Scotland lasted up until his death despite a considerable struggle with William Wallace, the sheer hatred of the English stirred up in Scotland went a long way towards being the reason Edwards heirs ultimately lost the country. Ironically, the Scots, after a long period of their noble houses anglicising, were drifting towards the English in terms of culture naturally. Edward Is clumsy attempt to unite the two kingdoms ironically drove the cultures apart and cut an everlasting wedge between the countries that, even with unification, has lasted to this day and could still see the two nations part ways once more. In some ways, the devolved governments of the UK could be seen as this, though it is generally agreed that a referendum would see them a fully independent state, be it Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
  • The client states of the Roman Republic and later Empire.
  • The Indian princely states of British India.
  • The Phillipine Islands were a fairly successful example of this despite the brutal Pacification Campaigns. This seems to have been because of a string of highly successful proconsuls (including General MacArthur who to some degree went native). The locals fought very bravely on the US side during World War II because they believed-in this case correctly-the promise of future independence.
    • For that matter, the wartime Second Republic was an even better example, with Jose Laurel being President, but in reality the government was controlled by the Japanese military.
  • Puerto Rico remains this to this day though the bad connotations of the phrase "puppet state" may be less applicable (But outside Puerto Rico and the U.S is a very different matter). Puerto Rico has local political parties for both statehood and independence, but so far has preferred the present position.
  • For that matter, every US State is theoretically this. At some times in history it has been feared that the Federal government would reduce them to provinces, and at other times, it was feared that the states had unusual powers. On the whole, during isolationist periods in US history the state governments prevailed, and during periods of more active foreign policy the Fed prevailed.
    • This is most blatant in Washington DC. Congress can and frequently does override the city's locally elected government for its own benefit.
  • Historically the Kingdom of Ryukyu was this to Japan, or more specifically the Satsuma, the most powerful feudal lords of southern Kyushu. Following the Meiji Restoration and the Satsuma Rebellion, it was annexed outright to become the modern day prefecture of Okinawa.
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