People's Republic of Tyranny
Sir Humphrey: East Yemen, isn't that a democracy?
When The Empire tries to masquerade as The Federation, it will often adopt a progressive-sounding name in the process. But often it will go overboard, unable to restrain its own sense of self-importance.
While the true federations around it will usually possess simple, unassuming names -- The Federation, The Republic, etc. -- the People's Republic Of Tyranny will call itself the People's Republic. If they are really evil and oppressive, the Democratic People's Republic. Indeed, the more words implying freedom the name sports, the more oppressive and generally un-free it is likely to be.
Some regimes will continue this Theme Naming to important buildings and organizations. As a corollary, be wary of any movement, government, or country that is casually referred to by its leaders as "Glorious."
A leader might be cultivating themselves as a Villain with Good Publicity. Or they may believe that their society is genuinely democratic, even more so than (so called) real democracies. Who knows; if they give everyone Bread and Circuses and the Trains Run On Time, people might not even care.
Note that "socialist republic" and "people's republic" are terms that communist countries use to describe themselves and communism.
A form of Newspeak. A subtrope of Super Happy Fun Trope of Doom. Definitely Names to Run Away From Really Fast if you can. Given what these governments tend to have at their disposal, that's a big "if." It is often headed by The Generalissimo, or/and Just the First Citizen. If they go so far as to have "elections", see Corrupt Politician.
Yuri: Every faction in Africa calls themselves by these noble names - Liberation this, Patriotic that, Democratic Republic of something-or-other. I guess they can't own up to what they usually are: a federation of worse oppressors than the last bunch of oppressors. Often, the most barbaric atrocities occur when both combatants proclaim themselves freedom-fighters.
- The Federation in Starship Troopers, the full name of which according to background material is apparently the "United Citizen's Federation". Only Citizens (which is a privileged status one has to earn; there are a few ways to do this, but military service is the easiest, as the news films proudly declare "SERVICE GUARANTEES CITIZENSHIP") are allowed to vote, you need a licence to breed (Citizens can obtain a licence more easily), corporal and capital punishment is the norm (live at 6 PM!), the media is nothing but government-owned propaganda, and everyone is horribly desensitised to violence. That said, things don't seem too bad for non-Citizens, though we only see the wealthy ones.
- Although 'Federation' does not imply any form of democratic government (only the fact that there several subjects ruled by one authority) and the term 'Citizen's' may even suggest that living in the country entitles anyone to participate in politics, and not every inhabitant is a citizen (much like in Greek poleis).
- The book version is simply called "The Terran Federation", and is similarly less fascistic, though they still require service for citizenship.
- Tom Kratmann specifically points this out in A Desert Called Peace when he writes a paragraph that goes something like this: People's Republic means dictatorship. Democratic Republic means oppressive and corrupt dictatorship. People's Democratic Republic means really oppressive and corrupt dictatorship with genocidal ambitions.
- Honor Harrington: At the start of the series The People's Republic of Haven has a revolution where the trope is given full scope. It only gets better after a second revolution, where it drops the "People's". The trope is discussed by William Alexander, Lord of the Manticoran Exchequer, when he complains that public opinion in the Solarian League backs Haven because it is a republic while Manticore is a kingdom, and the people of the Solarian League assume that a republic must be a democracy while a kingdom must be autocratic. Later on, Havenite Secretary of War Thomas Theisman muses that he really wishes he could just have Arnold Giancola, the guy he knows is behind the resumption of the shooting war with Manticore, taken behind a shed and shot, but specifically notes they have to do everything by the book to show they are not the People's Republic of Haven anymore.
- In the Sword of Truth series, the fortress city of the royal line that rules D'Hara is called the People's Palace. The name actually fits, in a weird way: The entire structure's design is that of a power spell, meant to sap energy from spellcasters on the grounds and give it to the ruling Rahl. The spell form, though, is "drawn" with all the people moving through the palace, so without them, it would be powerless.
- The D'Haran army in the first book was called the People's Army of Peace...
- Mocked in The Daily Show's America: The Book: A Citizen's Guide To Democracy Inaction, which contained a chart demonstrating how as the Congo's "Inherent Lies in Name" had increased, so had its oppression level.
Sub-saharan Africa's largest nation has grown more oppressive over the decades, and its names has kept pace."
- This has sort of happend in Wild Cards, with the People's Paradise of Africa, which encompasses the Congo.
- Atlas Shrugged: Every non-United States country we hear about in Ayn Rand's novel is the "People's State of (Fill in the Blank)". Of course, they are all oppressive, poverty-stricken hellholes. Argentina and Chile are stated to have been non-People's States countries, and others are suggested to exist. The transitions seem both inevitable and to not go well. In Chile's case, the transition comes midway through the book, as just one more step the world is taking towards universal communism.
- The Thursday Next series has a People's Republic of Wales which has a president for life and has opened a free trade zone in the manner of China. England itself in the series might count, as it is a republic rather than a monarchy, and although it isn't really markedly Socialist, it is fairly Orwellian and dominated by a Mega Corp.
- Poul Anderson's "Withit's Collegiate Dictionary," from There Will Be Time, contains the following definition:
Republic: A country whose government is chosen not on a basis of heredity or riches but by the electorate, from whom political power grows.
- George Orwell
- In his 1946 non-fiction essay "Politics and the English Language", George Orwell argued that in political discourse, the terms "fascism" and "democracy" had lost all meaning, as "fascist" now meant "any nation, policy or action the speaker opposes," while "democratic" now meant "any nation, policy or action the speaker supports." Listen to any "debate" between (American) political pundits or speeches by political leaders and you'll often find Orwell was right.
- In Animal Farm, the Farm declares itself a republic years after it has turned into a totalitarian state, so that it can have one-candidate elections.
- Nineteen Eighty-Four: Averted with Oceania, which is never given a pre-title at all.
- Space Captain Smith has two. As its name suggests the Democratic Republic of New Eden is a hellish theocratic tyranny. Then there is the Greater Galactic Happiness, Friendship and Co-operation Collective which is run by demented sadistic lemming-men intent on conquest.
- Inverted on the Discworld. Ephebe, the only democratic nation, is headed by a Tyrant. Yes, the Tyrant is regularly voted out of office.
- Democracy is, in fact, considered inherently flawed by the rest of the Discworld, on the basis that there's no way to keep Nobby Nobbs out of the voting.
- In a Splinter Cell novel, Sam Fisher muses that, as a rule, the level of a country's dictatorship is directly proportional to the number of democratic descriptives in its name.
- In the Skolian Empire series, the Eubeian Concord is The Empire, ruled by a race of sadistic anti-empaths with red eyes, called Aristos or Traders. Everyone else is a slave, and, as one character puts it, "the Aristos are only in concord about their desire to conquer and enslave everyone else, and their slaves have no choice but to be in concord with their masters."
- In Shooting Script, by Gavin Lyall, the Republica Libra is a Central American state with a name that means (obviously) "Free Republic". Naturally, it's really a dictatorship run by whichever general or "liberator" won the most recent civil war, which one doesn't matter, and which lasts only until the next civil war.
- Ape and Essence by Aldous Huxley has a post-apocalyptic Satanist theocracy which has to remind its subjects, when they want to do something the church disallows, that "this is a Democracy... in which every proletarian enjoys perfect freedom."
- In Robert Heinlein's short story Coventry the most totalitarian nation in the Coventry is called "The Free State".
Live Action TV
- Yes Minister lampshaded this, with "East Yemen" playing the role of the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, better known as South Yemen, which (much the way West Virginia is north of Virginia) was geographically east of the Yemen Arab Republic/"North Yemen".
- In the 2007 Flash Gordon, Ming's authoritarian state is called "The United Peoples of Mongo."
- Whenever the Mission: Impossible team was off to Eastern Europe, it was usually operating in the People's Republic of Something.
- In one episode of QI, Jimmy Carr joked that countries describing themselves as 'the Democratic Republic of...' rarely live up to their name. Conversely, a country describing itself as 'the Fascist Junta' should be respected for its honesty.
- In 30Rock, Jack refers to San Francisco as "The People's Gaypublic of Drugafornia".
- Possible aversion on Angel—the Groosalugg is exiled from Pylea once it becomes (as Gunn described it) "some kind of people's republic". Although this is a reference to what often happens in the sort of failed revolution that often produces people's republics (ie, old revolutionaries are branded traitors for disagreeing with the faction that wins), we never find out what Pylea is now like.
- 24: The Islamic Republic of Kamistan has the trope averted: they are a functioning democracy, albeit one plagued by instability (making them sort of a stand-in for Pakistan since Musharraf's resignation).
- In The Prisoner, the Village is allegedly run by the Citizens' Council (which is always referred to by the administration as "your Citizens' Council"), and the various Number Twos are always quick to loudly proclaim the Village's democratic nature. In reality, the Citizens' Council is a bunch of brainwashed mental vegetables who rubber-stamp whatever the current Number Two says and the post of Number Two itself is seen filled by a rigged election whose results are overturned as soon as they no longer serve the purposes of the Village's true rulers.
- An episode of Think the Unthinkable featured the team at Unthinkable Solutions scheduled to meet with the Minister of Finance for the fictional African state of Nambitrea.
Sophie: Formerly the Democratic Republic of Nambitrea, when it was Communist.
- In the BattleTech universe, the five major states are called the Lyran Commonwealth, the Draconis Combine, the Federated Suns, the Capellan Confederation, and the Free Worlds League. At one point, the Federated Suns and Lyran Commonwealth combined to form the Federated Commonwealth, which later broke up into the Federated Suns and Lyran Alliance. The galaxy's Golden Age came about under the rule of the Star League, which was brought down by the machinations of the Rim Worlds Republic. All of these states are monarchies.
- But not all are exactly tyrannies. The Federated Suns and the Lyran Commonwealth, for example, are relatively civilized and mostly law-governed places, the power of the monarch is not absolute in practice, even if it is in theory (they are not figureheads, but neither realm is a despotism, either). The Draconis Combine, OTOH, most certainly is an iron militarism, with harsh regimentation and all the nasty appurtances of a police state. The Free World League barely holds together, and Capella is somewhere in between the civilized monarchies and Draconia in terms of its freedom and decency rating. Nor were the rulers of the collapsed Star League absolute monarchs, though they were most certainly monarchs. The applicability of the trope varies here.
- One of the example factions in Tomorrow's War is the Democratic People's Republic of Glory, "Glory" is the only part of the name that isn't a blatant lie, and only because it's the name of the planet they colonized. Their main enemy on Glory is the simply named Republic of Arden and their terrestrial allies include the PRC and Brazil (whose army is known as the "Brazilian National Liberation Army").
- How bad are they, you ask? They had one of their special ops forces pose as "Ardenian bandits" and raid one of their own border villages, the DPRG objective in one example scenario is to wipe out that village because their men got sloppy.
- Eclipse Phase has the Jovian Republic...known to the entire outer system as the Jovian Junta, a repressive anti-transhuman state that views humanity as being far too immature to use Pandora gates or transhumanist technology safely, and accuses virtually every other power bloc in the setting of Transhuman Treachery.
- The Commonwealth in Red Faction II. A commonwealth being essentially a republic, this one is nevertheless ruled by a dictator, then by another after a coup. The player can remedy this.
- An in-joke revolving around Uru: Ages Beyond Myst is that DRC—the D'ni Restoration Council, the in-character face of the game company—secretly stands for the Democratic Republic of Channelwood.
- The Democratic Republic of Sahrani from Arm A : Armed Assault. Also, Chernarus from Arm A II is a former bearer of this trope (and a certain political faction wants to return the country to that state).
- Fallout 3 has The Republic Of Dave, which teeters on this trope. It's not too bad a place, but President Dave will have visitors shot if they don't adress him properly, legalised presidental bigamy so he could have another wife, teaches incorrect facts in school, and has convinced everyone he is the only viable candidate, so even though they hold regular elections, they only have one choice, unless the player passes a speech check to convince them otherwise. The place used to be the Kingdom of Ted before Dave ousted his father in a coup, believing that a republic is better. If his son, Bob, wins the election, he will turn the place into the Empire of Bob and become isolationist. (According to background material, this same process has gone on for several generations.)
- A Miracle of Science has the People's Republic of the Moon, which isn't actually all that bad; it's a drab grey place, but then it was Luna to start with. (It's Venus, with no such nominative pretensions, that you really have to be careful visiting.) Luna is a communist state, whose economy is described in comic as "managed" and "a mess", where consumer goods flow like water (in order to show how prosperous it is) while essentials are often in short supply - everyone has sunglasses, but few have shoes.
- Order of the Stick #698 has a map including a place called "People's Democratic Dictatorship".
- Don't forget the rather bizarre inversion in the form of Tyraniria. Its ruler was a kind, benevolent man who genuinely wished for peace and prosperity. Tarquin disagreed with this idea.
- The website hosting Le Avventure del Grande Darth Vader plays with this in an article where the title character states he "freed" a newsgroup (actually, he just decided to post again into an abandoned newsgroup) and issues a "new manifesto" stating, in order: that the newsgroup is now a "democratic popular republic"; that he owns full legislative, executive and judiciary powers within the newsgroup; that ideas different from his own are always off-topic; and finally that he can delete off-topic messages any time.
- In Last Res0rt, Celigo's full name is the People's Republic of Celigo (often shorted to P.R.O. Celigo). Supposedly it's not a bad place to live... as long as you have wings, anwyay.
- Imperium Nova: The United Federation of People's Republics, in Gemini, mostly a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of the Soviet Union, but with North Korean-style Nepotism thrown in.
- During the Florida vote tabulation snafu between George W. Bush and Al Gore, The Onion ran an article where Bill Clinton took control of the United States and renamed it the "Holy United Imperial Americlintonian Demopublic."
- Transformers Generation 1 has the Socialist Democratic Federated Republic of Carbombya, led by Supreme Military Commander, President-for-Life, and King of Kings Abdul Fakkadi. The horribly offensive stereotyping provoked Casey Kasem to quit the show.
- That's right. It was a joke so awful and racist that it broke Teletraan 1.
Real Life instances
- Many Communist and single-party states use this trope.
- Often the words "Justice" and "Freedom" are added to the titles of the political party and government agencies.
- The Democratic People's Republic of Korea, AKA North Korea. It's probably one of the best modern Real Life examples of the trope, since it includes "people's" and "democratic" in the name. Considering that recently deceased Supreme Leader Kim Jong-il, son of the first leader Kim Il-sung, has passed power down to his son Kim Jong-un, the "republic" part is also rather dubious.
- The DPRK's name is four lies for the price of one - it isn't democratic; it isn't for the people; it isn't a republic (seeing as the head of state is a dead man and the ruling family is a monarchy in all but name); and it doesn't include all of Korea, only the Northern half.
- South Korea, officially the "Republic of Korea" isn't much better, and has had a history of hereditary leadership (Park Chung-hee and Park Geun-hye). Everything on the internet is censored and all posters are tracked by social security number, with crackdowns threatened if posters question official state positions. The government proclaims ownership of the Korean language and, by extension, every work released in it. Merely playing a banned video game results in 5 years in jail. Western countries rarely push against this because its a useful buffer state against the even crazier North Korea, while the language barrier ensures the average westerner isn't aware of it either.
- The Lao People's Democratic Republic.
- The People's Republic of China, which today manages to be both a hyper-modern society and a communist single-party state. In 1949, when the Communists were deliberating over names for the new Chinese nation, they considered "People's Democratic Republic of China" until Zhou Enlai pointed out it was redundant.
- It should be noted that China is no longer communist by the original definition of the term, and does afford its citizens some measure of freedom, if only on the most superficial level.
- The former state of Democratic Kampuchea, today and previously known as Cambodia. It was an oppressive dictatorship controlled by the Khmer Rouge, whose ideology was based on a bizarre racist perversion of communism. During the terror reign of Pol Pot, more than 20% of the country's population was wiped out by famine, disease, and organized genocide.
- The Senate and Roman People (Senatus Populusque Romanus, or SPQR) retained its original name once it became The Empire, even though the Emperor had complete control over the senatus’ decrees.
- Even before then, the "people" referred to were free-born property-owning males, and Senate membership was controlled by what amounted to institutionalized Nepotism.
- The Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire. Its neighbor to the northwest, the Republic of the Congo, isn't much better off.
- The name "Union of Soviet Socialist Republics" counts, to an extent. The name suggests that the USSR was a federation of "soviets", locally and democratically elected councils, and the head of state was officially the chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, a body elected by separate soviets to discharge their legislative business. In practice, however, the USSR was ruled entirely by the Communist Party, and the Supreme Soviet was just a rubber stamp for legislation, at both the federal and subnational level.
- Soviet satellites also played this trope straight: East Germany was a "democratic republic" and Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Albania all had "People's" in the name. Upon making the transition to democracy, East Germany joined West Germany and took its name, "the Federal Republic of Germany", and the other four all removed "People's" from their names.
- Romania, which had been the "People's Republic of Romania" from 1947 to 1965 (at which point it changed its name to the "Socialist Republic of Romania") decided to top them all and just go by "Romania," plain and simple, when Ceauşescu and his regime came crashing down in 1989.
- Hungary may be an aversion: in January 2012, it dropped the "Republic of" from its official name, and at the same time became less democratic by restricting freedom of the press and changing the electoral law to benefit the ruling party.
- Poland requires a special mention because the name "Republic of Poland" has been used officially since the 16th century and was first used in 1358 (in one pledge of allegiance to the king) when Poland was still a hereditary monarchy.
- Yemen, mentioned in the page quote, was until 1990 divided into North and South, not East and West. South Yemen (formerly a British colony) was the "People's Democratic Republic of Yemen". Yes, a Communist dictatorship with Islamic flavoring.
- The Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, or Libya as it was known under the rule of the late Muammar Gaddafi. The ordinary word for republic in Arabic is "jumhuriya"; "jamahiriya" is a neologism based on pluralizing the "public" part to mean "masses," according to the link. The preferred translation is the Libyan Arab Islamic State of the Masses. It's no wonder that the country was renamed to just "Libya" when the rebels took over.
- During the Russian Civil War, anti-communist nationalist states added "People's" or "Democratic" to its name to distinguish themselves from the Bolshevik-backed "Soviet Socialist Republics", for example the Ukrainian and Crimean People's Republics, and the Democratic Republics of Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan.
- The Union of Myanmar: the former military junta was known as the State Peace and Development Council.
- Voltaire famously observed that the Holy Roman Empire was the pre-French Revolution equivalent of this trope. Instead of a totalitarian dictatorship claiming to be a democratic republic, it ended up as a loose federation of independent cities and kingdoms, located more or less exclusively in Germany, claiming to be the actual, genuine Western Roman Empire (give or take three hundred years). "Holy", "Roman", and "Empire" were the great political buzzwords of The Middle Ages, and the empire didn't stack up too well.
- While it always maintained some influence with the Catholic Church, several Holy Roman Emperors spent most of their reigns fighting the Pope for authority, and after The Renaissance and The Protestant Reformation they couldn't even agree what "holy" meant in the first place.
- Charlemagne, the first emperor, gave Rome away to the Pope, and by The Renaissance the Empire was basically reduced to Germany, land the genuine article had for the most part never even owned (there are a couple of German towns near the French border that do have Roman ruins, but that's it).
- By the time it finally broke up, the emperor had so little authority that it was more The Alliance than The Empire, and sometimes not even that.
- A lot of National Unions for Democracy and Progress have been popping up in 3rd world countries. Might be a subversion, since they're opposition parties, some of which didn't get into power.
- Tunisia's governing party, the Constitutional Democratic Rally, was this... at least, until the Tunisian Revolution.
- Lest we forget the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria.
- In a complete inversion, the top 10 most democratic and free countries in the world are mostly monarchies.
- Averted with the People's Republic of Bangladesh, which is by most measurements considered to be a legitimate- though still somewhat corrupt- democracy.
- The Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. In fact, it's a fascist party that was engineered during the collapse of the Soviet Union as a sort of stalking horse for the CPSU and KGB to use to split the liberal vote. It's now mostly a Cult of Personality around its showmanlike leader, who uses a lot of opposition rhetoric but actually tends to vote with Putin and United Russia when it comes to policymaking).
- An Argentine military coup that deposed President Juan Perón was named "Revolución Libertadora" (in Spanish, "Liberating revolution"). Besides being a military coup, unlike Perón—who was chosen by the people in free elections—the "Libertadora" banned the very mention of Perón's name (as well as eventually committing a large number of war crimes). Yes, exactly as it sounds.
Real Life allusions
- In the United States (and sometimes other English-speaking countries as well), liberal leaning areas -- especially college towns -- that are surrounded by conservative areas will be given the "People's Republic" label as a way of conservatives mocking liberals. In turn, said liberal areas will often start calling themselves that:
- Cambridge, Massachusetts uses the name "People's Republic of Cambridge" in jest, sometimes in official documents. It is far from the only Massachusetts example, as Amherst (note the silent 'h') is another wildly liberal victim/perpetrator (naturally, which one it is depends on who's saying it and how it's being used) of this trope.
- The Maryland town of Takoma Park (in the DC suburbs) is often called the People's Republic of Takoma Park, for things like declaring themselves a nuclear-free zone in the Eighties.
- Davis, California (home to a branch of the University of California) is yet another nuclear-free city, in spite of the nuclear reactor on the university campus; they also build toad tunnels so comrade toads aren't left out (as featured on The Daily Show). See the PRD page on the Davis Wiki. After the 2011 pepper spray incident, the People's Republic of Davis title has lost much of its irony.
- The "People's Republic" label is even more often applied to the famously liberal home of the University of California's main campus, Berkeley.
- Madison, Wisconsin (site of the University of Wisconsin and state capital), a VERY liberal city an otherwise somewhat conservative state (Milwaukee notwithstanding) is often called the People's Republic of Madison, a term first coined by one of the state's governors.
- An even more extreme example may be found in Texas, with the People's Republic of Austin (state capital and home of the University of Texas), a VERY liberal city located in the middle of a VERY conservative state.
- Vermont is one of the most liberal states in the Union, electing the only admitted socialist to Congress (Bernie Sanders). An older biography of Sanders focusing on his time as mayor of Burlington in The Eighties is titled The People's Republic.
- In the Australian city of Melbourne, a left leaning inner suburb Brunswick is sometimes referred to as the People's Republic of Brunswick
- Though generally played for laughs, The People's Republic of Cork has expanded enough for T-shirts of Che Guevara to become relatively popular. The kicker is that Cork is merely a county in the south of Ireland (though it does have the second largest city in the country, discounting Belfast).
- During the Thatcher era, some of the more socialist areas of Northern England were mockingly given this name - most famously, the area around Sheffield was jokingly called the People's Republic of South Yorkshire.
- The People's Republic of Stokes Croft in the arts quarter of Bristol, England. Opposition to the opening of a supermarket in the area led to well-publicised riots.
- For periods of around four weeks, a portion of North Carolina becomes the People's Republic of Pineland, a dictatorship fighting against a rebellion that serves as a training exercise for Green Berets, whose main mission is to train indigenous forces. Their legal tender looks suspiciously like Monopoly money.
- The world of micronationalism has seen several "people's republics," one of which managed to become one of the most hated entities in the entire micronational community - the Democratic People's Republic of Erusia. Erusia was infamous for alleged human rights violations, constant unnecessary conflict, internal political repression (only one political party was allowed) and repeated involvement in other micronation's affairs. What's worse, the entire nation turned out to be an "experiment" (i.e. a sham), invented purely for some personal gains of the leader, and every member of the tolerant, minority-laden government was actually a fictitious persona.
- It may be because it is a relatively recent, but increasingly popular, invention in Real Life. A government that claims to be democratic, even when it's not, is implicitly agreeing that democracy is a good thing... or maybe just recognizes that others think that democracy is a good thing and is blending in for political camouflage.
- The ruling parties of those states claim(ed) their country was not truly communist, but in transition to the communism envisioned by Marx and Engels.
- This also calls back to ancient Greece, when 'tyrant' a ruler via unconventional means such as populist coup, not inheritance or election, before it picked up its modern connotation.
- (It should be noted, though, that South Korea is also guilty of that last one, being the Republic of Korea.)
- For those who care, the top 10 most democratic countries as of 2011 are (in order) Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland, Canada, Finland, and the Netherlands. All of these except Iceland, Switzerland, and Finland have hereditary monarchs as head of state.
- although he has shied away from that label since the mid-90's, and no European-style Socialist would EVER consider the Senator among their ranks