Puppet state


A puppet state, puppet régime, puppet government or dummy government,[1] is a state that is de jure independent but de facto completely dependent upon an outside power and subject to its orders.[2] Puppet states have nominal sovereignty, but a foreign power effectively exercises control through means such as financial interests, economic, or military support.[3] By leaving a local government in existence the outside Powers evade all responsibility, while at the same time successfully paralyzing the Government they tolerate.[1]

Puppet states are distinguished from allies, which choose their actions on their own or in accordance with treaties they voluntarily entered. Puppet states are forced into providing legal endorsement for actions already taken by a foreign power.


A puppet state preserves the external paraphernalia of independence (such as a name, flag, anthem, constitution, law codes, motto and government), but in reality it is an organ of another state which creates,[4] sponsors or otherwise controls the government of the puppet state (the "puppet government"). International law does not recognize occupied puppet states as legitimate.[5]

Puppet states can cease to be puppets through:

  • the military defeat of the "master" state (as in Europe and Asia in 1945),
  • absorption into the master state (as in the early Soviet Union),
  • revolution, notably occurring after withdrawal of foreign occupying forces (like Afghanistan in 1992), or
  • achievement of independence through state-building methods (especially through de-colonisation).


The term is a metaphor which compares a state or government to a puppet controlled by a puppeteer using strings.[6] The first recorded use of the term "puppet government" is from 1884, in reference to the Khedivate of Egypt.[7]

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.

A similar concept mainly associated with pre-19th century political history is suzerainty, the control of the external affairs of one state by another.


19th century

First French Empire and French satellite states in 1812
Map of the British Indian Empire. The princely states are in yellow.

The Batavian Republic was established in the Netherlands under French revolutionary protection. In Eastern Europe, France established a Polish client 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).

During 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 14 May 1836, to 29 December 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 1810 U.S. citizens living in Spanish territory declared the area from the Mississippi River to the present state of Florida to be an independent nation. Known as the Republic of West Florida, it only lasted for 10 weeks. Not desiring to cross American interests, the republic's government encouraged annexation by the U.S., which soon occurred.

In 1896 Britain established a state in Zanzibar.

World War I


Axis powers of World War II

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), the Imperial Japanese regime established a number of dependent states.

Nominally sovereign states
Wang Jingwei receiving German diplomats while head of state in 1941

Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy

German-occupied Europe at the height of the Axis conquests in 1942

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

  •   Hungarian 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 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 (1940–1942/4) – 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 in Case Anton and installed a new leadership under Pierre Laval, which ended much of the international legitimacy the government had.
  •   Monaco (1942–1944) – 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 and governments under control of Germany and Italy

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 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.

United Kingdom during and after 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 overthrown 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, and declared war on the Axis powers in January 1942. British and Commonwealth forces remained in Iraq until 26 October 1947.[17]
  •   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.

Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

Map of the Finnish Democratic Republic (1939–40), a short-lived puppet state of the Soviet Union. Green indicates the area that the Soviet Union planned to cede to the Finnish Democratic Republic, and red the areas ceded by Democratic Finland to the Soviet Union.
The greatest extent of the territory which the Soviet Union politically, economically and militarily dominated as of 1959–1960, after the Cuban Revolution but before the official 1961 Sino-Soviet split (total area: c. 34,374,483 km2)

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 throughout 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 Soviet Union established puppet communist governments in East Germany, Albania, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria. Yugoslavia was also a communist state closely linked to the Soviet Union, but Yugoslavia retained autonomy in its own lines. After the Tito–Stalin split in 1948, the relationship between the two countries deteriorated significantly. Yugoslavia was expelled from the international organizations of the Eastern Bloc. After Stalin's death and a period of de-Stalinization by Khrushchev, peace was restored, but the relationship between the two countries was never completely mended. Yugoslavia continued to pursue independent policies and became the founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement. The Soviet Union continued to espouse its influence over China before the Sino-Soviet split in 1961. Some other countries which once were Soviet puppet governments include Mongolia, North Korea, DRV (SRV), Cuba, all of which had substantial dependence on Soviet economy, military, science and technology. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, most of its former satellites were reformed towards democratization. Only China, Cuba, Laos and Vietnam remain one-party communist states. In 1992, all references to Marxism–Leninism in the constitution of North Korea were dropped by the Supreme People's Assembly and replaced with Juche.[22] In 2009, the constitution was quietly amended so that not only did it remove all Marxist–Leninist references present in the first draft, but it also dropped all references to communism.[23]


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

Congo crisis

Following Belgian Congo's independence as the Congo-Leopoldville in 1960, Belgian interests supported the short-lived breakaway state of Katanga (1960–1963).

East Timor

Indonesia established a Provisional Government of East Timor following its invasion of East Timor in December 1975.

South Africa's Bantustans

Map of bantustans in South West Africa (present-day Namibia) as of 1978

During the 1970s and 1980s, four ethnic bantustans, called "homelands" by the government of the time (some of which were extremely fragmented), were carved out of South Africa and given nominal sovereignty. Mostly Xhosa people resided in the Ciskei and Transkei, Tswana people in Bophuthatswana and Venda people in the Venda Republic.[24]

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 bantustans were reincorporated into a democratic South Africa on 27 April 1994.[citation needed]

The South African authorities established 10 bantustans in South West Africa (present-day Namibia), then illegally occupied by South Africa, in the late 1960s and early 1970s in accordance with the Odendaal Commission, three of which were granted self-rule. These bantustans were replaced with separate ethnicity based governments in 1980.

Post-Cold War

United States supported governments in Afghanistan and Iraq

The United States had many puppet states including the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan as well as the Iraqi Interim Government which both were military occupied by the United States.[25][26] The US also military occupied parts of Latin America during the Banana Wars and installed puppet regimes in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Mexico.[27]

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.

Republic of Serbian Krajina

The Republic of Serbian Krajina was a self proclaimed and by Serbian forces ethnic cleansed territory during the Croatian War (1991–95). It was not recognized internationally. That regime was completely dependent to the Serbian regime of Slobodan Milošević.[28]

Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic

The Donetsk People's Republic and the Luhansk People's Republic were two self proclaimed republics in eastern Ukraine considered to be puppet states supported by Russia.[29][30] Russia annexed the DPR and the LPR on 30 September 2022, following the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.



  •   Artsakh - A self-declared independent state heavily populated by Armenians, it is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan. Russian peacekeepers control the Lachin corridor that allows traffic to reach Armenia, on which it is heavily dependent.[31][32]


  •   Wa State – The de facto independent Wa State in Myanmar is considered a puppet state that is linked with China.[33][34]


Abkhazian President Alexander Ankvab with Transnistrian President Yevgeny Shevchuk in 2013. Both Abkhazia and Transnistria have been described as puppet states of Russia.
  •   Abkhazia is considered a puppet state that depends on Russia.[35][36] 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.[37] Most Abkhazians have Russian passports.[38] Russia maintains a 3,500-strong force in Abkhazia with its headquarters in Gudauta, a former Soviet military base on the Black Sea coast.[39] The borders of the Republic of Abkhazia are being protected by the Russian border guards.[40]
  •   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.[41]

By limited opinion


Saudi Arabia

United Arab Emirates




See also


  1. ^ a b Morgan Shuster. "The Strangling of Persia: A Story of European Diplomacy and Oriental Intrigue". p. 221 – via No Ruz in: Near East Journal, 21 March 1912.
  2. ^ Compare: Marek, Krystyna (1954). Identity and Continuity of States in Public International Law. Library Droz. p. 178. ISBN 9782600040440. [...] an allegedly independent, but 'actually' dependent, i.e. puppet State [...].
  3. ^ McNeely, Connie L. (1995). Constructing the Nation-state: International Organization and Prescriptive Action. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 61. ISBN 978-0-313-29398-6. Retrieved 13 September 2017. The term 'puppet state' is used to describe nominal sovereigns under effective foreign control...
  4. ^ Raič, David (2002). Statehood and the Law of Self-Determination. Kluwer Law International. p. 81. ISBN 90-411-1890-X. Retrieved 13 September 2017. In most cases, puppet States are created by the occupant during occupation of a State, for the purpose of circumventing the former's international responsibility regarding the violation of the rights of the occupied State.
  5. ^ Lemkin, Raphaël (2008) [1944]. Axis Rule in Occupied Europe: Laws of Occupation, Analysis of Government, Proposals for Redress. The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd. p. 11. ISBN 978-1-58477-901-8. Retrieved 30 June 2019. The creation of puppet states or of puppet governments does not give them any special status under international law in the occupied territory. Therefore the puppet governments and puppet states have no greater rights in the occupied territory than the occupant himself. Their actions should be considered as actions of the occupant and hence subject to the limitations of the Hague Regulations.
  6. ^ Shapiro, Stephen (2003). Ultra Hush-hush. Annick Press. p. 38. ISBN 1-55037-778-7. 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
  7. ^ Harper, Douglas. "puppet (n.)". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  8. ^ Şirin, İbrahim (February 2014). "İki Hükümet Bir Teşkilat: Garbî Trakya Hükümet-i Muvakkatesi'nden Cenub-î Garbî Kafkas Hükümeti Muvakkate- î Milliyesi'ne" [Two Governments One Organisation: From the Provisional Government of Western Thrace to the Provisional Government of South-Western Caucasia] (PDF). History Studies (in Turkish). historystudies.net. 6 (2): 125–142. doi:10.9737/historys1130. ISSN 1309-4688: See translated abstract on page 125{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: postscript (link)
  9. ^ Serhii Plokhii (27 February 2022). "Casus Belli: Did Lenin Create Modern Ukraine?". Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute. Retrieved 8 July 2022.
  10. ^ Yekaterina Sinelschikova (3 August 2021). "USSR's first AEROWAGON - and the dark story behind it (PHOTOS + VIDEO)". RBTH. Retrieved 7 July 2022.
  11. ^ 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., Solihull, West Midlands, England, pg.7–36.
  12. ^ 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., Solihull, West Midlands, England, pg.49–57,88–89.
  13. ^ 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., Solihull, West Midlands, England, pg.44–47,85–87.
  14. ^ 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., Solihull, West Midlands, England, pg.63–89.
  15. ^ ...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
  16. ^ Serbia also had a Nazi puppet regime headed by Milan Nedic @ The Balkanization of the West: The Confluence of Postmodernism and Postcommunism – Page 198
  17. ^ Taqoosh, Muhammad Sahil (2015). تاريخ العراق (الحديث والمعاصر) [Modern and contemporary history of Iraq] (in Arabic). Dar Al-Nafaes. pp. 190–191.
  18. ^ Arfa, Hassan. "Reza Shah Pahlavi: Shah of Iran: Policies as Shah". Encyclopædia Britannica online. Britannica.com. Retrieved 25 November 2017.
  19. ^ a b c The Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania (Postcommunist States and Nations) David J. Smith from Front Matter ISBN 0-415-28580-1
  20. ^ a b c Mälksoo, Lauri (2003). Illegal Annexation and State Continuity: The Case of the Incorporation of the Baltic States by the USSR. Leiden – Boston: Brill. ISBN 90-411-2177-3.
  21. ^ 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 90-420-0890-3
  22. ^ Dae-Kyu, Yoon (2003). "The Constitution of North Korea: Its Changes and Implications". Fordham International Law Journal. 27 (4): 1289–1305. Retrieved 10 August 2020.
  23. ^ Park, Seong-Woo (23 September 2009). "북 개정 헌법 '선군사상' 첫 명기" Bug gaejeong heonbeob 'seongunsasang' cheos myeong-gi [First stipulation of the 'Seongun Thought' of the North Korean Constitution] (in Korean). Radio Free Asia. Retrieved 10 August 2020.
  24. ^ "Trump's Plan for Palestine Looks a Lot Like Apartheid". Foreign Policy. 27 February 2020.
  25. ^ "Iraqis rise up against 16 years of 'made in the USA' corruption".
  26. ^ F. Haider Alvi (9 January 2022). "The U.S. failed in Afghanistan by trying to moralize with bullets and bombs". Theconversation.com. Retrieved 18 August 2022.
  27. ^ http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB222/family_jewels_full_ocr.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  28. ^ Shattuck, John (30 June 2009). Freedom on Fire. ISBN 9780674043480. Retrieved 3 January 2020.
  29. ^ Nikolaus von Twickel, Gwendolyn Sasse, Mario Baumann. "Russian Analytical Digest No 214: The Armed Conflict in Eastern Ukraine". ETH Zurich.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  30. ^ Tymur Korotkyi, Nataliia Hendel (2018). The Legal Status of the Donetsk and Luhansk "Peoples' Republics". pp. 145–170. doi:10.1007/978-94-6265-222-4_7. ISBN 978-94-6265-221-7.
  31. ^ "The Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and the Exercise of "Self-Defense" to Recover Occupied Land". Just Security. 10 November 2020.
  32. ^ Sassounian, Harut (2 November 2020). "Putin Finally Reveals His Solution to the Artsakh Conflict". The Armenian Weekly.
  33. ^ Slodkowski, Antoni; Lee, Yimou (28 December 2016). "Through reclusive Wa, China's reach extends into Suu Kyi's Myanmar". Reuters. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
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  35. ^ Coffey, Luke (1 June 2012). "Georgia and Russia: The occupation too many have forgotten". thecommentator.com. Archived from the original on 20 December 2013. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
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  37. ^ Nikolaus von Twickel (26 August 2011). "No Clear Frontrunner as Abkhazia Goes to Poll". The Moscow Times.
  38. ^ "BBC News – Regions and territories: Abkhazia". BBC News. London: BBC. 22 November 2011. Retrieved 19 January 2012.
  39. ^ "Russian Troops in Abkhazia to Get Air-Conditioned APCs". RIA Novosti. 19 April 2013.
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  41. ^ McLaughlin, Daniel (12 September 2008). "Russia insists it has no imperial ambitions for ex-Soviet neighbours". The Irish Times. Retrieved 26 June 2021.
  42. ^ Reuters Staff (28 March 2015). "Yemen president calls Houthis 'Iran's puppet'". Reuters. Retrieved 16 January 2021. {{cite news}}: |author= has generic name (help)
  43. ^ Juneau, Thomas (16 May 2016). "No, Yemen's Houthis actually aren't Iranian puppets". Washington Post. Retrieved 31 January 2021.
  44. ^ "ANALYSIS: Saudi Arabia plays puppet master as Yemen slowly breaks apart". Middle East Eye. 2 February 2018.
  45. ^ Browning, Noah (11 May 2018). "UAE extends military reach in Yemen and Somalia". reuters.com.
  46. ^ "Yemen on the brink: how the UAE is profiting from the chaos of civil war". The Guardian. 21 December 2018. Retrieved 31 December 2018.
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  53. ^ Dodd, Clement Henry (1993). The political, social and economic development of Northern Cyprus. Eothen Press. p. 377. ISBN 9780906719183. 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...
  54. ^ Robertson, Dylan C. (5 March 2014). "Is Transnistria the ghost of Crimea's future?". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
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  57. ^ Beaucillon, Charlotte (17 August 2021). "The European Unions position and practice with regard to unilateral and extraterritorial sanctions". Research Handbook on Unilateral and Extraterritorial Sanctions: 110–129. doi:10.4337/9781839107856.00014. ISBN 9781839107856. S2CID 238717787 – via www.elgaronline.com.
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Further reading

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