A stratocracy (from στρατός, stratos, "army" and κράτος, kratos, "dominion", "power") is a form of government headed by military chiefs.[1] It is not the same as a military dictatorship or military junta where the military's political power is not enforced or even supported by other laws. Rather, stratocracy is a form of military government in which civil and military service are difficult to distinguish, where the state and the military are traditionally or constitutionally the same entity, and that government positions are always occupied by commissioned officers and military leaders.

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. It does not necessarily need to be autocratic or oligarchic by nature in order to preserve its right to rule.

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.[2]

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 James Illingworth serving as administrator from February 2017.

Historical stratocracies

Cossacks were predominantly East Slavic people who became known as members of democratic, semi-military and semi-naval communities,[3] predominantly located in Ukraine and in Southern Russia. They inhabited sparsely populated areas and islands in the lower Dnieper,[4] Don, Terek, and Ural river basins, and played an important role in the historical and cultural development of both Russia and Ukraine.[5]

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.[6]

One of the most distinguished and, perhaps, long lived example of Stratocratic state is Rome, though the stratocratic system developed over time. Following the disposition of the last Roman Monarch Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, Rome became an Oligarchic Republic. However, with gradual expansion of the empire and conflicts with its rival Carthage which eventually led to the Punic wars, Roman Political and Military system experienced drastic changes. Following the Marian reforms, de-facto political power became concentrated under Military Leadership, as loyalty of the Legionaries shifted from Senate to its Generals. This ultimately led to, following series of civil wars, to the formation of the Roman Empire, head of which bore title of "Imperator", previously a honorary title for distinguished military commanders. Following the formation of the Empire, Emperors were elected by the Army, with Praetorian Guard having a decisive role in the succession, until Emperor Constantine abolished it. Militarization of the Empire increased over time, which is especially seen in Byzantine Era, when Emperors spend most of their reign on the fields in military campaigns. Vital political importance of the Army persisted up until destruction of the Empire in 1453.

Fictional stratocracies

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 strong meritocratic characteristics.

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 allows only those who complete their term of Federal Service to vote. 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 life on the state's behalf are fit to govern. While the government is a representative democracy, franchise is only granted to former members of the military due to this law (active military can neither vote nor serve political/non-military offices).

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.

The country of Amestris in the Fullmetal Alchemist manga and anime series is a nominal parliamentary republic, where parliament has been used as a facade 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.

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.

See also


  1. Bouvier, John; Gleason, Daniel A. (1999). Institutes of American law. The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd. p. 7. ISBN 978-1-886363-80-9.
  2. Burma 'approves new constitution'. BBC News. May 15, 2008.
  3. Cossacks lived along major rivers -- Dnieper, Don, Volga, Terek, Ural, Amur -- and had excellent naval capabilities and skills-- they were excellent fishermen and sea merchants in peaceful times and executed expert naval service in war times. Cossacks combined features of US cowboys, US cavalry, and the US Navy.
  4. R.P. Magocsi, A History of Ukraine, pp. 179–181
  5. Count Leo Tolstoy, a noted author, wrote "that all Russian history has been made by Cossacks. No wonder Europeans call all of us that...Our people as a whole wishes to be Cossacks."
  6. Harley, T. Rutherford. The Public School of Sparta, Greece & Rome, Vol. 3, No. 9 (May 1934) pp. 129-139.
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