"People's Republic" is a title used by some sovereign states with republican constitutions. The term was initially associated with populist movements in the 19th century such as the German Völkisch movement and the Narodniks in Russia. A number of the short-lived states created during World War I and its aftermath called themselves people's republics. Many of these were in the territory of the former Russian Empire which collapsed following the Russian Revolution of 1917. Additional people's republics were created following the Allied victory in World War II. The term has become associated with countries adhering to Marxism–Leninism, although its use is not unique to such states. A number of republics with liberal democratic political systems such as Algeria and Bangladesh adopted the title after popular wars of independence given its rather generic nature.
Marxist–Leninist people's republics (people's democracy)
The first Marxist–Leninist people's republics that came into existence were those formed following the Russian Revolution. Ukraine was briefly declared a people's republic in 1917, and in 1920 the Khanate of Khiva and the Emirate of Bukhara, both territories of the former Russian Empire, were declared people's republics. In 1921 the Russian protectorate of Tuva became a people's republic, followed in 1924 by neighbouring Mongolia. Following World War II, developments in Marxist–Leninist theory led to the appearance of people's democracy, a concept which potentially allowed for a route to socialism via multi-class, multi-party democracy. Countries which had reached this intermediate stage were called people's republics. The European states that became people's republics at this time were Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Yugoslavia. In Asia, China became a people's republic following the Chinese Communist Revolution and North Korea also adopted Marxism–Leninism to become a people's republic.
Many of these countries also called themselves socialist states in their constitutions. During the 1960s Romania and Yugoslavia ceased to use the term people's in their official name, replacing it with the term socialist as a mark of their ongoing political development. Czechoslovakia also added the term socialist into its name during this period; it had become a people's republic in 1948 but had not used that term in its official name. Albania used both terms in its official name from 1976 to 1991. In the West these countries are often referred to as communist states. However, none of them described themselves in that way; they regarded communism as a level of political development that they had not yet reached. The communist parties in these countries often governed in coalitions with other progressive parties.
During the postcolonial period a number of former European colonies that had achieved independence and adopted Marxist-Leninist governments took the name people's republic. Angola, Benin, Congo-Brazzaville, Ethiopia, Cambodia, Laos, Mozambique and South Yemen followed this route. Following the Revolutions of 1989, the people's republics of Central and Eastern Europe (Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Poland) along with Mongolia dropped the term people's from their names as it was associated with their former communist governments. They became known simply as republics and adopted liberal democracy as their system of government. At around the same time most of the former European colonies that had taken the people's republic name began to replace it as part of their move away from Marxism-Leninism.
The current officially socialist states that include the words people's republic in their full names:
- People's Republic of China (founded 1949)
- Lao People's Democratic Republic (founded 1975)
- Democratic People's Republic of Korea (founded 1948)
Historical examples include:
- People's Republic of Albania (1946–1976) and Socialist People's Republic of Albania (1976–1998)
- People's Republic of Angola (1975–1992)
- People's Republic of Benin (1975–1990)
- People's Republic of Bulgaria (1946–1990)
- People's Republic of the Congo (1969–1992)
- People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (1987–1991)
- Hungarian People's Republic (1949–1989)
- People's Republic of Kampuchea (1979–1989)
- People's Republic of Korea (1945–1946)
- Mongolian People's Republic (1924–1992)
- People's Republic of Mozambique (1975–1990)
- Polish People's Republic (1952–1989)
- Romanian People's Republic (1947–1965)
- Tuvan People's Republic (1921–1944)
- People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (1967–1990)
- Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia (1945–1963)
- Khorezm People's Soviet Republic (1920–1925)
- Bukharan People's Soviet Republic (1920–1925)
- Ukrainian People's Republic of Soviets (1917–1918; united into the Ukrainian Soviet Republic)
Other titles commonly used by Marxist–Leninist and socialist states are democratic republic (e.g. the German Democratic Republic or the Democratic Federal Yugoslavia between 1943 and 1946) and socialist republic (e.g. the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic).
Non-Marxist–Leninist people's republics
The collapse of the European empires during and following World War I resulted in the creation of a number of short-lived non-Marxist–Leninist people's republics during the period 1917–22. In many cases these governments were unrecognised and often had Marxist–Leninist rivals.
The Russian Empire produced several non-Marxist–Leninist people's republics after the October Revolution. The Crimean People's Republic was opposed to the Bolsheviks and the latter went on to capture its territory and establish the Taurida Soviet Socialist Republic. The socialist-leaning Ukrainian People's Republic declared its independence from the Russian Republic, but it had a rival in the Ukrainian People's Republic of Soviets (later Ukrainian Soviet Republic) whom it fought during the Ukrainian War of Independence. The Belarusian People's Republic tried to create an independent Belarusian state in land controlled by the German Imperial Army, but the Socialist Soviet Republic of Byelorussia replaced it once the German army had left. All of these territories finally became constituent parts of the Soviet Union.
In the former Austro-Hungarian Empire the West Ukrainian People's Republic was formed in eastern Galicia under the political guidance of Greek Catholic, liberal and socialist ideologies. The territory was subsequently absorbed into the Second Polish Republic. Meanwhile in Hungary the Hungarian People's Republic was established, briefly replaced by the Hungarian Soviet Republic, and eventually succeeded by the Kingdom of Hungary.
In Germany the People's Republic of Bavaria – a name sometimes translated as People's State of Bavaria (German: Freier Volksstaat Bayern) – was a short-lived socialist state formed in Bavaria during the German Revolution of 1918–19 as a rival to the Bavarian Soviet Republic. It was succeeded by the Free State of Bavaria which existed within the Weimar Republic.
During the 1960s and 1970s a number of former colonies that had gained independence through revolutionary liberation struggles adopted the name people's republic. Examples include Algeria, Bangladesh and Zanzibar. Libya adopted the term after its Al Fateh Revolution against King Idris.
In Ukraine in the 2010s, separatist movements during the War in Donbass declared the oblasts of Donetsk and Luhansk to be people's republics, but they have not received diplomatic recognition from the international community.
- People's Democratic Republic of Algeria (founded 1962)
- People's Republic of Bangladesh (founded 1971)
- Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (1977–2011)
- Ukrainian People's Republic (1917–1921; succeeded by the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic)
- West Ukrainian People's Republic (1918–1919; joined the Ukrainian People's Republic)
- Belarusian People's Republic (1918–1919; unrecognized)
- Crimean People's Republic (1917–1918; unrecognized)
- Hungarian People's Republic (1918–1919; unrecognized)
- People's Republic of Zanzibar (1963–1964)
The term "People's Republic" is sometimes used by critics and satirists to describe areas perceived to be dominated by left-wing politics. Some examples are the People's Republic of New Jersey, the People's Republic of California, the People's Republic of Dublin South-Central, the People's Republic of Cambridge, Massachusetts, the People's Republic of South Yorkshire, the People's Republic of Boulder, the People's Republic of Brighton, the People's Republic of Madison, the People's Republic of Takoma Park, and the People's Republic of Johnson County.
- Democratic republic
- Islamic republic
- List of republics
- List of socialist states
- Soviet republic (system of government)
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