For a world I'm building I would like to have a nation that is a puppet of a larger empire. I know that a puppet state is a state that is supposedly independent but is in fact dependent upon an outside power. It is nominally sovereign but effectively controlled by a foreign or otherwise alien power, for reasons such as financial interests.

A puppet state preserves the external paraphernalia of independence like a name, flag, anthem, constitution, law codes and motto but in reality is an organ of another state which created or sponsored the government. Puppet states are not recognized as legitimate under international law.

I've look at example like Vichy France, and Manchukuo and a few others, but i'm still really uncertain the rules of a puppeted nation/state are...

Added Info from suggestion from comments


To add more of a backstory as suggested in the comments, The conquering empire is one with One-party totalitarian military dictatorship under an absolute monarchy, much like Japan in WW2. The conquered nation (before it is puppeted) was a much like The Kingdom Romania a constitutional monarchy.

The Conquering nation wants to simply wanted to conquer this nation to expand its territories and bring the continent they share under their rule. They desired to create a puppet of the conquered nation to hold dominance and influence the people.

Question: Besides what I stated above, are there any other rules that the puppet state/Nation would have to follow, are there any rules I should consider from a world building perspective?

If anything is unclear please let me know I am always looking for ways to improve.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ It is not uncommn for supposedly puppet states to come alive like Pinocchio and start having aspirations of their own... See Prague Spring and Solidarity for example. As soon as the puppeteer lets their attention wander away, the puppet begins taking its independence seriously. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 14:36
  • $\begingroup$ This question is too vague. Are you looking for a list of political mechanisms that enforce the international relationship? A list of economic mechanisms? A list of military mechanisms? Are you looking for a list of personal requirments? A description of how to control each governmental type? As asked, the answer appears to be very, very long and involved. Let's start by having you include in your question the governing types of the two states before one became a puppet and what brought about the puppet condition (backstory). $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 15:58
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ There are different degrees and methods of puppetry. Only the the most obvious ones would not get international recognition. All ex-Soviet satellites were effectively puppets, but nobody questioned their legitimacy as nations. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 16:27
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH Thanks for the suggestion I have updated the question from your comment. $\endgroup$
    – Spy201
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 17:05

2 Answers 2


Since a "puppet state" is not a legal concept but realpolitik, there are no firm rules. Here are a few thoughts:

  • There must have been a reason why the overlord didn't outright conquer the puppet. If those reasons still hold, both the overlord and the puppet will go to great pains to uphold the pretense of sovereignty. The puppet will be more prickly than a truly sovereign state.
  • The overlord will leave the day-to-day policing of the puppet state to the puppet government, using the local cops and courts paid by local taxes. That's one key reason why there are puppet governments -- occupation is costly, and foreign troops might cause more resistance than local quislings.
  • The puppet government will mimic economic and other policies of the overlord. If one is communist, so is the other. If one is capitalist, so is the other.
  • The puppet state will generally vote in international bodies like the UN exactly as the overlord did.
  • The puppet state will trade in the interest of the overlord, not in their own interest.
  • The overlord has military bases on the puppet's territory where their forces can do as they please, and there are no reciprocal rights for puppet bases on the overlord's territory.

Um... the rules are set by the puppeteer state as they please and can enforce. You can be hands off or hands on, but the only real defining characteristic of a puppet state is that the "legitimate" sovereign can be vetoed by another nation's own initiative. I'd also look at some of the former Soviet Union Satellite States, and even some of America's less than savory dictators who were supported because they were anti-communist.

The British Commonwealth is another example for something that is a bit more hands off, as the Queen of England is the Monarch of New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and a host of other nations that otherwise have self rule. Japan is a nation that is self-puppeted as the Emperor has historically always ruled Japan, but his control was regulated by the Shogun up until the Meiji Restoration (See WWII for how that ended) and then by the Diet.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @RonJohn - True. My aim was to show that a puppet government is a nebulous claim with little meaning beyond that they government has an external influence. $\endgroup$
    – hszmv
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 15:14
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    $\begingroup$ This doesn't answer the OP's question. Rather, it's an extended comment referring the OP to more examples of puppet states in our own history. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 15:59
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ The Queen of England is not the monarch of Canada and some other countries. The Canadian head of state is Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada. It just so happens that the person in question holds a similar position with other nations, and we've agreed with those other nations on shared rules of succession. The latter isn't a trivial issue: in order to change the rule from male primogeniture to absolute primogeniture, the assorted countries that share the monarchy all had to agree, not just the United Kingdom. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 16:19
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    $\begingroup$ @KeithMorrison, and that insight is the very reason why this SE site benefits so much from worldwide participation. Thanks. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 17:22

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