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The Medwedian Democratic Federation is a dictatorship that occupies the northernmost part of Eurasia (roughly northern half of Russia) in an alternative world. Due to a better climate and slightly different geography, the population density of the superpower is much higher than that of corresponding Russian areas, with a total population of around 500 million people, which mostly concentrate in the cities and in the agricultural-industrial areas of the south and southeast.

The country is ruled by a (neo)feudalist elite/nomenkulatura which basically treats it not as a nation but as their own “private enterprise”, from which they draw its wealth. The elite is socially isolated from most other classes (only directly coming into contact with the wealthy yet powerless sub-elite that performs mainly managerial and executive tasks as well as regional and colonial elites) and highly guarded by the military, spending most of their time living in luxury gated communities.

The country was formed in a simultaneous military coup within several duchies and kingdoms during the late 18th century and evolved from a provisional military dictatorship inspired by France and America to the present, exploitative state in which the majority of the population is basically enslaved, toiling and starving under inhumane work conditions. The outward stability of the regime is mainly drawn from a rich abduance in natural resources (and the offer of cheap labor, the elite and major Western firms cooperating to produce “almost for free”) and a large nuclear arsenal.

As such, the elite mainly amalgnated from families of lesser aristocracy and clergy, merchants, military officers and various demagogues and usurpers who took the chance during the first decades of the nation, when social mobility was still high. During the years, it entrenched itself. The position of the dictator is “semi-hereditary”, the various families “taking their turns” (but without a hard plan). The complete governmental, ideological, economical and military apparatus is populated by the elite, down to the level of medium regions (where the sub-elite and local clans of power take over).

Naturally, the elite will self-regulate its size, through the means of prescribing the number of children and regularly purging not-so-important families when it gets too big and the internal conflicts heat up, which will probably happen every time the dictator dies and a new one must be chosen.

My question pertains to the numerical size of the elite.

How big must the elite be, provided that:

  • the country in question encompasses an area roughly comparable to the northern half of Russia and posesses numerous colonies
  • the population size is roughly 500 million
  • the country is mainly agrarian and industrial, exporting resources and offering cheap labor, securing itself militaristically

so that

  • it can effectively always (micro)manage all matters down to regional/sub-regional level and serve as a mediating party in lesser occasions when required
  • hold the illusion that there are regular leadership changes without collapsing in infighting
  • genetic diversity stays high enough provided that the elite does not outmarry at all (strict endogamy within the class) and
  • different individual “levels” (“greater” and “lesser” families) can form within it but a sub-class or group of individual clans can not completely take power unless it usurps it in a purge.
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  • $\begingroup$ Does this number include the entire military or just an elite faction of the military, say the officer corps? $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Oct 7 '18 at 0:46
  • $\begingroup$ The elite is a “melting pot” between the former military, aristocratic, economical and cultural elites. All members hold high military ranks while simultaneously being businessmen. Ordinary soldiers are drafted from the lower classes and are treated like expendable cannon meat. Officers are drafted from the middle classes, and becoming a Colonel or Brigadier is viewed by some as a viable career but grants a slightly better pension and/or basic Party membership at most, with no real power involved. $\endgroup$ – MedwedianPresident Oct 7 '18 at 0:48
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    $\begingroup$ This is a storybuilding question. To make a point: How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Answer: As many as wanting. Regrettably, there isn't a formula for things like this (though economic elitism comes close, say 1%), but in reality power is held by as many as can get it, but that's based on your story because it's based on the whim of opportunity, aggression, and the cleverness of individuals. I strongly recommend taking this question to the sandbox. $\endgroup$ – JBH Oct 7 '18 at 1:15
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    $\begingroup$ Try the size of the Chinese Communist party out for size. $\endgroup$ – pojo-guy Oct 7 '18 at 1:16
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    $\begingroup$ "The position of the dictator is “semi-hereditary”, the various families “taking their turns” (but without a hard plan)." I smell war brewing. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Oct 7 '18 at 3:12
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How much supervision do you need?

  • Take a city, a megacity district, or a rural farming region with 1,000,000 people. The mayor of that has to be "elite" or you get regional managers with real power in their hands. Same for the police chief, chief tax administrator, some senior judges, etc. (Glass ceiling: only "elites" become Federal judges.)
  • An industrialized country can maintain 1% of their population in the armed forces indefinitely. Say the same district I mentioned supports one division or the equivalent. The division commander, chief of staff, brigade commanders, and a few others will be "elite" or you have military officers with real power in their hands. (Glass ceiling: only "elites" get promoted to brigadier general and beyond.)
  • Some key jobs in the economy will also held by "elite" managers.

Say for those 1,000,000 people, you need 25 nomenklatura members calling the shots. Those million were inhabitants, from the cradle to the grave. Assume that for each "productive" nomenklatura member there is on average one wastrel playboy who needs a make-believe job, two family members looking after children, two retirees, and two children.

200 "elites" per 1,000,000 people gives 100,000 "elites" total, including 12,500 with "real power" and 87,500 "family."

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