Peoples Republic Of Tyranny / Real Life

This trope naturally derives from certain Real Life regimes' tendency to prove to the world that they're totally legit democracies. Please, however, add examples judiciously, and limit them to documentable, objective examples.

Modern Countries

  • Algeria: the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria. It's not particularly democratic, but at least it's not run by French colonists or Islamic fundamentalists, both of whom the current government ejected from the country. Although the various secret police forces have such an awfull human rights record they don't differ that much from the alternative.
  • Bangladesh: the People's Republic of Bangladesh, which presents something of an aversion, because it actually intends to be a legitimate democracy. However, it has a poor record of corruption and respect of human rights.
  • The Democratic Republic of the Congo has had many names in its short history, almost all of them of this sort (although "Zaire" is its most famous, it's not used at all anymore). Interestingly, unlike other countries on this list, it never technically practiced communism, not even In-Name-Only.
    • For the first few decades that it was a Belgian colony, it was known as the Congo Free State. "Free State"note  had nothing to do with "freedom"; it designated the entire region as the personal property of Leopold II, King of the Belgians — as opposed to property of Belgium itself. The indigenous population were... also treated as his property.
    • It was briefly known as the Republic of the Congo after independence from Belgium, although it spent most of this period as a straight-up dictatorship. Not to be confused with the modern Republic Of The Congo, a separate country on the other side of the Congo River (which is also a dictatorship).
    • It was known for a while as the Republic of Zaire, although it spent this period under the rule of Mobutu Sese Seko, who ruled the country as his own personal fiefdom. He claimed to have repudiated both communism and capitalism, but wound up just creating his own form of tyranny where he plundered every last cent he could from the country.
  • North Korea: the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. It's one of the worst examples on the list, as it constantly shills its freedom and generosity, but is one of the most notorious human rights violators in the modern world. The name is four lies for the price of one: it's not a democracy, it's not run by the people, it's not a republic (its head of state has been dead since 1994 and its ruling family is basically a hereditary monarchy), and it doesn't include all of Korea (although South Korea is equally guilty of that one, and they both claim all of Korea for themselves).
  • Laos: the Lao People's Democratic Republic. It has been communist since 1975, when the Pathet Lao, a communist movement closely allied with the Viet Minh, overthrew a 621-year-old monarchy and forced the abdication of King Savang Vatthana.
  • Burma: the Union of Myanmar, supposedly uniting the various ethnic groups in the country, but home of one of the longest-running civil wars in the world. Its former military junta was called the "State Peace and Development Council", making it look more like a think-tank than a dictatorship.
  • Sri Lanka: the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka presents a subversion, as you'd expect a country with that name to be a communist dictatorship, but it's an actual democratically elected government with a socialist policy. However, opinions on their conducts during Sri Lankan Civil War may vary.
  • Ukraine has a couple of splinter groups, the "Donetsk People's Republic" and the "Lugansk People's Republic", formed by pro-Russian separatists in the country's east. Although they're not communist, the Western media says they're certainly not democratic (while the Russian media says otherwise).
  • Venezuela: the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Socialist strongman Hugo Chávez chose the name as a nod to Simón Bolívar, hero of Venezuela's independence war in the 19th century. The idea was to model the country after Bolivar's ideal — which wasn't particularly democratic either, as he felt South America wasn't ready for democracy at the time — but the "Bolivarian Republic" was characterized by repression and dictatorship, in spite of its insistence that it endorses democracy. After his death, however, the country really went downhill under his succesor, Nicolas Maduro.

Historical Cases

  • Cambodia was known as the State of Democratic Kampuchea when it was run by the Khmer Rouge, a particularly brutal regime whose ideology was a bizarre rural-primitivist perversion of communism — rather than the usual trope of industrialization, the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot tried to make an agrarian utopia. It led to more than 20% of the country's population dying from famine, disease, and mass executions.
  • Croatia during World War II was the Independent State of Croatia, which was actually a Puppet State of Nazi Germany. It was otherwise recognized as part of Yugoslavia the whole time, and remained so until its real independence in 1991.
  • The Italian Social Republic, also known as the "Republic of Salò", was The Remnant of Benito Mussolini's regime in Italy. Mussolini was overthrown and later jailed by his post-fascist successors, but Otto Skorzeny and his SS troops freed him and gave him his little rump state. At all times it remained a Puppet State of Nazi Germany with no real authority, and the Nazis even nicked two bits for itself.
  • Libya under Muammar Gaddafi was known as the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. "Jamahiriya" ostensibly means "republic", but it's actually a word made up by Gaddafi himself; the normal Arabic word for "republic" is jumhūriya, meaning "public thing" (analogous to the English word, deriving from the Latin "res publica", which also means "public thing"). Gaddafi tried to pluralize the "public" bit to mean something along the lines of "state of the masses". The country became just "Libya" after Gaddafi was overthrown. Though much like Somalia, whether or not it qualifies as a country at all anymore is a different matter.
  • The First Mexican Republic only has the "first" and "Mexican" going for it. It wasn't a republic, but instead ruled as effectively a military dictatorship by Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, who even suspended the constitution to keep himself in power. He used this power as a Despair Gambit after losing the Texan Revolution to try to reconquer Texas.
  • The Holy Roman Empire was, as Voltaire noted, not holy, not Roman, and not an empire. It claimed to be the successor to the actual Western Roman Empire, which had collapsed some 300 years previously. The title "Holy Roman Emperor" was in fact given by The Pope to Charlemagne, who had conquered a big chunk of western Europe. Charlemagne proceeded to give Rome to the Pope to rule directly, and by the time of The Renaissance, the "Empire" was reduced to a loose confederation of autonomous cities and principalities in Germany, most of which had never even been a part of the original Roman Empire.
  • In fact, The Roman Empire itself is perhaps the Ur-Example, since it continued to call itself "the Senate and People of Rome" (Senatus Populusque Romanus, SPQR) despite the First Citizen controlling all of the Senator's and People's Tribune's decrees, either through veto or amassing those offices for themselves, and establishing an unofficial monarchy through hereditary succession. This fiction was maintained for several centuries until they finally dropped all pretense and declared the Republic officialy dead.
  • The Soviet Union was officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or the USSR. This suggests that it was a federation of "soviets", locally and democratically elected councils, run by the Supreme Soviet, a body elected by separate soviets to discharge their legislative business. In practice, the USSR was ruled entirely by the Communist Party, with the Supreme Soviet being merely a rubber stamp for legislation. The Soviet Union's satellite states also had names like this; Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania were all "People's Republics", and all of them dropped the "People's" when they became democratic countries (except Romania, which had a stint as the "Socialist Republic of Romania" under Nicolae Ceauşescu until he was deposed in 1989).
  • Yemen used to be two separate countries, North Yemen and South Yemen. South Yemen, formerly a British colony, became the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen and spent time as a unique Communist dictatorship with Islamic flavoring.

Political Movements and Parties

  • In Argentina, the military coup that deposed President Juan Perón was named the Revolución Libertadora, or "liberating revolution". Far from being liberating, it was even more restrictive than your usual military coup, banning even the mention of Perón's name.
  • In Colombia, the Centro Democrático party is neither centrist nor democratic. It is, in fact, very far right and led by a populist authoritarian who is constantly being investigated for his ties to paramilitary groups.
  • In Canada, conservative political parties on the provincial level tend to make themselves sound populist by naming (or renaming) themselves after the jurisdiction they run in or prominent official symbols of their region. Present-day examples include the Yukon Party, the recently-defunct Wildrose Party (in Alberta), the Saskatchewan Party, the Trillium Party (in Ontario), the Coalition Avenir Quebec ("Coalition for Quebec's Future"), and the Atlantica Party (in Nova Scotia).
  • In Ecuador, president Rafael Correa has a policy of "democratic control" of the press, which is not democratic at all; it's just a way for him to exercise control of the press by claiming that the state has to ensure freedom of the press.
  • Eritrea is run by the People's Front for Democracy and Justice. Its rule is hardly just and democratic; Eritrea is dead last in world press freedom rankings, even beating out North Korea.
  • In Nicaragua, a common buzzword for the right-wing pro-Somoza side is "Nicaragua vuelve a ser Republica" ("Nicaragua will be a republic again"). It's not only meaningless, as Nicaragua is already technically the Republica de Nicaragua, but it's also quite hypocritical, given that the Somoza regime was best described as being a Hereditary Republic.
  • In Norway, the "Progress Party" is not a leftist progressive party, but rather a hard-right conservative party.
  • The "People's Temple" is the name of the movement founded by the Reverend Jim Jones, who preached equality among people and famously tried to start an agrarian socialist utopia with his followers in Guyana. He named the colony Jonestown, ran it with an iron fist, slowly went insane, and eventually forced the colony's members to commit ritual suicide.
  • "Positive Christianity" sounds like an uplifting philosophy, until you realize that it was invented by Nazi Germany as a way to spin Christianity to support its ideology, while simultaneously removing most of the Jewish elements from the religion.
  • In Russia, the Liberal Democratic Party is not liberal or democratic, but rather an ultra-nationalist party. It was engineered by the Communist Party and the KGB during the collapse of the Soviet Union as a sort of stalking horse to split the liberal vote. It has since evolved into a cult of personality around its showmanlike leader, who uses a lot of opposition rhetoric but whose policy actually tends to align with that of Vladimir Putin.
  • In The United States, no political movement's name seems to mean what it says:
    • Both of the two major political parties are guilty of this to a small extent. The Democratic Party selects its presidential candidate with a process including "superdelegates", who basically pick the nominee on the party's behalf regardless of how the people vote. The Republican Party likes to style itself as the "Grand Old Party", making itself look as if it has been around since the foundation of the country, when it's younger than even the Democrats.
    • The "American Freedom Party" is an obscure party whose main platform is a white supremacist ideology.
    • The "American Independent Party"note  was not derived from any real "independent" stance, but was more or less a vehicle for segregationist Alabama governor George Wallace.
    • The "Constitution Party" is a far-right Christian theocratic party. Many of its policies would contravene the U.S. Constitution, especially its prohibition on preferential treatment of any religion.
    • American left-wingers are known as "liberals", which makes them look this way to "traditional" liberals, who derive the name from the British Liberal Party and their liberal economic policy rather than social policy. That's why "Liberal" parties in other countries tend to be center-right parties. As American politics has come to dominate the global sphere, and as Americans are famously ignorant of the rest of the world, this leads to accusations of "pretending to be respectable" from both sides.

Allusions to the phenomenon

In English-speaking countries, the term "People's Republic" is sometimes used tongue-in-cheek to describe left-leaning places that aren't actually communist, but might as well be. Conservatives tend to use the label as a pejorative, while liberal areas might refer to themselves as such as an Appropriated Appellation.
  • In The United States, the label tends to be affixed to college towns, especially where they act as liberal bastions in otherwise heavily conservative states. College towns in liberal states like California or Massachusetts have to be really weird to get the label, but they frequently do. Cambridge, Massachusetts has even occasionally referred to itself as the "People's Republic of Cambridge" in official documents. The state of Vermont is also sometimes called a "People's Republic" for its liberal leanings, after it sent the only admitted Socialist, Bernie Sanders, to Congress.
  • In The United Kingdom, the label tends to arise from Thatcher-era tensions with labour unions, as the more socialist areas Oop North were given names like this as a pejorative (such as the "People's Republic of South Yorkshire"). Fife and Motherwell in Scotland get the label for actually electing real Communist MPs.
  • Canada will occasionally refer to itself as the "People's Republic of Canuckistan", as a way of poking fun at Americans for their relatively right-wing politics and relatively xenophobic views compared to Canada. Within Canada, the more socialist and independent Quebec will occasionally be styled with the French equivalent, the "République Populaire du Québec".
  • In Ireland, the "People's Republic of Cork" seems to have given itself the name for laughs, and also as a way of selling Che Guevara T-shirts.