republic [Lat. res publica,=public affair], today understood to be a sovereign state ruled by representatives of a widely inclusive electorate. The term republic formerly denoted a form of government that was both free from hereditary or monarchical rule and had popular control of the state and a conception of public welfare. It is in this sense that we speak of the ancient Roman republic. Today, in addition to the above characteristics, a republic is a state in which all segments of society are enfranchised and in which the state's power is constitutionally limited. Traditionally a republic is distinguished from a true democracy in that the republic operates through a representative assembly chosen by the citizenry, while in a democracy the populace participates directly in governmental affairs. In actual practice, however, most modern representative governments are closer to a republic than a democracy. The United States is an example of a federal republic, in which the powers of the central government are limited and the component parts of the nation, the states, exercise some measure of home rule. France is an example of a centralized republic, in which the component parts have more limited powers. The USSR, though in theory a grouping of federated republics and autonomous regions, was in fact a centralized republic until its breakup in 1991.

See F. Hermens, The Representative Republic (1958) and Introduction to Modern Politics (1959).

Government of Germany 1919–33, so named because the assembly that adopted its constitution met at Weimar in 1919. In its early years, the Weimar Republic was troubled by postwar economic and financial problems and political instability, but it had recovered considerably by the late 1920s. Its major political leaders included presidents Friedrich Ebert (1919–25) and Paul von Hindenburg (1925–34), as well as Gustav Stresemann, who was chancellor (1923) and foreign minister (1923–29). With the Great Depression, its political and economic collapse enabled Adolf Hitler to rise to power and become chancellor (1933), after which he suspended the Weimar constitution.

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known as Congo (Brazzaville) formerly Middle Congo

Republic, west-central Africa. Area: 132,047 sq mi (342,000 sq km). Population (2005 est.): 3,602,000. Capital: Brazzaville. Roughly half of the population belongs to one of the Kongo tribes. The Teke are less numerous, as are the Mboshi and several other peoples. Languages: French (official), various Bantu languages. Religions: Christianity (mostly Roman Catholic, also other Christians, Protestant); also traditional beliefs. Currency: CFA franc. A narrow coastal plain edges Congo's 100-mi (160-km) stretch of Atlantic coastline, rising into low mountains and plateaus that slope eastward in a vast plain to the Congo River. The country straddles the Equator; rainforests cover nearly two-thirds of the land, and wildlife is abundant. Congo has a mixed, developing economy. Mining products, crude petroleum, and natural gas account for more than 90percnt of the country's exports. A 1997 transitional constitution vested executive power in the president and legislative power in a national transitional council. In precolonial days the area was home to several thriving kingdoms, including the Kongo, which had its beginnings in the 1st millennium AD. The slave trade began in the 15th century with the arrival of the Portuguese; it supported the local kingdoms and dominated the area until its suppression in the 19th century. The French arrived in the mid-19th century and established treaties with two of the kingdoms, placing them under French protection prior to their becoming part of the colony of French Congo. In 1910 it was renamed French Equatorial Africa, and the area of the Congo became known as Middle (Moyen) Congo. In 1946 Middle Congo became a French overseas territory, and in 1958 it voted to become an autonomous republic within the French Community. Full independence came two years later. The area has suffered from political instability since independence. Congo's first president was ousted in 1963. A Marxist party, the Congolese Labor Party, gained strength, and in 1968 another coup, led by Major Marien Ngouabi, created the People's Republic of the Congo. Ngouabi was assassinated in 1977. A series of military rulers followed, at first militantly socialist but later oriented toward social democracy. Fighting between local militias in 1997 badly disrupted the economy; a peace process was under way at the beginning of the 21st century.

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or United Kingdom or Great Britain

Island country, western Europe, North Atlantic Ocean. It comprises Great Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales) and Northern Ireland. Area: 93,788 sq mi (242,910 sq km). Population (2005 est.): 60,020,000. Capital: London. The population is composed of English (major ethnic group), Scots, Irish, and Welsh and immigrants and their descendants from India, the West Indies, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Africa. Languages: English (official); also Welsh, Scottish Gaelic. Religions: Christianity (Protestant [Church of England—established; Church of Scotland—national], Roman Catholic, other Christians); also Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism. Currency: pound sterling. The country has hill, lowland, upland, highland, and mountain regions. Tin and iron ore deposits, once central to the economy, have become exhausted or uneconomical, and the coal industry, long a staple of the economy, began a steady decline in the 1950s that worsened with pit closures in the 1980s. Offshore petroleum and natural gas reserves are significant. Chief crops are barley, wheat, sugar beets, and potatoes. Major manufactures include motor vehicles, aerospace equipment, electronic data-processing and telecommunication equipment, and petrochemicals. Fishing and publishing also are important economic activities. The U.K. is a constitutional monarchy with two legislative houses; its chief of state is the sovereign, and the head of government is the prime minister.

The early pre-Roman inhabitants of Britain (see Stonehenge) were Celtic-speaking peoples, including the Brythonic people of Wales, the Picts of Scotland, and the Britons of Britain. Celts also settled in Ireland circa 500 BC. Julius Caesar invaded and took control of the area in 55–54 BC. The Roman province of Britannia endured until the 5th century AD and included present-day England and Wales. Germanic tribes, including Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, invaded Britain in the 5th century. The invasions had little effect on the Celtic peoples of Wales and Scotland. Christianity began to flourish in the 6th century. During the 8th and 9th centuries, Vikings, particularly Danes, raided the coasts of Britain. In the late 9th century Alfred the Great repelled a Danish invasion, which helped bring about the unification of England under Athelstan. The Scots attained dominance in Scotland, which was finally unified under Malcolm II (1005–34). William of Normandy (see William I) took England in 1066. The Norman kings established a strong central government and feudal state. The French language of the Norman rulers eventually merged with the Anglo-Saxon of the common people to form the English language. From the 11th century, Scotland came under the influence of the English throne. Henry II conquered Ireland in the late 12th century. His sons Richard I and John had conflicts with the clergy and nobles, and eventually John was forced to grant the nobles concessions in the Magna Carta (1215). The concept of community of the realm developed during the 13th century, providing the foundation for parliamentary government. During the reign of Edward I (1272–1307), statute law developed to supplement English common law, and the first Parliament was convened. In 1314 Robert the Bruce (see Robert I) won independence for Scotland. The house of Tudor became the ruling family of England following the Wars of the Roses (1455–85). Henry VIII (1509–47) established the Church of England and incorporated Wales as part of England.

The reign of Elizabeth I (1558–1603) began a period of colonial expansion; in 1588 British forces defeated the “invincible” Spanish Armada. In 1603 James VI of Scotland ascended the English throne, becoming James I, and established a personal union of the two kingdoms. The English Civil Wars erupted in 1642 between Royalists and Parliamentarians, ending in the execution of Charles I (1649). After 11 years of Puritan rule under Oliver Cromwell and his son (1649–60), the monarchy was restored with Charles II. In 1689, following the Glorious Revolution, Parliament proclaimed the joint sovereigns William III and Mary II, who accepted the British Bill of Rights. In 1707 England and Scotland assented to the Act of Union, forming the kingdom of Great Britain. The Hanoverians ascended the English throne in 1714, when George Louis, elector of Hanover, became George I of Great Britain. During the reign of George III, Great Britain's North American colonies won independence (1783). This was followed by a period of war (1789–1815) with Revolutionary France and later with the empire of Napoleon. In 1801 legislation united Great Britain with Ireland to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Britain was the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century, and it remained the world's foremost economic power until the late 19th century. During the reign of Queen Victoria (1837–1901), Britain's colonial expansion reached its zenith, though the older dominions, including Canada and Australia, were granted independence (1867 and 1901, respectively).

The U.K. entered World War I allied with France and Russia in 1914. Following the war, revolutionary disorder erupted in Ireland, and in 1921 the Irish Free State (see Ireland) was granted dominion status. Six counties of Ulster, however, remained in the U.K. as Northern Ireland. The U.K. entered World War II in 1939. Following the war, the Irish Free State became the Irish republic and left the Commonwealth. India also gained independence from the U.K. Throughout the postwar period and into the 1970s, the U.K. continued to grant independence to its overseas colonies and dependencies. With UN forces, it participated in the Korean War (1950–53). In 1956 it intervened militarily in Egypt during the Suez Crisis. It joined the European Economic Community, a forerunner of the European Union, in 1973. In 1982 it defeated Argentina in the Falkland Islands War. As a result of continuing social strife in Northern Ireland, it joined with Ireland in several peace initiatives, which eventually resulted in an agreement to establish an assembly in Northern Ireland. In 1997 referenda approved in Scotland and Wales devolved power to both countries, though both remained part of the U.K. In 1991 the U.K. joined an international coalition to reverse Iraq's conquest of Kuwait (see Persian Gulf War). In 2003 the U.K. and the U.S. attacked Iraq and overthrew the government of Ssubdotaddām Hsubdotussein (see Iraq War). Terrorist bombings in London in July 2005 killed more than 50 people.

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Part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland occupying the northeastern portion of the island of Ireland. Area: 5,461 sq mi (14,144 sq km). Population (2001): 1,685,267. Capital: Belfast. It is bounded by the republic of Ireland, the Irish Sea, the North Channel, and the Atlantic Ocean. Northern Ireland is often referred to as the province of Ulster. The people are descended from indigenous Irish and immigrants from England and Scotland. Language: English (official). Religions: Protestantism (the majority) and Roman Catholicism (a minority). Currency: pound sterling. Northern Ireland's industries include engineering, shipbuilding (which has been in severe decline), automobile manufacturing, textiles, food and beverage processing, and clothing. The service industry employs about three-fourths of the workforce, and manufacturing employs less than one-fifth of workers. Agriculture is important, with most farm income derived from livestock. Northern Ireland shares most of its history with the republic of Ireland, though Protestant English and Scots immigrating in the 16th–17th centuries tended to settle in Ulster. In 1801 the Act of Union created the United Kingdom, which united Great Britain and Ireland. In response to mounting Irish sentiment in favour of Home Rule, the Government of Ireland Act was adopted in 1920, providing for two partially self-governing units in Ireland: the northern six counties constituting Northern Ireland and the southern counties now making up the republic of Ireland. In 1968 civil rights protests by Roman Catholics sparked violent conflicts with Protestants and led to the occupation of the province by British troops in the early 1970s. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) mounted a prolonged campaign of violence in an effort to force the withdrawal of British troops as a prelude to Northern Ireland's unification with Ireland. In 1972 Northern Ireland's constitution and parliament were suspended, bringing the province under direct rule by the British. Violence continued for three decades before dropping off in the mid-1990s. In 1998 talks between the British government and the IRA resulted in a peace agreement that provided for extensive Home Rule in the province. In 1999 power was devolved to an elected assembly, though the body was hampered by factional disagreements. Sporadic sectarian strife continued in the early 21st century, as the IRA gradually carried out decommissioning (disarming).

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formerly Neu-Mecklenburg

Island and province (pop., 2000: 118,350), Bismarck Archipelago, Papua New Guinea. The island has an area of 3,340 sq mi (8,651 sq km) and is about 220 mi (350 km) long. The terrain is largely mountainous. The province includes many nearby smaller islands. It was discovered by Dutch navigators in 1616 but was little known before 1884, when it became part of a German protectorate. After World War I it was mandated to Australia. The island was occupied by the Japanese in World War II. When Papua New Guinea gained independence in 1975, it became part of that country. Most of the inhabitants live in the north. Copra production dominates commercial development.

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Country, western Europe, occupying the greater part of the island of Ireland west of Great Britain. Area: 27,133 sq mi (70,273 sq km). Population (2005 est.): 4,096,000. Capital: Dublin. The northeastern portion of the island is occupied by Northern Ireland. Although Ireland has been invaded and colonized by Celts, Norsemen, Normans, English, and Scots, ethnic distinctions are nonexistent. Languages: Irish, English (both official). Religion: Christianity (predominantly Roman Catholic; also Protestant). Currency: euro. Ireland's topography consists largely of broad lowlands drained by rivers that include the Shannon; its coasts are fringed with mountains. Nearly three-fifths of the population is urban; agriculture employs only a small percentage of the workforce. High technology, tourism, and other service industries are pivotal to the Irish economy, while mining, manufacturing, and construction also remain important. Ireland is a republic with two legislative houses; its chief of state is the president, and the head of government is the prime minister. Human settlement in Ireland began circa 6000 BC, and Celtic migration dates from circa 300 BC. St. Patrick is credited with having Christianized the country in the 5th century. Norse domination began in 795 and ended in 1014, when the Norse were defeated by Brian Boru. Gaelic Ireland's independence ended in 1175 when Roderic O'Connor, Ireland's high king, accepted English King Henry II as his overlord. Beginning in the 16th century, Irish Catholic landowners fled religious persecution by the English and were replaced by English and Scottish Protestant migrants. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was established in 1801. The Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s led as many as 1.5 million people to emigrate, and the British government's grudging and ineffective relief measures built momentum for Irish Home Rule. The Easter Rising (1916) was followed by virtual civil war (1919–21), during which the Irish Republican Army used guerrilla tactics to force the British government to negotiate. The Catholic majority in southern Ireland favoured complete independence, and the Protestant majority in the north preferred continued union with Britain. Southern Ireland was granted dominion status and became the Irish Free State in 1921, and in 1937 it adopted the name Éire (Ireland) and became a sovereign independent country. It remained neutral during World War II. Britain recognized the status of Ireland in 1949 but declared that cession of the northern six counties (Northern Ireland) could not occur without the consent of the Parliament of Northern Ireland. In 1973 Ireland joined the European Economic Community (later the European Community); it is now a member of the European Union. The last decades of the 20th century were dominated by sectarian hostilities between the island's Catholics and Protestants over the status of Northern Ireland. The Irish government played a pivotal role in negotiating and winning public support for the Belfast Agreement (1998), which gave the country a consultative role in the affairs of Northern Ireland and modified Ireland's constitution to remove its claim to the territory of the entire island.

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officially Republic of Moldova

Country, northeastern Balkan Peninsula, southeastern Europe. It is bordered by Ukraine and Romania. Area: 13,067 sq mi (33,843 sq km). Population (2007 est.): 3,794,000. Capital: Chissubcommaināu. Nearly half the population is Moldovan; there also are large numbers of Russians and Ukrainians, especially in Transdniestria (Transnistria; Pridnestrovie), the self-proclaimed republic located on the east bank of the Dniester River. Languages: Moldovan (official), Russian, Ukrainian. Religions: Christianity (mostly Eastern Orthodox, also other Christians), Islam. Currency: Moldovan leu. Most of Moldova is a fertile region lying between the Dniester and Prut rivers; the northern and central regions of the country are forested. The economy is based on agriculture; the major farm products are grapes, winter wheat, corn, and dairy products. Industry is centred on food processing. Moldova is a unitary parliamentary republic with one legislative body; its head of state is the president, and the head of government is the prime minister. The area of present-day Moldova consists of that part of the historic principality of Moldavia lying east of the Prut River (part of Romania before 1940) and, adjoining it on the south, the region of Bessarabia along the Black Sea coast. (See Moldavia for history prior to 1940.) The two regions were incorporated as the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1940. In 1991 Moldavia declared independence from the Soviet Union. It adopted the Moldovan spelling of Moldova, having earlier legitimized use of the Latin rather than the Cyrillic alphabet. Moldova was admitted to the UN in 1992. In 2000 it abandoned its semipresidential form of government to become a parliamentary republic.

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officially Republic of Madagascar

Country, occupying the island of Madagascar, in the western Indian Ocean off the southeast coast of Africa. The island is the world's fourth largest, about 975 mi (1,570 km) long and 355 mi (570 km) wide. It is separated from the African coast by the Mozambique Channel. Area: 226,658 sq mi (587,041 sq km). Population (2007): 19,683,000. Capital: Antananarivo. Almost all of the population belongs to about 20 Malayo-Indonesian groups. Languages: Malagasy, French, English. Religions: Christianity (Protestant, Roman Catholic), traditional beliefs, Islam. Currency: ariary. Madagascar's high central plateau rises to 9,436 ft (2,876 m) at the volcanic Tsaratanana massif; the island was once heavily forested, and forests still cover one-fifth of the land area. Agriculture dominates the economy; staple crops include rice, sugarcane, and cassava. Cash crops include cloves and vanilla. Aquaculture is also economically important. Madagascar is a republic with two legislative houses; its chief of state and head of government is the president, assisted by the prime minister. Indonesians migrated to Madagascar circa 700 CE. The first European to visit the island was Portuguese navigator Diogo Dias in 1500. Trade in arms and slaves allowed the Malagasy kingdoms to develop at the beginning of the 17th century. In the 18th century the Merina kingdom became dominant; with British assistance, it gained control of a large part of Madagascar in the early 19th century. In 1868 Merina signed a treaty granting France commercial access to the northwestern coast, and in 1895 French troops took the island. Madagascar became a French overseas territory in 1946. In 1958 France agreed to let the territory decide its own fate; as the Malagasy Republic, it gained independence in 1960 and severed ties with France in the 1970s, taking the name Democratic Republic of Madagascar in 1975 (the word “Democratic” was dropped in 1992). Following a brief period of military rule, in 1975 Didier Ratsiraka became president, and he ruled for most of the next 25 years. In the wake of the serious political crisis sparked by the 2001 presidential election, Marc Ravolomanana emerged as president and Ratsiraka left the country.

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officially Kingdom of Cambodia

Country, Southeast Asia. Area: 69,898 sq mi (181,035 sq km). Population (2005 est.): 13,327,000. Capital: Phnom Penh. The vast majority of the population belongs to the Khmer ethnic group. Language: Khmer (official). Religions: Buddhism (official); also traditional beliefs. Currency: riel. The landscape is dominated by large central plains; the Dangrek Mountains rise along the northern border. Cambodia lies largely in the basin of the Mekong River; the large lake Tonle Sap is in its western part. Much of the country is tropical forest. It is one of the world's poorest countries. Agriculture employs about three-fourths of the workforce. Cambodia is a constitutional monarchy with two legislative houses; its chief of state is the king, and its head of government is the prime minister. In the early centuries AD the area was under Hindu and, to a lesser extent, Buddhist influence. The Khmer state gradually spread in the early 8th century and reached its height under Jayavarman II and his successors in the 9th–12th centuries, when it ruled the Mekong valley and neighbouring states and built Angkor. Buddhism was widely adopted in the 13th century. From the 13th century the state was attacked by Annam and Tai (Siamese) city-states and was subject largely to Tai and Vietnamese hegemony. It became a French protectorate in 1863. It was occupied by the Japanese in World War II and became independent in 1954. Its borders were the scene of fighting in the Vietnam War from 1961, and in 1970 its northeastern and eastern areas were occupied by the North Vietnamese and penetrated by U.S. and South Vietnamese forces. A bombing campaign in Cambodia by U.S. warplanes alienated much of the population, enabling the communist Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot to seize power in 1975. Their regime of terror resulted in the deaths of at least 1.5 million Cambodians. Vietnam invaded in 1978 and drove the Khmer Rouge into the western hinterlands, but Cambodian infighting continued. A peace accord was reached by most Cambodian factions under UN auspices in 1991. Elections were held in 1993, and Norodom Sihanouk was restored to the monarchy. A civilian government slowly emerged under UN tutelage until 1997, when a coup by Hun Sen consolidated his position as prime minister. Hun Sen's party won legislative elections in 1998; also that year, Cambodia became part of ASEAN.

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Republic founded in March 1798, constituting the greater part of Switzerland, after it had been conquered by France in the French Revolutionary Wars. The government was patterned after that of the Directory in France. Delegates called on Napoleon to mediate in factional disputes, and in 1803 he substituted a new Swiss Confederation for the republic, forcing it into close association with France.

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officially Republic of the United Netherlands

Former state (1581–1795), about the size of the modern kingdom of The Netherlands. It consisted of the seven northern Netherlands provinces that formed the Union of Utrecht in 1579 and declared independence from Spain in 1581 (finally achieved in 1648). Political control shifted between the province of Holland and the princes of Orange. In the 17th century the Dutch Republic developed into a world colonial empire far out of proportion to its resources, emerging as a centre of international finance and a cultural capital of Europe. In the 18th century the republic's colonial empire was eclipsed by that of England. In 1795 the Dutch Republic collapsed under the impact of a Dutch democratic revolution and invading French armies.

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Country in the West Indies, occupying the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola, which it shares with Haiti. Area: 18,792 sq mi (48,671 sq km). Population (2005 est.): 8,895,000. Capital: Santo Domingo. The majority of the people are of mixed European-African ancestry; most of the rest are of European or African descent. Language: Spanish (official). Religion: Christianity (predominantly Roman Catholic; also Protestant). Currency: Dominican peso. The country is generally mountainous, with ranges and hills running from northwest to southeast. The Central Highlands reach 10,417 ft (3,175 m) at Duarte Peak, the highest point in the West Indies. The Cibao Valley in the north is noted for its fertility; the southwestern part of the country is generally dry with large stretches of desert. Traditionally dominated by sugar production, the Dominican Republic's mixed economy became increasingly diversified in the late 20th century, when the country experienced one of the world's highest economic growth rates, though widespread poverty remained despite a growing middle class. It is a republic with two legislative houses; its head of state and government is the president. The Dominican Republic was originally part of the Spanish colony of Hispaniola. In 1697 the western third of the island, which later became Haiti, was ceded to France; the remainder of the island passed to France in 1795. The eastern two-thirds of the island were returned to Spain in 1809, and the colony declared its independence in 1821. Within a matter of weeks it was overrun by Haitian troops and occupied until 1844. Since then the country has been under the rule of a succession of dictators, except for short interludes of democratic government, and the U.S. has frequently been involved in its affairs. The termination of the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in 1961 led to civil war in 1965 and U.S. military intervention. For the rest of the country, politics in the Dominican Republic were dominated by seven-time president Joaquín Balaguer. The country suffered from severe hurricanes in 1979 and 1998.

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formerly (1918–92, with Slovakia) Czechoslovakia

Country, central Europe. Area: 30,450 sq mi (78,866 sq km). Population (2006 est.): 10,260,000. Capital: Prague. Czechs make up about nine-tenths of the population; Slovaks and Moravians are the largest minorities. Language: Czech (official). Religion: Christianity (predominantly Roman Catholic, also other Christians, Protestant). Currency: koruna. The landlocked country is dominated by the Bohemian Massif, a ring of mountains rising to 5,256 ft (1,602 m) at Mount Snezka to encircle the Bohemian Plateau. The Morava River valley, known as the Moravian Corridor, separates the Bohemian Massif from the Carpathian Mountains. Woodlands are a characteristic feature of the Czech landscape; most regions have a moderate oceanic climate. The economy, privatized since 1990, is now largely market-oriented. The Czech Republic is a multiparty republic with two legislative houses; its chief of state is the president, and the head of government is the prime minister. Until 1918 its history was largely that of Bohemia. In that year the independent republic of Czechoslovakia was born through the union of Bohemia and Moravia with Slovakia. Czechoslovakia came under the domination of the Soviet Union after World War II, and from 1948 to 1989 it was ruled by a communist government. Its growing political liberalization was suppressed by a Soviet invasion in 1968 (see Prague Spring). After 1990, separatist sentiments emerged among the Slovaks, and in 1992 the Czechs and Slovaks agreed to break up their federated state. At midnight on Dec. 31, 1992, Czechoslovakia was peacefully dissolved and replaced by two new countries, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, with the region of Moravia remaining in the former. In 1999 the Czech Republic joined NATO, and in 2004 it became a member of the European Union.

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known as Congo (Brazzaville) formerly Middle Congo

Republic, west-central Africa. Area: 132,047 sq mi (342,000 sq km). Population (2005 est.): 3,602,000. Capital: Brazzaville. Roughly half of the population belongs to one of the Kongo tribes. The Teke are less numerous, as are the Mboshi and several other peoples. Languages: French (official), various Bantu languages. Religions: Christianity (mostly Roman Catholic, also other Christians, Protestant); also traditional beliefs. Currency: CFA franc. A narrow coastal plain edges Congo's 100-mi (160-km) stretch of Atlantic coastline, rising into low mountains and plateaus that slope eastward in a vast plain to the Congo River. The country straddles the Equator; rainforests cover nearly two-thirds of the land, and wildlife is abundant. Congo has a mixed, developing economy. Mining products, crude petroleum, and natural gas account for more than 90percnt of the country's exports. A 1997 transitional constitution vested executive power in the president and legislative power in a national transitional council. In precolonial days the area was home to several thriving kingdoms, including the Kongo, which had its beginnings in the 1st millennium AD. The slave trade began in the 15th century with the arrival of the Portuguese; it supported the local kingdoms and dominated the area until its suppression in the 19th century. The French arrived in the mid-19th century and established treaties with two of the kingdoms, placing them under French protection prior to their becoming part of the colony of French Congo. In 1910 it was renamed French Equatorial Africa, and the area of the Congo became known as Middle (Moyen) Congo. In 1946 Middle Congo became a French overseas territory, and in 1958 it voted to become an autonomous republic within the French Community. Full independence came two years later. The area has suffered from political instability since independence. Congo's first president was ousted in 1963. A Marxist party, the Congolese Labor Party, gained strength, and in 1968 another coup, led by Major Marien Ngouabi, created the People's Republic of the Congo. Ngouabi was assassinated in 1977. A series of military rulers followed, at first militantly socialist but later oriented toward social democracy. Fighting between local militias in 1997 badly disrupted the economy; a peace process was under way at the beginning of the 21st century.

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known as Congo (Kinshasa) formerly (1971–97) Republic of Zaire

Country, central Africa. Area: 905,354 sq mi (2,344,858 sq km). Population (2005 est.): 57,549,000. Capital: Kinshasa. Bantu speakers, including the Mongo, Kongo, and Luba, form a majority of the country's population; among non-Bantu speakers are Sudanese groups of the north. Languages: French, English (both official), Lingala, Swahili, Kongo, others. Religions: Christianity (Roman Catholic, Protestant, other Christians); also traditional beliefs, Islam. Currency: Congolese franc. The country, having the third largest land area in Africa, occupies the heart of the Congo River basin and is largely surrounded by high plateaus. At its narrow strip of Atlantic coast, the Congo River empties into the sea. The country straddles the Equator; its climate is humid and tropical. It is among the poorest countries in the world. Its economy is based on mining and agriculture. Exports include diamonds, petroleum, and coffee; mining produces copper, cobalt, and industrial diamonds. The country has a transitional government; the head of state and government is the president, assisted by four vice presidents. Prior to European colonization, several kingdoms had emerged in the region, including the 16th-century Luba kingdom and the Kuba federation, which reached its peak in the 18th century. European development began late in the 19th century when King Leopold II of Belgium financed Henry Morton Stanley's exploration of the Congo River. The 1884–85 Berlin West Africa Conference recognized the Congo Free State with Leopold as its sovereign. The growing demand for rubber helped finance the exploitation of the Congo, but abuses against local peoples outraged Western nations and forced Leopold to grant the Free State a colonial charter as the Belgian Congo (1908). Independence was granted in 1960. The postindependence period was marked by unrest, culminating in a military coup that brought Gen. Mobutu Sese Seko to power in 1965. He changed the country's name to Zaire in 1971. Mismanagement, corruption, and increasing violence devastated the infrastructure and economy. Mobutu was deposed in 1997 by Laurent Kabila, who restored the country's name to Congo. Instability in neighbouring countries, an influx of refugees from Rwanda, and a desire for Congo's mineral wealth led to military involvement by various African countries. Unrest continued into the beginning of the 21st century.

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Former republic, northern Italy. Created by Napoleon in 1797 from conquered territories, it was centred in the Po River valley and included the lands around Milan and Bologna. It was incorporated into the Napoleonic kingdom of Italy in 1805.

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formerly Ubangi-Shari

Country, central Africa. Area: 240,324 sq mi (622,436 sq km). Population (2005 est.): 4,038,000. Capital: Bangui. The people form heterogeneous ethnic groups, with the Banda, Baya (Gbaya), Mandjia, and Ngbaka constituting more than two-thirds of the inhabitants. Languages: French, Sango (both official), several others. Religions: Christianity (mostly other Christians [largely unaffiliated and independent]; also Roman Catholic, Protestant), Islam, traditional beliefs. Currency: CFA franc. The country is landlocked country and consists of a large rolling plateau. The northern half is characterized by savanna and is drained by tributaries of the Chari River. The southern half is densely forested. The country has a developing free-enterprise economy of mixed state and private structure, with agriculture as the main component. It is a republic with one legislative body; its chief of state is the president, assisted by the prime minister. For several centuries before the arrival of Europeans, the territory was exploited by slave traders. The French explored and claimed central Africa and in 1889 established a post at Bangui. They subsequently partitioned the territory into several colonies, one of which was Ubangi-Shari (Oubangui-Chari), the future Central African Republic; it later became part of French Equatorial Africa. Ubangi-Shari became a French overseas territory in 1946. It became an autonomous republic within the French Community in 1958 and achieved independence in 1960. In 1965 the military overthrew a civilian government and installed Jean-Bédel Bokassa, who in 1976 renamed the country the Central African Empire. He was overthrown in 1979 and the former name was restored, but the military again seized power in the 1980s. Elections in 1993 led to installation of a civilian government, which attempted to deal with continued political and economic instability that persisted into the 21st century. The government was overthrown in a 2003 coup, which led to the promulgation of a new constitution in 2004. A democratically elected government was installed in 2005.

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Republic of the Netherlands after it was conquered by France in 1795. Its government, set up in 1798, was bound to France by alliance. In 1805 Napoleon renamed it the Batavian Commonwealth and placed executive power in the hands of a dictator. In 1806 it was replaced by the Kingdom of Holland under the rule of Louis Bonaparte; it was incorporated into the French empire in 1810.

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A republic is a state or country that is not led by a hereditary monarch, but in which the people (or at least a part of its people) have impact on its government. The word originates from the Latin term res publica, which literally translates as "public thing" or "public matter".

The organization of republics can vary widely. The first section of this article gives an overview of the characteristics that distinguish different types of republics. The second section of the article gives some short profiles of the most influential republics by way of illustration. A more comprehensive list of republics appears in a separate article. The third section is about how republics are approached as state organizations in political science: in political theory and people governed.

Characteristics of republics

Head of state

In most modern republics the head of state is termed president. Other titles that have been used are consul, doge, archon and many others. In republics that are also democracies the head of state is selected as the result of an election. This election can be indirect, such as if a council of some sort is elected by the people, and this council then elects the head of state. In these kinds of republics the usual term for a president is in the range of four to six years. In some countries the constitution limits the number of terms the same person can be elected as president. This type of democracy was used in Ancient Rome.

If the head of state of a republic is at the same time the head of government, this is called a presidential system (example: United States). In semi-presidential systems and parliamentary republics, where the head of state is not the same person as the head of government, the latter is usually termed prime minister, premier or chancellor. Depending on what the president's specific duties are (for example, advisory role in the formation of a government after an election), and varying by convention, the president's role may range from the ceremonial and apolitical to influential and highly political. The Prime Minister is responsible for managing the policies and the central government. The rules for appointing the president and the leader of the government, in some republics permit the appointment of a president and a prime minister who have opposing political convictions: in France, when the members of the ruling cabinet and the president come from opposing political factions, this situation is called cohabitation. In countries such as Germany and India, however, the president needs to be strictly non-partisan.

In some countries, like Switzerland and San Marino, the head of state is not a single person but a committee (council) of several persons holding that office. The Roman Republic had two consuls, appointed for a year by the senate. During the year of their consulship each consul would in turn be head of state for a month at a time, thus alternating the office of consul maior (the consul in power) and of consul suffectus (the subordinate consul who retained some independence, and held certain veto powers over the consul maior) for their joint term.

Republics can be led by a head of state that has many of the characteristics of a monarch: not only do some republics install a president for life, and invest such president with powers beyond what is usual in a representative democracy, examples such as the post-1970 Syrian Arab Republic show that such a presidency can apparently be made hereditary. Historians disagree when the Roman Republic turned into Imperial Rome: the reason is that the first Emperors were given their head of state powers gradually in a government system that in appearance did not originally much differ from the Roman Republic.

Similarly, countries usually qualified as monarchies can have many traits of a republic in terms of form of government. The political power of monarchs can be non-existent, limited to a purely ceremonial function or the impact by the people on the country's government can be exerted to the extent that they appear to have the power to have their monarch replaced by another one.

The often assumed "mutual exclusiveness" of monarchies and republics as forms of government is thus not to be taken too literally, and largely depends on circumstances:

  • Autocrats might try to give themselves a democratic tenure by calling themselves president (or princeps or princeps senatus in the case of Ancient Rome), and the form of government of their country "republic", instead of using a monarchic based terminology.
  • For full-fledged representative democracies ultimately it generally does not make all that much difference whether the head of state is a monarch or a president, nor, in fact, whether these countries call themselves a monarchy or a republic. Other factors, for instance, religious matters (see next section) can often make a greater distinguishing mark when comparing the forms of government of actual countries.

For this reason, in political science the several definitions of "republic", which in such a context invariably indicate an "ideal" form of government, do not always exclude monarchy: the evolution of such definitions of "republic" in a context of political philosophy is treated in republicanism. However, such theoretical approaches appear to have had no real influence on the everyday use (that is: apart from a scholar or "insider" context) of the terminology regarding republics and monarchies.

The least that can be said is that Anti-Monarchism, the opposition to monarchy as such, did not always play a critical role in the creation and/or management of republics. For some republics, not choosing a monarch as head of state, could as well be a practical rather than an ideological consideration. Such "practical" considerations could be, for example, a situation where there was no monarchical candidate readily available. However, for the states created during or shortly after the Enlightenment the choice was always deliberate: republics created in that period inevitably had anti-monarchical characteristics. For the United States the opposition of some to the British Monarchy played a role, as did the overthrow of the French Monarchy in the creation of the first French Republic. By the time of the creation of the Fifth Republic in that country "anti-monarchist" tendencies were barely felt. The relations of that country to other countries made no distinctions whether these other countries were "monarchies" or not.

Role of religion

Before several Reformation movements established themselves in Europe, changes in the religious landscape rarely had any relation to the form of government adopted by a country. As an example, Ancient Rome's transition from polytheism to Christianity did not mark the end of the Roman emperor's role in government. Similarly, late Middle Age republics, like Venice, emerged without questioning the religious standards set by the Roman Catholic church.

This would change, for instance, by the cuius regio, eius religio from the Treaty of Augsburg (1555): this treaty, applicable in the Holy Roman Empire and affecting the numerous (city-)states of Germany, ordained citizens to follow the religion of their ruler, whatever Christian religion that ruler chose - apart from Calvinism (which remained forbidden by the same treaty). In France the king abolished the relative tolerance towards non-Catholic religions resulting from the Edict of Nantes (1598), by the Edict of Fontainebleau (1685). In the United Kingdom and in Spain the respective monarchs had each established their favoured brand of Christianity, so that by the time of the Enlightenment in Europe (including the depending colonies) there was not a single absolute monarchy that tolerated another religion than the official one of the state.

Republics may diminish the influence of religion

An important reason why people could choose their society to be organized as a republic is the prospect of staying free of state religion: in this approach living under a monarch is seen as more easily inducing a uniform religion. All great monarchies had their state religion, in the case of pharaohs and some emperors this could even lead to a religion where the monarchs (or their dynasty) were endowed with a god-like status (see for example imperial cult). On a different scale, kingdoms can be entangled in a specific flavour of religion: Catholicism in Belgium, Church of England in the United Kingdom, Orthodoxy in Tsaristic Russia and many more examples.

In absence of a monarchy, there can be no monarch pushing towards a single religion. As this had been the general perception by the time of the Enlightenment, it is not so surprising that republics were seen by some Enlightenment thinkers as the preferable form of state organisation, if one wanted to avoid the downsides of living under a too influential state religion. Rousseau, an exception, envisioned a republic with a demanding state "civil religion":

  • United States: the Founding Fathers, seeing that no single religion would do for all Americans, adopted the principle that the federal government would neither support nor prohibit any established religion (as had Massachusetts and Connecticut).
  • Besides being anti-monarchial, the French Revolution, leading to the first French Republic, was at least as much anti-religious, and led to the confiscation, pillage and/or destruction of many abbeys, beguinages, churches and other religious buildings and/or communities. Although the French revolutionaries tried to institute civil religions to replace "uncivic" Catholicism, nevertheless, up to the Fifth Republic, laïcité can be seen to have a much more profound meaning in republican France than in neighbouring countries ruled as monarchies.

Several states that called themselves republics have been fiercely anti-religious. This is particularly true for communist republics like the (former) Soviet Republics, North Vietnam, North Korea, and China.

Other republics may promote a particular religion

Some countries or states preferred to organise themselves as a republic, precisely because it allows them to establish a more or less obligatory state religion in their constitution. Islamic republics generally take this approach, but the same is also true, to varying degrees, in the Protestant republic that originated in the Netherlands during the Renaissance, and in the Catholic Irish Republic, among others. In this case the advantage that is sought is that no broad-thinking monarch could push his citizens towards a less strict application of religious prescriptions (like for instance the Millet system had done in the Ottoman Empire) or change to another religion altogether (like the repetitive changes of state religions under the Henry VIII / Edward VI / Mary I / Elizabeth I succession of monarchs in England). An approach such as this, of an ideal republic based on a consolidated religious foundation, was an important factor in the overthrow of the regime of the Shah in Iran, to be replaced by a republic with influential ayatollahs (which is the term for religious leaders in that country), the most influential, as well as the highest ranking political authority of the republic, is known as the "supreme leader".

Concepts of democracy

Republics are often associated with democracy, which seems natural if one acknowledges the meaning of the expression from which the word "republic" derives (see: res publica). This association between "republic" and "democracy" is however far from a general understanding, even if acknowledging that there are several forms of democracy. This section tries to give an outline of which concepts of democracy are associated with which types of republics.

As a preliminary remark, the concept of "one equal vote per adult" did not become a generically-accepted principle in democracies until around the middle of the 20th century: before that in all democracies the right to vote depended on one's financial situation, sex, race, age, or a combination of these and other factors. Many forms of government in previous times termed "democracy", including for instance the Athenian democracy, would, when transplanted to the early 21st century be classified as plutocracy or a broad oligarchy, because of the rules on how votes were counted.

In a Western approach, warned by the possible dangers and impracticality of direct democracy described since antiquity, there was a convergence towards representative democracy, for republics as well as monarchies, from the Enlightenment on. In particular, the fear of mob rule concerned many who supported representative democracies. A direct democracy instrument like a referendum is still basically mistrusted in many of the countries that adopted representative democracy. Nonetheless, some republics like Switzerland have a great deal of direct democracy in their state organisation, with usually several issues put before the people by referendum every year.

Marxism inspired state organisations that, at the height of the Cold War, had barely more than a few external appearances in common with Western types of democracies. That is, not withstanding that on an ideological level Marxism and communism sought to empower proletarians. A Communist republic like Fidel Castro's Cuba has many "popular committees" to allow participation from citizens on a very basic level, without much of a far-reaching political power resulting from that. This approach to democracy is sometimes termed Basic democracy, but the term is contentious: the intended result is often something in between direct democracy and grassroots democracy, but connotations may vary.

Some of the hardline totalitarianism lived on in the East, even after the Iron Curtain fell. Sometimes the full name of such republics can be deceptive: having "people's" or "democratic" in the name of a country can, in some cases bear no relation with the concepts of democracy (neither "representative" nor "direct") that grew in the West. In fact, the phrase "People's Democratic Republic" was often synonymous with Marxist dictatorships during the Cold War. It also should be clear that many of these "Eastern" type of republics fall outside a definition of a republic that supposes control over who is in power by the people at large – unless it is accepted that the preference the people displays for their leader is in all cases authentic.

Influence of republicanism

Like Anti-monarchism and religious differences, republicanism played no equal role in the emergence of the many actual republics. Up to the republics that originated in the late Middle Ages, even if, from what we know about them, they also can be qualified "republics" in a modern understanding of the word, establishing the kind and amount of "republicanism" that led to their emergence is often limited to educated guesswork, based on sources that are generally recognised to be partly fictitious reconstruction.

There is however, for instance, no doubt that republicanism was a founding ideology of the United States of America and remains at the core of American political values. See Republicanism in the U.S.

In antiquity

In ancient India, a number of Maha Janapadas were established as republics by the 6th century BC. In the ancient Near East, a number of cities of the Levant achieved collective rule. Arwad has been cited as one of the earliest known examples of a republic, in which the people, rather than a monarch, are described as sovereign.

The important politico-philosophical writings of antiquity that survived the Middle Ages rarely had any influence on the emergence or strengthening of republics in the time they were written. When Plato wrote the dialogue that later, in English speaking countries, became known as The Republic (a faulty translation from several points of view), Athenian democracy had already been established, and was not influenced by the treatise (if it had, it would have become less republican in a modern understanding). Plato's own experiments with his political principles in Syracuse were a failure. Cicero's De re publica, far from being able to redirect the Roman state to reinforce its republican form of government, rather reads as a prelude to the Imperial form of government that indeed emerged soon after Cicero's death.

In the renaissance

The emergence of the Renaissance, on the other hand, was marked by the adoption of many of these writings from Antiquity, which led to a more or less coherent view, retroactively termed "classical republicanism". Differences however remained regarding which kind of "mix" in a mixed government type of ideal state would be the most inherently republican. For those republics that emerged after the publication of the Renaissance philosophies regarding republics, like the United Provinces of the Netherlands, it is not always all that clear what role exactly was played by republicanism - among a host of other reasons - that led to the choice for "republic" as form of state ("other reasons" indicated elsewhere in this article: e.g., not finding a suitable candidate as monarch; anti-Catholicism; a middle class striving for political influence).

Enlightenment republicanism

The Enlightenment had brought a new generation of political thinkers, showing that, among other things, political philosophy was in the process of refocusing to political science. This time the influence of the political thinkers, like John Locke, on the emergence of republics in America and France soon thereafter was unmistakable: separation of powers, separation of church and state, etc. were introduced with a certain degree of success in the new republics, along the lines of the major political thinkers of the day.

In fact, the Enlightenment had set the standard for republics, as well as in many cases for monarchies, in the next century. The most important principles established by the close of the Enlightenment were the rule of law, the requirement that governments reflect the self-interest of the people that were subject to that law, that governments act in the national interest, in ways which are understandable to the public at large, and that there be some means of self-determination.

In the United Kingdom and the United States
In his book, A Defence of the Constitutions (1787), John Adams used the definition of "republic" in Dr. Johnson's 1755 Dictionary: "a government of more than one person." But elsewhere in the same tract, and in several other writings, Adams made it clear that he thought of the British state as a republic because the executive, though a unitary "king", was obliged to obey laws enacted with the concurrence of the legislature.

Proletarian Republicanism

The next major branch in political thinking was pushed forward by Karl Marx, who argued that classes, rather than nationalities, had interests. He argued that governments represented the interests of the dominant class, and that, eventually, the states of his era would be overthrown by those dominated by the rising class of the proletariat.

Here again the formation of republics along the line of the new political philosophies followed quickly after the emergence of the philosophies: from the early 20th century on communist type of republics were set up (communist monarchies were at least by name excluded), many of them standing for about a century - but in increasing tension with the states that were more direct heirs of the ideas of the Enlightenment.

Islamic Republicanism

Following decolonialization in the second half of 20th century, the political dimension of Islam knew a new impulse, leading to several Islamic republics. As far as "Enlightenment" and "communist" principles were sometimes up to a limited level incorporated in these republics, such principles were always subject to principles laid down in the Qur'an. In Iran, for example, the state is called a republic because it has an independent plural legislature (the majlis) and two independently chosen executives, a secular president and a religious leader (who is qualified as "supreme"). So, although there is no apparent reason why sharia and related concepts of Islamic political thought should emerge in a republican form of government, the movement for Islamic republics is generally not qualified as a form of "republicanism".

Economical factors

The ancient concept of res publica, when applied to politics, had always implied that citizens on one level or another took part in governing the state: at least citizens were not indifferent to decisions taken by those in charge, and could engage in political debate. A line of thought followed often by historians is that citizens, under normal circumstances, would only become politically active if they had spare time above and beyond the daily effort for mere survival. In other words, enough of a wealthy middle class (that did not get its political influence from a monarch as nobility did) is often seen as one of the preconditions to establish a republican form of government. In this reasoning neither the cities of the Hanseatic League, nor late 19th century Catalonia, nor the Netherlands during their Golden Age emerging in the form of a republic comes as a surprise, all of them at the top of their wealth through commerce and societies with an influential and rich middle class.

Here also the different nature of republics inspired by Marxism becomes apparent: Karl Marx theorised that the government of a state should be based on the proletarians, that is on those whose political opinions never had been asked before, even less had been considered to really matter when designing a state organisation. There was a problem Marxist/Communist types of republics had to solve: most proletarians were lacking interest and/or experience in designing a state organisation, even if acquainted with Das Kapital or Engels' writings. While the practical political involvement of proletarians on the level of an entire country hardly ever materialised, these communist republics were more often than not organised in a very top-down structure.

Aggregations of states

When a country or state is organised on several levels (that is: several states that are "associated" in a "superstructure", or a country is split in sub-states with a relative form of independence) several models exist:

  • Both over-arching structure and sub-states take the form of a republic (Example: United States)
  • The over-arching structure is a republic, while the sub-states are not necessarily (Example: European Union);
  • The over-arching structure is not a republic, while the sub-states can be (Example: Holy Roman Empire, after the emergence of republics, like those of the Hanseatic League, within its realm).

Sub-national republics

In general being a republic also implies sovereignty as for the state to be ruled by the people it cannot be controlled by a foreign power. There are important exceptions to this, for example, Republics in the Soviet Union were member states which had to meet three criteria to be named republics:

  1. be on the periphery of the Soviet Union so as to be able to take advantage of their theoretical right to secede;
  2. be economically strong enough to be self-sufficient upon secession; and
  3. be named after at least one million people of the ethnic group which should make up the majority population of said republic.

Republics were originally created by Stalin and continue to be created even today in Russia. Russia itself is not a republic but a federation. It is sometimes argued that the former Soviet Union was also a supra-national republic, based on the claim that the member states were different nations.

States of the United States are required, like the federal government, to be republican in form, with final authority resting with the people. This was required because the states were intended to create and enforce most domestic laws, with the exception of areas delegated to the federal government and prohibited to the states. The founding fathers of the country intended most domestic laws to be handled by the states, although, over time, the federal government has gained more and more influence over domestic law. Requiring the states to be a republic in form was seen as protecting the citizens' rights and preventing a state from becoming a dictatorship or monarchy, and reflected unwillingness on the part of the original 13 states (all independent republics) to unite with other states that were not republics. Additionally, this requirement ensured that only other republics could join the union.

In the example of the United States, the original 13 British colonies became independent states after the American Revolution, each having a republican form of government. These independent states initially formed a loose confederation called the United States and then later formed the current United States by ratifying the current U.S. Constitution, creating a union of sovereign states with the union or federal government also being a republic. Any state joining the union later was also required to be a republic. The United States could be argued to be a supra-national republic on the grounds that the original states were independent countries and was formed of several nations, most notably the original 13 colonies/states, the Republic of Texas, and the Kingdom of Hawaii, all of which would be considered "nations" under a strict definition of the word.

Supra-national republics

Sovereign countries can decide to hand in a limited part of their sovereignty to a supra-national organisation. At present the only significant example of this is the European Union (EU), which developed in the second half of the 20th century as the European Communities. Although it is not common to classify the EU as a "country" (though it does operate as a federation in some fields), the organisation of the European Union is based on a republican system in that there is no hereditary element, rather power is held in a directly elected European Parliament and a Council of national governments. These bodies operate a joint legislative system headed by an independent executive (the European Commission) which is appointed by those two bodies.

However, the members of the EU are not all republics. It is the most common system but being a republic is not a condition for membership - only that there is a working democracy (hence, Constitutional Monarchies are allowed, but Absolute Monarchies are not). Hence, while the EU operates as a supra-national republic, some of its members operate a hereditary system for its head of state There is a similar situation in regards to religion in the state, a minority of members have an established state church (though there is freedom of religion) but the EU itself has no such institutional element which is biased to a particular faith.

Examples of republics

In the early 21st century, most states that are not monarchies label themselves as republics either in their official names or their constitutions. There are a few exceptions: the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Israel and the Russian Federation. Israel, Russia, and Libya would meet many definitions of the term republic, however.

Since the term republic is so vague by itself, many states felt it necessary to add additional qualifiers in order to clarify what kind of republics they claim to be. Here is a list of such qualifiers and variations on the term "republic":

  • Without other qualifier than the term Republic - for example France and Turkey.
  • Constitutional republic - A constitutional republic is a state where the head of state and other officials are elected as representatives of the people and must govern according to existing constitutional law that limits the government's power over citizens. In a constitutional republic, executive, legislative, and judicial powers are separated into distinct branches so that no individual or group has absolute power and the power of the majority of the population is checked by only allowing them to elect representatives. The fact that a constitution exists that limits the government's power, makes the state constitutional. That the head(s) of state and other officials are chosen by election, rather than inheriting their positions, and that their decisions are subject to judicial review makes a state republican.-United States
  • Parliamentary republic - a republic with an elected Head of state, but where the Head of state and Head of government are kept separate with the Head of government retaining most executive powers, or a Head of state akin to a Head of government, elected by a Parliament.
  • Federal republic, confederation or federation - a federal union of states or provinces with a republican form of government. Examples include Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Germany, India, Russia and Switzerland.
  • Islamic Republic - Countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran are republics governed in accordance with Islamic law. (Note: Turkey is a distinct exception and is not included in this list; while the population is predominantly Muslim, the state is a staunchly secular republic.)
  • Arab Republic - for example, Syria its name reflecting its theoretically pan-Arab Ba'athist government.
  • People's Republic - Countries like China, North Korea are meant to be governed for and by the people, but generally without direct elections. Thus, they use the term People's Republic, which was shared by many past Communist states.
  • Democratic Republic - Tends to be used by countries who have a particular desire to emphasize their claim to be democratic; these are typically Communist states and/or ex-colonies. Examples include the German Democratic Republic (no longer in existence) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • Commonwealth (Rzeczpospolita) - Both words (English and Polish) are derived from the Latin word res publica (literally "common affairs"). Used for both the current Republic of Poland, and the old Nobility Commonwealth.
  • Free state - Sometimes used as a label to indicate implementation of, or transition from a monarchical to, a republican form of government. Used for the Irish Free State (1922–1937) under an Irish Republican government, while still remaining associated with the British Empire.
  • Venezuela has been using, since the adoption of the 1999 constitution, the title of Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
  • Other modifiers are rooted in tradition and history and usually have no real political meaning. San Marino, for instance, is the "Most Serene Republic" while Uruguay is "República Oriental", which implies it lies on the eastern bank of the Uruguay River.

Republics in political theory

In political theory and political science, the term "republic" is generally applied to a state where the government's political power depends solely on the consent, however nominal, of the people governed. This usage leads to two sets of problematic classification. The first are states which are oligarchical in nature, but are not nominally hereditary, such as many dictatorships, the second are states where all, or almost all, real political power is held by democratic institutions, but which have a monarch as nominal head of state, generally known as constitutional monarchies. The first case causes many outside the state to deny that the state should, in fact, be seen as a Republic. In many states of the second kind there are active "republican" movements that promote the ending of even the nominal monarchy, and the semantic problem is often resolved by calling the state a democracy.

Generally, political scientists try to analyse underlying realities, not the names by which they go: whether a political leader calls himself "king" or "president", and the state he governs a "monarchy" or a "republic" is not the essential characteristic, whether he exercises power as an autocrat is. In this sense political analysts may say that the First World War was, in many respects, the death knell for monarchy, and the establishment of republicanism, whether de facto and/or de jure, as being essential for a modern state. The Austro-Hungarian Empire and the German Empire were both abolished by the terms of the peace treaty after the war, the Russian Empire overthrown by the Russian Revolution of 1917. Even within the victorious states, monarchs were gradually being stripped of their powers and prerogatives, and more and more the government was in the hands of elected bodies whose majority party headed the executive. Nonetheless post-World War I Germany, a de jure republic, would develop into a de facto autocracy by the mid 1930s: the new peace treaty, after the Second World War, took more precaution in making the terms thus that also de facto (the Western part of) Germany would remain a republic.

Per se political theorists, and particularly historians of political thought, tend to use republic as a term-of-art, applying it exclusively to the particular form of government expounded in Machiavelli's discourses. On this account, the essential characteristic of republican governance is the sharing of power between a unitary leader, an aristocratic institution, and a plebeian institution. Machiavelli argues that the counterbalancing of these three interests leads to a sounder and more stable government than monarchy, aristocracy, or democracy alone could. This understanding of the term has seen recent renaissance in the work of theorists such as Philip Pettit and Cass Sunstein.

Notes and references

Further reading

  • De Republica Anglorum; the Manner of Government or Policie of the Realme of England'', Sir Thomas Smyth, 1583. (England is described under Queen Elizabeth I as a republic, the term "mixed" does appear in it. Sir Thomas states that all commonwealths are of mixed character.)
  • Jean Bodin, Six Books of the Commonwealth ("Six Livres de la République," 1576), Abridged and translated by M. J. Tooley, Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1955 (For Bodin, any state is a "république" if it has sovereignty).
  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Du Contrat Social, ou Principes de Droit Politique (1762)
  • Paul A. Rahe, Republics, Ancient and Modern, three volumes, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1994.
  • William R. Everdell The End of Kings: A History of Republics and Republicans. University of Chicago Press. (2000). .
  • Martin van Gelderen & Quentin Skinner, eds., Republicanism: A Shared European Heritage, v1, Republicanism and Constitutionalism in Early Modern Europe, Cambridge: Cambridge U.P., 2002
  • Martin van Gelderen & Quentin Skinner, eds., Republicanism: A Shared European Heritage, v2, The Values of Republicanism in Early Modern Europe, Cambridge: Cambridge U.P., 2002
  • Philip Pettit, Republicanism: A Theory of Freedom and Government, NY: Oxford U.P., 1997, ISBN 0-19-829083-7; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997.
  • Frédéric Monera, L'idée de République et la jurisprudence du Conseil constitutionnel - Paris: L.G.D.J., 2004 - ;

See also

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