State within a state

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"Deep state" redirects here. For the alleged Turkish system, see Deep state in Turkey. For the alleged American system, see Deep state in the United States.
For sovereign states whose territory is surrounded by another sovereign state, see Enclave and exclave#Enclaved countries.

State within a state is a political situation in a country when an internal organ ("deep state"), such as the armed forces or public authorities (intelligence agencies, police, secret police, administrative agencies, and branches of government bureaucracy), does not respond to the civilian political leadership. Although the state within a state can be conspiratorial in nature, the deep state can also take the form of entrenched unelected career civil servants acting in a non-conspiratorial manner, to further their own interests (e.g. continuity of the state as distinct from the administration, job security, enhanced power and authority, pursuit of ideological goals and objectives, and the general growth of their agency) and in opposition to the policies of elected officials, by obstructing, resisting, and subverting the policies and directives of elected officials. The term, like many in politics, derives from the Greek language (κράτος εν κράτει, kratos en kratei, later adopted into Latin as imperium in imperio[1] or status in statu).

Sometimes, the term refers to state companies that, though formally under the command of the government, act de facto like private corporations. Sometimes, the term refers to companies that, though formally private, act de facto like "states within a state".[2]

Political debate surrounding the separation of church and state previously revolved around the perception that if left unchecked, the Church might turn into a kind of State within a State, an illegitimate outgrowth of the State's natural civil power.[3]

In the field of political science, this pop culture concept is studied within the literature on the state. The modern literature on the state is generally tied back to Bringing the State Back In(1985)[4] and remains an active body of scholarly research to this day. Within this literature, the state is understood as both venue (a set of rules under which others act and interact) as well as actor (with its own agenda). Under this dual understanding, the conspiratorial version of the deep state concept would be one version of the 'state as actor' while the non-conspiratorial version would be another version of the 'state as venue.'


United States

Main article: Shadow Party

European Union

Main article: Shadow Party

Soviet Union and post-Soviet Russia

The Soviet secret police have been frequently described by historians as a "state within a state". According to Evgenia Albats, most KGB leaders, including Lavrenty Beria, Yuri Andropov, and Vladimir Kryuchkov, always competed for power with the Communist Party and manipulated communist leaders.[5]

According to Abdurakhman Avtorkhanov, "It is not true that the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party is a supreme power. The Political Bureau is only a shadow of the real supreme power that stands behind the chair of every Bureau member ... The real power thinks, acts and dictates for all of us. The name of the power is NKVDMVDMGB. The Stalin regime is based not on the Soviets, Party ideals, the power of the Political Bureau or Stalin's personality, but on the organization and the techniques of the Soviet political police where Stalin plays the role of the first policeman."[6] However, he also noted that "To tell that NKVD is «a state within the state» means to belittle the importance of NKVD because this question allows two forces: a normal state and a supernormal NKVD: whereas the only force is Chekism".

According to Ion Mihai Pacepa in 2006, "In the Soviet Union, the KGB was a state within a state. Now former KGB officers are running the state. They have custody of the country's 6,000 nuclear weapons, entrusted to the KGB in the 1950s, and they now also manage the strategic oil industry renationalized by Putin. The KGB successor, rechristened FSB, still has the right to electronically monitor the population, control political groups, search homes and businesses, infiltrate the federal government, create its own front enterprises, investigate cases, and run its own prison system. The Soviet Union had one KGB officer for every 428 citizens. Putin's Russia has one FSB-ist for every 297 citizens.[7]


According to Julia Ioffe, under Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya has become a state within a state.[8]

Pre War Germany

The Social Democratic Party of Germany operated as a state within a state prior to WW1 in working-class neighborhoods. The party had its own newspapers, schools and social organizations. This structure was destroyed or coopted by the Nazis in the 1930s.

United Kingdom

The Civil Service has been called a 'deep state' by senior politicians in the United Kingdom. Tony Blair said of the Civil Service, "You cannot underestimate how much they believe it’s their job to actually run the country and to resist the changes put forward by people they dismiss as ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ politicians. They genuinely see themselves as the true guardians of the national interest, and think that their job is simply to wear you down and wait you out."[9] The efforts of the Civil Service to frustrate elected politicians is the subject of the popular satiric comedy Yes Minister.

Others alleged cases


Central and South America


Turkey and the Ottoman Empire

Other places

See also


  1. from Baruch Spinoza: Tractatus politicus, Caput II, § 6.
  2. Daniel De Leon: "Imperium in imperio" in: Daily People, June 4, 1903.
  3. Cf William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, IV, c.4 ss. iii.2, p. *54, where the charge of being imperium in imperio was notably levied against the Church
  4. "Bringing state back - Comparative politics". Cambridge University Press. 
  5. Yevgenia Albats and Catherine A. Fitzpatrick. The State Within a State: The KGB and Its Hold on Russia--Past, Present, and Future. 1994. ISBN 0-374-52738-5.
  6. The Chechen Times №17, 30.08.2003. Translated from "Technology of Power", 1991, chapter 34 Russian text
  7. Symposium: When an Evil Empire Returns, interview with Ion Mihai Pacepa, R. James Woolsey, Jr., Yuri Yarim-Agaev, and Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney,, June 23, 2006.
  8. Julia Ioffe (24 July 2015). "Putin Is Down With Polygamy". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 28 January 2016. 
  10. "BBC ON THIS DAY - 26 - 1981: Italy in crisis as cabinet resigns". Retrieved 9 April 2017. 
  11. Who Controls Pakistan's Powerful ISI?, Radio Free Europe, August 14, 2008
  12. "Pakistan's shadowy secret service, the ISI". BBC News. 3 May 2011. 
  13. "The City: A state within a state". Retrieved 9 April 2017 – via