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Deep state

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A deep state (from Turkish: derin devlet, also known as a state within a state) is a political situation in a country when an internal organ, 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, conditions 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. Current literature on the state generally traces a lineage 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). An example of a non-conspiratorial version of the 'state as actor' from the empirical scholarly literature would be "doing truth to power" (as a play on speaking truth to power, which is what journalists often aspire to do) as studied by Todd La Porte.[5] 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.'

The fundamental takeaway from the scholarly literature on the dual nature of the state is that the 'state as actor' (deep state) is a characteristic of all states which can have both good and bad effects and should not be seen as bad by default.



Soviet Union and post-Soviet RussiaEdit

The Soviet secret police have been frequently described by historians as a "state within a state". According to Yevgenia Albats, most KGB leaders, including Lavrenty Beria, Yuri Andropov, and Vladimir Kryuchkov, always competed for power with the Communist Party and manipulated communist leaders.[6]

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."[7] However, he also noted that "To say that NKVD is ‘a state within the state’ means to belittle the importance of the 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.[8]


According to Julia Ioffe, under Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya has become a state within a state.[9]

United KingdomEdit

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."[10] The efforts of the Civil Service to frustrate elected politicians is the subject of the popular satiric BBC TV comedy, Yes Minister.

United StatesEdit

In the United States, the term "deep state" was used to describe "a hybrid association of government elements and parts of top-level industry and finance that is effectively able to govern the United States without reference to the consent of the governed as expressed through the formal political process."[11][12] Intelligence agencies such as the CIA have been accused by elements of the Trump administration of attempting to thwart its policy goals.[13] Writing for The New York Times, the analyst Issandr El Amani warned against the "growing discord between a president and his bureaucratic rank-and-file", while analysts of the column The Interpreter wrote[13]:

Though the deep state is sometimes discussed as a shadowy conspiracy, it helps to think of it instead as a political conflict between a nation’s leader and its governing institutions.

— Amanda Taub and Max Fisher, The Interpreter


The Cartel of the Suns, a group of high-ranking officials within the Bolivarian Government of Venezuela, has been described as "a series of often competing networks buried deep within the Chavista regime". Following the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, the Bolivarian government initially embezzled until there were no more funds to embezzle, which required them to turn to drug trafficking. President Hugo Chávez made partnerships with the Colombian leftist militia Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and his successor Nicolás Maduro continued the process, promoting officials to high-ranking positions after they were accused of drug trafficking.[14]

Other alleged casesEdit


Central and South AmericaEdit


Turkey and the Ottoman EmpireEdit

Other placesEdit

See alsoEdit


  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. ^ "- Google Scholar".
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ The Chechen Times №17, 30.08.2003. Translated from "Technology of Power", 1991, chapter 34 Russian text
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Julia Ioffe (24 July 2015). "Putin Is Down With Polygamy". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  10. ^ Khan, Shehab (6 February 2018). "David Cameron's former director of strategy says Tony Blair warned him about a 'deep state' conspiracy". The Independent. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  11. ^ Lofgren, Mike (2014-02-21). "Essay: Anatomy of the Deep State". Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  12. ^ Jessop, Bob (2015). The State: Past, Present, Future. John Wiley & Sons. p. 224.
  13. ^ a b Taub, Amanda; Fisher, Max (February 16, 2017). "As Leaks Multiply, Fears of a 'Deep State' in America". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  14. ^ Venezuela: A Mafia State?. Medellin, Colombia: InSight Crime. 2018. pp. 3–84.
  15. ^ "BBC ON THIS DAY - 26 - 1981: Italy in crisis as cabinet resigns". 1981-05-26. Retrieved 9 April 2017.
  16. ^ Who Controls Pakistan's Powerful ISI?, Radio Free Europe, August 14, 2008
  17. ^ "Pakistan's shadowy secret service, the ISI". BBC News. 3 May 2011.
  18. ^ "The City: A state within a state". BBC News. 2011-11-04. Retrieved 9 April 2017 – via