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A deep state (from Turkish: derin devlet), also known as a state within a state, is a form of clandestine government made up of hidden or covert networks of power operating independently of a state's political leadership, in pursuit of their own agenda and goals. Examples include organs of state, such as the armed forces or public authorities (intelligence agencies, police, secret police, administrative agencies, and government bureaucracy). A deep state can also take the form of entrenched, career civil servants acting in a non-conspiratorial manner, to further their own interests. The intent of a deep state can include continuity of the state itself, job security for its members, enhanced power and authority, and the pursuit of ideological objectives. It can operate in opposition to the agenda of elected officials, by obstructing, resisting, and subverting their policies, conditions and directives. It can also take the form of government-owned corporations or private companies that act independently of regulatory or governmental control.[1]


The modern concept of a deep state is associated with Turkey, and the secret network established in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.[2] Similar ideas are older. The Greek language κράτος ἐν κράτει, (kratos en kratei) was later adopted into Latin as imperium in imperio[3] or status in statu).

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries political debate surrounding the separation of church and state often revolved around the perception that if left unchecked the Church might turn into a kind of State within a State, an illegitimate encroachment of the State's natural civil power.[4]

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)[5] 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.[6] 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.[7]

According to Abdurakhman Avtorkhanov in 1991, "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."[8] 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.[9]


According to Julia Ioffe, the Russian Federal Subject of Chechnya, under leadership of Ramzan Kadyrov, has become a state within a state.[10]

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

United States of AmericaEdit

In the United States of America, the term "deep state" was used[by whom?] 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."[12][13] Intelligence agencies such as the CIA have been accused by elements of the Donald Trump administration of attempting to thwart its policy goals.[14] 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:[14]

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.[15]


The most famous Italian case is Propaganda Due[16]. Propaganda Due (better known as P2) was a Masonic lodge belonging to the Grand Orient of Italy (GOI). It was founded in 1877 with the name of Masonic Propaganda[17], in the period of its management by the entrepreneur Licio Gelli assumed deviated forms with respect to the statutes of the Freemasonry and subversive towards the Italian legal order. The P2 was suspended by the GOI on 26 July 1976; subsequently, the parliamentary commission of inquiry into the P2 Masonic lodge under the presidency of Minister Tina Anselmi concluded the P2 case denouncing the lodge as a real "criminal organization"[18] and "subversive". It was dissolved with a special law, the n. 17 of 25 January 1982.

Other alleged casesEdit


Central and South AmericaEdit


Turkey and the Ottoman EmpireEdit

Other placesEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Daniel De Leon: "Imperium in imperio" in: Daily People, June 4, 1903.
  2. ^ Filkins, Dexter (12 March 2012). "The Deep State" (PDF). The New Yorker. Retrieved 31 December 2018.
  3. ^ from Baruch Spinoza: Tractatus politicus, Caput II, § 6.
  4. ^ 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
  5. ^ "Bringing state back - Comparative politics". Cambridge University Press.
  6. ^ "- Google Scholar".
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ The Chechen Times №17, 30.08.2003. Translated from "Technology of Power", 1991, chapter 34 Russian text
  9. ^ Jamie Glazov (23 June 2006). When an Evil Empire Returns — The Cold War: It's back., interview with Ion Mihai Pacepa, R. James Woolsey, Jr., Yuri Yarim-Agaev, and Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  10. ^ Julia Ioffe (24 July 2015). "Putin Is Down With Polygamy". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ Lofgren, Mike (2014-02-21). "Essay: Anatomy of the Deep State". Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  13. ^ Jessop, Bob (2015). The State: Past, Present, Future. John Wiley & Sons. p. 224.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ Venezuela: A Mafia State?. Medellin, Colombia: InSight Crime. 2018. pp. 3–84.
  16. ^ "BBC ON THIS DAY - 26 - 1981: Italy in crisis as cabinet resigns". 1981-05-26. Retrieved 9 April 2017.
  17. ^ Dino P. Arrigo, Fratelli d'Italia. Cronache, storie, riti e personaggi (per capire la Massoneria), Soveria Mannelli, Rubbettino, 1994, p. 45.
  18. ^ Willan, Puppetmasters, p. 50.
  19. ^ "Ex CIA director sees Serbs as masters of "deep state"". B92. 13 February 2018. Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  20. ^ Who Controls Pakistan's Powerful ISI?, Radio Free Europe, August 14, 2008
  21. ^ "Pakistan's shadowy secret service, the ISI". BBC News. 3 May 2011.
  22. ^ "The City: A state within a state". BBC News. 2011-11-04. Retrieved 9 April 2017 – via