A puppet state, puppet régime or puppet government is a state that is de jure independent but de facto completely dependent upon an outside power and subject to its orders. Puppet states have nominal sovereignty, but a foreign power effectively exercises control through means such as financial interests, economic, or military support.
Puppet states are distinguished from allies, which choose their actions on their own or in accordance with treaties they voluntarily entered. Puppet states are forced into providing legal endorsement for actions already taken by a foreign power.
A puppet state preserves the external paraphernalia of independence (such as a name, flag, anthem, constitution, law codes, motto and government), but in reality it is an organ of another state which creates, sponsors or otherwise controls the government of the puppet state (the "puppet government"). International law does not recognize occupied puppet states as legitimate.
The term is a metaphor which compares a state or government to a puppet controlled by a puppeteer using strings. The first recorded use of the term "puppet government" is from 1884, in reference to the Khedivate of Egypt.
In the Middle Ages vassal states existed which were based on delegation of rule of a country from a King to noble men of lower rank. Since the Peace of Westphalia of 1648 the concept of a nation came into existence where sovereignty was connected more to the people who inhabited the land than to the nobility who owned the land.
A similar concept mainly associated with pre-19th century political history is suzerainty, the control of the external affairs of one state by another.
In 1836 U.S. citizens allowed to live in the Mexican state of Texas revolted against the Mexican government to establish a U.S.-backed Republic of Texas, a country that existed less than 10 years (from May 14, 1836 to December 29, 1845) before it was annexed to the United States of America. However, in August 1837, Memucan Hunt, Jr., the Texan minister to the United States, submitted the first official annexation proposal to the Van Buren administration (the first American-led attempts to take over Mexican Texas by filibustering date back to 1819 and by separatist settlers since 1826).
During Japan's imperial period, and particularly during the Pacific War (parts of which are considered the Pacific theatre of World War II), the Imperial Japanese regime established a number of dependent states.
Japan had made drafts for other dependent states. The Provisional Priamurye Government never got beyond the planning stages. In addition to the Japanese, the Germans supported the formation of this state.
In 1945, as the Second World War drew to a close, Japan planned to grant independence to the former Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). These plans ended when the Japanese surrendered on August 15, 1945.
Several European governments under the domination of Germany and Italy during World War II have been described as "puppet régimes". The formal means of control in occupied Europe varied greatly. These states fall into several categories.
The Axis demand for oil and the concern of the Allies that Germany would look to the oil-rich Middle East for a solution, caused the invasion of Iraq by the United Kingdom and the invasion of Iran by the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union. Pro-Axis governments in both Iraq and Iran were removed and replaced with Allied-dominated governments.
In some cases, the process of decolonization has been managed by the decolonizing power to create a neo-colony, that is a nominally independent state whose economy and politics permits continued foreign domination. Neo-colonies are not normally considered puppet states.
During the 1950–1953 Korean War, South Korea and the United States alleged that North Korea was a Soviet puppet state. At the same time, South Korea and Japan were accused of being an American puppet state by North Korea and its allies. Additionally, in 1951 Dean Rusk, the , branded the People's Republic of China a "Slavic Manchukuo", implying that it was a puppet state of the Soviet Union just as Manchukuo had been a puppet state of the Empire of Japan. This position was commonly taken by American propaganda of the 1950s, despite the fact that the Chinese communist movement had developed largely independently of the Soviet Union.
After Red Army liberated Eastern Europe. The Soviet Union established puppet communist governments in East Germany, Albania, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria. Yugoslavia was also a communist state closely linked to the Soviet Union, but Yugoslavia retained autonomy in its own lines. After the Tito-Stalin split, the relationship between the two countries deteriorated significantly. Yugoslavia was expelled from the international organizations of the Eastern bloc.After Stalin's death and his rejection of his policy by Khrushchev, peace was restored, bringing Yugoslavia back to the socialist brothers. However, the relationship between the two countries was never completely mended. Some other countries that used to be Soviet puppet governments were Mongolia, North Korea, DRV (SRV), Cuba ... the aforementioned countries all have substantial Soviet dependence on economy, military, science and technology ... After Dissolution of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, most of the communist states products have been reformed towards democratization. Only Vietnam and Cuba are still conservative with the communist line. In North Korea since 2009, connections to communism under Marx-Leninism have been Supreme People's Assembly has been removed from the constitution even though Juche is linked to Marxism-Leninism. 
During the 1970s and 1980s, four ethnic bantustans, called "homelands" by the government of the time (some of which were extremely fragmented) were carved out of South Africa and given nominal sovereignty. Mostly Xhosa people resided in the Ciskei and Transkei, Tswana people in Bophuthatswana and Venda people in the Venda Republic.
The principal purpose of these states was to remove the Xhosa, Tswana and Venda peoples from South African citizenship (and so to provide grounds for denying them democratic rights). All four bantustans were reincorporated into a democratic South Africa on 27 April 1994.
The Republic of Serbian Krajina was a self proclaimed and by Serbian forces ethnic cleansed territory during the Croatian War (1991–95). It was not recognized internationally. That regime was completely dependent to the Serbian regime of Slobodan Milošević.