Put simply, an oligarchy is a form of a government where a few powerful people rule a country – usually a family or rich people who hold on to power and rule a nation and the rule is for their benefit rather for the benefit of the country.
What’s the origin of the word?
The word ‘oligarchy’ comes from a combination of two Greek words – ‘oligos’, which means a few and, ‘arkho’, which means to rule. Thus, the meaning is – the rule of the few.
Examples of Oligarchy today
Top three are:
Russia – The country is headed by President Vladamir Putin, but the term Russian oligarchs also refers to a group of rich Russian businessmen who made a lot of money after the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. These super rich men now help Putin run the country – and together they won billions of dollars, even as most of Russia remains poor.
China – Even though it calls itself a “people’s republic,” the reality is that the country has been ruled by a few elected leaders for many years (decades), so it can be called an Oligarchy.
In Iran, the power is mostly in the hands of the religious leaders, with the supreme leader holding the most powerful post – who rules the country. It’s interesting to know that since 1979, there have been only two supreme leaders!
Some other terms to know:
Plutocracy – government by the wealthy. It can be described as
an oligarchy in which the ruling group is very rich and exercises its power through its wealth.
Despot – A ruler who is like a dictator, who holds absolute power. Usually, such a person exercises power in an oppressive (harsh) way.
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