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An autocracy is a system of government in which a supreme power is concentrated in the hands of one person, whose decisions are subject to neither external legal restraints nor regularized mechanisms of popular control (except perhaps for the implicit threat of coup d'état or mass insurrection).
In the modern Greek language, the term is used for anyone holding the title emperor, regardless of the actual power of the monarch. Some historical Slavic monarchs, such as Russian tsars and emperors, included the title Autocrat as part of their official styles, distinguishing them from the constitutional monarchs elsewhere in Europe.
Both totalitarianism and military dictatorship are often identified with, but need not be, an autocracy. Totalitarianism is a system where the state strives to control every aspect of life and civil society. It can be headed by a supreme dictator, making it autocratic, but it can also have a collective leadership such as a commune or political party.
Because autocrats need a power structure to rule, it can be difficult to draw a clear line between historical autocracies and oligarchies. Most historical autocrats depended on their nobles, the military, the priesthood or other elite groups.
In an analysis of militarized disputes between two states, if one was an autocracy the chance of violence occurring doubled; if both states were democratic the chance of violence fell by more than half.
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Autocracy.|