States’ markings in constitutions – a comparative analysis

by Prof. Dr. Vladan Kutlesic, Belgrade Bussines School


Through a comparative analysis of states’ official designations and the contents of 193 current constitutions in relation to states’ markings it has been determined which characteristics and features are attributed to a state in its constitution, i.e. what modern states are like, according to what is written in their designations and provisions.

The subject of this analysis is the determination of the type of state prescribed and publicized by modern constitutions, i.e. their drafters. That being said, only the constitutional provisions which explicitly contain the markings or characteristics of a state will be analyzed herein. Consequently, the markings or characteristics which can be derived indirectly, through the analysis and interpretation of the meaning and consequences of all constitutional provisions, will be excluded from this analysis. For this purpose we will analyze the constitutionally determined official states’ designations and the contents of basic – introductory provisions in their constitutions1, due to the fact that most such statements are found therein, as shown by the relevant practice thus far.


States’ markings in official designations2

The official designations of states are constitutionally determined statements containing multiple words, some of which are state’s markings, while others are the name of a state itself. Among 193 analyzed official state designations, there are 27 states which official designation is only its name, i.e. their official designation does not contain any state markings. These are: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Canada, Cook’s Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Vatican, Hungary, Iraq, the Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Japan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Montenegro, New Zealand, Niue, Romania, Santa Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Solomon Islands, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu and the Ukraine. 

A significant majority of the analyzed states, 166 out of 193, contain in their designation, along with a name, some type of marking describing that state. Within this majority, 132 out of 166 states contain only one marking within their designation. Further, 26 states’ designation contain two markings (Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Congo, Egypt, Guinea, Germany, Iran, Jordan, Luxembourg, Mauritania, Mexico, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, East Timor, the UK, Venezuela and Vietnam). Finally, only 8 states contain three markings in their official designation (Algiers, the Central African Republic, Korea, Ethiopia, Nepal, the Republic of South Africa, Sri Lanka and the United Arab Emirates). It is interesting to note that the final group contains three states which do not in fact have their own name, while their official designation only contains the previously stated three markings.

The analyzed states utilize a total of 28 terms as their markings, including the following: “Republic” in 125 designations, “Monarchy” in 21 designations (i.e. “Kingdom” in 153, “Principality” in three4  and one designation of “Sultanate”, “Emirate” and “Grand Duchy”5  each), “Federation” in 7 designations6, “United” in four designations7, “Union” in two designations8, “Commonwealth” in two designations9, “Democratic” in 8 designations10, “People’s” in 7 designations11, “State” in 6 designations12, “Islamic” in four designations13, “Arab” in three designations14,  “Socialist” in two designations15 , “Independent” in two designations16, “African” in two designations17  and “Great” in two designations18. Additionally, 9 more markings can be found in the official designations of individual states: “Eastern” in Uruguay, “Co-operative” in Guyana, “Central” in Central African Republic, “South”  in South African Republic, “Plurinational” in Bolivia, “Equatorial” in Guinea, “Bolivar” in Venezuela, “The abode of peace” in Brunei and “New” in Papua Guinea.


States’ markings in constitutional texts

Constitutional texts contain states’ markings, most often and with the highest concentration, in the part of the text designated as (or with the characteristics of) the preamble, or in the basic or introductory provisions (regardless of whether they are formally designated as such). An interesting example is the Constitution of Turkey, which contains a specific section designated as “II The Characteristics of the Republic”.

Through an analysis of constitutional texts, it has been determined that 36 of them do not contain explicit provisions on states’ markings19.

However, it has been determined that 49 different adjectives are stated as markings of a state including: sovereignty in 139 constitutions, indivisibility in 112 constitutions, a democratic quality in 101 constitutions, a republican form in 67 constitutions, a unitary form in 47 constitutions, a social quality in 40 constitutions, a legal quality in 37 constitutions, secularity in 27 constitutions, a libertarian quality in 13 constitutions, a monarchic quality in 12 constitutions, an Islamic quality in 9 constitutions, an Arab quality in 8 constitutions, a federal quality in 7 constitutions, a representative quality in 6 constitutions, the adjectives decentralized, multinational and socialist in five constitutions each, the adjectives people’s and parliamentary in four constitutions each, the adjectives just, multicultural and multiparty in three constitutions each and presidential, pluralist, multi religious and united in two constitutions each.

An additional 22 markings can be found in only one constitution each, including: an economic and customs entity – United Arab Emirates, inviolability – Venezuela, a co-operative quality – Haiti, an anti-imperialistic and anti-colonial quality – Guinea Bissau, local government – Bulgaria, solidarity – Sao Tome and Principe, European values and principles – Serbia, unique – Cameroon, constitutional – Ecuador, political freedoms – Cuba, democratic dictatorship – China, inalienability – Norway, revolutionary – Korea (North), inclusive – Nepal, ecological, civil – Montenegro, permanently neutral, unaligned, peaceful, participative – Cambodia and central American and Caribbean – Belize.

There is a varying number of state’s markings in each constitution and it ranges from only one to up to 10, while a majority of constitutions, 108 out of 164, contain from one to four markings. Only one marking can be found in 7 states, including: federalism – Belgium and India, sovereignty – Finland and Malawi, the republican form – Comoros, the monarchic form – Denmark and an economic and customs entity – United Arab Emirates. The Constitution of Ecuador has defined its state with a total of 10 markings – constitutional, social, democratic, legal, sovereign, independent, unitary, intercultural, pluralist and layman’s.


Concluding Summary


Of the 193 analyzed constitutions, 166 contain in the official designation of a state, along with the name, another characteristic of the state. The official designation of a state may contain one marking (132 states), two markings (26 states) or three markings (8 states). In order to describe or denote a state, modern constitutions use a total of 28 different characteristics, one of which is by far the most prevalent – the republic, contained in 125 official designations, followed closely by a monarchic form of rule contained in the official designation of 21 states. 

Of the 200 analyzed constitutional texts, 164 contain provisions related to the features of the state, while the remaining 36 do not. A total of 49 different state markings are used: 28 in two or more constitutions and 21 in only one constitution. Among these markings, the most common ones are sovereignty (139 constitutions) and indivisibility (112 constitutions), while the remaining 26 markings are characterized by a noticeable drop in frequency with every individual marking. Accordingly, the republican form is found in 67 constitutions, the unitary form in 47, the social quality in 40 constitutions, etc. The number of markings used in one constitution varies from one, in 7 constitutions, to 10, in the constitution of Ecuador.

The specific contents of these provisions cannot influence in any way their legal nature, as is incorrectly stated by certain authors. Accordingly, these provisions are as binding and as legal as all other constitutional provisions, therefore they are equally relevant.

1. The texts of constitutions may be found on specialized websites such as Constitutional Finder, Google Constitute, the IACL database etc., as well as on official states’ websites. At the time the analysis was performed, a total of 200 constitutional texts were available in English, all of which were used, regardless of whether the states were members of the UN, since this fact was of no relevance for this analysis.
2. See the official states’ names for UN member states on the website Since this part of the analysis deals with 193 states, this method allowed for an easier and indisputable determination of official states’ names, which are not widely known or used for certain states.
3. Bahrein, Belgium, Cambodia, Jordan, Lesotho, Morocco, the Netherlands, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Swaziland, Sweden, Thailand, Tonga and the United Kingdom.
4. Andorra, Lichtenstein and Monaco.
5. Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Luxembourg.
6. Brazil, Ethiopia, Germany, Nepal, Nigeria, Russia, Somalia, Switzerland, Micronesia and Saint Kits and Nevis.
7. Mexico, Great Britain, Tanzania, the United Arab Emirates and the United States of America.
8. Comoros and Myanmar.
9. Australia, the Bahamas and Dominica.
10. Algiers, East Timor, Ethiopia, Korea (North), Laos, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Kenya.
11. Algiers, Bangladesh, China, Korea (North), Korea (South), Laos and Sao Tome and Principe.
12. Eritrea, Israel, Kuwait, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, Samoa, the United States of America, Mexico, Micronesia and Bolivia.
13. Afghanistan, Iran, Mauritania and Pakistan .
14. Egypt, Jordan and Syria.
15. Sri Lanka and Vietnam.
16. Papua New Guinea and Samoa.
17. The Central African Republic and the North African Republic.
18. Great Britain and Luxembourg.
19. Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Barbados, Brunei, Canada, Cook’s Islands, Dominica, Salvador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Granada, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Malaysia, Marshall’s Islands, Micronesia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niue, Pakistan, Palau, San Marino, Santa Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sweden, Switzerland, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Vatican, the United States of America and the United Kingdom. 

Latest Posts