Socialist countries are states that have aligned themselves with Socialism. There is no criteria or official process for being named a Socialist state. All that is required is that a country identifies itself as Socialist. This includes nations that claim to be Socialist or have constitutions that state that they are based on socialism, even if they do not follow the economic or political systems associated with socialism. Countries that appear to follow Socialism are not designated as socialist unless the nation explicitly states so, regardless of how it looks to outsiders.
Most of the self-declared Socialist countries base their politics on the Marxist-Leninist model that was followed by the Soviet Union. Because of this, some of these states are erroneously thought to be Communist states. It is difficult to accurately define a socialist country because the term has come to have many meanings and intereptations. In broad terms, socialism is a political and economic theory that advocates the community as a whole overseeing production, distribution and exchange. The easiest way to define socialism is that it seeks to redistribute the wealth of a nation, closing the gap between the rich and the poor.
There are many countries around the world that claim to be socialists. Current states that follow the Marxist-Leninist principles include the Laos People’s Democratic Republic, the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of Cuba, and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. This number has dropped dramatically in recent years. Former countries under the Marxist-Leninist idea of socialism included Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Belarus, Benin, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Congo, Czechoslovakia, Ethiopia, East Germany, Hungary, North Korea, Mongolia, Mozambique, Poland, Romania, Somalia, Russia, Ukraine, North Vietnam, South Yemen and Yugoslavia.
Countries that have constitutional references to socialism and are thus considered to be Socialist states include: People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Co-operative Republic of Guyana, Republic of India, North Korea, Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, Portuguese Republic, Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, and the United Republic of Tanzania.
There are also multi-party states with governing Socialist parties. These states are: Angola, Bolivia, Congo, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Greece, Mozambique, Nepal, Nicaragua, Tanzania, Uruguay and Venezuela.
There are territories that have claimed to be socialist but are not recognized as independent states. These include Freetown Christiania, Revel Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities, Democratic Federation of Northern Syria and Wa State.