AskDefine | Define defector

Dictionary Definition

defector n : a person who abandons their duty (as on a military post) [syn: deserter]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. one who defects.

Extensive Definition

In politics, a defector is a person who gives up allegiance to one state or political entity in exchange for allegiance to another. The term is sometimes used as a synonym for traitor, especially if the defector brings with him secrets or confidential information. More broadly, it involves abandoning a person, cause or doctrine to whom or to which one is bound by some tie, as of allegiance or duty.

International politics

The physical act of defection is usually in a manner which violates the laws of the nation or political entity from which the person is seeking to depart. By contrast, mere changes in citizenship, or working with allied militia, usually does not violate any law.
For example, in the 1950s, East Germans were increasingly prohibited from traveling to the Western Federal Republic of Germany where they were automatically regarded as citizens according to Exclusive mandate. The Berlin Wall and fortifications along the Inner German border were erected by the Communist East German Democratic Republic in 1961 to enforce the prison-like policy. When people tried to "defect" from the GDR they were to be shot on sight. Several hundred people were killed along the border in their Republikflucht attempt. Official crossings did exist, but permissions to leave temporarily or permanently were seldom granted. On the other hand, the GDR citizenship of some "inconvenient" East Germans was revoked, and they had to leave their home on short notice against their will. Others, like singer Wolf Biermann, were prohibited from returning into the GDR.
During the Cold War, the many people emigrating from the Soviet Union or Eastern Bloc to the West were called defectors. Westerners defected to the Eastern Bloc as well: some of the more famous cases were British spy Kim Philby, who defected to Russia to avoid exposure as a KGB mole, and 22 Allied POWs (one Briton and twenty-one Americans) who declined repatriation after the Korean War, electing to remain in China.
When the individual leaves his country and provides information to a foreign intelligence service, he is a HUMINT source defector. In some cases, defectors remain in the country or with the political entity they are against, functioning as a defector in place.

Political party defection

The term defection is also used to refer to the departure of a member from a political party to join another political party, typically because of discontent in his existing party. Depending on position of the person, it may be given a different name, such as party switching or crossing the floor. One famous political "defector" was Winston Churchill, who first entered Parliament as a Conservative in 1901, defected to the Liberals in 1904, and defected back to the Conservatives in 1925.
defector in Finnish: Loikkaus
defector in French: Défecteur
defector in Japanese: 亡命
defector in Swedish: Politisk avhoppare
defector in Chinese: 投誠

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1