The Earth Empire was a short-lived state based on a military unit formed and led by ex-Zaofu captain and interim president of the Earth Kingdom, General Kuvira, between 171 and 174 AG. With the kingdom descending into chaos since Earth Queen Hou-Ting's death in 171 AG, Kuvira sought to reunite the war-torn nation and restore order with military force. By 174 AG, the army had united all of the Earth Kingdom. During Wu's coronation as Earth King, Kuvira claimed the Earth Kingdom to be no more and renamed it the Earth Empire under her rule, which she would forcefully defend with her army. The Earth Empire operated as a fascist dictatorship, with the military fully controlling the government.
Believing the United Republic of Nations' land to have been stolen from the Earth Empire by Avatar Aang and Fire Lord Zuko following the Hundred Year War, Kuvira marched her army in to the republic and attempted to annex it. After her defeat, however, she surrendered and ordered her soldiers to stand down. The Earth Empire's activities ceased and its land was returned to Earth Kingdom control. Despite this, a military holdout under Commander Guan in Gaoling refused to surrender, and subsequently attempted to restore the Earth Empire, but was eventually defeated by Team Avatar and the Beifong family with Kuvira's help.
The unified armed force of the Earth Empire, consisting of an army of infantry, tanks, mecha suits, and an air force of airships, had a diverse membership ranging from nationalist volunteers to forcibly conscripted ex-bandits. They also employed agents and spies lurking in the United Republic of Nations.
Following the queen's assassination at the hands of Zaheer in 171 AG, the Earth Kingdom experienced a time of anarchy and civil unrest. This prompted Kuvira to travel to the Earth Kingdom capital, Ba Sing Se, with Baatar Jr., Varrick, and a selection of Zaofu's security team and few wealthy elites to bring stability to the situation. The successful mission earned Kuvira the trust of the world leaders and she was appointed as the internationally recognized interim president of the nation. Kuvira grew her army further, with which she embarked on a campaign to end the chaos in the rest of the Earth Kingdom. In the process, she recruited Bolin to aid in her cause and gathered many followers who were dissatisfied with the Earth Kingdom Royal Family.
Traversing the Earth Kingdom for years, by 174 AG Kuvira had managed to stabilize most of the nation by having ninety percent of the states under her control. Although she initially brought wealth and stability to the states that accepted her protection, it came at the compromise of their freedoms; many citizens were forced into slave labor to acquire resources to maintain her armies, while those that resisted, as well as those not of Earth Kingdom ethnicity, were sent to reeducation facilities. One notable reeducation camp was placed at Gaoling, where the most unreliable troops of the Earth Empire were supposed to be transformed into loyal and capable soldiers. Kuvira entrusted this task to Commander Guan, the head of the Earth Empire's southern forces, and Doctor Sheng. While traveling toward the state of Yi in 174 AG, Kuvira's train was halted by a bandit-erected blockade. Although troops had been dispersed, Kuvira gave the order to call them back and she took care of the bandits singlehandedly, forcing them to pledge their allegiance to her.
Annexation of the State of Yi
- Main article: Annexation of the State of Yi
Despite the state of Yi being overrun by bandits for several months, the governor was not pleased to see Kuvira and her military forces when they arrived. In a private audience, Kuvira offered him the chance to submit to her rule in exchange for the full protection of her army. Dismissing Kuvira's attempt to help as a move to conquer all the states, the governor told the army to leave his state. Kuvira gave the governor one day to reconsider her offer while she and her forces waited at the border, though the governor eventually conceded after Kai and Opal's attempt to bring in supplies via flying bison was thwarted by bandits aboard a biplane. After Kuvira's offer was signed, Earth Empire soldiers and mecha suits moved in and handed out food and supplies to the hungry townspeople. The people cheered for Kuvira and her army, while she declared Yi to be under her protection.
The army train made its way to Republic City the day before Wu's coronation as the new Earth King. With a small delegation of officers, Kuvira traveled to the Republic City Four Elements where they claimed the Presidential Suite for their own, even though it had been previously occupied by Wu. The following day, Kuvira and her officers attended Wu's coronation ceremony where she was expected to hand back control to the new Earth Monarch. However, she denounced the newly crowned king's authority and dissolved the Earth Kingdom in favor of the Earth Empire under her own rule, to which her officers and supporters applauded. The world leaders were warned that anyone who tried to oppose them would be met with military counterattacks.
Fall of Zaofu
- Main article: Fall of Zaofu
The army set course toward Zaofu, as it was the last state to be annexed under Kuvira's rule in order to truly have the entire Earth Kingdom under control. Only a few soldiers were left behind to guard the borders of the Earth Empire. Two of these guards encountered and captured Ikki, believing her to be a spy. When they discovered that she was Tenzin's daughter, traveling with her siblings, Jinora and Meelo, the two planned to capture them all, believing Kuvira would reward them with a promotion if they did so. However, the two soldiers bonded with Ikki instead, resulting in them helping her to discover where Korra could possibly be hiding out. As they planned on releasing the young airbender, they were ambushed by Jinora and Meelo, who knocked them unconscious with their bending against a wall.
Arriving at the home of the Metal Clan, the army made camp at its gates, where they would give the city twenty-four hours to surrender. During this time, Bolin's loyalty to Kuvira wavered and he deserted together with Varrick and Zhu Li in three mecha suits. Their escape had not gone unnoticed, however, and Baatar Jr, together with two soldiers, gave chase. After a fierce battle, he managed to force the deserters to surrender and brought them to face Kuvira. The military leader sent Bolin off to a rehabilitation camp and forced Varrick to continue his experiments with the spirit vines under military supervision, while she pardoned Zhu Li, after the assistant had pledged her loyalty to her.
At night, the army set up a trap, as Kuvira predicted Suyin Beifong would attempt a sneak attack, and as such, they managed to arrest the Zaofu matriarch and her twin sons, who had infiltrated the camp. At dawn, the army assumed battle formations in order to invade the city if the remaining leaders would not surrender. However, when Korra declared she would intervene, Kuvira and the Avatar faced off in a one-on-one battle to decide the fate of Zaofu, which the army commander eventually managed to win due to Korra still suffering from hallucinations. As Kuvira moved in to finish her off, she was blown back by Jinora and Opal. Considering their intervention broke the peace agreement, Kuvira ordered her troops to attack, though they were held at bay by a powerful whirlwind created by the two airbenders. When the mecha suits started to make their way through the storm, Korra and the two airbenders were evacuated on Pepper by Meelo and Ikki, leaving Kuvira to announce that Zaofu was theirs, causing the soldiers to burst out in cheers.
Meanwhile, Baatar Jr. and a few other soldiers accompanied Bolin and Varrick on their journey away from the city. After being tricked by the inventor, however, who had turned the spirit vine project into a bomb as opposed to continue working on it, Baatar Jr. and the soldiers were forced to abandon that wagon, lest they would die in the unstoppable explosion. Though Baatar Jr. doubted Varrick and Bolin survived, Kuvira took no chances and issued wanted posters of them. Despite the loss of Varrick's research, Baatar Jr. was convinced that he could restart the project with Zhu Li's help. To that end, Kuvira, Baatar Jr., and a battalion of mecha suits made their way toward the banyan-grove tree to procure new samples of spirit vine. They met some resistance from the spirit vines that attacked them, though with their chainsaws and metal cables, the Earth Empire mecha suits managed to overpower the vegetation and procure the samples they needed.
Defending the border
With the Earth Empire completely united, the army fortified and patrolled its borders. One of these checkpoints encountered Varrick and Bolin, who had forged an alliance with a group of reeducation camp fugitives. Although the guard post soldier initially refused to let them pass, unwilling to open the gate without Bolin being able to produce the necessary transport orders, he relented when Varrick threatened to relay his unwillingness to cooperate to Kuvira. As the group passed through the gate, however, one of the soldiers recognized them as wanted fugitives and the guards sprung to action, quickly surrounding them. Although they met some resistance from the benders, the four mecha suits pressed the fugitives hard and managed to corner them. As they were on the verge of winning the battle, Varrick fabricated an electromagnetic pulse device and defeated the suits. Despite this loss, the border guards refused to give up and kept pressing the group of fugitives back, though they too were defeated when Bolin intervened and forced them to retreat with his lavabending.
Reclaiming the United Republic of Nations
Under Baatar Jr.'s leadership, the army completed weaponizing Varrick's spirit vine technology in the form of a spirit energy cannon that was strong enough to blast a hole in a hill. While attending the demonstration of the weapon, the troops stationed at the factory were attacked by the Beifong family, who aimed to take down Kuvira and destroy the cannon. Although they were fiercely assaulted, they managed to overpower Lin, Suyin, Wei, and Wing, though were defeated due to the intervention of Toph.
The troops at Zaofu gathered on the city's main square, where Kuvira addressed them. Thanking them for all their hard work, she noted that their quest to truly reunite the Earth Empire was not yet complete, as they still needed to reclaim the United Republic of Nations, believing the land had been stolen by Avatar Aang and Fire Lord Zuko after the Hundred Year War.
After attaching the spirit energy cannon to an enormous mecha suit named the Colossus, Kuvira marched her army into United Republic territory, destroying a fortified border outpost and killing its entire garrison with one shot from the spirit energy cannon. The army continued through United Republic territory and down to Republic City, where they encountered the United Forces. Although both armies were said to be equal in strength, the spirit energy cannon gave the military of the Earth Empire an edge and forced Raiko to surrender his nation by demonstrating its destructive power by sinking several United Forces battleships.
Surrender at Republic City
Having forced Raiko to surrender, Kuvira marched her army into the city and ordered her mecha suit platoons to sweep the perimeter and arrest everyone they came across. One of these platoons tracked down a last group of evacuees underneath Central City Station, though they were defeated by Prince Wu's badgermoles.
Meanwhile, Baatar Jr. was on his way to Air Temple Island to present President Raiko with the terms of the Earth Empire. He never arrived, however, as he was kidnapped by Korra, Tenzin, Bumi, Jinora, and Kai, who brought him to a Future Industries warehouse to force Kuvira and the Earth Empire to back down. The plan backfired, however, as Kuvira was willing to sacrifice her fiancé in order to have a chance to kill the Avatar and fired her energy cannon at the factory housing the group.
As Kuvira ventured further into the metropolis, laying waste to the buildings, she found several of her mecha suit platoons shut down by an electromagnetic pulse, created by Varrick. Tracking its source down to Future Industries Tower, she made her way toward the building, fighting off Team Avatar, the Beifong family, and several airbenders of the Air Nation in the process. Her advance was halted, however, when two hummingbird mecha suits assaulted the Colossus, trying to cut a hole in the platinum armor. Although she managed to shoot down Varrick and Zhu Li's suit, she failed to crush Asami and Hiroshi's before they managed to cut through; while Asami was ejected in time, Hiroshi was crushed to death by Kuvira at the moment he succeeded to cut a hole in the suit's armor, giving Korra, Mako, Bolin, Suyin, and Lin a point of entry.
While Suyin and Lin disabled the loading mechanism of the spirit energy cannon and Mako and Bolin destroyed the suit's power core, causing it to explode, Kuvira battled with Korra in the cockpit. With the suit's destruction, Kuvira sought refuge in Republic City's Spirit Wilds, where she found the discarded spirit energy cannon and fired it at Korra. The cannon drew too much power from the surrounding vines, however, and when Korra risked her life to save Kuvira's by energybending the cannon's beam away from her, the culmination of energy exploded and tore a rift in the separation between the human and Spirit World, creating a new spirit portal. Thrown in the Spirit World, Korra told Kuvira about the ways in which they were similar and finally got through to the metalbender, which led to her surrender.
As they returned to the physical world, Kuvira told her soldiers to stand down and surrendered herself formally to Suyin and Lin, who escorted her away to be tried for her actions. The seat of power of the Earth Kingdom was officially returned to Wu and the Earth Empire was dissolved.
End of the empire
Realizing that the Earth Empire needed a legitimate claim to power, Guan brought his army to the Gaoling City Hall in a display of might, where he was met by Korra. The Avatar told the commander that she was there to make sure he surrendered peacefully, which he rejected, telling her that he had other plans. Guan and his army were shocked when Kuvira revealed herself to them, who told him that she had come out of respect to everyone who had served the empire with honor. Guan told her that she had disgraced the empire by surrendering at Republic City, and refused her attempt to get him to surrender. Kuvira tried to put an end to Guan's plans by duelling him one-on-one, but was remotely stunned by Asami Sato's electrode belt before she could do so. The Avatar reiterated that she would not let Guan interfere with the democratic process, but the commander told her that he was present to enter the democratic election.
Guan's army attacked Asami's Future Industries airship after Korra and Wu departed to find Toph Beifong, quickly overpowering the remaining members of Team Avatar. When Kuvira, Asami, Mako, and Bolin were brought to Gaoling's reeducation camp, Sheng revealed her and Guan's plan to revive the Earth Empire by using her highly advanced brainwashing technology. The three members of Team Avatar were successfully brainwashed and conscripted into the army. However, Kuvira managed to escape, disguising herself as an officer and driving away in a jeep.
The army planned to ambush Korra and Wu at Gaoling airfield, until Guan received a report that Kuvira had intercepted the Avatar. Guan's army was able to advance just as Suyin Beifong's Metal Clan airship arrived to rescue Korra and her companions. Korra chose to stay behind to try to capture her brainwashed friends, and Asami, Mako, and Bolin advanced forward. Though Korra and the Beifongs managed to restrain the brainwashed soldiers using metal cables, Guan snapped them with his metalbending, and the rest of his army advanced. Korra's party was able to take Asami with them on the airship, and quickly fled. However, the Earth King's brainwashed Royal Earthbender Guards captured him and delivered him to Guan, to which the commander declared the day had not been a total loss.
A brainwashed Wu managed to issue a royal decree to move up the election date, leading Guan to electoral success. As Governor of the State of Gaoling, the commander's first act was to have his soldiers arrest Mayor Rhee. Afterward, Kuvira approached, offering to rejoin the Earth Empire if Guan would brainwash her to erase her painful memories of those she had hurt. Guan brought her back to the reeducation camp, where Kuvira betrayed him by metalbending brainwashing helmets onto him and Sheng, in an attempt to have them admit how they stole the election. Mako and Bolin provided backup, attacking Kuvira and chasing her out of the tent, where Korra, Suyin, Toph, Opal, and a de-brainwashed Asami landed on Juicy to provide backup. While Korra stunned Mako and Bolin with her airbending, Asami cornered Dr. Sheng and stunned her with her electrified glove. The Beifong women used their bending to push back soldiers and mecha suits alike, while Kuvira tracked down Guan and duelled him with metalbending. Kuvira gained the upper hand, and was ready to kill Guan with a sharp piece of metal, but Suyin dissuaded her, saying that it would solve nothing, nor would it bring her peace. Kuvira chose to spare Guan's life, but forced his troops to surrender, supposedly bringing an end to the Earth Empire, although some Earth Empire fundamentalists still remain and threaten the established multicultural diversity of the nation.
Kuvira's infantry included both men as well as women. The troops consisted of enlisted soldiers, guards who defected from Zaofu, former soldiers of the military of the Earth Kingdom, and conscripted ex-bandits, including earthbenders as well as nonbenders. However, according to Suyin, most of the soldiers were forced into service. On the orders of Kuvira, the most unreliable elements of the Earth Empire's army were sent to a re-education camp at Gaoling. There, Dr. Sheng discovered a way to successfully brainwash people, thereby turning them into excellent and loyal soldiers. These brainwashed troops did not see action before Kuvira's surrender, though they later served as basis for Commander Guan's attempt to restore the Earth Empire.
The official military colors of Kuvira's army were green, viridian, and metallic gray and the uniforms reflected those. There were small differences depending on the position in the army, but the uniforms were predominantly dark green, with a lighter green front panel on the jacket. A gray belt centered the uniform around the waist. The pants were made from a tight fabric in a shade of olive green and the boots were black and sturdy. Officers donned metal shoulder plates and wore their chevrons on the left arm. A sergeant sported two stripes on the cuffs, one at the top, one at the bottom, and an additional trim on the front panel of his jacket while a corporal only sported a single stripe on top of his cuffs. The number of chevrons appearing on the left sleeve of an officer or on the left arm of his mecha suits also indicated his rank: one for a private, two for a corporal, and three for a sergeant. Kuvira did not wear any rank insignia other than her unique uniform while Baatar Jr. wore a unique and modified sergeant insignia as her second-in-command.
The infantry also wore helmets and a metalbending soldier additionally wore gloves, a face-covering metal mask with green-glasses goggles, and metal bands around the arms and calves, as well as spools with metal cables on their hips and metal shoulder plates. A regular foot soldier merely wore the helmet with a piece of fabric covering the lower half of the face. Mecha suits pilots were donned in a jumpsuit that is colored in different shades of green and their suits were colored depending on the rank of its pilot: gray for privates, green for corporals, and black for sergeants.
Equipment and weaponry
Kuvira's army utilized a wide variety of heavy vehicles and advanced technology to help them achieve their goals.
- Airships - Her army also possessed an air force of several airships, similar to the ones used in Zaofu.
- High-speed maglev train - Designed by Varrick to serve as Kuvira's personal transport that travels at high speeds on a rail. It housed many of her soldiers and their equipment. It was meant by Kuvira to be seen as a beacon of progress and unity cutting across through the Earth Kingdom, though due to her used methods, it was seen as the harbinger of oppression and fear.
- Metal strips - Metalbenders used strips of metal from their uniforms to attack and bind their opponents.
- Mecha suits - Thanks to the modifications made by Varrick, Kuvira's army had hundreds of mecha suits equipped with a wide array of weapons and abilities.
- Colossus - A giant version of the mecha suit used to transport the spirit energy cannon.
- Spirit energy cannon - A piece of heavy artillery carried around by the Colossus that shot spirit energy beams powerful enough to blast a hole in a mountain.
- Tanks - The army also had a large supply of tanks, reminiscent of the Fire Nation's tundra tanks, at its disposal.
Known Inner Circle members
- Kuvira (general, leader; prisoner of war; incarcerated)
- Baatar Jr. (Second-in-command; prisoner of war; defected)
- Varrick (Corporal; deserted)
- Bolin (Corporal; deserted)
- Guan (Commander, head of the Earth Empire's southern forces)
- Guard post officer (Corporal)
- Guard post soldier (Corporal)
- Zhu Li (mole; deserted)
- Asami Sato (brainwashed)
- Mako (brainwashed)
- Bolin (brainwashed)
- Two outpost soldiers
List of agents
- Bathroom attendant (captured)
Originally the symbol of the Metal Clan, the Earth Empire military emblem is a stylized gray octagon with the Earth Kingdom national emblem, a square inscribed within a circle, in the middle. Around the circle are straps which form a thick cross.
- The concept of the Earth Empire was an idea series creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko had developed after the completion of Avatar: The Last Airbender and before the creation of The Legend of Korra. Wanting to showcase an antagonistic force that drew its strength and evolved from a bending art developed by a prior protagonist, the creators were unable to incorporate the entity into Books One and Two of Korra for lack of space in the narrative; they would later, however, introduce the Metal Clan in Book Three: Change as a metalbending faction aligned with Korra before using elements of the Metal Clan as antagonists for Book Four: Balance.
- The metalbending soldiers that served the Earth Empire were designed to resemble the Stormtroopers in the Star Wars franchise.
- The tanks deployed by Kuvira's forces bore resemblance to British heavy tanks of the First World War, sharing the same rhomboid form, sponsons on the hull's sides and wide, and uncovered continuous tracks. However, their high protruding turrets were more similar to early tanks of the Second World War.
- Kuvira's supporters were people who followed the ideology of the army, donning military uniforms and haircuts, though they were not officially a part of it. They distributed "Great Uniter" propaganda, viewing Kuvira as a more adequate leader for the Earth Kingdom than the legitimate Prince Wu.
- The heavily fortified border and the task of the soldiers guarding it resembled both the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall in design – a constantly patrolled wall directly on the border crowned with barbed wire and checkpoints equipped with heavy weaponry allowing its crossing – and purpose – to contain the citizens in their own state and prevent a foreign invasion.
- The Earth Empire military shared a number of similarities with the military of Nazi Germany during World War II:
- Kuvira's purge of non-ethnic Earth Kingdom citizens by locking them up in camps was similar to Adolf Hitler's ethnic cleansing of what he believed to be a pure Germany with his concentration and labor camps.
- The spirit energy cannon was based on "Dora", a railway gun used by the Nazis in World War II.
- The privates' uniforms heavily resembled those of the armies of World War-era Germany. This is most evident in the design of the helmets, which resemble the German Stahlhelm, and the nearly knee-high boots.
- Female soldiers of different ranks were created, though they were largely left out of the animation. They were however included in the Ruins of the Empire comics.
- The helmets bear a remarkable resemblance to the helmet that Varrick has on his electromagnetic suit.