The Fire Nation is an independent state located on a volcanic archipelago consisting of hundreds of islands. The Fire Lord, an absolute monarch, rules the country and has full power over its laws and military. For over 100 years, the Fire Nation was an aggressive colonial power that sought to spread its culture and influence through force and domination. The Fire Nation military wiped out the Air Nomads, nearly destroyed the Southern Water Tribe, and took control over swathes of Earth Kingdom territory, subjugating Earth Kingdom citizens and extracting natural resources via colonies and work camps. During Fire Lord Zuko’s reign, however, the nation sought to restore peaceful relations with other nations and atone for its aggression. The Fire Nation officially declared itself a pacifist nation and endeavored to undo some of the damage it caused. With violence, invasions, and subjugation etched into the cultural memory of each Nation, however, negative attitudes toward the Fire Nation and firebenders remain today.
Economy & Education
The Fire Nation was the first nation to modernize its economy, and its strong manufacturing sector initiated worldwide industrialization and globalization. While no longer an imperialist power, the Fire Nation can still link much of its economic prosperity to its former exploitation of colonies. In modern times, the Fire Nation boasts the second-largest economy in the world, and much of its success is linked to its economic diversity.
For over a century, the Fire Nation monopolized industries involving metalwork, like shipbuilding. As the art of metalbending spread, however, citizens focused efforts elsewhere. Factories mainly export vehicles, televisions, chemicals, plastics, and components used in electronics. Only a quarter of the Fire Nation’s landmass is suitable for farming, so farmers use complex terraces and intercropping to increase their yields. High quality rice and tropical fruit are the primary agricultural exports.
The Fire Nation has few natural resources and is highly dependent on imported energy — over 80% of its energy is derived from from other nations’ coal, gas, and oil. While Firebenders can produce lightning to power generators, it’s exhausting work, and energy companies are known to overwork and underpay employees. New research in harnessing natural geothermic power of volcanoes has led to promising advances in the energy sector, but meaningful change is still beyond reach.
In modern times, the Fire Nation education system has abandoned its past nationalist narratives. Fire Lord Zuko and Fire Lord Izumi sought to dismantle the propaganda employed by past leaders, and they instituted a national, fact-based curriculum. Conformity and group cohesion are prioritized over individuality, but excellence and individual achievement are rewarded. Particularly among the upper-class, a student’s accomplishments are seen as a direct reflection on their parents and family name. Schooling is now mandatory up to age 18, and pursuing higher education is highly encouraged. Martial Arts and firebending are incorporated into school days as physical education classes. As it has been for thousands of years, the mastery of firebending is a status symbol highly respected by society.
In Genji’s Time
Under Fire Lord Kazuo’s rule, the Fire Nation royal family has worked to adapt and modernize its governance structure. The Fire Lord is still the absolute ruler and chooses how and when to consult with councils, spiritual advisors, and military leaders. However, regional authority has been somewhat democratized, with power being delegated to local elected leaders. Each region also elects Palace Representatives, ordinary civilians tasked with bringing their communities’ grievances and requests to the Fire Lord. These representatives have no decision-making power, but the office is well-respected and allows the Fire Lord to hear the people’s voices.
Still atoning for the aggression of past leaders, the Fire Nation remains pacifist and continues to provide annual reparations to the Air Nation in acknowledgement of past wrongdoings. The Fire Nation has formed strong alliances and economic relationships with the Southern Water Tribe, the Air Nation, and the United Republic. The Fire Nation is heavily dependent on cheap natural resources from the Earth Federation, and this has led to questionable relationships with political leaders and corporations.
Despite its efforts to modernize and keep pace with social change, the traditional authoritarian structure of Fire Nation society endures. Tradition, conformity, and rigidity are still emphasized while self-expression and individuality are not. Fire Nation society is still extremely hierarchical, and wealth and power are concentrated among the nobles and elite. Increasingly, the younger generation is questioning the foundational beliefs of the Fire Nation. A number of counterculture movements are brewing, and the elite of society fear the movements’ dangerous potential.