The Anarchy in the Land of Earth was a period of chaos and civil war in the Land of Earth, from 125 AG to 127 AG following the breakdown of Earth Lady Hou-Ting's assassination by the Red Lotus. With increasing social conflicts, poverty, and lawlessness as a reaction to Hou-Ting's death, the subsequent Red Lotus insurrection led to an open revolt in Ba Sing Se that then spread through the whole nation.
Social problems and bureaucratic oppression
Ever since the Peasant Uprising in Ba Sing Se, the Land of Earth, much like the other five great nations, have been traditionally a constitutional monarchy, with the governing body being de facto led by officials and bureaucrats while the Earth Lord was left in a weak position. The central government power was restricted to the capital and the hidden village of Iwagakure at the hands of the Tsuchikage, while local nobles held true power through the nation.
At the same time, poverty became a significant problem in the Land of Earth, with a large wealth gap between lower class citizens and nobility, mainly in major settlements. For a long time, the government was only able to suppress social unrest by oppression through Iwa shinobi and Dai Li indoctrination. While military oppression was sky high in Ba Sing Se, the people who lived in rural areas were still abused, robbed, and killed by military personnel and rogue missing-nin from both the inside and outside. Because of the weak central government, the living standards and citizen taxing highly differed from region to region; people from Omashu enjoyed an overall good and undisturbed life. Over the course of the Conspiracy of Ba Sing Se, Dai Li and government officials abused the constitution and their positions of power to gather more wealth and manufacture corruption by reducing the 52nd Earth King, Kuei, to a puppet of theirs. Because of the Earth King's absence from the public, he became out out touch with reality, a godlike being for the common peasants. As a result, the people distrusted and feared the politicians, while simultaneously believing that the shinobi of Iwagakure was not doing their best to keep them protected from attacks in rural areas. While Kuei later attempted to rule as a benevolent monarch, he was unable to solve the many social issues his nation faced even after the government reform.
Deterioration under Hou-Ting
The instability took an even worse turn when Hou-Ting became the next Earth Monarch. Unlike Kuei, the Earth Queen cared more about her possessions and power consolidation than the welfare and freedom of her people, using Iwa shinobi to round up dissidents and detain them without a trial. Mass poverty grew eben more in the slums of Ba Sing Se, leading to a growth of radical mindsets within the frustrated population. At the same time, Hou-Ting transformed her government into a centralist autocracy, much to the panic of her fellow Monarchs of the five great nations, who feared for subsequent businesses and trade embargoes; the Grand Secretariat of Ba Sing Se merely became a servant for the Earth Monarch instead of a trustworthy advisor.
Additionally, the central government came to exercise greater authority over the Land of Earth's provinces outside the capital, much to the anger of the Third Tsuchikage, Onoki, who saw this as a betrayal to Iwa's sovereignty within their own borders. By 124 AG, her reign was so unpopular that minor revolts started to break out in rural areas; rebels and insurgents intercepted taxes, arguing that money belonged to the people, not the Queen. Hou-Ting's troublesome behavior prompted sanctions by the other four Monarchs by means of the United Republic of Nations, and the growing social unrest presented both the Red Lotus and the Akatsuki a perfect opportunity to further their goals.
However, not all settlements across the Land of Earth succumbed to Hou-Ting's regime. The city of Gaoling was able to remain standing still thanks to the progressive leadership of Suyin Beifong. As a result, many of Gaoling's citizens, including Toph Beifong believed the monarchy to be an archaic and unsuitable system to rule the Earth lands. These teachings also impacted the city's top Jonin, Kuvira, who later used them as a reason to stage her military and political actions.
Assassination of the Earth Queen
In 171 AG, a Red Lotus group presented the wanted Mako and Bolin as a gift for Hou-Ting in order to gain her trust and persuade the monarch to hand Avatar Naruto Uzumaki over to them. The deal went sour when the Red Lotus learned that Naruto had escaped. Barging into the Queen's throne room, the anarchists killed the Dai Li agents that protected the Queen, giving room for Zaheer to airbend the air out of Hou-Ting's lungs, suffocating and killing her. They later broke into a radio operator's room and broadcasted to Ba Sing Se that the Earth Queen was dead. As this happened, Ghazan destroyed a large section of the wall that separated the Lower and Middle rings of the capital. With the walls down, Zaheer proclaimed they brought the city back to its rightful owners: the people. The citizens of the Lower Ring, furious about their poverty and rampant social inequality, invaded the Upper and Middle rings to beat and kill the people whom they saw as their oppressors.
Burning of Ba Sing Se
Law and order collapsed around Ba Sing Se almost immediately after. Because Hou-Ting had intentionally taken away power of bureaucracy and the administration, there was no one left in the government to fill the void after her death. As a result, the remnants of Hou-Ting's government did not have the means or authority to bring Ba Sing Se under their control.
Lower Ring citizens began rioting and looting the other rings of the city, pillaging the Land of Earth Royal Palace subsequently. Even some Royal Earth Guards, historically loyal to the government, defected from their positions to join the looters. Other loyalists scattered and hid. Ba Sing Se airships docked at the palace, only to be dismantled or stolen. While the Middle Ring and the Upper Ring were the first to suffer from the anarchy's chaos, by evening, it had also spread to the Lower Ring. A massive fire broke out, consuming large parts of the Land of Earth's capital city.
Powerless and threatened, the royal cabinet, several government officials and the royal family scattered and fled the nation. Prince Wu, the heir to the Land of Earth throne, took asylum in Republic City, capital city of the Land of Fire, who sent him to Konohagakure so he could be protected from assassins. After the collapse of the central government, the Land of Earth at large also fell into anarchy and chaos. As Naruto remained weakened after his fight against the Red Lotus, he was unable to intervene and needed time to recover his strength. As a result, the Konoha 11 decided they would follow Naruto's example as the Avatar for service and sacrifice to help maintain peace and order in the world.
Fragmentation and reunification
Without the Earth Queen's leadership or any government official present, Onoki desperately took over as the Land of Earth's acting leader by sending numerous shinobi from Iwagakure to protect the peoples of the settlements across the Land of Earth from rioters. Roshi, Jinchuriki of the Five-Tails, was one of the many shinobi that led a contingent to protect Omashu. However, on his way, he was confronted by Akatsuki members Itachi Uchiha and Kisame Hoshigaki, who were able to neutralize Hoshi to extract the Five-Tails from his body.
With the central government's loss, many cities and provinces across the Land of Earth chose to defend themselves and fragmented into independent states. With Iwa and Konoha spread too thin to pacify the enormous nation and despite Iwa's efforts to return Prince Wu to the throne, balance and peace were largely absent, with bandit groups expanding at a fast rate. Some criminal groups grew to become small armies with hundreds of members, equipped with powerful war technology.
After the defeat of the Red Lotus, Suyin Beifon was called upon by Onoki to help him unify the realm as she was deemed the perfect person for the job duo to the trust she gained among the world's leaders and her credibility in the Land of Earth as a member of the Beifong Clan. Despite Suyin's anti-monarchical views, she refused the Third Tsuchikage's offer, unwilling to seize the power by herself. Kuvira, however, believed it to be a chance for her to make a difference in the world and decided to go against the matriarch's wishes. With the help of Baatar, she secretly convinced many parts of Iwa's shinobi forces and a many of the city's richest citizens to join her in a quest to reunite the Land of Earth. After they stabilized Ba Sing Se, Kuvira gained the trust of Onoki and other world leaders, being appointed as the provisional monarch of the nation.
Kuvira continued her quest to bring stability and union to the Land of Earth and, by 127 AG, she reunited most of the nation with military strength, which earned her the nickname "Great Uniter", though many, specially Naruto, saw her as a conqueror. In order to stabilize the conquered areas in a long term, Kuvira's forces secretly initiated a purge of dissidents without Onoki and Suyin's knowledge, which included political enemies and even citizens of non-Land of Earth origin, in prison-like reeducation camps. One of the last settlements to oppose her rule was Yi, but they ended up submitting to her after bandits threatened to starve their population.
With the nation largely pacified and the anarchy quelled, Prince Wu was set to be crowned Earth Monarch in a public celebration after his return to the Land of Earth. His ascension was supported by Iwagakure and international powers, but opposed by Kuvira and those who followed her. As Wu was coronated as the Land of Earth's new king, Kuvira denounced his authority and declared herself as Earth Queen, to both praise and retaliation by those watching the ceremony. Under her leadership, Kuvira threatened to crush any opposition that stood against her new nation. Her declaration steered a civil war between loyalists to Wu and Kuvira's loyalists, with the former being funded supported by Onoki.