De facto states

In a context where sovereignty is structurally challenged, sub-state actors increasingly engage in international activities, and the dynamics of global capitalism transcend borders, how much does international recognition still matter in practical terms? This research approaches this question by analysing the external relations of post-Soviet de facto states, and comparing them with those of both sovereign and non-sovereign territories that share with them a set of key features.

Theoretically, this research proposes to conceptualise post-Soviet de facto states as small dependent jurisdictions, thus introducing new analytical tools and resetting expectations about the nature of their relations with a patron, their level of dependence, and their long-term sustainability.

Empirically, it offers a wealth of details on how external assistance enables access to public services and a degree of welfare to resident of post-Soviet de facto states.Methodologically, it argues in favour of systematic analysis of textual contents published on the web as an approach still under-utilised in area studies; analyses of purposefully created datasets of textual contents generated by institutions and media of post-Soviet de facto states have been structurally included in various phases of the research.

Conflict and lack of recognition have been fundamental in making post-Soviet de facto states dependent and partly isolated. Since there is no indication that widespread international recognition, reintegration or some other form of agreement on their status is forthcoming, such features should be analytically considered inherent characteristics of these entities. Once they are conceptualised as small dependent jurisdictions, prevalent dynamics of external relations found in these territories are mostly compatible with those found in uncontested territories on both sides of the sovereignty divide.

I summarised key results from this research in a blog post: Non-recognition is the symptom, not the cause.

Giorgio Comai
Researcher, data analyst