De-Facto-States: States That Do Not Exist – Or Do They?
The tensed situation in Ukraine recently shed light to a phenomenon that is rarely in the headline of mainstream media – internationally unrecognized de-facto-states in the post-socialist space dependent on Russian patronage.
2 Districts of Donetsk & Luhansk, 36% of which are controlled by de-facto authorities
Languages: Mainly Russian, Ukrainian is language rarely used in everyday practice
Inhabitants: numbers vary between 1.6mio (Ukrainian Government) and 2.8mio (Donbas de-facto authorities)
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The editing of this text was finalised before the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24th, 2022. Therefore, the resulting dynamics were not taken into account.
From the Very Beginning: What Are De-Facto-States?
In a formal-legal consideration, de-facto-states are unrecognized political entities of varying legitimacy. These entities mostly correspond to the requirements of the Montevideo-Convention on the Rights and Duties of States of 1933: to possess control over a permanent population, a defined territory, a government and the capacity to enter into relations with the other states. Additionally, for de-facto-states some special criteria apply:
“They declared their actual sovereignty and obtained some important attributes of statehood (territory, government, armed forces and in some cases even a monetary system). Secondly, their sovereignty has no external recognition or at best, an extremely limited one. (…) Thirdly, they are always located in territory regarded by the international community as part of the territory of internationally recognized parental state.” (Markedonov, 2015)1
The Anomaly in the Westphalian System of States
More Than Mere Conflict Regions: The Donbas Region
Foreign Policy Priority: International Recognition
“the aspirations of unrecognized republics have been supported by external forces in pursuit of their own interests […often u]nder conditions of direct military-political confrontation between a parent state and territories seeking secession, which can upset the balance of power and status quo in a given region” (Markedonov, 2015)1
This confrontation clearly unfolded between Ukraine and Russia after 2014, which is also the explanation why the Ukraine did always speak of Russia as a party of conflict and its enemy rather than the self-declared Republics‘ authorities, who they instead called ‚terrorists‘.
“the level and type of interactions available to unrecognised states is highly dependent on their geographic location, post-conflict dynamics, the openness of borders, the presence of an established diaspora or ethnic kin abroad, the economic structure of the territory, the commitment and capabilities of their patron, and, finally, on the overarching goals of the political leadership of these territories.” (Ó Beacháin et al., 2016)3
This article was inspired by the research seminar on de-facto-statehood in the post-socialist space in the context of the MA program of Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Marburg.
- Markedonov, S. (2015). De facto statehood in Eurasia: a political and security phenomenon. Caucasus Survey. https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/De-facto-statehood-in-Eurasia%3A-a-political-and-Markedonov/d6beb1a51fc68f7da71323f9f66cf0b7eb03e201
- Meydan, V. (2018). A Paradox of International (Non)Recognition: The Relationship between De Facto States and Patron States. International Journal of Economics Politics Humanities and Social Sciences. https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/91050/1/MPRA_paper_91050.pdf
- Ó Beacháin, D., Comai, G., & Tsurtsumia-Zurabashvili, A. (2016). The secret lives of unrecognised states: Internal dynamics, external relations, and counter-recognition strategies. Small Wars & Insurgencies, 27(3), 440–466. https://doi.org/10.1080/09592318.2016.1151654
- Kopeček, V., Hoch, T., & Baar, V. (2016). De Facto States and Democracy: The Case of Abkhazia. Bulletin of Geography. Socio-Economic Series, 32(32), 85–104. https://doi.org/10.1515/bog-2016-0017
- Caspersen, N. (2012). Unrecognized states: The struggle for sovereignty in the modern international system. Polity.
- Fischer, S. (2019). The Donbas conflict: Opposing interests and narratives, difficult peace process. SWP Research Paper. https://doi.org/10.18449/2019RP05
- Sasse, G. (2022) in tagesschau.de. Eine indirekte Annexion. Retrieved online [URL] https://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/europa/russland-ukraine-181.html, last accessed 23.03.2022
- TASS (2022). DPR’s parliament ratifies treaty on friendship, cooperation with Russia. Retrieved online [URL] https://tass.com/politics/1407949, last accessed 23.02.2022
Lena & Marian
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