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An Introduction to Breakaway Regions of the Former Soviet Union
(Released January 2009)

  by Fiona Allison  


Key Citations




Key Citations Short Format Full Format
  1. Living with Non-recognition: State- and Nation-building in South Caucasian Quasi-states

    Pal Kolsto and Helge Blakkisrud.

    Europe-Asia Studies, Vol. 60, No. 3, May 2008, pp. 483-509.

    The dissolution of the Soviet Union led to the establishment of several non-recognised statelets, three of which -- Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh -- are located in the South Caucasus. This article sets aside the question of whether these quasi-states ought to be internationally recognised, and focuses on whether they exist as functioning state entities. To what extent are the authorities in these would-be states able to provide the populace with the services expected of contemporary states -- like internal and external security, basic infrastructure and welfare? All three insist that they are not only functioning states, but also nation-states that command the allegiance of their population. We thus also discuss their claim to embody real nationhood. Adapted from the source document.

  2. Out of the Frying Pan, into the Fire? Post-Soviet Regime Changes in Comparative Perspective

    Vladimir Gel'man.

    International Political Science Review, Vol. 29, No. 2, March 2008, pp. 157-180.

    Why do some countries become democracies, while others move from one nondemocratic regime to another? Post-communist transformations in the countries of the former Soviet Union could be viewed as a “natural experiment” in regime change: the politics of post-Soviet states demonstrate a great diversity. In this article, I present a partial theory of post-Soviet regime change and attempt to explain the outcomes of elite conflicts in post-Soviet states and their consequences for regime change. The account of political transformations in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus will outline certain common features and peculiarities of regime change in each case and provide several implications for comparative studies of regime change.

  3. Can Boney M bring world peace?

    Matthew Collin.

    Observer, suppl.Music Monthly No.51, 11 Nov 2007, pp. 22-24, 26.

    Boney M's songs have long been popular in the former Soviet Union. They were among the few Western bands to get Communist Party approval to play concerts in the USSR before it collapsed. They have been invited to perform at a "peace festival" in South Ossetia, invited by the figurehead of the Georgian government-funded campaign to depose the South Ossetian separatist President.

  4. Dimensions of Conflict Resolution. The EU and Georgia's Renegade Territories

    Bruno Coppieters.

    Osteuropa, Vol. 57, No. 11, Nov 2007, pp. 67-81.

    The European Union is trying to mediate in the secession conflicts between Georgia & South Ossetia as well as Abkhazia. In doing so, it is relying on conflict prevention, conflict transformation, international conflict management, & conflict resolution. Its efforts, however, are being thwarted. Georgia would like settlement immediately, the leaderships of the separatist territories, on the other hand, are playing for time with Russia's support. Tbilisi is trying to break the blockade by escalation, but with that, it is undermining confidence building & the prospects of a status settlement acceptable for Georgia. Adapted from the source document.

  5. Europe's Unrecognised Neighbours: The EU in Abkhazia and South Ossetia

    Nicu Popescu.

    Centre for European Policy Studies, 2007, 41p

    The EU can do little to achieve its policy objectives in its Eastern neighbourhood without facing the issue of secessionist conflicts. This paper deals with EU policy towards Georgia and the secessionist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. It discusses the reasons for and constraints on EU policies, their effects and perception in the secessionist entities. The paper concludes with recommendations on how the EU can contribute to conflict resolution in Georgia through a greater inclusion of the conflict regions into the European Neighbourhood Policy. References.

  6. Frozen Conflicts. What Is to Become of the Virtual States?

    Wim van Meurs.

    Osteuropa, Vol. 57, No. 11, Nov 2007, pp. 111-120.

    The first interpretations of ethnic conflicts in Eastern Europe after 1989 have been proven wrong in many issues. The number of conflicts that escalated into violence has been smaller than expected, but finding a solution for them has been harder. The virtual states that have come into being such as Kosovo, Transnistria, or Abkhazia have proven more capable of surviving than was predicted at the start of the 1990s. Furthermore, it has turned out that these virtual states are not only lucrative elite projects. They cannot get around offering a minimum of the state's re-distributional function or establishing a regional or national identity. The study of causes & conflict management must be reconsidered. Adapted from the source document.

  7. Moldova, Transnistria and European Democracy Policies

    Jos Boonstra.

    Fundacion para las Relaciones Internacionales y el Dialogo Exterior, 2007, 7p

    In its first 15 years of independence, the Republic of Moldova has made only limited progress towards developing an economically viable and democratic state. The country remains impoverished and its leadership has been unable to make progress on solving the internal separatist Transnistrian conflict. Recently, attention towards Moldova and the Transnistrian issue has dwindled, having been placed on the backburner by EU member states and the United States. Nonetheless, the US and EU governments, international organisations and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) have made their way to Chisinau to discuss democratic consolidation and, hopefully, will now be en route to Tiraspol. Figures.


    William Crowther.

    East European Quarterly, Vol. 41, No. 3, 2007, pp. 273-304.

    In 2001 the Communist Party of the Republic of Moldova (PCRM) became the first orthodox communist party to be elected back into power since the fall of the former Soviet Union. The Moldovan communists assumed control over a country that had been impoverished in the course of a failed economic transition and ravaged by a decade of nearly continuous political infighting, unchecked corruption, maladministration, and unresolved territorial dispute with the unrecognized separatist regime in neighboring Transnistria. Crowther discusses the conditions that gave rise to the Moldovan Communists' return to power, examines both the domestic and foreign policy trends that emerged since 2001 and argues on the PCRM's initial ideological proclivities in reshaping its policies to conform to the external and domestic constraints facing it.

  9. Russia and Its Neighbors Ukraine, Belarus and Moldavia - Integration Conflicts with the EU?

    Heinz Timmermann.

    Politische Studien, Vol. 58, No. 415, Sept-Oct 2007, pp. 56-69.

    Russia sees itself as a part of Europe, but, contrary to Eastern Europe, not as part of EU-Europe. There are a series of common interests between Russia & the EU, such as reliable border management, dependable transit regulations for persons & goods, as well as energy supply to Europe, defense against "soft" security risks such as smuggling of arms & drug trafficking. Russia basically agrees to cooperation & joint crisis management in Eastern Europe. However, one condition is that Russia has the leading role in joint endeavors. The instability in the Ukraine due to power struggles, the increased insecurity of the Lukaschenko regime in Belarus due to energy price increases, & the unsolved problem of Transnistrien in Moldavia -- are also in the future important determinants for a Russia-EU-relationship. E. Sanchez

  10. "Outsourcing" de facto statehood: Russia and the secessionist entities in Georgia and Moldova

    Nicu Popescu .

    Centre for European Policy Studies, 2006, 8

    This paper attempts to map Russia's policies towards the conflicts in Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria. The first part discusses Russia's role in the conflicts during the 1990s and gives some background information on the secessionist conflicts in Georgia and Moldova. The second part discusses policy trends in the Russian Federation that have inspired a new feeling of self-confidence. The third part analyses how the new Russian self-confidence is resulting in new pro-active policies towards the secessionist entities. These policies include political, economic and diplomatic support, state-building assistance, maintaining the status quo, making use of the "Kosovo precedent" and taking over some of the institutions of the secessionist entities.

  11. Moldova's uncertain future


    International Crisis Group, 2006, 27

    Discusses how Moldova is a weak state divided by conflict and plagued by corruption and organized crime. Argues that if Moldova is to become a stable part of the EU's neighbourhood, there will need to be much greater international engagement, not only in conflict resolution but in spurring domestic reforms to help make the country more attractive to its citizens.

  12. The 'Renewal' of Transnistria

    Vladimir Korobov and Georgii Byanov.

    The Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics, Vol. 22, No. 4, Dec 2006, pp. 517-528.

    Evaluates the likely impact of political events in the Dnestr Moldovan Republic (Pridnestrovskaya Moldavskaya Respublika [PMR] or Transnistria) for Russia, Ukraine, & the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in general. A broad trend in the direction of the '3 Ds' -- democratization, demilitarization, & decriminalization -- is analyzed as a portent of major political changes in the unrecognized nation state. The 11 Dec 2005 elections demonstrated significant increases in voter turnout & changes in the structure of the parliament (the Transnistrian Supreme Soviet), which, along with the nonviolent replacement of the ruling elite with a new business elite & the emergence of a civil society & free media, suggest promising new directions. The likely 'Ukrainization' of Transnistria is also described, along with its implications for internal politics & international relations. Tables, Figures. K. Hyatt Stewart

  13. Shooting Itself in the Foot: Georgia and Russia in a Spiral of Escalation

    Walter Kaufmann.

    Osteuropa, Vol. 56, No. 10, Oct 2006, pp. 117-121.

    The conflict between Russia & Georgia has escalated to crisis. The public expulsion of Russian agents from Georgia provided the pretext. Russia reacted with sanctions & deportations. At the heart of the matter lie competing interests. Georgia is fighting for its territorial integrity. Russia is supporting the renegade regions of Abkhazia & South Ossetia. Georgia is drawn to NATO, which meets with displeasure in Russia. The actions of the parties to the conflict are counterproductive. Moscow's manipulations & deportations strengthen the government of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili. & his aggressive rhetoric & risky policy makes the re-establishment of Georgia's territorial integrity more unlikely. With a policy of escalation both regimes are taking a bearish turn. Adapted from the source document.

  14. The South Ossetia Conflict: Russia versus Georgia

    Tracey C. German.

    Politique etrangere, Vol. , No. 1, spring 2006, pp. 51-64.

    This article focuses on the deterioration of relations between Georgia & Russia over the secessionist regions of Abkhazia & South Ossetia. Georgia's separatist conflicts are far more than domestic territorial disputes: they have both regional & international implications, & represent one of the principal obstacles to the development of Georgian-Russian relations. As military skirmishes have threatened to escalate, jeopardizing stability in the volatile Caucasus region, President Mikheil Saakashvili's desire to resolve these protracted conflicts has become symbolic of his vigorous approach to tackling Georgia's more intractable problems. Adapted from the source document.

  15. The Sustainability and Future of Unrecognized Quasi-States

    Pål Kolstø.

    Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 43, No. 6, November 2006, pp. 723-740.

    The study of quasi-states has been marred by an unfortunate terminological confusion. Sometimes, this term is taken to mean recognized states that fail to develop the necessary state structures to function as fully fledged, ‘real’ states. At other times, ‘quasi-states’ is a designation given to regions that secede from another state, gain de facto control over the territory they lay claim to, but fail to achieve international recognition. The author proposes that, in order to clear up this confusion, recognized but ineffectual states ought to be referred as ‘failed states’, while the term ‘quasi-states’ ought to be reserved for unrecognized, de facto states. Since quasi-states are not supported by international recognition, they must be sustained by something else. In contrast to researchers who maintain that the majority of these quasi-states are quite strong, this article argues that their modal tendency is weak economy and weak state structures. The main reasons why these states nevertheless have not collapsed seem to be that they have managed to build up internal support from the local population through propaganda and identity-building; channel a disproportionately large part of their meager resources into military defense; enjoy the support of a strong patron; and, in most cases, have seceded from a state that is itself very weak.

  16. With friends like these


    Economist; 378 (8462) 28 Jan 2006, Vol. 378, No. 8462, pp.39-40 2006

    Many Russians have mixed feelings about Georgia, their neighbour in the south Caucasus. They resent what they see as Georgian ingratitude, especially since Mikhail Saakashvili swept to the presidency in the rose revolution of 2003. The two governments' tense relations were violently strained when, on 22 January 2006, the two pipelines from Russia that provided Georgia's entire gas supply were blown up near the Georgian border. Later in the morning, an electricity line was knocked out too. There is a host of possible suspects, including militant Russian nationalists thought to have bombed a Russian train in 2005 and separatists operating both in Russia and in South Ossetia. Many Russians have mixed feelings about Britain, too. The two governments' awkward relations were tested on the same day as the pipeline bombs, when a report was aired on television accusing four British embassy staff of spying.

  17. Balancing the Balancer: Russia, the West, and Conflict Resolution in Georgia

    Cory Welt.

    Global Dialogue, Vol. 7, No. 3-4, summer-autumn 2005, pp. 22-36.

    Discusses Russian & US involvement in Georgia's internal conflicts in South Ossetia & Abkhazia, arguing that the latter's engagement is a strong first step toward Georgian reunification. Russia's intervention as a hegemonic balancer resulted in stalemate, & this failure to resolve the conflicts is attributed to a Russian lack of will; in the wake of this, Georgia moved to distance itself from Russia & pursue energy & security relationships with the US. Georgian-US relations advanced with the advent of the war on terror & a concomitant increase in military assistance. However, conflict resolution was not of prime importance to the US, &, despite its position in the war on terror & staunch support of the US invasion of Iraq, Georgia's relations with the West began to deteriorate, pushing back toward Russia. The Georgian Rose Revolution led to foreign policy reforms seeking a balance between good relations with Russia & greater integration with Europe & NATO, as well as to new impetus to resolve Georgia's internal conflicts; problems with the latter are detailed. Arguments for & against Western involvement in Georgian conflict resolution are offered, along with suggestions for Russian involvement. The Bush administration's refusal to commit more heartily to resolving Georgia's territorial disputes is then noted, asserting that addressing the reunification of South Ossetia makes sense. D. Edelman

  18. Explaining Ethnic Conflict in the South Caucasus: Mountainous Karabagh, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia

    Cory D. Welt.

    Thesis, 2005.

    This dissertation investigates the origins of ethnic conflict in the South Caucasus. It explains the mass mobilization of regional groups in Mountainous (Nagorno) Karabagh, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia from 1987 to 1989, variation in the goals of these groups (and of other regional groups in the USSR), and the start of the conflict-spirals that ultimately led to ethnic war. The dissertation examines three aspects of mass mobilization: group motivation, the commitment problem, and perceptions of opportunity. Utilizing historical memories, leadership rhetoric, signals of opponent intentions, and evidence of shifting capabilities, the dissertation assesses four hypotheses for group motivation: fear of violence, cultural extinction, demographic shift, and economic discrimination. It concludes that all three groups were mainly motivated by a fear of future demographic shifts and economic discrimination. The dissertation argues that the three regional groups also shared a political commitment problem--the absence of a mechanism that guaranteed union republic opponents would protect their demographic and economic interests after they agreed to a compromise. Contemporary signals of intent and historical precedents led groups to believe their opponents were committed to state centralization, not the expansion of regional autonomy. Regarding opportunity, two regional groups believed their demands coincided with Mikhail Gorbachev's commitment to rectify "deviations" from the early Soviet path of state development and could thus persuade the central government to accommodate their demands. The third regional group did not and so pursued a more modest political goal. The dissertation applies the above findings to cases of regional mobilization (and its absence) elsewhere in the USSR and finds that a focus on opportunity provides the best explanation for the presence or absence of mass mobilization. Finally, the dissertation argues that conventional state security concerns best explain the start of escalation. Union republic opponents, Azerbaijanis and Georgians, perceived regional mobilization to be manifestations of broader "interstate" conflicts pitting Azerbaijan and Georgia against, respectively, Armenia and Russia. They did not consider the actions of regional groups to be a product of group insecurities. The dissertation concludes by applying the above findings to the practice of conflict resolution. (Copies available exclusively from MIT Libraries, Rm. 14-0551, Cambridge, MA 02139-4307. Ph. 617-253-5668; Fax 617-253-1690.).

  19. Separatist States and Post-Soviet Conflicts

    Dov Lynch.

    International Affairs, Vol. 78, No. 4, Oct 2002, pp. 831-848.

    This article examines why the conflicts in Moldova, Georgia, & Azerbaijan in the former Soviet Union have not been resolved in the last 10 years, whereas a peace agreement has been reached in Tajikistan. The analysis centers on the role of the self-declared separatist states that have emerged in the midst of the post-Soviet states: the Pridnestrovyan Moldovan Republic inside Moldovan borders, the Republic of South Ossetia, the Republic of Abkhazia within Georgian borders, & the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic of Azerbaijan. The argument is divided into four parts, starting first with a brief discussion of the reasons that allowed a fragile peace to arise in Tajikistan. The article then defines the concept of a de facto state -- a state without international recognition, but with empirical existence. The main part of the article examines the range of forces, internal & external to the de facto states, that weave together to sustain the current status quo of nonresolution. Adapted from the source document.

  20. The Benefits of Ethnic War: Understanding Eurasia's Unrecognized States

    Charles King.

    World Politics, Vol. 53, No. 4, July 2001, pp. 524-552.

    Within international relations, discussions about how civil wars end have focused mainly on the qualities of the belligerents (ethnicity, commitment to the cause) or on the strategic environment of decision making (security dilemmas). Work in sociology & development economics, however, has highlighted the importance of war economies & the functional role of violence. This article combines these approaches by examining the mechanisms through which the chaos of war becomes transformed into networks of profit, & through which these in turn become hardened into the institutions of quasi states. The first section offers a brief overview of current research on civil war endings. The second section outlines the course of four Eurasian wars & identifies the de facto states that have arisen after them: the republic of Nagorno-Karabakh (in Azerbaijan), the Dnestr Moldovan republic (in Moldova), & the republics of Abkhazia & South Ossetia (in Georgia). The third section analyzes the pillars of state building in each case: the political economy of weak states, the role of external actors, the mythologizing function of cultural & educational institutions, & the complicity of central governments. The concluding section suggests lessons that these cases might hold for further study of intrastate violence. 1 Table. Adapted from the source document.