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Territorial conflicts on the territory of the former Soviet Union. Stabilised de facto regimes between territorial integrity, the right of self-determination, and the interests of third parties

Quenivet, Noelle



Since the fall of the Soviet Union, eight non-State entities have appeared on its territory, each claiming independence, if not statehood: Abkhazia (Republic of Abkhazia), Chechnya (Republic of Ichkheria), Crimea (Republic of Crimea), Donetsk People’s Republic, Luhansk People’s Republic, Nagorno-Karabakh (Republic of Artsakh), Transnistria (the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic), and South Ossetia (the Republic of South Ossetia - State of Alania). The overwhelming majority of these entities are borne out of the use of armed force and are viewed by political scientists as the epicentre of ‘frozen conflicts’, even though hostilities do flare up from time to time. From an international law perspective, two (Crimea and Chechnya) have been incorporated into another State whilst the others are perduring as non-State entities. The latter situation, most notably, causes a significant problem for international law.
Indeed, the purpose of international law is to regulate the relations between States which are its primary subjects. Being essentially state-centric, international law appears ill-conceived to cater for non-State entities as no viable alternative to statehood exists. Many international organisations only accept States as members and thus such entities have little to no chance to express their views on international affairs, globalisation, sustainable development, etc, shape the formation of international law and, if needed, obtain support. It, therefore, does not come as a surprise that, after declaring their independence, such entities seek statehood through their recognition by other States and the international community more generally.
However, what happens when they survive for years, if not, decades without any formal recognition by the international community? Under international law, their territory belongs to the State from which they seceded even though they have no relations whatsoever with that State. This makes little sense when considering that one of the aims of international law is to ensure peace, security, and order. For sure, if these non-State entities are peaceful and able to maintain security and order internally and at their borders, should they not eventually be allowed to join the state community?
To answer these questions, this presentation starts with a brief history of the non-State entities on the territory of the former Soviet Union. It then seeks to explain what distinguishes them from States. In particular, after focusing on the concept of independence that combines internal and external aspects of governance, it uses a thick/thin independence scale to establish the strength of their statehood claims. The presentation then turns its attention to identifying the legal factors that prevent these entities from being considered States and eventually suggests the adoption of a test to allow such entities to become States.


Quenivet, N. (2022, September). Territorial conflicts on the territory of the former Soviet Union. Stabilised de facto regimes between territorial integrity, the right of self-determination, and the interests of third parties. Presented at Jahrestagung der Görres-Gesellschaft 2022, Aachen, Germany

Presentation Conference Type Speech
Conference Name Jahrestagung der Görres-Gesellschaft 2022
Conference Location Aachen, Germany
Start Date Sep 23, 2022
End Date Sep 25, 2022
Deposit Date Sep 29, 2022
Keywords right of self-determination; statehood; international law; territorial integrity
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