Magdalena Dembińska – Nationalities Papers – Legitimizing the Separatist Cause: Nation-building in the Eurasian de facto States

Read Magdalena Dembińska’s article in Cambridge University Press.  

This article compares the nation-building processes in four well-established Eurasian de facto states. Although all four pursue a set of identity politics that would legitimize the separatist cause, comparing them reveals important differences in boundary-making strategies. While maintaining the image of the enemy parent-state and of an imminent external threat is a common endeavor, they face different challenges and thus have pursued different strategies of identity-building. Transnistria and Abkhazia are two ethnically heterogeneous entities while Nagorno-Karabakh and South Ossetia are more homogeneous since (forced) displacements, mostly of non-titular ethnicities, took place. The Abkhazs, Ossetians, and Armenians claim titular status in their respective regions, but only the latter two have kin in neighboring countries with whom they want to unify. Meanwhile, the “Transnistrian people” is a newly invented construct. Despite their lack of international recognition, the article demonstrates that – apart from a special emphasis on cultivating the image of the “enemy parent-state” – the nation-building mechanisms in the de facto states do not substantially differ from the processes at work in other post-Soviet states presented in this Special Issue.

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