De Facto States: The Quest for Sovereignty

By Tozun Bahcheli; Barry Bartmann et al. | Go to book overview

Introduction

A new world of emerging states

Tozun Bahcheli, Barry Bartmann and Henry Srebrnik

The late twentieth century was clearly a time when conventional notions of sovereign statehood were changing. The phenomenon of globalization along with the emergence of new regional and international regimes in virtually every dimension of traditional sovereign authority are now widely acknowledged. The post-1945 period, paradoxically, has also been one of fragmentation and disintegration. The proliferation of new states, indeed the celebration of separate statehood, has reached the most improbable corners of the world. States may be conceding large areas of exclusive competence, succumbing to new regulatory regimes and collaborating in all manner of jurisdictional authority. But, they also continue to assert their separateness, their exclusivity and their final sovereign authority in an international system predicated on the symbols and the recognition of the centrality of the sovereign state. Indeed, the appeal of sovereignty has ignited the ambitions of scores of societies for whom such a status would have once seemed both absurd and unreachable. But, as new states emerge from the detritus of empires, it has also increased the level of friction between and within states.

The demise of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia demonstrated the chaos that ensues when large states that were informed by an all-encompassing and transnational ideology collapse and leave in their wake a multitude of ethnies within complex belts of mixed population. Some of the nationalities in these multinational empires were already politically organized into legally recognizable and ethnically homogeneous territorial units that made the transition to sovereign statehood relatively easily: Lithuania and Slovenia come to mind. But others found themselves without a political status that could quickly or easily become transformed into sovereign statehood. The Abkhazians, Chechens, Ossetians and Tatars, in the Soviet republics of Georgia and Russia, were examples of such peoples: while they enjoyed a considerable legal measure of autonomy, their lands did not constitute fully-fledged union republics (as say, Uzbekhistan did) with the theoretical right to independence under the Soviet constitution - a right which, surprisingly, all the union republics were able to exercise in 1992. Yet others discovered their claim to sovereignty over all or part of what they considered their historic patrimony was contested by groups competing for parts of the same geographic areas; such was the case of the Armenians and Azeris in the enclaves of

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