Bildet viser Russlands president Vladimir Putin og tidligere leder for Abkhazia, Raul Khadzhimba, i samtale foran sine respektive flagg i 2017

PATRON AND CLIENT: Russian President Vladimir Putin and former leader of Abkhazi, Raul Khadzhimba, during a press conference in 2017.

Photograph: Alexei Druzhinin/NTB Scanpix

Dynamics of de facto state patron-client relations (DeFacto)

2020 - 2023 (Ongoing) Project number: 22890-1
Research project
Almost all de facto states that survive for some time have a powerful 'patron' that provides security guarantees and economic support. Too often this has resulted in the de facto states simply being brushed off as hapless pawns in their patron's power play. In 'DeFacto' we challenge this assumption, examining what room de facto states have for independent agency.

'DeFacto' will, through surveys, fieldwork and expert interviews address three overarching questions:

  • How do popular attitudes restrain/resource de facto state leaders vis-a-vis the patron?
  • How do these leaders navigate between domestic demands and the patron's expectations?
  • And how do patron states exert their influence?

De facto states - states that have failed to win international recognition - have long been understudied 'blank spots,' overlooked in academic literature and on maps. However, they play critical and contentious roles in international politics: Since the end of the Cold War, de facto states have been involved in a disproportionately large number of violent conflicts, resulting in their establishment, change of status, or elimination. Achieving a better understanding of the dynamics of de facto state politics is, therefore, crucial.

Almost all de facto states that survive for some time have a powerful 'patron' that provides security guarantees and economic support. Too often this has resulted in the de facto states simply being brushed off as hapless pawns in their patron's power play. In 'DeFacto' we challenge this assumption, examining what room de facto states have for independent agency.

We want to shift the research focus from (the lack of) conflict resolution to the factors that perpetuate the status quo, developing a new model for understanding patron-client relations. In particular, we are interested in exploring the role of domestic constituencies in serving as both a constraint and a resource that leaders of de facto states can mobilize in negotiations with the patron. The study will cover all eight existing de facto states that have a patron: Abkhazia, Donetsk, Luhansk, Nagorno-Karabakh, Northern Cyprus, South Ossetia, Taiwan and Transnistria. Further, we include the only two cases of failed post-Cold War de facto states that had a patron: Srpska Krajina and Republika Srpska. 

External project resources:

Funders

The project is funded by the Research council of Norway (RCN).

Publications

Publication : Popular scientific article
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Trade, Trust, and De Facto State Conflicts: Abkhazia’s International Economic Engagement

2021
Does trade really foster trust? In the case of conflict-torn regions, developing trade links is often believed to contribute to transforming conflict ...
Publication : Academic article
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Russia's Neighborhood Policy and Its Eurasian Client States: No Autocracy Export

2021
Do authoritarian regimes engage in active export of their political systems? Or are they primarily concerned about their geopolitical interests? This ...

Project Manager

Helge Blakkisrud

Senior Research Fellow (part time)

 

Themes
Russia and Eurasia  Governance  Development policy  Conflict
Participants

Tamta Gelashvili

Junior Research Fellow (part time)

 

External

Partners

Kristin Bakke, Peace Research Institute Oslo (Institutt for Fredsforskning) 

Nina Caspersen, University of York  

Pål Kolstø, University of Oslo 

Contributing experts:

Eiki Berg, Tartu University 

Magdalena Dembinska, Université de Montréal 

Daria Isachenko, Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik 

Sergei Markedonov, MGIMO

Donnacha Ó Beacháin, Dublin City University 

John O’Loughlin, University of Colorado 

Scott Pegg, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis 

Gerard Toal, Virginia Tech 

Galina Yemelianova, SOAS Centre of Contemporary Central Asia & the Caucasus

DeFacto publications from our external partners:

Reclaiming Statehood in Republika Srpska: The Recent Outcomes of Dodik’s Protracted Politics, Sophie Gueudet, University of York, March 2022

Holding Back or Pushing Forward? Patron-Client Relations and Elite Navigations in Northern Cyprus, Eiki Berg and İzzet Yalin Yüksel, July 2022.

What’s in a name? “De facto states”, terminological choices, and normative consequences, Pål Kolstø, University of Oslo, August 2022.

Events
Tue 5 Oct 2021
Event
Time: 14:00 Europe/Oslo
Location: C.J. Hambrosplass 2 D / Livestream to Facebook and Youtube

De Facto States and Land-for-Peace Agreements: Territory and Recognition at Odds?

Sovereignty conflicts are inevitably linked to geography. Can there be geographical solutions to secessionist conflicts, which are caught between two principles at cross purposes: the principle of self-determination (defended by de facto states) and the principle of territorial integrity (defended by parent states)?