Date of Graduation

Fall 2016


Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies


Defense and Strategic Studies

Committee Chair

Kerry Kartchner


frozen conflict, de facto state, nationalism, separatism, near abroad, greater Black Sea region, post-Soviet space, hegemony

Subject Categories

Defense and Security Studies


The dissolution of the Soviet Union resulted in the establishment of fifteen sovereign nations and a number of separatist states concentrated in the greater Black Sea region. The latter, so-called de facto states, are the result of frozen conflicts that emerged as Moscow's grip over its territory weakened in the waning years of the USSR and dormant ethno-religious tensions erupted into internecine conflict. Separatists, ultimately with help from Moscow, were able to enshrine victories on the battlefield through ceasefires with metropolitan states that have held for over two decades. However, the issues surrounding these pseudo-states remain unsettled, and attempts at conflict resolution and reconciliation have been complicated by many factors, including Russian interests and involvement in the region, national historical memory and demographics, and international norms and laws that favor the status quo. This thesis examines the de facto states of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Transnistria, and assesses the extent to which Crimea represents a paradigm shift in Russian policy towards separatist movements. Ultimately, the emergence and intractability of frozen conflicts, the results of Soviet and Russian policies respectively, and the entrenchment of de facto states in the greater Black Sea region contribute to regional instability while ensuring Moscow's continuing hegemony in its near abroad.


© Brittany A. Pohl

Open Access