Bildet viser Russlands president Vladimir Putin og tidligere leder for Abkhazia, Raul Khadzhimba, i samtale foran sine respektive flagg i 2017 Foto: Alexei Druzhinin/NTB Scanpix

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

Research project

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

2020 - 2023 (Ongoing) Project number: 22890-1

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).