De Facto States

The Post-Soviet De Facto State Research Project was launched by a US National Science Foundation grant to Dr John O’Loughlin (PI), Dr Michael Ward (Co-PI) and Dr Gerard Toal (Co-PI), in 2008. Read the Abstract of the Project here and the Award Budget here.

The project initially involved three de facto states and Kosovo, which was seeking to become a widely recognized state. Later the project was extended to Nagorny Karabakh.

Other researchers involved in the project include Professor Vladimir Kolossov, Institute of Geography, Russian Academy of Sciences (currently head of the International Geographical Union) and Dr Kristin Bakke, University College London

As a social scientific research endeavor, the Post-Soviet De Facto State Research Project does not take any official position on the illegality or otherwise of de facto states.

The project has received further National Science Foundation funding for social science survey research in May 2014. Abstract and Award here. This enabled a second round of research surveys in the de facto states. The project thus has temporal as well as a geographic comparative data.

The annexation of Crimea and emergence of two new de facto states in the Donbas underscores the relevance of the research project to contemporary international affairs and policy making.


Drs O’Loughlin, Kolossov and Toal lead the field research for the project, conducting elite interviews, composing the survey questionnaire and supervising the survey research implementation. Dr O’Loughlin is the primary data archivist and analyst, with significant support from Dr Michael Ward and Dr Bakke who has her own independent survey research projects in de facto states.


The Project has produced publications on all four de facto states and comparative research articles. Below is the current list of articles out or in press.


G. Toal, J. O’Loughlin, “Frozen Fragments, Simmering Spaces: Post-Soviet De Facto States.” In Questioning Post-Soviet, E. Holland, M. Derrek, eds. Washington DC: Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson Press.


O’Loughlin, G. Toal, V. Kolossov, “The Rise and Fall of “Novorossiya”: Examining Support for a Separatist Geopolitical Imaginary in Southeast Ukraine.” Post-Soviet Affairs, published online 29 February.


O’Loughlin, V. Kolossov, G. Toal, “Inside the Post-Soviet de facto States: A Comparison of Attitudes in Abkhazia, Nagorny Karabakh, South Ossetia, and Transnistria,” Eurasian Geography and Economics. 55, 5, 423-456.

Bakke, J. O’Loughlin, G. Toal and M. Ward, “Convincing State Builders? Disaggregating Internal Legitimacy in Abkhazia.” International Studies Quarterly. 58, 3, 591-607.


G. Toal, J. O’Loughlin, “Land for Peace in Nagorny Karabakh? Political Geographies and Public Attitudes Inside a De Facto State.” Territory, Politics, Governance. 1, 2, 158–182.

G. Toal, J. O’Loughlin, “Inside South Ossetia: Survey of Attitudes in a De Facto State.” Post-Soviet Affairs. 29, 2, 136-172.

O’Loughlin, J., G. Toal and R. Chamberlain-Chenga, “Divided Space, Divided Attitudes? A Comparative Analysis of Simultaneous Surveys in the Republics of Moldova and Pridnestrovie (Transnistria).” Eurasian Geography and Economics. 54, 2, 227-258.

L. Broers, G. Toal, “Cartographic Exhibitionism? Visualizing the Territory of Armenia and Nagorny Karabakh.” Problems of Post-Communism. 60, 3, 16-35.


G. Toal, M. Frichova Grono, “After Ethnic Violence in the Caucasus: Attitudes of Local Abkhazians and Displaced Georgians in 2010,” Eurasian Geography and Economics, 52, 5, 655-678.

J. O’Loughlin, V. Kolossov, G. Toal, “Inside Abkhazia: Survey of Attitudes in a De Facto State,” Post-Soviet Affairs, 27, 1, 1-36.

Pre-publication versions of these articles are available on Dr O’Loughlin’s website.