Soviet Disunion: Europe's breakaway states

The USSR has been dead for two decades, but conflicts stemming from its ethnic patchwork live on today.

Last updated: 06 Aug 2014 11:58
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It's been an eventful year for the former Soviet Union and the so-called "frozen conflicts" that emerged following its disintegration in 1991.

Last week, deadly fighting erupted in Nagorno-Karabakh, a de facto independent region claimed by Azerbaijan. In May, mass demonstrations toppled the leader of Abkhazia, a breakaway republic in Georgia.

And Transnistria, a thin sliver of land that is claimed by Moldova, has expressed renewed desires to join Russia. That comes in the wake of what happened in Ukraine earlier this year: Pro-Russian separatists took over the Crimean peninsula, which Russia then annexed. Pro-Russian rebels also control parts of Ukraine's far east, where they have proclaimed two "people's republics" in Donetsk and Luhansk.

In 1991, the Soviet Union imploded, disintegrating into its 15 member republics.

These republics had originally been formed based on ethnic lines. When the countries became independent, some ethnic or linguistic minorities - especially along the former USSR's southwestern edges - found themselves in the "wrong" country, declared independence, and looked to Russia for support.

In Georgia, the breakaway states of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are officially recognised only by Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Nauru. Two other breakaway states, Transnistria and Nagorno-Karabakh, are not recognised by any UN member states.

They have their own governments, armies and flags, but are dependent on Russia to varying degrees. (Nagorno-Karabakh, the exception, is backed primarily by Armenia.)

The map below highlights disputed territories claimed by a country that doesn't control it, and that were once part of the Soviet Union. All the entities below claim independence - except for Crimea, which has been annexed by Russia.

Due to the fluid boundaries of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics, only the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk themselves are highlighted here, and not the outlying territory they control.


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