Review: “The Making of Informal States: Statebuilding in Northern Cyprus and Transdniestria” – Daria Isachenko

“The Making of Informal States: Statebuilding in Northern Cyprus and Transdniestria” by Daria Isachenko offers a very unique analysis of the conflict in Northern Cyprus and Transdniestria. Isachenko uses Norbert Elias’ theory of figurational sociology, a research tradition in which figurations of humans — evolving networks of interdependent humans — are the unit of investigation, to examine the creation of unrecognized states. Most books on ethnic and separatist conflicts focus on the more empirical aspects of the conflicts (i.e., the war itself, the history of the people, etc.), and those that offer a more theorical analysis are usually limited to international law (Kruger, Potier, Cassese, etc.) or conflict studies (Souleimanov). Thus, this is the first book I have read that almost exclusively examines the process of state creation in conditions of non-recognition: how the idea of ‘state’ is formed among the population, how state institutions are created and how they function under conditions of non-recognition, the relations of unrecognized states with other states, etc., the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and Transdniestria serving as case studies.

I thought this book provided a valuable and much needed perspective on ethnic and separatist conflict. If you are looking for a comprehensive history of the conflicts or are interested in the application of self-determination under international law, however, I wouldn’t recommend this book. Isachenko’s legal analysis of the right to self-determination, in my opinion, is a carbon copy of Kruger’s, with all its contradictions and biases.

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