The four state-like entities on the territory of the former Soviet Union that emerged about twenty years ago have successfully defended their precarious independence until today. However, we still know very little about the internal political developments in these de facto states, because so far most research has focused on the regional and international dimensions of the now “frozen” secessionist conflicts which brought them into being. The authors of this issue argue that it is high time to have a closer look at the developments inside these de facto states for several reasons. First, in order to understand whether there is mutual dependence between internal political structures and processes and the chances of international recognition. Second, the post-Soviet de facto states are model cases for internal transformation or even democratization efforts as a strategy of internal and/or external legitimacy building. Finally, the issue proves that the reluctance of academia to analyze the political systems of these entities for fear of legitimizing regimes that do not deserve it is not reasonable: the post-Soviet de facto states are fully grown states for all but international recognition – they are not supposed to disappear because we refuse to admit this fact.

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