South Ossetia’s Road to Legitimacy

South Ossetia


South Ossetia is a small territorial nation, located between North Ossetia and Georgia. Until 1990, South Ossetia was officially part of Georgia but after years of violent conflict between Ossetians and Georgians, South Ossetia declared independence from Georgia and formed the Republic of South Ossetia. However, today South Ossetia exists in limbo among the international community as a de facto state.

By definition a de facto state is a geographical and political entity that has all the features of a state, but remains illegitimate in the eyes of the international society. Most de facto states generally arise from irreconcilable internal conflicts within a mother state and result in a portion of the population declaring independence and seceding from the mother state. Since many de facto states arise out of aggression and internal conflict, social instability tend to continue within the de facto state. Thus, many civilians within the de facto state are subject to violence and segregation.

Under the Montevideo Convention, in order for a state to be recognized as an independent, legal state and recognized among the international community it must meet four criteria; that is it must have a permanent population, a defined territory; a government; and the capacity to enter into relations with the other states.

In accordance with the Montevideo Convention, South Ossetia has met all four requirements of state recognition. In 2008, after the Russia-Georgia War, Russia and a few other nations, including Nicaragua and Venezuela, have recognized South Ossetia as independent state. However, the rest of the international community refuse to recognize South Ossetia as an independent state. Without recognition as an independent state, a de facto state suffers major social, political, and economic setbacks. For example, South Ossetia receives very little humanitarian aid from other nations, including the United States. Meanwhile, violent conflict between Ossetians and Georgians still continues today creating increased instability in South Ossetia socially and politically.

Do you think the international community should recognize South Ossetia as an independent state? Would it not serve the best humanitarian interests if they were recognized as an independent state?


Jonte van Essen, De Facto Regimes in International Law, Utrecht Journal of International and European Law (Merkouris 2012).

Thomas D. Grant, Defining Statehood: The Montevideo Convention and Its Discontents, 37 Colum. J. Transnat’l L. 403, 457 (1999).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *