There are some 120 unrecognized states located in the territory of approximately 60 countries.
Unrecognized states are countries that are not recognized by all or some of the world’s other countries, but they have all the other elements of a state: population, territory, government and sovereignty.
The term “unrecognized states” was first used in the early 1990s. Other terms used to describe them are de facto, disputed, breakaway or self-styled states.
Unrecognized states can keep their transition status and ultimately become fully sovereign states, like Eritrea, which seceded from Ethiopia in 1993. In some cases, de facto states are absorbed by the countries from which they tried to secede, like Saarland, whose inhabitants voted to become a region of West Germany in 1955.
The Republic of China (Taiwan)
Mainland China severed official relations with Taiwan in 1949, when the Chinese Nationalists (Kuomintang), led by Chiang Kai-shek, fled to Taiwan after their defeat by the Chinese Communist Party under Mao Zedong.
The Republic of China (ROC) held the seat of China on the Security Council and other UN bodies until 1971, when the People’s Republic of China was recognized as China’s sole representative in the UN. The issue of Taiwan’s membership in the UN and recognition of its sovereignty has been raised several times since 1993.
It has been recognized by 23 countries.
The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus
Cyprus was de facto divided between the Greek and Turkish communities in 1974, when Turkey invaded the island after a coup staged by the supporters of a Greek military junta. In 1983, Northern Cyprus unilaterally declared independence as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Turkey has deployed troops there.
UN-led talks on the reunification of the island as a federal state stopped in spring 2012 and resumed only in February 2014.
It has been officially recognized by Turkey.
The Republic of Abkhazia
The Supreme Council of Abkhazia adopted a declaration of sovereignty on August 25, 1990. Abkhazia became a de facto and de jure independent state after Georgia severed state and legal relations with it and following the Georgian-Abkhazian war of 1992-1993.
It has been officially recognized by Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru. Tuvalu recognized Abkhazia’s independence in September 2011 but withdrew its recognition in March 2014.
The Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR), or Transnistria
Transnistria wanted to secede from Moldova even before the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. The Pridnestrovian Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic was proclaimed as a Soviet republic at the Second Extraordinary Congress of Peoples’ Deputies of all levels of Pridnestrovie (Transnistria) on September 2, 1990. The decision was based on the results of referendums and public meetings held in 1989 and 1990.
Moldova lost all control and influence over the region in 1992, after an unsuccessful attempt to resolve the conflict with the use of military force.
Transnistria has been officially recognized by Nagorno-Karabakh (2001) and South Ossetia (1994).
The Republic of South Ossetia
The republic became de facto independent after the Georgian government abolished the South Ossetian Autonomous Region in December 1990, which led to an armed Georgian-Ossetian conflict. South Ossetians almost unanimously voted for independence at a referendum on January 19, 1992. On May 29, 1992, the Supreme Council of the Republic of South Ossetia declared independence, after which mixed Russian, Georgian and Ossetian peacekeeping forces were deployed in the republic.
In August 2008, Russia became the first state to recognize the independence of the Republic of South Ossetia. Since then, its independence has been recognized by Venezuela, Nicaragua and Nauru. Tuvalu recognized South Ossetia’s independence in September 2011 but withdrew its recognition in March 2014.
The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR, or the Republic of Artsakh)
The conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh began in February 1988, after the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region announced its secession from the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic.
On September 2, 1991, the joint meeting of the Council of the Nagorno-Karabakh Region and the Council of People’s Deputies of the neighboring Shaumyan District announced the establishment of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic within the boundaries of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region and the Shaumyan District.
The Azerbaijani authorities did not recognize the decision and abolished the autonomous status of Nagorno-Karabakh, leading to an armed conflict, which lasted until May 12, 1994, when the sides negotiated a ceasefire agreement.
As a result, Azerbaijan lost all control over Nagorno-Karabakh and several adjacent districts. The OSCE Minsk Group, co-chaired by the United States, Russia and France, has been trying to find a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict since 1992.
The Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija
On June 10, 1999, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1244 making the south Serbian province of Kosovo a UN protectorate and authorizing an international civil and military presence in the area. The UN administration and the NATO-led international peacekeeping force (KFOR) were deployed in Kosovo after the 78-day NATO bombing raids of Serbia. NATO interfered in the 1998-1999 Kosovo conflict on the side of its Albanians, who were fighting for their independence from Serbia.
On February 17, 2008, the Albanian authorities of the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija, supported by the United States and several EU countries, declared independence, establishing the Republic of Kosovo. Several countries have recognized its independence.
As of December 2009, the independence of the self-styled Kosovo Republic was recognized by 63 countries. Serbia, Russia, China, India and several other countries have not recognized it.
The list of unrecognized states also includes Somaliland, Tamil Eelam (in Sri Lanka), the Islamic Emirate of Waziristan (a territory in northwestern Pakistan which declared independence in February 2006), Kashmir, Western Sahara, Palestine, Kurdistan and several other self-styled states such as Sealand, a micronation in the North Sea that is actually a former WWII platform off the coast of Suffolk, England.