International diplomacy is extremely complex, and one of the most controversial issues is the question of statehood. What makes a country instead of just captured territory? There are a number of declared countries that have failed to gain recognition from other nations. They could be countries run by terrorists, or simply be countries dwarfed by their aggressive neighbors. Here are 10 interesting unrecognized countries.


Northern Cyprus


Until 1974, Cyprus was just one united country. But in 1974, Greece attempted to annex the island. Fearing Greek expansion, Turkey invaded Cyprus and took control of it’s north. Ever since then Cyprus has been split in half. Northern Cyprus is the unrecognized country set up by Turkey. The international community considers it to just be part of Cyprus. But physically it’s a different country, protected by the Turkish military. It operates as a republic with an elected president and prime minister, and is split into 5 districts. Northern Cyprus and Cyprus are separated by a united nations buffer zone to keep the peace.




Azawad is now part of Mali. But for a short period in 2012, it was an unrecognized state. On April the 6th, it’s independence was declared by the terrorist group who were in control there. Being a terrorist state, no one recognized it, and the French government was forced to intervene. French soldiers managed to drive the terrorists away from most of Azawad in a matter of days. One year later, the terrorists finally accepted defeat and requested negotiation with the Mali government. Both sides agreed to a peace deal 4 months later. But the terrorists still operate within Mali and it is thought that they still aim to achieve Azawad independence.




In the horn of Africa, there is an unrecognized country called Somaliland. Somaliland was once a British colony but was unified with Somalia in 1960. Northern Somalia soon saw rebel activity as it’s citizens wanted to maintain their independence. Somaliland is considered to just be part of Somalia, but in 2001, 97 percent of Somalilanders voted for their independence. This vote was rejected by both Somalia and the African union. So Somaliland is currently in a bizarre diplomatic limbo. They do have non-official diplomatic relations with other countries – but they have the recognition of literally no countries.




Abkhazia is recognized by only a handful of countries, most of which have almost no diplomatic influence themselves. Most countries consider it to be part of Georgia – but it is controlled by an independent government who are pretty much free to do what they like. Several armed conflicts have been fought over Abkhazia, with the Russians supporting Abkhazian independence. So this is why Abkhazia is able to have it’s own government – the Russian military protects them. In 2014, there was a revolution in Abkhazia that forced their president to resign from office. His people revolted against him because he didn’t want to persecute ethnic Georgians.




So I imagine you’re all familiar with ISIS. Controlling a huge number of oil fields, their economy is much larger than some recognized countries. In a traditional nation this would give them diplomatic clout. But let’s be honest, they have fuck all chance of getting recognized.


Chechen Republic


The Chechen republic is an unrecognized state in Russia. They have been struggling for their independence since the 1920s but it’s really heated up lately. It was actually an independent country in the 1990s, and they defended their sovereignty. In 1996, they won a war against Russia through guerrilla tactics. Their victory didn’t last long though as the Russians invaded in 1999. This sparked a new war that lasted over 9 years. This time, the Russians were victorious and the Chechen independence was lost. It’s now a federal state of Russia.




Kosovo is a tiny unrecognized state in Europe. During the cold war, it was part of Yugoslavia and it fell under Serbian control in the 1990s. This caused tension as most of Kosovo’s population are ethnically Albanian. NATO broke Kosovo free from Serbia in 1999 after the Serbian government basically commit genocide there. Since then, Kosovo has been declared an independent country. But Serbia refuses to recognize it. It is unclear to what extent Kosovo operates as an independent nation today. And with a population of almost 2 million, anything could be in store for Kosovo in the future.




Taiwan is an unrecognized island nation just off the coast of China. The official name for Taiwan is “the Republic of China”. The country was founded by the ex-government of mainland China, who were forced into exile by the Chinese communists in 1949. To this day, they claim to be the true government of all China. The only problem is that the international community doesn’t recognize them. So they are basically just a bunch of has-beens on an island. But Taiwan has grown one of the biggest economies in Asia, a population of 23 million, and a strong military.




Nagorno-Karabakh is officially part of Azerbaijan. With a population of 146 thousand, it’s only recognized by other unrecognized countries. It’s like a club of places that don’t exist. It used to just be part of the Soviet Union, but has since been forgotten about. It’s two neighbors, Azerbaijan and Armenia, have been waging war over land disputes since their own independence. Behind the war, Azerbaijan took control of Nagorno-Karabakh. But the Azerbaijan military is unable to enter the region as it has it’s own military. They have their own airport too, but no one ever uses it. They even have a presidential palace.


Donetsk People’s Republic


In recent years, Ukraine has basically been split into several countries. Ukraine and Russia have been at war for 2 years – and during this conflict, several rebel groups have declared their separation. They took control of Ukraine’s Donetsk region and declared the Donetsk People’s Republic. This was in April 2014, and they have defended their territory since. They are militarily supported by Russia, which is common theme in this article! But they have no diplomatic recognition. So last year, they joined another unrecognized country. Together, they founded the unrecognized political union of Novorossiya. They have their own parliament and prime ministers. And their flag seems somewhat familiar.



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