The International Legal Position of Secession

by C. William Cox, Jr.

This, the last decade of the twentieth century, has proved a fertile one for secession. The various republics of the Soviet Union have seceded, leading to the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the replacement of that state by a loose Confederation of Independent States, whose ultimate character has yet to be determined. The Soviet Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, faced with the secession of its component republics after the failure of a proposal by the republics of Croatia and Slovenia for greater republican autonomy within the federal state, dissolved upon the withdrawal of most of the republics from the federal organs and the resort to force by the Serbian remainder in an attempt to maintain the unitary state.[1] The Serbian community in Bosnia-Herzegovina, rejecting international mediation of its territorial claims, is, with the support of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), fighting the Muslim majority for control of Bosnia-Herzegovina, or the community's secession from Bosnia and attachment to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

The international community is derived from the consent of the parties involved, more blatantly so than the national governments, wherein the consent of the populace is sometimes a purely hypothetical construct justifying a forcibly imposed regime. Consent in a national regime is assumed, qui tacet, consentire videtur. Revocation of consent to the hypothetical national contract usually manifests itself as armed rebellion, rather than as bureaucratic procedure, though that has been known to happen.[2] This paper considers the revocation of consent as armed rebellion, that is, secession, within the international context. Reference will be made to national responses to secession in the first part of the paper, particularly in the case of the United States, but the main emphasis is on the concerns of the international community and the limitations on international action in cases of secession. To conclude, the situation of the former Yugoslav republics is considered.

State Responses to Secession

In 1920, the Aaland Islands, which were governed by Finland, requested annexation to Sweden, "on the ground of the right of peoples to self-determination as enunciated by President Wilson".[3] In the favor of the Aaland Islands were the factors that:

(1) Aaland formed a geographic unit; (2) its frontiers could be traced without serious difficulty; (3) its economic value was comparatively small; (4) the economic needs of the inhabitants did not constitute a strong binding link with the governing state; (5) its history and the community of feelings and interests of the inhabitants supported the separation; and (6) the possession of the territory was in no way necessary for the defense of the country from which it desired to be separated.[4]

In the favor of the Finnish government were the feared effects of the principle of self-determination if it were recognized as a right. The Council of the League of Nations decided in favor of Finland, if Finland guaranteed "the preservation of their language, of their culture, and of their local Swedish tradition."[5]

In the case of the Aaland Islands, Sweden advanced various arguments for the Islanders' separation from Finland, to show that the constraints governing an acceptable separation could be met. According to Sweden, the Aaland Islands had no demonstrable value to Finland. However, in the interests of the status quo, the Islands remained with Finland.

The responses of states and of the international community to secession vary according to the state's power and interests. From the constitution of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, it would seem that the republics did indeed have a right of secession.[6] However, this right was subordinated to the demands of socialist internationalism; that is, once a state became part of the international socialist body, it could not be removed. Thus, the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 was justified, while Lenin was still able to offer the option of secession to nationalities considering joining the new Soviet Union.[7]

In like manner, the first All-China Soviet Congress found it prudent to include in the 1931 Constitution of the Soviet Republic the declaration that

The Soviet government of China recognizes the right of self-determination of the national minorities in China, their right to complete separation from China, and to the formation of an independent state for each national minority. All Mongolians, Tibetans, Miao, Yao, Koreans and others living on the territory of China. . . may either join the Union of Chinese Soviets or secede from it and form their own state as they may prefer.[8]

But after the Communists consolidated their control over the mainland and Tibet, the People's Republic of China became "a unitary multinational state."[9]

The states of the Organization of African Unity, in 1961 at the All-African People's Conference, opposed as neo-colonialism any hint of decentralization—multiparty political systems, federalism, local self-government, and bills of rights—much less secession, that would directly threaten their insecure central governments.[10] This denial of the legitimacy of the most basic of rights of opposition increases the desire for revolution, rendering unstable regimes more so. They have yet to learn that in the modern context, control is more easily effected by means of suasion other than brute force.[11]

In the United States, before the War Between the States, both New England and the western states had argued for a right to secede. On January 7, 1861, Fernando Wood, the mayor of New York, recommended in his State of the City address that New York divorce itself from the State and from the Union, since it could easily exist on its own trade as a free city.[12] The right of secession had "been accepted both as a truth and as treason by each section of the country in turn, depending on whether its interests were temporarily served by affirming or denying the sovereignty of the central government."[13] "In the beginning and earlier years of our history they [the rights of states] were cherished as faithfully and guarded as jealously in Massachusetts and New Hampshire as in Virginia or South Carolina."[14] John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts, in an 1839 speech before the New York Historical Society, said that "[t]o the people alone is there reserved as well the dissolving as the constituent power. . . ."[15] The North's former support of secession did not hinder its subsequent desire to settle the question through the use of force. After the Confederate States had been subjugated, the Supreme Court affirmed that secession was illegal under the United States Constitution.[16] However, the argument against secession was not fully developed, being of comparatively recent origin, and consisted in the main of a historical interpretation of the Constitution in which the union pre-existed the States.[17] This is a theory of Constitutional not international law.

Internationally, the United States responded to the secession of Texas from Mexico with studious neutrality: In response to an April 1836 appeal from Stephen Austin to aid the revolting Texans, President Andrew Jackson noted that "[Austin] does not reflect that we have a treaty with Mexico, and our national faith is pledged to support it. . . [The rebellion] was a rash and premature act, our neutrality must be faithfully maintained." [sic][18] In December of 1836, Jackson was still unwilling to grant recognition until a European power did so.[19] In 1842, Daniel Webster and Henry Clay found that the only condition for recognition was evidence of a competent government in Texas,[20] since Jackson, acting on evidence of such a government, appointed in March of 1837 a Charge d'Affaires to the Republic of Texas.[21] Later, while annexing Puerto Rico, Guam, the Phillipines, and Hawaii during the imperial period, the United States supported Panama's 1903 secession from Columbia—in return for the Panama Canal Zone.

Since World War II, the U. S. has recognized the principle of self-determination as applicable to those countries formerly independent, but no longer self-governed, or to former colonies, where the new government did not have Communist sympathies, as in Vietnam; but the U. S. "has never recognized a general legitimacy of secessionist self-determination by groups within unified, independent states."[22] The international community's response to the secessions of the former Yugoslav states will be considered below.

Arguments Against Secession

A few arguments are consistently made against secession:

  1. that it will have an adverse effect on the democratic system. The option of secession made available, without reservations, to a discontented minority, would result in the minority's seeking redress by means of separation rather than through the democratic system. This would take the heart out of democracy as a means for peacefully resolving political conflict: Democracy would have no point. On the other hand, Thomas Jefferson argued that a discontented minority, recognizing the benefits of union, would not secede without strong cause. But he feared that their passions would mislead them to a hasty, ill-judged secession—after which, reflection might stimulate reunion.[23] As well, modern democracy's tendancy to expand tends to defuse the mood for secession: the consensual, deliberative nature of the democratic system provides a convenient means for resolving sectarian squabbles. Recent years have seen the expansion of voting rights in the United States and other Western democracies, and the redress of sectional grievances through the devolution of central government powers. Except in extreme cases, local autonomy provides an adequate substitute for secession; for example, in the United Kingdom's 1992 Parliamentary elections, the Scottish National Party, running on a secessionist platform, though it gained more than 30 seats, did not increase its control of the local councils, so "the chances for a referendum on the constitution appear dead."[24]
  2. That secession "will result in a multiplicity of small, squabbling states, especially in areas where tribal or clannish differences are still pervasive."[25] In some cases, this division would result in weak states, without a) strong political structures and b) adequate defenses, and c) economically unviable. Such a state would then be a burden on international charity, and prone to coups and invasions; it could contain trapped members of the former majority, or the remnants of a powerful minority, both of whom, no longer protected, might be persecuted: The distribution of ethnic groups, not often in a compact, contiguous territory, makes it difficult to divide the land.[26] These would be states, like the former colonies, that have no recent experience of self-government, and subsequently would resort to dictatorship to maintain the power of a particular interest group: for example, the Uganda of Idi Amin.

Weak political structures

Not necessarily democratic, strong political structures result from the experience of self-government and enable the government to maintain itself, basically providing for a legitimate means of succession, so that there is continuity in the functions of government. A political structure that prevents the continual outbreak of civil violence, whether it be an authoritarian model as in China, or monarchic as in Saudi Arabia, or democratic as in Japan, is a strong political structure. However, given the eventual breakdown of authoritarian regimes, whether from economic exhaustion as in the formerly communist nations of Eastern Europe or from the ability of the populace to resist oppression, systems which allow for a measure of democracy have shown themselves to be more stable in the long run. With the pervasive influence of the Enlightenment, the conditioning that allows a populace to accept despotic rule is increasingly difficult to maintain. With practice, governments have found that it is easier to maintain their power with the consent of the governed, and so concentrate on subtler manipulation of consent instead of oppression.

Inadequate defense

In Wilsonian theory, collective security is a necessary adjunct of a right to self-determination.[27] Without an international organization to defend the newly asserted right of self-determination, aggressor states, and the threat of war, would result in a reshuffling of alliances and amalgamations into new multinational states. In collective security, for an adequate defense one relies on the armed forces of the surrounding nations, or the combined might of the world community. Kuwait, a wealthy mini-state (one type of state used as an argument against secession) was unable to defend itself against Iraq and relied on an appeal to the world community for aid. In this case, collective security failed as a deterrent, mainly because of misunderstandings between Saddam Hussein and George Bush over whether the United States would respond militarily to an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. From this example, and from the League of Nations' actions in response to the Italian invasion of Ethiopia and the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, it can be seen that collective security organizations serve a more retributive function than a deterrent. For collective security to act as a deterrent, the agency responsible must be perceived as having the will and the power to act. Nor, constrained by international law, are international organizations able to intervene in, or prevent the outbreak of, civil war in the event of a secession.

Economic unviability

If any of the new states resulting from a secession is economically unviable, then, besides being a burden on international charity, it will be subject to the depredations of stronger states, and may be forced to give up its sovereignty. If it were possible to divorce political and economic sovereignty, then it could join in a customs union, much like that of the European Community or the North American Free Trade Agreement. However, the arguments against the EC's further economic cohesion, put forth mainly by the United Kingdom, assert that economic sovereignty is crucial to one's political sovereignty: he who controls the purse strings, controls policy. If an internal legislative capability were all that were desired on the part of the secessionists, or an unviable state, then the customs union could resemble that of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, where several countries shared the same monarch, and thus the same foreign policy, while their internal policies, at least those of Austria and Hungary, were controlled by autonomous regional parliaments.

However, economic sovereignty in the global economy is mythical. Foreign direct investment in a country, the purchase of real and corporate property by foreign nationals, "has reduced the freedom of governments to determine their own economic policy."[28] When tax rates go up, a business may shift production to a more favorable locale. The same occurs if a government fails to invest in infrastructure or education. So the question of economic viability is one of the state's ability to perform within the interdependent international economy rather than of its self-sufficiency. This ability to perform depends on the political conditions of the new state as well as its economic assets: a government with the consent, or at least the agreement, of the population; a trained labor force; economists and other personnel with international experience; a homogeneous population; undisputed borders; and a supportive, or benign, external environment. In such a context, a customs union or other form of common market helps. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have organized a Baltic Council to set an external tariff at EC levels, provide for the free movement of goods, services, and people between the states, and to coordinate the railways.[29] Turkey has suggested forming a Turkic Common Market with the Muslim states of the Commonwealth of Independent States.[30] Albania and Kosovo are discussing a South Balkan Confederation.[31] Or, these new states may try to join an established common market. "[I]f a new formerly communist nation-state should cease to exist, the culprit is likely to be uncontrollable ethnic fragmentation of the new state or its military destruction, rather than its inability to survive economically."[32]

The Constraints of International Law in the Event of a Secession

According to R. J. Vincent, "The [United Nations] Charter . . . was primarily concerned with building an order between states not within them, with eliminating international war not civil conflict."[33] Since the development of the international community as an idea, one of the most significant norms accepted by that community has been nonintervention: "I won't trespass on your sovereignty if you don't on mine." Nonintervention is significant to the character of sovereignty itself, and so a wariness regarding this norm resulted in a fairly strict set of rules governing intervention in the internal affairs of other countries. (Excessive intervention could be the basis for a declaration of war.) As a means of restraining war between states, the states have granted to each other unlimited rights within each's state, which rights are ultimately derived from the occupation of a particular territory as well as the consent of the international community. Thus war becomes geographically limited, under optimum conditions, within the territory of a particular state.

The principle of non-intervention favors the existing state and is designed to protect territorial integrity. The various merits of a secessionist case, e. g. the systematic discrimination or exploitation of a sizable minority and the failure of settlement through other means, are not considered. Normative practice regarding interventions provides the state with the option either to intervene in support of the established order against internal political rebellion or secession, or to refrain from intervening and remain neutral. "In the nineteenth century, secessionists were afforded insurgent or belligerent status, as was the case with the Greeks fighting the Ottoman Empire or the Confederacy in the American Civil (secessionist) War."[34] The establishment of belligerent status enabled the neutrality of a third party—neutrality in the sense of trading equally with both sides—otherwise third parties were constrained to ignore the secessionists or to come to the aid of the state. Now, however, the international community does not recognize the status of secessionists as belligerents.[35] But the normative options are applied according to circumstances and the third party's political strategy, and support for secessionists is not negligible.[36]

Currently there are two means of intervention: with the consent of the state involved, or with the consent of the United Nations. In the attempted secession of the province of Katanga from the Congo, the Congolese central government requested United Nations assistance. Susequently, UN, Congolese, and Belgian forces attempted to suppress the revolt. The UN presence maintained the unity of the Congo, but Katangan secessionist conflict did not cease until 1967, while the UN left in 1964. The problem re-emerged in 1971 with an attempted invasion by Katangan rebels from Angola.[37]

"The United Nations is currently moving toward legalizing military intervention, albeit only military action through the Security Council, in support of humanitarian aid and relief supplies."[38] United Nations Security Council Resolution 688 of April 5, 1991, regarding Iraqi attacks on the Kurds, holds that an act of internal aggression may be considered a threat to international order. Thus the state that commits an act of internal aggression becomes liable to the suppression of that aggression by means of intervention. However, given that the norm of nonintervention is a device to discourage states from involvement in military quagmires[39], Resolution 688 and the Gulf War in general, as precedents for intervention, may be relevent only to situations involving a relatively homogeneous population and a definable territory.

Given the constraints on intervention by outside parties, a secessionist conflict, or any civil war, becomes a gladiatorial duel between two, or more, powers, to determine, in trial by combat, who is the fittest to rule. This gladiatorial model of secessionist conflict results from the argument that the legitimacy of a secessionist claim comes from the popularity of that claim and the people's desire for self-determination; that if the claim is popular, it will ultimately succeed; that if it is successful, then its legitimacy has been proven. Therefore intervention, by altering the outcome of the conflict, might allow an illegitimate ruler. This doctrine of "right makes might" allows the winner to assert, without asserting that might makes right, that, though he won for other reasons, because he won, he was right: "right makes might" is a sort of complicated, unobtrusive "might makes right" theory. Another theory holds that "self-determination is not a right under international law, but by virtue of history and provided the act of self-determination is crowned with success."[40] The right occurs after the exercise of might, and is historical in character. Thus might makes an ex post facto right. Legality, legitimacy, rests only with the power in the state. With either theory the international community is to remain neutral and allow the conflict to run its course.

It seems clear that foreign powers cannot intervene in the Balkan conflict, if it is viewed as a civil conflict. After the conflict becomes a war between sovereign states, then foreign powers may intervene for various reasons. The community of nations has recognized Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Serbia as independent states: Have the criteria for statehood been relaxed, or has international society further recognized a principle of secession, albeit on a case-by-case basis?[41]

The Example of Yugoslavia

A perfect example of this fear of, and of international paralysis in response to, a multiplicity of small states is the current Balkanization of Yugoslavia. The European Community did not wish to intervene, despite the humanitarian reasons, because Europe remembers World War I. The Congress of Berlin of July 1878 placed Bosnia-Herzegovina under the administration of the Habsburg Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1908, the Habsburgs unilaterally annexed Bosnia-Herzogovina to frustrate Serbian plans for expansion. Serbian success in the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913, against Turkey and Bulgaria, respectively, stimulated Pan-Slavic sentiment in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. On June 28, 1914, Gavrilo Princep, a Bosnian student and a member of a terrorist group sponsored by the Serbian state, assassinated the Habsburg crown prince, Archduke Franz-Ferdinand, and his consort, the Duchess of Hohenberg, in Sarajevo. After the assassination of his son, Emperor Franz-Josef presented the Serbs "with an ultimatum whose terms were so harsh as to preclude acceptance by the Serbs. The Serbian government suggested international arbitration of the question, but Austria declared war on July 28, 1914."[42] World War I then escalated from the Austrian attempt at suppression of Greater Serbia.

Now, Serbia wants a Greater Serbia, including Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, and parts of Croatia. The European Community and the United Nations do not want the conflict to spread, which will not happen as long as other countries stay out of the conflict. For this reason among others,[43] the EC, barring Germany, hesitated to recognize the independence of Croatia. Germany recognized Croatia on December 23, 1991, mainly because of its historical ties to Croatia, and the EC followed suit on January 15, 1992. The EC had set conditions[44] for the recognition of the former Yugoslav states and assigned a committee headed by the president of France's constitutional court, Robert Badinter, to assess their compliance. The Conference on Yugoslavia Arbitration Commission decided that Slovenia and Macedonia met the conditions, while Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina did not. However, recognition was granted more for political considerations rather than on the basis of a strict legal test: the fear of intensifying the war was diminished by the ceasefire of January 3, 1992; the Serbian airforce had shot down an EC peace-monitoring helicopter; and, in return for German help at the Maastricht summit, John Major assured Helmut Kohl of Britain's recognition of Croatia.[45]

On April 6 and 7, 1992, the EC and the United States, respectively, recognized Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the U.S. finally recognized Croatia and Slovenia. James A. Baker III, who was United States Secretary of State at the time, cautioned against the secessions of Croatia and Slovenia and sought to hold Yugoslavia together and delay EC recognition. After the referendum in Bosnia-Herzegovina endorsed its independence on March 1, 1992, the U. S. administration pressed the EC to recognize Bosnia-Herzegovina. After the recognition, two Serb members of the Bosnian presidency resigned, as did the Croat prime minister. The Yugoslav airforce bombed two southern towns. "[T]here was little celebration of the republic's recognition, either officially or on the streets."[46] As it stands, Bosnian Serbs hold approximately 70% of Bosnia-Herzegovina. However, the economy of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has been ruined by United Nations sanctions: inflation increases at more than 250% per month, industrial production in the last year fell 50%, and a third of the work force is unemployed.[47]

It is thought that, because of the historical importance to them of the region, the Serbs would like to ethnically cleanse Kosovo after they are finished in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Such an attempt would cause an expansion of the conflict: Albania has announced that it will intervene against a Serbian invasion of Kosovo, whose population is 90% ethnic Albanians.[48] And George Bush apparently learned from the Gulf War the importance of the appearance of the will to act: In a letter to Slobodan Milosevic, President of Serbia, he states that "in the event of conflict in Kosovo caused by Serbian action, the United States will be prepared to employ military force against the Serbians in Kosovo and Serbia proper."[49] What effect his firmness will have given William Clinton's occupation of the office is unknown: so far the Serbs have not invaded Kosovo, and Clinton does not seem to have deviated from Bush's foreign policy.

In Conclusion

On November 20, 1991, Lord Carrington, President of the EC Conference on Yugoslavia, asked the Arbitration Commission to determine whether the republics had seceded from the Soviet Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY), as Serbia declared, or whether, as the other republics held, "there [was] no question of secession, but the question [was] of a disintegration or breaking up of the SFRY as the result of the concurring will of a number of Republics."[50]

The Arbitration Commission considered the conditions that define a state (a community consisting of a territory and population subject to an organized political authority characterized by sovereignty) and that "the existence or disappearance of the State is a question of fact."[51] Given that Slovenia, Croatia, and Macedonia had on the basis of referendums declared their independence; that the parliament of Bosnia-Herzegovina had adopted a sovereignty resolution; that the federal organs no longer met "the criteria of participation and representativeness inherent in a federal State";[52] and that in the armed conflict between the republics, the federal authorities were powerless to enforce the ceasefire agreements, the Arbitration Commission opined that the SFRY was in the process of dissolution rather than in a secessionist conflict. In an opinion of July 4, 1992, the Commission affirmed that the SFRY no longer exists.[53] Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and Slovenia were admitted to membership of the United Nations on May 22, 1992. The common federal organs no longer exist, and no body now represents all the republics. "The former national territory and population of the SFRY are now entirely under the sovereign authority of the new states."[54]

Although the dissolution of the SFRY started with the secessions of Croatia and Slovenia, their withdrawal from the federal organs, and those organs' increasing ineffectuallity, transformed their secession into the dissolution of federal Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav secessions, in contrast to the Confederacy's, were able to dissolve the federal government since the seceding republics were the majority. This leaves the only remaining secessionist question in Yugoslavia to be Bosnia-Herzegovina, in the struggle between the Bosnian Serbs, the Croats, and the Muslims. Internationally, the secession and independence of the republics was recognized, along with the fact of the dissolution of Yugoslavia. However, so that this precedent will not apply to separatists within other states, the independence of the republics was recognized in the context of the dissolution of Yugoslavia by a majority of its component states. Minorities still do not have a right of secession.


Basler, Roy P., ed. The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953.

Benjamin, Barry M. "Unilateral Humanitarian Intervention: Legalizing the Use of Force to Prevent Human Rights Atrocities." Fordham International Law Review 16:1, pp. 120-158.

"Bombers Greet Bosnian Statehood." The Times (London). April 8, 1992.

Buchanan, Allen. "Self-Determination and the Right to Secede." Journal of International Affairs, 45:2 (Winter 1992), pp. 347-366.

Buchheit, Lee C. Secession: The Legitimacy of Self-Determination. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1978.

Conference on Yugoslavia Arbitration Commission: Opinions on Questions Arising from the Dissolution of Yugoslavia (January 11 and June 4, 1992). 31 International Legal Materials 1488 (1992).

Crankshaw, Edward. The Fall of the House of Habsburg. New York: Viking Press, 1963.

Davis, Jefferson. The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government. New York: Thomas Yoseloff, 1958.

Gill, Kerry. "Scottish Tories Hail Advance." The Times (London), May 9, 1992, p. 6.

Heraclides, Alexis. "Secession, Self-Determination and Nonintervention: In Quest of a Normative Symbiosis." Journal of International Affairs 45:2 (Winter 1992), pp. 347-366.

"Secessionist Minorities and External Involvement." International Organization 44 (Summer 1990), pp. 352-353.

Jaffe, Josef. "The New Europe: Yesterday's Ghosts." Foreign Affairs 72(1).

Kirkham, James F., Sheldon G. Levy, and William J. Crotty. Assassination and Political Violence. Washinton, DC: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1969.

Marston, Geoffrey, ed. "United Kingdom Materials on International Law." British Year Book of International Law LXII (1991). Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992.

Maynes, Charles William. "Containing Ethnic Conflict." Foreign Policy 90 (Spring 1993).

Mellor, Roy E. H. Nation, State, and Territory: A Political Geography. London: Routledge, 1989.

"The Myth of Economic Sovereignty." The Economist, June 23, 1990, p. 67.

New York Times. January 8, 1861.

New York Times. April 5, 1993.

Nyrop, Richard F., ed. Yugoslavia: A Country Study. Washington, DC: The American University, 1982.

Schroeder, Gertrude E. "On the Economic Viability of New Nation-States." Journal of International Affairs 45:2, pp. 548-574.

Smith, Justin Harvey. The Annexation of Texas. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1941.

Stampp, Kenneth. "The Concept of a Perpetual Union." The Imperiled Union. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980.

Taylor, Charles Lewis, and David A. Jodice. World Handbook of Political and Social Indicators, Third Edition. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983.

Texas v. White. 700 Wallace 700 (1869).

"Wreckognition." The Economist, January 18, 1992, pp. 48-49.

"Zaire." The New Encyclopedia Britannica. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987.


[1]Conference on Yugoslavia Arbitration Commission: Opinions on Questions Arising from the Dissolution of Yugoslavia (January 11 and June 4, 1992), 31 International Legal Materials 1488 (1992).

[2]Garry Davis, founder of the World Government of World Citizens, renounced his U. S. citizenship in Paris in 1948. Since then he has been a stateless citizen of the world, travelling on a passport issued by himself, though apparently he still had his U. S. passport until 1989. According to his promotional literature, nobody really wants him, or will acknowledge his existence.

[3]Quoted in Lee C. Buchheit, Secession: The Legitimacy of Self-Determination (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1978), 70.

[4]Ibid, 71 n. 100.


[5]Quoted in ibid, 72.


[6]I am unaware of any changes in the theory attending the secessions of Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Byelarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenstan, et al, and the formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

[7]Ibid, 101, 121-127.

[8]Quoted in ibid, 102.


[10]Ibid, 104.

[11]Extralegal seizures of power are more frequent in authoritarian governments than in democratic. Charles Lewis Taylor and David A. Jodice, World Handbook of Political and Social Indicators, 3rd ed., v. 2 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983), pp. 78-105. Assassinations and other forms of political violence are statistically less likely in completely democratic or totalitarian regimes. James F. Kirkham, Sheldon G. Levy, and William J. Crotty, Assassination and Political Violence (Washington, DC: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1969). Apparently internal structural decay is more likely in a totalitarian regime.

[12]New York Times, January 8, 1861.

[13]Quoted in Buchheit, 110.

[14]Jefferson Davis, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, v. 1 (New York: Thomas Yoseloff, 1958), p. 167.

[15]Ibid, 191.

[16]Texas v. White, 7 Wallace 700 (1869)

[17]Abraham Lincoln, "First Inagural Address—Final Text," in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953), p. 266. See also Kenneth Stampp, "The Concept of a Perpetual Union," The Imperiled Union (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), pp.3-36.

[18]Quoted in Justin Harvey Smith, The Annexation of Texas (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1941), p. 27.

[19]Ibid, p. 56.

[20]Ibid, p. 61.

[21]Ibid, p. 62.

[22]Buchheit, 118.

[23]Ibid, 109-110.

[24]Kerry Gill, "Scottish Tories Hail Advance," The Times (London), 9 May 1992, p. 6

[25]Buchheit, 28.

[26]Ibid, 64. See also Roy E. H. Mellor, Nation, State, and Territory: A Political Geography (London: Routledge, 1989) for a further discussion of the problems connected with the territorial distribution of ethnic groups and attempted divisions of a territory.

[27]Buchheit, 114.

[28]"The Myth of Economic Sovereignty," The Economist, June 23, 1990, p. 67.

[29]"Ministers Announce Customs Union to be Set Up," Foreign Broadcasting Information Service (FBIS), Daily Report: Soviet Union, 25 September 1991, p. 36.

[30]"Turkic Common Market Forming," FIBS, Daily Report: Central Eurasia, 23 January 1992, pp, 10-11.

[31]"Kosovo, Albania on Balkan Confederation," FIBS, Daily Report: Eastern Europe, 25 September 1991.

[32]Gertrude E. Schroeder, "On the Economic Viability of New Nation-States," Journal of International Affairs, 45(2), p. 574.

[33]Quoted in Buchheit, p. 38.

[34]Alexis Heraclides, "Secession, Self-Determination, and Nonintervention: In Quest of a Normative Symbiosis," Journal of International Affairs 45:2 (Winter 1992), p. 403 n. 9. Heraclides suggests a revision of the principle of nonintervention in general. In the specific case of humanitarian intervention, see Barry M. Benjamin, "Unilateral Humanitarian Intervention: Legalizing the Use of Force to Prevent Human Rights Atrocities," Fordham International Law Review 16:1 (1992-1993), pp. 120-158.

[35]Ibid, p. 403.

[36]Alexis Heraclides, "Secessionist Minorities and External Involvement," International Organization 44 (Summer 1990), pp. 352-353.

[37]Encyclopedia Britannica, v. 12, p. 888.

[38]Benjamin, op. cit. supra n. 34, p. 147?

[39]Heraclides, op. cit. supra n. 34, p. 416.

[40]Quoted in Buchheit, p. 45.

[41]A separate question, the United Nations' humanitarian intervention in Somalia offers an example of the international response to a complete breakdown in civil authority, outside of a secessionist context offering international society a choice of competing governments.

[42]42Richard F. Nyrop, ed. Yugoslavia: A Country Study (Washington, DC: The American University, 1982), p. 16. The historical survey of the first chapter is slanted in favor of the Serbs. Franz-Josef and his advisors felt that to preserve the honour of his family, the ultimatum had to be harsh. That it did coincide with the desire of Austria to eliminate the power of the Serbian state was one of those happy accidents of diplomacy. Wilhelm II of Germany reluctantly supported the Austrians in their "foolishness," though both feared an European war. Ironically, the death of Franz-Ferdinand, the darling of the reforming elements of the Empire (the Magyars and the Slavs), ruined the hope of internal imperial reform and regional autonomy—at least until the attempts of Karl to preserve the monarchy in 1918. Edward Crankshaw, The Fall of the House of Habsburg (New York: Viking Press, 1963). On a different note, what might happen if Otto Habsburg visited Bosnia, Serbia, and Croatia, perhaps as a legate of the European Community that he was instrumental in founding?

[43]Douglas Hogg, Minister of State of the United Kingdom, in the course of a debate in the House of Commons (12 December 1991), stated that "[the traditional criteria for the recognition of a state] do not apply to Croatia in the same way [as to Slovenia], but . . . one of the reasons why the criteria do not apply to Croatia is that Croatian territory has been invaded by the [Yugoslav National Army] and Serbian irregulars." Geoffrey Marston, ed., "United Kingdom Materials on International Law," The British Year Book of International Law LXII (1991), p. 559.

[44]The European Community's "Guidelines on the Recognition of New States in Eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union" requires respect for the provisions of the United Nations Charter, guarantees for minority rights, "respect for the inviolability of frontiers which can only be changed by peaceful means and common agreement," disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation, and a commitment to settling of questions of succesion and other disputes by agreement or arbitration. The EC also agreed not to recognize entities resulting from agression, and to take the effects of recognition on neighboring states into account. More specific requirements pertain exclusively to Yugoslavia. Ibid, p.560-561.

[45]"Wreckognition," The Economist, January 18, 1992, pp. 48-49.

[46]"Bombers Greet Bosnian Statehood," The Times (London), April 8, 1992, p. 15.

[47]New York Times, 5 April 1993, A3.

[48]Charles William Maynes, "Containing Ethnic Conflict," Foreign Policy 90 (Spring 1993), p. 5.

[49]Josef Jaffe, "The New Europe: Yesterday's Ghosts," Foreign Affairs 72(1), p. 36.

[50]Abitration Commission Opinion no. 1, 31 I. L. M. 1494.

[51]Ibid, p. 1495.

[52]Ibid, p. 1496.

[53]Arbitration Commission Opinion no. 8, 31 I. L. M. 1521.

[54]Ibid, p. 1523.

Copyright © 1993, C. William Cox, Jr.