Citizenship by birth on territory (jus soli), versus by blood (jus sanguinis), is associated with liberal democracies and the Americas. Yet Azerbaijan and Moldova, part of the “buffer zone” between Russia and the West, have used unconditional jus soli. No such law exists in Europe or elsewhere in the post-Soviet space, including in Georgia, a third country that is part of this “buffer zone.” The three countries cannot forge closer links to the West due to Russia’s support of “frozen” separatist conflicts on their territories. The article finds that territorial citizenship in Azerbaijan and Moldova, as well as its absence in Georgia, are linked to territorial integrity concerns, a multi-century historical context that had thwarted or facilitated ethnic collective identity, and geopolitical fears of dual citizenship. Both authoritarian (Azerbaijan) and liberal-democratic (Moldova) states have used the resulting territorial concept of national identity to combat ethnic separatism, whereas Georgia remains an ethnocracy with difficulties integrating ethnic minorities.
Maxim Tabachnik, Defining the nation in Russia’s buffer zone: the politics of citizenship by birth on territory (jus soli) in Moldova, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, Post-Soviet Affairs, 2018