(Ethnopolitics) (Co-authored with Kristel Vits) There is lack of proper accounts of the foreign policy practices of de facto state authorities. There is no common understanding for whether de facto states have their own agency, or if these fledgling states are used as pawns within the context of wider strategic manoeuvring. This work proceeds from the assumption that de facto states are ‘states’ which, above all, seek to secure their physical survival, as well as to gain the status of legal subjectivity. For de facto states that depend on the effects of ‘smallness’; patron–client relations; and the opportunities provided by the engagement without recognition policy framework, this should ideally be the backbone of their foreign policy strategies. This comparative study on post-Soviet de facto states reveals that there are more opportunities to conduct an independent foreign policy than de facto states are able and willing to utilize. Once these entities have ensured their survival, this study demonstrates that the next steps towards gaining additional recognition might be perceived as no longer necessary.