Consider the following possible scenarios for a country A:

  • The legislature decides to change the name to B
  • After a successful revolution or coup d'état, a new country is established having the same borders and the same citizens perhaps with a new constitution. This country may be called B or even the same name A
  • A small village is annexed to A to establish a new country B

Suppose that initially A have a huge debt to other countries or to banks, or that there's some political or economical sanctions on A, do these conditions vanish after establishing a new country?

2 Answers 2


I think what you are looking for what is called Succession of states which deals with the theory and practice in international relations regarding successor states.

What happens depends on the context and there are two main aspects - rights and obligations:

Consequent upon the acquisition of international personality, the difficult matter of succession to treaty rights and obligations arises.

A particularly interesting example is the dissolution of USSR. According to Wikipedia the Russian Federation declared the continuator state of the USSR. Some of the effects were:

  • Russia acquired the USSR's seat as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council
  • All Soviet embassies became Russian embassies
  • Russia inherited almost all international treaties and responsibilities of the Soviet Union

In direct connection with the USSR's fall, the Baltic states claimed continuity directly from their pre-1940 status.

  • 4
    It's worth going deeper into the circumstances of how the USSR->RF transition happened - a big part of why it happened the way it did was that the continuity of treaties was a "package deal"; RF getting the treaties that gave USSR "bonuses" like the UNSC seat was conditional on RF inheriting the treaties that gave USSR responsibilities such as USSR foreign debt.
    – Peteris
    Jul 30, 2019 at 21:53
  • Maybe change to "many" treaties of the USSR? Clearly the Warsaw treaty is no longer in effect. Also, Russia's position was more tenable because the Soviet Union withdraw recognition of the Soviet Union. USSR dissolved itself through an official proclamation of the Supreme Soviet on December 26th, 1991. After that point, any claim of continuity would only be as legitimate as it would be recognized by those to whom the claims would be made.
    – grovkin
    Aug 2, 2019 at 0:38
  • 2
    @grovkin - yes, technically it inherited all treaties that could be inherited. The Warsaw Pact had been dissolved a few months before the fall of USSR (source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warsaw_Pact).
    – Alexei
    Aug 2, 2019 at 3:51

It's not something they can decide unilaterally

In essence, in all these scenarios all the other countries will make a decision whether to consider B the same as A or not; and in the particular scenarios you describe, usually everyone will consider them as the same. The name of the country as decided by its legislature is pretty much irrelevant. It's generally in everyone's best interest to have some form of continuity - it's worth noting that in the in case of a totally new country at the very beginning it has no rights to anything whatsoever including the sovereignty over its territory, they would want diplomatic recognition of their sovereignty at least from all their immediate neighbors, which generally would be conditional on them acknowledging continuity and asserting that they'll honor all the obligations of the previous regime.

In the case of a major change in regime, or territory, or country splitting, there may be other options. The other answer notes USSR->Russian Federation transition, but it's also relevant to look at the transition from Russian Empire to USSR. USSR disclaimed continuity from the Russian Empire and refused its foreign obligations and debt (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Repudiation_of_debt_at_the_Russian_Revolution). This was followed by all the major powers, including previous allies of the Russian Empire, sending troops and other resources against the Red government, and openly supporting various other factions in the Russian civil war (who would acknowledge continuity from the Russian Empire and its obligations). It wasn't until the military victory of USSR in that war that its sovereignty as a new state was recognized by others.

It's worth noting that different countries may decide differently - some may consider that B is the continuation of A and some may not. An interesting example may be the situation of People's Republic of China and Republic of China(Taiwan), especially in the 1960s/1970s as the consideration of which country is the continuation of the pre-WW2 China changed over time.

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