--- - |2 Abstract The 1992–1993 civil wars in Moldova and in Georgia ended with a de facto separation of Transnistria and Abkhazia, respectively. These de facto states are both inhabited by the kin to the ‘enemy’ across the administrative border: Moldovans and Georgians/Mingrelians. How do the de facto authorities foster a collective identity in support of their claim for legitimacy and statehood? Engaging with Wimmer's taxonomy of boundary‐making, this article argues that nation‐building involves not only expansion but also, simultaneously, contraction. Transnistria constructs a higher‐level identity category and co‐opts and contracts the Moldovan category, separating it into ‘our’ and Bessarabian Moldovans in order to incorporate the former into the Transnistrian people. In Abkhazia, the nation‐building project establishes the Abkhazs as the titular nation allowing, however, for the construction of an Abkhazian people that would include minorities, with Gal/i Georgians said to be Mingrelians, distinct from Georgians. These cases show that elites combine different ethnic boundary‐making strategies in order to implement their favoured identity project and to legitimize the claimed statehood. - 'Nations and Nationalism, EarlyView. '