Moscow and «Trialeti Ossetia»
08/02/2012 09:00
Giorgi Tsiklauri

new hotbeds of future conflict

An uneasy conscience betrays itself - meaning of this proverb was fully demonstrated by spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, when he made a statement that official Tbilisi supposedly tried to prevent residents of North Ossetia-Alania from visiting neighbouring Kazbegi region of Georgia. And, probably, Alexander Lukashevich deserves to be thanked for the fact that he drew attention to a subject, relevance of which is gradually increasing.

"In North Ossetia, there are quite a few natives of the Kazbegi district, those who have relatives there, homes. And it is at exactly this kind of people of the borderland who are ethnic Ossetians that restrictive measures of the authorities of Georgia are aimed at - Russian diplomat says. - A relevant database was created at the Kazbegi checkpoint for this category of persons and their relatives. They are not allowed to enter Georgia". In this connection the Russian Foreign Ministry did not fail to declare that “facts of open discrimination of Ossetians on the Georgian border are again confirmed: slogans of" all Caucasian Friendship” is just a hypocritical cover for the provocative and continuously chauvinistic policy of Tbilisi."

Before turning to reasons, which actually caused the righteous anger of the Russian Foreign Ministry, we should remind one fact: every state has the sovereign right to refuse entry to any foreigner whose presence in its territory it for some reason considers undesirable. And at that the state does not have to explain reasons for the refusal. But for some reason we have to repeatedly remind Moscow about this universal rule, which is daily followed all over the world, – Moscow whose baggage of similar actions is certainly not comparable with the Georgian experience. Though, entry on the Russian borders is suspiciously often denied to such undesirable persons, as journalists, human rights activists and dissidents. The category of citizens that may encounter problems on the border of Georgia was mentioned already and will be discussed below in more details, taking into account, as they like to repeat in Russia, "new realities".

We should also dwell on bogey of "Georgian chauvinism," image of which is so carefully nurtured in Moscow. A decent person, unlike Mr. Lukashevich, generally would not touch this topic. Because an official representative of the country in which clashes among ethnic groups, murders on national and racial grounds, marches with swastikas and Nazi salutes under the walls of the Kremlin have become the norm, should be ashamed to rant about someone else's chauvinism. The more shameful it must be to "incriminate" neighbours, who, in response to these farfetched claim, can bring out an example of very real campaign of the 2006 mass deportation of Georgians from Russia and many other shameful examples, using more offensive words than "chauvinism" at that.

However, "there is no smoke without fire" and the words of Lukashevich must be due to something. Let's try to figure out what exactly is a reason behind them ...

On January 30th Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister commented on the statement of the Russian colleague. David Jalagania described Alexander Lukashevich’s accusations as "cynical" and recalled how zealously Moscow protested in October 2010 in connection with the decision of Georgia to remove visa restrictions for the North Caucasians - and now it turns out, it is protesting for exactly the opposite reason. Meanwhile, according to official data of the Georgian Interior Ministry, in 2011 the Kazbegi-Larsi checkpoint - the only legal checkpoint on the Georgian-Russian land border was crossed by more than 191 thousand people. Out of which, the largest group, or 99,000, were Russian citizens. Of which the non-visa regime introduced by Tbilisi for the North Caucasus, was mostly enjoyed by residents of North Ossetia-Alania - more than 8 600 visitors. In second place, far behind are residents of Dagestan - about 2 000. They are followed by residents of Kabardino-Balkaria - 690 visitors, Adygea - 574, Chechnya - 334, Karachaevo-Cherkessia - 317, and Ingushetia - 28 people.

But let’s leave aside the official statistics and take a look on the internet. The blogosphere, which has become one of the best indicators of modern life, presents a number of positive stories and trip reports of North Caucasians in Georgia. Moreover, Ossetians, once again, dominate. But then complaints about the refusal of entry and evidence of discriminatory treatment are somehow nowhere to be seen on the internet. With one exception and this exception is Vladikavkaz-based organization Darial. It is its members that from time to time organize press-conferences in the capital of North Ossetia and complain to the press about the closed Georgian border. The last such meeting was held on January 27th suspiciously in sync with the statement of Mr. Lukashevich and in its content it was a little more detailed account of his claims. These claims, we note, also highlight "natives of Kazbegi district" - that is, a group of Ossetians, which, according to a legend, is represented by the Vladikavkaz-based Darial.

According to the legend, the organization advocates for the cause of nearly two thousand former residents of Georgia, ethnic Ossetians, who, because of climatic and socio-economic conditions moved to North Ossetia in 2006, when Russia closed the border and found themselves cut off from their homes. And now it’s the Georgian authorities that prevent them from visiting their native land. But this is the latest, "soft" version, which apparently Darial deemed necessary to use to achieve their goals on the humanitarian line in a more persuasive manner. While in earlier versions, instead of social roots of the problem main role was played by Georgians-Nazis who en masse banished Ossetians from the Kazbegi district, and other tales of this kind. And, since this region is indeed closely connected to Ossetia, and a lot of the Ossetians really lived (and live to this day) it is easy for Darial to, if necessary, present before the press some of the local natives, who will speak before a camera all that organizers need.

The point of this effort is to introduce into the information space a thesis of presence of a hitherto unknown "disputed territories" - that is, it is about creating an ideological base for the expansion of geography of the Georgian-Russian conflict. Representatives of Darial have already started to call on human rights organizations - together with such distinguished human rights activists as Vladimir Putin and Eduard Kokoity - "to give a legal assessment to actions of the Georgian government towards indigenous inhabitants of the region - Ossetians." And they also add that "... formerly, Kazbegi district – gorges of Darial, Tyrsygomsk (Truso - ed.), Guda and Kobi valley- was the eastern part of the historical Ossetia."

For the first time Darial made itself known in the middle of 2009 - a year after the Russian-Georgian war and the occupation of 20% of the territory of Georgia by Russia. And soon after Eduard Kokoity in April 2009 for the first time said that Tskhinvali regime intended to demand "return of the Truso gorge to Ossetia which in the twenties of the XX century was given by the Bolsheviks into the administration of the Georgian SSR." Till the end of the 2010 rhetoric of the organization, which was then very quickly set up in Vladikavkaz, included very few "human rights" and "humanitarian" notes while territorial claims were heard in full voice. Chairman of Darial Gairbek Salbiev have never failed to raise the subject of "native Ossetian lands" whenever he travelled to Tskhinvali or spoke to reporters in Vladikavkaz. It is easy to see that the number of "disputed" gorges has since increased. But this is just the beginning. The worst is still to come when we look at maps, which is used as illustrations in the Darial-related publications in the South Ossetian and North Ossetian media.

These maps depict "enhanced", "historic South Ossetia." But it is not only expanded at the expanse of the above-mentioned places. To the south of the former administrative border of the South Ossetian Autonomous District is marked yet another and far more extensive band of the "disputed" territory - it stretches from west to east following the river Mtkvari (Kura) from the town of Kareli, passing through Gori and reaching Tbilisi. To the north of outskirts of the Georgian capital there is a territory that goes up to Truso valley to which Darial started to lay claims. Together, this means an increase of the current "South Ossetia" by more than one and a half times. At that, according to them, "native Ossetian land" includes also (!) the ancient capital of Georgia - Mtskheta. That's it. The Jews that have been living here for over two millennia, for all this time, were not smart enough to proclaim the place of confluence of the rivers of Kura and Aragvi a territory of Israel... And here, one relatively young people that trace their descent to nomads of the steppes, are suddenly suggesting to find their roots in the mountains, on which Iberians- ancient Georgians in deep antiquity erected temples to pagan deities Gats and Gaim ...

Let's summarize. There are some young organization, which declares that is engaged in human rights and humanitarian activities. But, this organization began with political activities - in particular, together with the bandit regime of Kokoity it laid new territorial claims against Georgia. And today, in a somewhat veiled form it is promoting relevant ideological base, introducing the concept of "Ossetian land" with regards of a good half of the region of Mtskheta-Mtianeti. At the same time they are not yet saying, but drawing on maps with twice bigger piece of the territory of Shida Kartli. And suddenly it appears that this organization has a backing of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. Of course, there is no evidence - we can only speculate and draw conclusions - but if someone thinks that the resulting picture has nothing to do with the Kremlin and the purposeful activity of enemy intelligence, it can attributed to extreme naivety and lack of familiarity with similar projects more than enough of which has been seen by Georgia.

Now let’s try to answer a question: how should the Georgian government react in this regard? There may be several options. However, it is clear that studying of the Darial activity and compiling dossiers on members of this organization would be the minimum necessary operational work that the Georgian counter-intelligence was required to do immediately. The same as for the preparation of the checkpoint "black list" of persons who should not be allowed into Georgia in order prevent activists of Darial from making a provocation. It is well known how the Russian army loves keep peace (war) and "protect compatriots" on a foreign soil. And information that the occupants deployed in the Akhalgori district have been probing opportunity to save someone else, this time in a nearby Truso gorge, were leaked in late 2009 and early 2010. And then no one will understand how and what it was. For example, they are still searching for a mass grave of Ossetian virgins burned alive in Tskhinvali, but who cares now?

Elementary logic compels to recognize that the complaints of Alexander Lukashevich and Darial do not sound out of nowhere. And there must be the database and information on refusals of entry if people who work in appropriate structures of Georgia have minimum competence and responsibility. But this concerns not some abstract, innocently infringed Ossetians, but quite specific individuals associated with implementation of a particular political project. Ossetians as a whole, as it was shown above, are actively using visa-free regime better than others and, for the most part, encounter no problems at all. I guess we do not need to explain why the Ministry of Interior Affairs or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia without significant reasons will not go into specific detail in their public statements and draw attention to the work of counterintelligence, giving food for speculation on this topic.

By the way, with respect to the Russian Foreign Ministry it should be noted here that the statement of Lukashevich of January 27th was the first concrete proof that Darial is not a local initiative at the level of Tskhinvali and Vladikavkaz, and the project, as minimum, is coordinated with Moscow. So far the public contacts of the organization did not rise above the protocol meeting with Kokoity and Mamsurov and in 2011 it was characterized by a sharp decline in its activities - which can be attributed to the need to smooth out the initial clumsiness and, after a pause, to remind about it in a new "humanitarian" aspect. Under such cover which it is possible to coordinate efforts with the Russian Foreign Ministry too. And it does not matter who allowed or not allowed across the border - Georgia is still unlikely to open its doors for activists of Darial - but it does not stop them to work in the information field. At this stage, more is not needed. And when it is needed, right people will be sent into Georgia one way or another. For example, via the already occupied territory, accompanied by armoured personnel carriers and with cries in the media about poor citizens of the Russian Federation that are forced by the Tbilisi regime to resort to extreme measures, systematically being denied legitimate travel to their native land ...

One would put a full stop here, but there are signs that the plan drawn up in Russia has a much more extensive nature. Have you already digested historically Ossetian Gori, Mtskheta and Dusheti? Then welcome to “Trialeti Ossetia". That was the name given by unknown authors of Wikipedia a territory area spread on the Trialeti Range between Gori, Kareli, Khashuri, Borjomi, Tsalka and Caspi, where among Georgian villages there are compact settlements of Ossetians. Thus, "Trialeti Ossetia" extends "the expanded South Ossetia" to the south and only Javakheti region with its dominant share of the Armenian population is between it and Armenia, where the 102nd Russian military base is deployed in Gyumri. Does this lead to any thoughts?

The emergence of "Trialeti Ossetia" in virtual space, as well as materials about "Tyrsyg" occurred in the beginning of 2010, which fits well in the timing of Darial. Absence of any interviews and articles in the press, which would theoretically justify claims to cover all areas south of Tskhinvali, is a little confusing. But that, as they say, will come with time - the whole project is just three years old and it has been focused on the Kazbegi region so far. Therefore, one can only wonder at the fact that another Ossetia has not yet been found in the Kakheti region - there are compact settlements of Ossetians there too. However, emergence of "Lagodekhi Ossetia" is clearly prevented by its location in the extreme east of Georgia and a lack of communication with the rest of Ossetia - a bad geography does not appeal to our northern neighbour ...

Speaking of geography. If one adds up all the maps with the "native Ossetian land," we get a blue dream of Russian superpower supporters: the Caucasus, completely separated from north to south with "outposts" of Russia. North Ossetia-Alania, plus the "South Ossetia", enhanced by the Georgian Military Highway, and the middle reaches of the Kura, plus "Trialeti Ossetia" ... Plus, as we know from the Russian media, the "native Armenian Javakhk" and Native Armenian Armenia with the Russian base and direct access to Iran.

And again, not only Georgia will be cut in half, but the entire Caucasus, which, in case of realization of this idea, will not be divided in the North and South Caucasus but into the west and east. Isolated from each other by massive "Super Ossetia", which will be closely tied to Russia by a deadly feud with all the neigh neighbouring Caucasian nations. No Caucasian integration, no transit routes, no alternative oil and gas pipelines ... Surely, in this picture all those who follow periodic revelations of Moscow thinkers on the subject of "de-sovereignization of Georgia", "a new conquest of the Caucasus" and other washing-of-boots-in-warm-seas, have already seen familiar features. That is a development of the process that was initiated by the Bolsheviks in annexed Georgia in 1922 through the formation of the South Ossetian region in the lands of Kartli, Imereti, Racha and Svaneti regions of Georgia.

Obviously the article is largely based on assumptions. But, sure, on legitimate assumptions - given the recent history of Georgia and existing situation of today. For it was "little things" like this that the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia were started from at the time, as well as attempts to foment conflicts in other regions. And now we have the "new realities" in the face of Georgia's occupied territories that received Russian recognition and we need to recognize that correct diagnosis at an early stage is half of successful treatment of a disease.

Formation of the basis for expanding the geography of the conflict is just beginning, although its contours have already been marked. And this is the least calculated on Ossetians living in Georgia - if only because all too apparent absurdity of the identified claims. It should be remembered that, despite all the ugly aspects of the conflict in "South Ossetia" in the early nineties of the last century, the absolute majority of Ossetians remained "ours" and far ahead of all other minority groups when it comes to integration. They are actively represented at all levels - from ministerial to officers and soldiers that were repelling Russia's aggression in the vicinity of "sleeping Tskhinvali." Therefore, the worst reaction from the Georgian side would be demonstration of any anti-Ossetian sentiment - which is one of the goals of this provocation. And the fact that the provocation will gradually gain momentum is in no doubt after the Russian Foreign Ministry became involved in the Darial project.

Unfortunately, among the North Ossetian - especially among young people - the idea of the new "native Ossetian land" in the heart of Georgia may well take roots. All Caucasians have a soft spot for all sorts of "upgrades" to their history. And Ossetians were also placed here out of competition because of their role assigned to them by the current policy in the Caucasus, and Moscow's long-term plans. In a world where they seriously talk about Ossetian Lon-Don and are ready to move from the shores of Albion in the direction of ancient Egypt, with its god Os-Ir-Is, "Trialeti Ossetia" is just a light snack at the feast of ideological pseudo-senility. So, these ideas will get some "public support" in the North Ossetia-Alania - enough so that through hyperbolisation of the subject in the media gradually introduce the thesis of the new "disputed territories" and create a virtual conflict. In other words - to create a solid information background to transfer the conflict to the point where, if Russia suddenly gets another opportunity to pull the strings and engage in a new "peaceful resolution”...

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