Indeed, the Internet has made the world smaller. On the second day after publication of the article "Leftist deviation of the separatists" the Club of Experts received a letter from faraway San Marino signed by Alessandro Rossi. He introduced himself as the coordinator of the United Left of this country and, according to Wikipedia, for six months of 2007 he even served on two top positions of this European microstate. Based on the letter, it was Mister Rossi who lobbied the separatists when in early April the latters went to the Apennine peninsula with the hope of a diplomatic success.
Now, Alessandro Rossi has accused our author Ilia Bagaturia of being bias and "historical inaccuracies" regarding relations of the European Left with Soviet security services that are now the security services of the Russian Federation.
I think that we - people who were born in the totalitarian state of the left "reds" – are quite justified to be bias towards everything that has anything to do with an ugly Soviet system, parts of which still remain and give metastases in post-Soviet states. And our bias is unlikely to be fully understood by Europeans who have not had "pleasure" of living in a "socialist" Soviet Union. So just accept the fact that bias is there, and it is based on large and difficult life experiences – of ours, our societies and our peoples.
As for the "historical inaccuracies", here too we will not argue with Mr. Rossi. Despite the fact that some of our members served in the Soviet security services, reached high ranks and have a professional understanding of means, methods and goals of the KGB / FSB in Europe, which since Stalin had been prepared for the next spurt of "the world revolution".
We are also willing to admit that European researchers mentioned in the article which attracted attention of the coordinator of the United Left of San Marino, are wrong. In this case, Mr. Rossi could submit his - argumented and documented – view of this issue. Instead, he contented himself with just unsubstantiated denial but he commented more specifically on the part of the article, which concerns directly the Abkhazian separatists.
Unfortunately, at that Alessandro Rossi said nothing new or original. What we have heard was typical – hollow and misleading - statements from the most primitive set of the Russian-Abkhazian propaganda. These clichйs are aimed at people who are absolutely unfamiliar with this topic. But since this is the only specifics in his letter this will be that we will discuss. We hope that Mr. Rossi is just a person unfamiliar with the topic and he will be able to deal adequately with other information - just as we are ready to get acquainted with his competent position on the history and inner workings of leftist movements in Europe.
The first statement: Abkhazia has always been an autonomous republic. Mr. Rossi, this is not true. Abkhazia was part of ancient Colchis and a place of residence of the Georgian tribes since ancient times - that is registered, in particular, by Herodotus and Strabo. Abkhazia was part of a unified Georgian state since its formation in the late X century. What's more - it was the king of Abkhazia Bagrat III of the Georgian Bagrationi dynasty that was a monarch who established united Georgia, uniting isolated Georgian entities under his rule. Throughout the known history Abkhazia remained part of the political and cultural "Georgian space." Abkhazia became an autonomous republic only 81 years ago - in 1931. The very process of emergence of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia in Georgia is associated with the capture and “Sovietization" of the independent Democratic Republic of Georgia following the first Russian-Georgian war in 1921. Then Georgia (including Abkhazia) was annexed by Soviet Russia. "The Reds" established its own order in the occupied country, including its administrative division, based on their interests and plans. First, on March 28th, 1921, the Bolsheviks declared Abkhazia an independent Soviet Socialist Republic which they tied to the rest of Georgia with a union agreement of on December 16th. And 10 years later they transformed it into the Abkhazian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic within the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic. In spite of such forced and artificial character of formation of the autonomy, its status was retained upon restoration of state independence of Georgia in 1991.
"You unleashed a civil war" - Alessandro Rossi writes further, accusing the Georgian side. These words are either a deliberate lie, or complete ignorance of the subject about which he undertakes to judge. But we are not going to tell the story of the conflict in Abkhazia, which had been brewing for decades during the Soviet regime. We will just mention two well-known and documented facts. The first bloodshed between Georgians living in Abkhazia and ethnic group of Apsua / Abkhazians occurred on 15-16th of July, 1989 in Sukhumi. Abkhaz nationalists, unhappy with the initiative of local residents-Georgians to open a branch of Tbilisi University in Sukhumi, organized to bring a group of aggressively-disposed Abkhazians from Gudauta and Gagra into the city. They attacked Sukhumi activists with knives and firearms. As a result of clashes 13 Georgians and 5 Abkhazians were killed, 140 people were injured.
The second time blood was spilt three years later. By this time illegal armed groups - mono-ethnic "Abkhazian guard" and supporters of Abkhazian nationalist militants from the North Caucasus were created in Abkhazia. A policy of discrimination against the Georgian population was pursued in areas where Abkhazian nationalists had strong positions. At that Abkhazian leaders publicly stated that their goal was to solve "demographic problem" of Apsua / Abkhazian minority in the region through expulsion of the Georgian population of Abkhazia. The Abkhazian part of the leadership of the autonomy refused to recognize the Georgian legislation and took some unilateral, unconstitutional actions including declaration of independence of the region, ignoring the will of the people of Abkhazia and grossly violating of the law. Several representatives of the Georgian government were held hostage on the territory of autonomy. Trains were systematically looted on the Transcaucasian Railway that frustrated transit of goods between Russia and Armenia. Power lines on this section of the railway were also looted. And all this was blocking railway movement of both passenger and cargo trains. Moscow and Yerevan demanded from Tbilisi to take measures to normalize the situation. In this gravest situation the Abkhazian authorities that were submitted to the leader of the separatists Vladislav Ardzinba’s dictate were completely passive. Despite the fact that discussions around the existing situation were held on the highest level no suitable steps were taken to normalize the situation. Passed decisions stayed on paper and an opinion was emerging that Ardzinba and his circle was gaining from aggravation of the situation.
Against this background, the Georgian leadership committed, perhaps, a politically incorrect in that situation but forced and perfectly legitimate step. A limited contingent of troops was sent to Abkhazia to regain control of the railroad and free the hostages. This happened on August 14, 1992, and the very first hours of this resulted in reactions of the separatists, who had been just waiting for a pretext to start a war - the only way that would allow them to get rid of "unnecessary" population. The military convoy that entered Abkhazia was attacked by illegal armed groups of Abkhazian nationalists in the Ochamchira district. This was the beginning of the war that became a tragedy for the entire population of Abkhazia.
In order to relieve Mr. Rossi of the task of asking questions, we will note that both facts are not denied by Abkhazian separatists and are reflected in their view of the conflict. Since, under their professed ideology and system of coordinates, these facts were justified and lawful. But it should be clear to any non-biased observer that bloodshed and war is unleashed by those who begins to kill opponents - instead of dialogue and legal methods to defend their interests.
Alessandro Rossi wrote that "the only way to peace can be found in secession by mutual agreement between the conflicting parties." According to him, Georgia should "let go" of Abkhazia as "a child who has created its own family." And here we are faced with something worse than mere ignorance or misunderstanding of the circumstances of the conflict from the left-wing politician of San Marino. Because, setting out this position, the European pacifist advocates fascism and war crimes.
It is hard to imagine that Mr. Rossi does not know the main reason why the civilized world does not recognize current "Republic of Abkhazia" created by the Russian military and political support and legitimacy of the regime established in the Russian-occupied regions of Georgia. As a result of the 1992-1993 war in Abkhazia under the threat of death more than half the population - 300,000 people out of 525,000 were expelled from Abkhazia. Out of this number approximately 240 000 were Georgians, the rest - members of their families and representatives of other ethnic groups that were not actively involved with the separatists. The expulsion of disloyal population preceded massacres of Georgians in the separatist-controlled territory, most of which occurred in September 1993 - when armed formations of Abkhazian militants and their allies from Russia captured Sukhumi and established control over the entire territory of Abkhazia. In general, during this campaign 10,000 civilians - Georgians (excluding military casualties) were killed based on ethnic grounds. For comparison, casualties of the Abkhazian separatists in the war, according to their data, are 3000 people. Almost all of them were combatants killed during the fighting with a weapon in hands (and only a few dozen are registered as civilian population).
The international community determined what happened in Abkhazia as ethnic cleansing, as recorded in the decisions of the Budapest (1995), Lisbon (1997) and Istanbul (1999) OSCE summits and UN and the CIS documents. According to resolution 47/121 of the UN General Assembly, ethnic cleansing is a form of genocide. According to international conventions, it is the gravest crime against humanity, which has no period of limitation. Also massive war crimes committed by the separatists in Abkhazia during the ethnic cleansing of Georgian population of the region have no period of limitation either.
Perhaps Mr. Rossi does not know that during the Soviet Union ethnic minority of Abkhazians - Apsua (17% of Abkhazia's population) enjoyed a privileged status according to "national policy" carried out by the Soviet authorities. In particular, the accepted practice was artificial dominance of Abkhazians on administrative positions at all levels. This encouraged formation of separatist ideology, which became the driving force behind the desire to monopolize the power in their hands and establish a "dominant" position of the Abkhazian minority in the region. The ethnic cleansing of Georgian population served this purpose.
But Mr. Rossi should know that at present, Abkhazians, as a result of forced change in the demographic situation, make up about 50% of the population (it is official statistics, which are disputed by experts in the direction of decreasing). At that 92% (32 out of 35 seats) of the "parliament" of the separatists consists of Abkhazians, while the administrative apparatus are staffed almost entirely with them. The rest of the ethnic groups are put in a subordinate and exploited position. And certain number of Georgian refugees that spontaneously returned to a relatively safe the Gali district of Abkhazia live without any rights and are constantly exposed to all forms of discrimination. Many researchers regard the current situation in Abkhazia as ethnocracy or a soft form of apartheid. Such conclusions have been made by experts in Europe and even in Russia. And the coordinator of the left in San Marino should know this since he is so interested in Abkhazia and, according to his letter, had studied documents on the Abkhazian problem before he supported the separatists.
"We are not terrorists - we are united left-wing pacifists and will defend self-determination of peoples" - Alessandro Rossi says in his letter. Then we should ask the politician - why pacifists in his face support the regime that had seized power with the use of force and expelled its inhabitants from Abkhazia using terrorist methods? If Mr. Rossi speaks in favour of self-determination of peoples then why are his actions directed against this cause? After all, today’s Abkhazia that he calls to recognize and "let go", is a symbol of repression and abuse of human rights, including the right to self-determination. The separatist regime, which now controls Abkhazia thanks to Moscow, has the support of only an absolute minority of the population. And the majority were expelled and have been unable to return to their homes for twenty years now, because the Abkhazian regime is afraid of self-determination of the people of Abkhazia. The reason is simple - in any election and referendum, these people will vote against separatism. Or maybe Mr. Rossi agrees with the separatists in that the words "the people of Abkhazia" means only those who have "right" ethnic origin, or at least are not opposed to ethnocratic regime of the Abkhazian nationalists? But in this case, he should leave the ranks of left-wing internationalists and pacifists and join a fascist organization.
"We are not interested either in Russian money or in praises of Americans - we are interested in the victory of justice, freedom and common sense" - claims Alessandro Rossi. Perhaps this is justice for his party. But then what is justice of recognition of Abkhazia without the consent of its people? Where to find freedom in a place where those opposed are killed and driven from their homes? And how to find common sense in the advice of Mr. Rossi “to let go" of Abkhazia? After all, it would mean agreeing to the policy of apartheid and ethnic cleansing. This position of the coordinator of the United Left of San Marino indicates to either his personal interest in lobbying the Abkhazian separatists, or his complete incompetence in the issue of Abkhazia. The last is also unfortunate, since it does not characterize Mr. Rossi as a responsible politician who values his ideals.
Mr. Rossi may not agree with our description of the conflict in Abkhazia. He may repeat the Russian-Abkhazian propaganda about the current situation in the occupied region. He may consider Georgia guilty and justify the Abkhazian side. But no matter who is right and wrong, who has what position and how one assesses particular events today one simple fact is obvious: the majority of the population have been expelled from Abkhazia. Through use of force the people of Abkhazia are prevented from realizing elementary civil and political rights. This is a fundamental reason why the civilized international community refuses to consider legitimacy of the processes that are taking place in Abkhazia without a full, dignified and safe return of refugees. Until elimination of this reason any attempt to legitimize the current situation in Abkhazia will be no more than solidarity with the crime against humanity that took place there.