Once again about "South Ossetia"
28/09/2009 10:48
Vasil Kvirikashvili
"The Club of exsperts", exspert

"The lie possesses ability
to acquire, similarly to snow"

In March 1920 following the decision of so-called South Ossetian National Council a new self-proclaimed South Ossetian Revolutionary Committee or RevCom and it declared Tskhinvali as its capital. Tskhinvali – a town where only several Ossetian families lived. Who was in charge of this Ossetian movement in Shida Kartli is obvious from the fact that on the 28th of October 1920 the Central Committee of the RCP (B) discussed an issue of "granting autonomy to South Ossetia" in front of the Ossetian delegates (E. Jioev "Fight of the South Ossetian workers for elimination of cultural backwardness", Tbilisi, 1971, page 8). And, all this was happening after official recognition of the Republic of Georgia, its territorial integrity and its obligation not to interfere in its internal affairs by the Russian federation with the agreement of the 7th May 1920.

Let us hear a small history with regards to that. Data given in historical and literary sources of the period from ancient times to the XIX century published by Ossetian scientists G. Togoshvili and I. Tskhovrebov (Tskhinvali, 1962) once again confirms that none of the written documents confirm the use of the term of "South Ossetia" towards Shida Kartli or Samachablo. Among various state and public organizations mentioned in the two-volume works of I. Tskhovrebov "South Ossetia" is only registered in documents of the Society for Restoration of Orthodox Christianity in the Caucasus (1860-1900) which is yet another proof that giving a foreign name to a significant part of Shida Kartli was a priority for this society. In more than 500 articles in Russian periodicals published in the Caucasus in 1828-1915 that referred to the history, ethnography and living of Ossetians, the term "South Ossetia" only appears thirteen times with the following intervals: in 1830, 1873, 1883, 1891, 1900, 1909.

Taking into account all the above we can assert that beginning from 1860 (when term "South Ossetia" first appeared in official documents) this ethnic term started to take root in the Russian geographical vocabulary. Of course we cannot rule out existence of some other cases of usage of the term "South Ossetia" towards Shida Kartli but that does not mean that such term usage towards the historical part of Georgia is right.

Considering the above it is clear why the term "South Ossetia" is foreign to big names in Caucasology such as academician N. Dubrovin, professors M. Kovalevski, V. Miler, P. Uvarova and L. Zagurski for whom Ossetia is a country on the other side of the Greater Caucasus Range and formation of Ossetian diaspora in Shida Kartli was a result of scarcity of land and historical poverty that was a fixture in the XVII-XIX centuries in Iron Country.

Formation of okrugs at the expense of mountainous villages of Eastern Georgia can be assessed as a result of policy of seizure carried out by Russian authorities towards mountain population. Establishment of the Ossetian okrug with a foreign name on the Georgian territory in the 40s of the XIX century was an actual realization of far-reaching plans based on the "divide and rule" principle. In due time "Ossetian okrug" should have to become a springboard for instigation of conflict between Georgians and Ossetians. This policy of the Tsarist regime is mentioned by Ossetian scientist and public figure A. Galazov in his work: "On one hand, Tsarism did not want South Ossetians to fully assimilate with Georgian people and in case they wanted to have South Ossetia as some kind of a springboard for having a leverage on capricious Georgian rulers" (A. Galazov, "Brotherly nations, brotherly languages", Ordzhonikidze, 1987).

Ossetians living on the territory of Georgia have never ever formed either independent or dependent political unit. There never were two Ossetias as never were two Frances, two Russias, and Two Ukraines and so on. The history knows only one Ossetia and its southern border goes across peaks of the Greater Caucasus Range.

A legal term "South Ossetia" was approved by the Decree 2 of the Council of the Public Commissars of Georgia and CEC in April 1922 according to which ancient Georgian province was declared as "South Ossetian Autonomous District" without any historical and legal grounds. This decree was a reward to Ossetian Bolsheviks in Shida Kartli for service rendered by them to the central committee when in 1918-20 they three times rebelled against the Democratic Republic of Georgia and later were even supporting its occupation by the Russian Red Army.

Georgian authorities of that time sent the regular army and the popular Guards against the rebelled. South Ossetian RevCom applied to the Soviet Russia for assistance. G. Chicherin wrote in the note addressed to the Georgian authorities on the 17th of May 1920: "We received with concern the news that Georgian forces were sent to South Ossetia where Soviet Republic had been declared and aim of these forces is to eliminate the above mentioned Soviet authorities. If this is true we demand that you withdraw your armed forces from Ossetia as we think that Ossetia should have those authorities that they want to have. Interference of Georgia in affairs of Ossetia would be an unjustifiable interference in the matters of others" ("Fight for victory of the Soviet authority in Georgia", page 579).

But this position of the Soviet authorities was open interference in the affaires of the Georgian Republic and obvious violation of the 2nd and 3rd clauses of the agreement of the 7th of May 1920 according to which RSFSR recognized South Ossetia as an integral part of Georgia (Archive of Foreign Affairs of USSR, f. 148, op. 3, f. 4, c. 39, p. 9; works of Professor A. Menteshashvili, Doctor of History "Ossetian Separatism in 1918-1920").

History repeats itself. That is proved by the events that took place in the 90s of the last century in Georgia that followed the beginning of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Then Ossetian extremists, like those in 1918-1920, advanced a slogan of "adding South Ossetia to Russia", demanded upgrading of their status to "independent republic". Groundlessness of such demands of Ossetians was mentioned by well-known Russian scientist S. Arutyunov, Associate Member of the Academy of Sciences of the Russian Federation and the head of the Department of Ethnography of the Caucasian people of the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology in his interview with the magazine "Rodina": "Remember how this infernal fire was ignited in South Ossetia – only because Ossetia declared its independence from Georgia. Conflict was unavoidable if we take into account that it's not Ossetia at all and it's truly Central Georgia through and through where recently appeared more Ossetian population. Of course, Ossetians have right to live there but they do not have a right to declare their state on these territories. North Ossetia is entirely different matter" (the magazine "Rodina", 1992, N 1, page 71). And professor V. Abaev wrote in the 22nd January 1992 issue of "Nezavisemaya Gazeta": "The Greater Caucasus range is a natural border between Georgia and Ossetia and any attempt to destroy this border will lead to a permanent conflict between Georgians and Ossetians... First of all, all talk about secession of South Ossetia from Georgia should be seized. No Georgian government will tolerate this and will be right as it will be violation of the territorial integrity of Georgia. Those who want peace between Georgians and South Ossetians should forever forget the idea of merging of South Ossetia and North Ossetia. Those who desire a peace between Georgia and Russia should do the same. That is the reality."

Now, let's remember a statement by residents of Georgian villages in 1920: "Our situation is terrible. We are refugees who left their homes. It's been three months since Ossetians came and we left our houses. 78-80 houses were burnt in Tskhinvali and what was left – cattle and household goods were taken to the Java district. When we asked for a return of assets that was taken away we were threatened with pogroms and robbery in response. During this period 32 people were killed. Some were burnt, some were beaten to death, women, mothers and children were being assaulted. Or life here is intolerable because they are attacking us before midday, they are taking away everything that is left in our destroyed villages; they are destroying houses... Army that is stationed now in Tskhinvali is also harassing us. Soldiers are coming into our houses and harassing us... They are asking for food, kettle, they are destroying crops and vineyards... they are convinced in their non-punishability."(Central State Archive of Contemporary History of Georgia, f. 281, op. 2, C. 3, p. 164; Russian Center for Preservation and Study of Documents of Contemporary History, f. 85, op. 15, c. 261; Newspaper "Akhalgazrda Komunisti" of January the 20th 1990).

After that passes "just" 70 years and ... here you are – August 1991 issue No 3 of the Ossetian newspaper "Vestnik Iuzhnoy Ossetii". An article "the best thing is military democracy" was published where a journalists asked a question where militants got weapons from and whether MIA, KGB and army knew about that. The response to that question was that "Let them know. We don't care about that. Until South Ossetia is a trump card in the hands of the Central (Soviet) government against Georgia we will not be disarmed. If Georgia signs agreement we will hide our weapons. Let them take weapons away from those silly people who get drunk and fire in the air.

-- Then you understand that you are being used?

-- Nobody's dumb here? If Moscow secretly sells us Gamsakhurdia will use non-interference of the army and will quickly destroy us once and for all... And, if militaries will again hide in their quarters then there will be big casualties from both sides – ours and theirs. Now it's impossible to say what will happen in the future... let's see."

As the saying goes, that's where the problem lies. "Until South Ossetia is a trump card against Georgia" militants could do what they like using support of so-called peace keeping troops. As you know the principle of "divide and rule" is forever alive! Later came even worse. After August 2008 there are robbed villages and destroyed and burnt houses again... Russian soldiers are going into villages that border the occupied territories and are harassing population. They are asking for food, destroying crop and vineyards... and still are assured in their non-punishability. They are "peace keepers" and therefore it's their duty to arm "their peaceful brothers" in order to give them opportunity to "defend their own land" from "Georgian yoke". "While Russia is strong Georgia will not dare to start a new aggression against South Ossetia otherwise they will have to come face to face with its border guards , its military base and the entire might of the Russian military strength" – proudly says I. Tanaev, the head of "South Ossetian Defense Ministry".

Please note "while Russia is strong". And then what? Will we start looking for a new "master"? Is not a betrayal of others, and most of all of your neighbours, is above everything for you? And after all this Putin proudly (?) tells Rustavi 2 journalist: "We have a very clear strategy. International community should either support one of the fundamental principles of the International legislation and protect integrity of the recognized states or problem of national self-determination will become more urgent. South Ossetia and Abkhazia long declared independence but we did not want to fight with Georgia and used to support territorial integrity of this country. Yes, Russia supported territorial integrity of Georgia despite the fact that these republics declared independence. But irresponsible actions of the Georgian authorities changed the situation drastically. We had no other choice and we took a decision – the one that you know well..."

Indeed, Russian leadership is obviously offended and vexed. But why? Is that because of Georgia's aspiration for NATO and European Union membership? But Georgia did not have such aspirations in 90s of the last century and more, in the beginning of the XX century, did it? Or Is Russia still irritated by even the fact of existence of the Georgian state?

If that's the truth, my friends, you don't need to be bothered with all this talk and hiding behind "humanitarian" slogans. Georgia has always been stuck in Russia's (not Russians) craw. Confess your actual wishes. Confess that you need a springboard for access to the Black Sea and in order to ignite conflicts among Caucasian people and maybe, who knows, even further south. Confess that Russia's recently signed agreements with Abkhazia and South Ossetia about establishment of Russian military bases in these regions in order to "improve regional military infrastructure" serve these very purposes.

And those really interested in events that have been happening in Georgia during the last 100-150 years and also would like to at last find out to whom these lands really belong can see scientific researches of the following issues: creation and development of toponims in Shida Kartli, Settlement of Ossetians in the region, cultural and ethnic processes, architecture and epigraphy etc.

In case of using the material the hypperlink on the Expert Club is obligatory