From the history of creation of so-called "South Ossetian Autonomous Region" (1917-1922)
19/04/2010 12:12
Lela Saralidze
Doctor of historical sciences, senior researcher at the Department of Modern and Contemporary History of the Institute of History and Ethnology

The term "South Ossetia" from a historical point of view is very unnatural, and therefore unacceptable, as this term means the territory of historically Georgian region - Shida Kartli. This name was given in violation of international law to the Georgian land, which gradually was taken over by Ossetians, who came from the north. The fact of the settlement of Ossetians on the Georgian territory is confirmed by various Georgian and foreign authors. Ingush historian Sultan Khamchiev writes: "the history of Ossetian people is one continuous and consecutive seizure of territories of its neighbours. There are no people that they are neighbours with and significant parts of territories of which they have not seized. These peoples are Georgians, Kabardians, Ingush, Chechens and Cossacks. At that they do not shy away from lies and gross falsification and are crying that these peoples have pretenses that Ossetians have been living on these territories since the creation of the world". (Sutan Khamchiev "Osseitan annexation on the Caucasus and Transcaucasus" (Ossetian annexation of Georgian, Kabardian, Cossack, Ingush and Chechen lands", Nazran, 2006).

Terms "South Ossetia" and "North Ossetia" started to take roots in 1930. The article by anonymous author published in Tifliskie Vedomodti newspaper (1830, N72) mentions Big and Small Liakhvi gorges, mountainous territories of gorges of Ksani and Mejuda as "South Ossetia". It also names seven main gorges of "South Ossetia": Magran-dvaleti, Keshelti, Java, Small Liahvi, Mejuda, Churti and Jamuri.

On May 24th 1830 a letter sent by General-Feldmarshal Paskevich to Military governor of Tbilisi General Adjutant Strekalov mentions "lower parts of Ossetia" or "South Ossetia" as opposed to upper parts of Ossetia" or "North Ossetia". Ossetian historian Tskhovrebov in his collection of documents presents document N209 and it is "correspondence of a commander-in-chief of Separate Caucasus Corps General-feldmarshal Paskevich" dated 24th may 1830 with Military governor of Tbilisi general Adjutant Strekalov on military expedition to suppress rebellion of peasants.

Attempts to unite Ossetians living in Shida Kartli into one political and administrative unit started to gather pace immediately after the February revolution of 1917. The first time a question of self-determination of Ossetians was raised was in June 1917 at the java Assembly of Transcaucasian Ossetians where they demanded creation of national-territorial local government institutions for cultural and educational purposes. In the beginning of 1918 Ossetians were demanding creation of district administrative unit. On December 10th 1918 national council of so-called South Ossetia presented a project to the Transcaucasian commissariat which showed what forms and in what borders this zemstrvo of "South Ossetia" should have been formed.
The IV national council of so-called South Ossetia with participation of political parties drew up a draft of constitution of autonomous "South Ossetia" which was presented to the commission of local government institutions of the Constituent Council of the Georgian Democratic republic on June 16th 1919. This document was called "draft of constitution of South Ossetian canton" and consisted of five chapters and 47 articles. According to the draft "South Ossetian canton" was declared an autonomous part of the Georgian democratic republic. The canton was prohibited from entering into agreements with foreign countries. The canton was given preferential right to forests, pastures, ores and other natural resources on its territory. The constitutional Commission of the Constituent Council of the Democratic Republic of Georgia with justly denied the draft of the Constitution of "South Ossetian" canton that was presented by the national Council of so-celled South Ossetia as it completely illegally demanded formation of autonomous unit not only on the territory of Shida Karlti but also on other Georgian lands (Dusheti, Racha, Shorapani). On May 6th 1920 in a village of Roki at the meeting of the military and revolutionary council and local Communist party officials was made a decision to establish the Soviet government and join Soviet Russia and to inform Both Moscow and the government of the Georgian democratic republic about this. The meeting was attended by N. Gadiev, A. Jatiev, Gaioz Devdariani, Gramiton Motsonelidze, Tsitska Abaiev, Vasche Jatiev, Imail Gabaraev, Tebrol Sarbiev and others. On May 8th 1920 in a village of Roki Ossetians declared the Soviet government and announced Soviet Ossetia as a part of Soviet Russia. Gross interference of Russia into internal affairs of Georgia was clearly demonstrated by the note dated May 17th 1920 that was sent by the People's Commissar of Foreign Affairs of RSFSR Chicherin to the government of the Georgian Democratic Republic. The note said: "... we are concerned to hear that Georgian troops were sent to "South Ossetia" where Soviet republic was declared and it was done in order to destroy this very government. If this is right we are firmly demanding troops to be withdrawn from Ossetia as we believe that Ossetia should have a government that they want to have. Interference of Georgia into affairs of Ossetia would be absolutely unjustified interference into affairs of others". On February 25th 1921 the Red Army of Soviet Russia annexed the Democratic Republic of Georgia as a result of which Georgia lost its statehood. On this very 25th of February in Vladikavkaz the district party committee of so-called South Ossetia discussed issues of Ossetian self-determination and questions of organization of government there. The district committee then considered necessary to separate "South Ossetia" as special administrative unit - autonomous district – with its centre in Tskhinvali.

In February-March 1921 Georgia was declared as independent Soviet Socialist republic with formal Georgian government in charge. Soviet Georgia as a country that had legal status entered the international arena under control of the Central committee of Russia. On its part, the RevCom of so-called South Ossetia on its own initiative officially raised a question of self-determination of so-called South Ossetia before the central party and Soviet bodies of Georgia. On September 6-8th 1921 a joint meeting of revolutionary committee of so-called South Ossetia and Party committee took place which discussed the issue of self-determination of "South Ossetia" and its political organization. The assembly concluded that Soviet Socialist republic of "South Ossetia" should be created on the territory of Georgia with its centre in Tskhinvali. The assembly also approved "the draft of the constitution of Soviet Socialist republic of "South Ossetia" and "a draft of borders of Soviet Socialist republic of South Ossetia" which named every village that according to Ossetians should have been included into so-called South Ossetian republic. Among those were many Georgian villages in districts of Gori, Racha, Dusheti and Shorapani. So-called draft of the constitution of the Soviet Socialist republic of South Ossetia consisted of 15 articles which named peoples' commissariats that were to be formed in the republic. It also determined spheres of its competence.

In September 1921 Peoples' Commissarial of internal Affairs created a special commission to study the situation in Tskhinvali region on the spot and determine whether it was possible to form an autonomous district on the mentioned territory. The commission was directly headed by peoples' Commissar of internal Affairs of Georgia Besarion Melkisedekovich Kvirkvelia (1885-1937). After profound studies of the issue Peoples' Commissar of Internal Affairs determined that it was impossible to create not only Soviet Socialist republic or autonomous republic of "South Ossetia" but even a creation of autonomous district as "South Ossetia" as united geographical unit did not exist.

On September 27th 1921 Peoples' Commissariat of Internal Affairs of Georgia with orders of Besarion Kvirkvelia sent a report on separation of so-called South Ossetia as a separate administrative unit to the head of the revolutionary committee of Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic with a request to discuss this issue at the RevCom session. There request of Besarion Kvirkvelia was denied. He personally was demoted to a post of military naval commissar in order to detach him from these processes. Later during 1937 repressions Besarion Kvirkvelia was shot. The reason for all this was that he presented absolutely objective conclusion which, naturally, did not play into hands of the Soviet authorities of that time.

The Constitution of March 2, 1922 was the first piece of legislation, which officially recognized and affirmed the creation of so-called South Ossetian Autonomous Region within the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic. However, it became necessary to adopt legislative act which would more broadly define the legal status of the so-called South Ossetian Autonomous District within the Georgian Republic and would have confirmed in details the territorial boundaries of this new administrative unit. Decree № 2 dated April 20, 1922 declared "South Ossetia" as part of the Georgian SSR with its centre in Tskhinvali. The second article of the Decree defined the territorial boundaries of this completely artificial autonomous unit and named central executive committee and local councils as government bodies of so-called "South Ossetia".


The creation of illegal so-called South Ossetian Autonomous Region in Georgia in April 1922 further aggravated the political situation. Georgian society negatively received the creation of such district, as ethnic differences and compact settlements of Ossetians on Georgian soil did not give any reason for creation of their political autonomy, since Georgia had not invaded territory inhabited by Ossetians, and had not deprived this national minority of their native land.

The so-called "South Ossetian" autonomous region was created illegally and artificially, as Georgian territory - Shida Kartli - inhabited by Ossetians (Samachablo, Sapalavando, saeristavo of Ksani) was named as an autonomous region and that was extremely unacceptable. The name "South Ossetia" as a term denoting a geographical location was created artificially, although it was used conventionally even previously. As to the autonomy of so-called "South Ossetia", it did not exist before the establishment of Soviet power in Georgia. The Constitution of the Georgian Democratic Republic that was adopted on February 21st, 1921 granted autonomy only to Abkhazia, Ajara and Zakatala, but the Constitution of the Georgian Democratic Republic adopted by the Constituent Assembly does not mention political autonomy of so-called "South Ossetia" and that was quite natural. It should be noted also that at the time when Georgian villages were forcefully included into so-called "South Ossetian" autonomous region there was no autonomy at all on the territory of real homeland of Ossetians – North Ossetia. It was established later, in 1924, as part of the Russian SFR as an autonomous region, and in 1936 it was granted the status of autonomous republic. Creation of illegal autonomous region has caused justified outrage of both Georgian and Ossetian population, as evidenced by various historical documents. In January 1922 Georgians, Armenians and Jews jointly sent the People's Commissar of Internal Affairs of Georgia a letter in which they demanded return to natural historical boundaries to Tskhinvali and its areas. The same demand was made by population of villages of Nedleti, Khundisubani, Shindari, Tigva, Alabari, Satkheneti, Zeda and Kweda Oconi. The mentioned villages always belonged to the Gomi region, which has always been considered undisputed Georgian area and was populated by Georgians. According to the Decree № 2 villages of Tigva, Okona, Sunisi, Nabakevi, Tkisubani, Shindarisi, Nedlati, Alibari, Akhalsheni and Khundisubani were included inside the boundaries of the so-called South Ossetian Autonomous Region. In the name of the People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs were sent various statements in which Ossetians living in various districts were asking to separate them from so-called RevCom of "South Ossetia" and expressed a desire to live with the Georgians. They believed that they had nothing to quarrel over with Georgians. On March 12th , 1922 population of a village of Khurvaleti sent People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs the following letter: "We, representatives of villagers of Kvemo Chala area: 1) Zemo Bagebi, 2) Kvemo Bagebi, 3) Gudiantkari, 4) Sagoreti, 5) Chachanaantkari, 6) Metesmani and 7) Deduleti decided: since village executive committee of Artsevi 3 District demands forced administrative inclusion of residents of these villages into its district and carries out various activities towards us and we do not want this, we are sending our resolution to the Supreme Government that it to propose to the CEC of Artsevi of the 3rd District (Ossetian CEC), to leave us alone, as our great desire is to be subordinated to the CEC of Kvemo Chala district (Georgian CEC), as established by the government. " This resolution was signed by 14 representatives of the aforementioned villages, whose signatures were confirmed by the chairman of CEC of Kvemo Chala with signature and seal.

After the establishment of Soviet power in Georgia, administrative unit called "South Ossetia" was established actually quite illegally in the boundaries of Gori district and in such a way that in reality the boundaries of the mentioned unit had not been established.

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