Confrontation (Part I)
04/06/2010 14:13
Vasil Kvirikashvili

There are relatively valuable data about Ossetia and Ossetians in written sources, scientific works or literary fiction. Most of these data informs us about ill-disposed attitude of Ossetians towards Georgian people which was noted for ruthlessness and hostile actions in most cases. Works of Vakhushti Bagrationi, German scientist of the Russian Imperial academy of Sciences Guldenstadt, Alexander kazbegi, Sofrom Mgaloblishvili, Kosta Khetagurov and other, as well as ethnographic and folk data.

It is not accidental that Alexander Kazbegi characterizes Ossetians negatively in all his novels and by showing their actions he demonstrates the situation which was similar to "Lekianoba" – in-raids of Lezgins and was called "Osianoba" – in-raids of Ossetians. This was a fight against Georgian people and involved robbing and capturing of people, and in case of resistance killing of those people.

"Traditions" of thieving, robbing and killing are especially expressive in ethnographic past of Ossetians. It is seen as across-nation thing which was elevated to the highest level. And facts of existence of gods of, on one hand, thieves and bandits and, on the other hand, of murderers in Ossetia confirms all the above. The cross of black horseman (Dzuar Saubarag in Ossetian) situated in a village of Bizi of the Alagir community is well known in whole Ossetia. It is a place of prayers where thieves and all kinds of nighttime adventurers and criminals were asking for protection. It remained the most popular sanctuary in the beginning of the XX century.

Saubarag is supported and in some way even surpassed by Parinji Dzuari - sanctuary of murderers that was known in a village of Panaigan by the end of the XIX century.

It is known from the history of Georgia that attitude of assertions were of two kinds in accordance with state politics. In some cases Ossetians army was hired to defend the country and that was happening, naturally, on the basis of a mutual agreement. And on the other side, there were their organized raid-ins that caused destruction of the country's economy and monuments of culture, capture and harassment of population. According to Georgian historical sources the above-mentioned dual relationship was characteristic mainly prior to settlement of Ossetians on the territory of Georgia. After that situation changed drastically when fight of Ossetians that lived in Georgia against Georgian people became especially fierce inside of our country. Their fight had different forms. In certain cases they used to create armed units and used to organize in-raids. In other cases small armed groups and individual bandits were looting the country.

Digorian Ossetians often attacked villages of the Racha region with a purpose to rob them as they were situated near them. Sometimes they were successful, sometimes they returned to their "homeland" empty-handed.

In 1746 Ossetians that lived in saeristavo of Ksani invaded upper Kartli. King Irakli II was compelled to hire Lezgins. The latters were led by Machabeli and Iese son of Amilakhvari. United Georgian-Lezgin army defeated Ossetians.

The source says nothing as to what prompted Ossetians to withdraw. But it is obvious that they were encouraged by Ossetians living in the Caucasus. Yet still there was no calming of Ossetians living in saeristavos of Ksani and Aragvi. They were engaged in permanent attacks on Georgian population and robbery. They stopped paying tribute to eristavi and did not let their officials in Ossetian villages. United army of Kartli-Khakhetian Kings Teimuraz and Irakli attacked from two sides. King Teimuraz attacked from the side of Vanati while Irakli carried out his military operation from Ananuri direction. They took 40 fortified fortresses were captured. Many Ossetians were detained.

It seems that anti-Georgian uprising of Ossetians were quite organized. In opposite case it would have been impossible for Ossetians living in saeristavos of Ksani and Aragvi to start such aggression. They were supported and aided by North Caucasian Ossetians as well. When Ksani Ossetians were informed about the defeat of Aragvi Ossetians they came to Vanati and asked King Teimuraz for forgiveness. And they paid full tribute. After receiving the tribute Georgians did not march on Ossetians of Ksani. Although nobody knew when again Ossetians were going to declare disobedience.

There is a suggestion in historiography that Shanshe Eristavi was also involved in the Ossetian uprisings of the Ksani saeristavo.

German traveler Guldenstadt who visited Georgia in the seventies of the XVIII century noted that old stone church near which 40 years before the traveler came to the area there was a summer house of Machabeli, at that time just "served as a shelter for criminal Ossetians".

Places of settlement of Ossetians that were against Georgian people were both upper reaches of the river Aragvi. In the second half of the XVIII century they were settled in both upper reaches of the river Aragvi that was over this side (Aragvi of Mtiuleti) - in the gorge of Gudi and in upper reaches of the Aragvi of over the other side (Terek) - Truso gorge. Ossetians of the two gorges joined forces and decided to raid Georgian population. The Georgian kingdom promptly assessed a danger and King Irakli II and Jimsher , Mouravi of Tushs marched on them and completely crushed evil intentions of Ossetians. According to Georgian historian Papuna Orbeliani Ossetians were ruthlessly killing eristavis. And an example of this was a killing of Bezhan Eristavi of Aragvi.

The victory of Georgians was followed by ruthless punishment that gave food for thought for Ossetians living in the Ksani saeristavo. The latter did not participate in the military actions but their support for the Ossetians of Aragvi was obvious. Thus their participation in the fight against Georgian people in certain moment was quite likely. That was confirmed by adulatory repentance. The reason they begged the king and undertook to pay the entire tribute was because they were trying to avoid possible punishment of the Kings' authorities. A question arises. Why would Ossetians of the Ksani saertistavo need to adulate the king and promise to pay "full tribute" unless they were supporting Ossetians that were fighting against Georgian people?

Raiding gangs of Ossetians used to occupy narrow passages that lead into Georgia, namely the Dariali gorge. As they lived below this gorge - in the Tagauri gorge and were in a good position to engage in robbery in the Dariali gorge. In this case Ossetians were aided by the situation that in the entire area only Tagaurian Ossetians could make bridges that were essential for passage of travelers. And this was done by mutual agreement of the two sides but that sometimes used to become difficult due to disagreements about price.

At the same time Irakli II declared an uncompromising fight against banditries of Ossetians gangs. The king knew very well that relations with Ossetians were devastating for the country and their crimes were often becoming a matter of discussion. He ordered those obligations that should have been fulfilled according to the law and in accordance with social situation of the population. Punishments defined by the order mainly concerned low social class. As to the high social classes the decision did not concern them as "their blood has been flowing for a long time".

The order also mentioned that revenge was not to be taken for Ossetians who died during stealing as well as for Georgians who died during stealing in the region of Ossetians i.e. stealing was qualified as equal crime no matter who committed it - Georgian or Ossetian.

Ossetian separatism was like a malign tumor for Georgia even in the times of the Russian empire. And it took various forms. One of them was expansion of Ossetian settlements on the territory of Georgia i.e. colonization and that was done by very crude methods - harassment of peaceful Georgian population, ruthless killings, kidnapping of people and thievery and banditry.

It is well-known that in the first half of the XIX century Russian generals many times mentioned raids on Georgian villages, robbery and killings of Georgians that were carried out by Ossetians. They believed that relevant measures should have been taken to eradicate those crimes. In 1809 General Tormasov sentenced five Ossetians to death by hanging. Later in 1824 General Khonev reported to General Ermolov that in order to stop attacks and robbery of Ossetians that they were carrying out towards Georgian population of Kartli should be given right to defend themselves with weapons from robbers as Kakhetians were defending with arms from Lezgins. As the general said therefore they should not pursue Georgians for killing a robber; that imperial authorities should make understand both landowners and population of Kartli that they would be blamed for killing of criminals and bandits; that they should only oblige Georgians to report each of such cases to local authorities that certain Ossetian is killed during the attack and robbery.

It seems that Ossetians were so engaged in killing, abduction and robbery of people in the Gori district that General Akhverdov sent General Tormasov a report where the former expressed his belief that it was necessary for Ossetians who wished to go to Georgians villages and especially, Georgian village of Tskhinvali, to get special pass.

(To be continued)

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