Confrontation (Part II)
11/06/2010 16:40
Vasil Kvirikashvili

(see part I)

In the beginning of the XX century practice of using woods used to cause certain confrontations between Georgians and Ossetians. For example, Ossetians that lived in a village of Avlevi and who were refugees could make use of forests for free. Aboriginal population – Georgian peasants were deprived of such rights. With a purpose of finding money that was necessary for taking care and preservation of forests in summer of 1917 executive committee of a village determined that each Georgian family had to pay five rubles for using forest (foe example, cutting wood) while Ossetians as they were registered as refugees were exempted from this fee. And that was happening when even landowners did not have advantage when it came to using forests. Protests of Georgians did not have any positive results as majority in the village executive committee was held by Ossetians.

The situation deteriorated even further with return of soldiers from the war (from January 1918). They formed armed units that consisted of 300 men who were mainly Ossetians and which under the pretense of "establishment of order" but with a purpose of looting started to attack landowner families and generally, Georgians. This fact was recognized by the first session of the national council of "South Ossetia" that took place on March 3-4th 1918.

Cruelties that they were carried out against Georgians are horrifying. Famous public figure and journalist Shalva Amirejibi named called everything its name and published an article "Front of Tskhinvali" in newspaper "Sakaratvelo". He wrote: "Tskhinvali can become a fatal front for Georgia. There is a real war there using all kinds of weapons and we have information that Ossetian' fight will become more intense...". In journalist's opinion "our governing circles do not yet understand that after the revolution balance of power has shifted in both the Caucasus and the entire empire..." and that "they were putting social reforms ahead other things when the rest of the Caucasian peoples were pursuing nationalist politics...; That Ossetians that came to Georgia as refugees are trying to use this moment... politics of seizure– that's what is today's motto and Ossetians who came to Georgia from north seeking shelter unashamedly announced: Tskhinvali is ours and mountainous part of Georgia is Ossetia!. At the time of this anarchy and destruction that is reigning here there is nothing easier for such small and uncultured nation as Ossetians to be nurtured with unrealizable dreams. And an idea of creation of independent and autonomous Ossetia in the heart of Georgia emerged in their "patriotic" heads"...

After this Shalva Amirejibi asks a question whether this is a political idea or nationalist strive. And he answers himself that he thought that it was not that. Even in our times there would be hard to find more treacherous idea as there is no more Georgian place in Georgia as the one where today Ossetians are settled. It is Georgia's back, its backbone... We have heard numerous political fantasies but not quite like that one - Ossetian state in Georgia. It is possible that this small and uncultured nation thought it easy to carry this burden and got involved in this adventure. If nothing comes out of this we will be convicted as common criminals and if our attempts are successful then – glory to free Ossetia!.. Events of Tskhinvali is a dangerous omen for future of Georgia and it requires not only elimination on the state level but strictness in order to prevent its repetition" – says the journalist.

Certain Dil describes in the April 5th 1918 issue of Alioni newspaper an episode of massacre of Georgians by Ossetians that he himself witnessed. "... Bodies of treacherously killed Machabeli, Ketskhoveli and other guards were brought to a headquarters... I went to see it. When they were telling me how mutilated they were I could not believe, I though they were exaggerating... It was a terrible, horrifying sight... Machabeli was shot in knees and cut with a dagger all over the body, his scull was almost removed with the use of dagger above the temples.... I cannot understand how a human being can sink to committing such inhuman acts. Ketskhoveli had a bullet put through its stomach from the right side and it probably caused his death. But later those savages cut his head off but not from the neck but from his chest off/ from chest above. And his scull was smashed. One cannot see anything other than his beard in his face. They say after his killing the body was thrown in the street and carriages were driving over it...".

Even Soviet historiography avoids mentioning facts of savagery and sadism of the Tskhinvali events. One can understand this. Remembering bad things is not good for co-existence of two peoples. But such attitude when history becomes only an addition to politics has other side. Ossetians were left in darkness with regards to truth about events that happened in Shida Kartli. Revealing these facts will help us to understand and explain cruelties (burning of Ossetians villages) that Georgians carried out much later (in 1920) in response.

Flagships of the Communist propaganda were paying special attention to mood of Ossetians that lived in Georgia and who at instigation of Soviet Russia became opposed to the government of the Georgian democratic republic. Pravda newspaper wrote: "At the end of May forum of Ossetian people - mainly those of South Ossetia – took place in Java (Tbilisi province). There nobody expressed its support for Georgian independence... Despite the fact that no resolution was passed it was still stated that people do not want orientation towards Germany and Turkey".

Izvestia newspaper wrote in its July 5th 1918 article "From the history of activities of Mensheviks in the Caucasus": "Especially insupportable situation is in Gori district. Here Menshevik commissars are presenting interests of landowners and that caused peasants' uprising. It spread over 18 km. Peasants demanded representatives of Menshevik authorities to be handed over to them. When they received refusal they captured Tskhinvali. Heads of Mensheviks – Machabeli, Ketskhoveli and Kiziev were killed. Many villages were burned by armed groups that were sent from Tbilisi. Rebels were forced to find refuge in mountains. Around 150 women and children were killed".

This information published in the Russian press does not correspond to the real situation and they unilaterally blamed Georgians in barbaric acts towards Ossetian population. "Georgians newspapers gave completely opposite assessments: "Ossetians attacked Tskhinvali ... And tortured and killed Ketskhoveli .. Besides him Ossetians killed Liashvili, Kapanadze, Koziashvili and others. Ossetians are gaining strength... They say that they would drive Georgians out and settle themselves in their lands... Ossetians that attacked Tskhinvali were several thousands and they have connections with the North Caucasus... Raids of Ossetians are headed by warrant officer Kharebov...who killed the entire nobility of the Gori district".

On march 31st 1918 Sakartvelo newspaper reported: "yesterday units returned from Tskhinvali that was sent to squash the rebellion... After capturing mountains our units had an opportunity to destroy villages that were situated at the foothills of the mountains but they never attacked any of the villages"; "there were head of Bolsheviks Pilipe Makjharadze, Giorgi Chkheidze, Sikharulidze and Ter-Akopov in the java district... They weaved webs of Bolshevik organizations in the entire area... They were spreading information as though Mensheviks invited Turks and Germans against Bolsheviks and neither will they give land and freedom to peasants. They were calling on Ossetians not to betray Russia and stay with them all the more that their brothers - Ossetians of the North Caucasus - were staying in Russia. They were promising Ossetians plenitude of lands in North Caucasus, bread and socialist system".

Such was objective reality. Anti-government, pro-Russian demonstrations and incidents of Abkhazians and Ossetians were anti-Georgians and were endangering Georgian independence. The same did peasant uprisings in Mingrelia, Lechkhumi, Kvemo Kartli and other regions that were instigated by Bolsheviks. It was necessary to use arms and force to calm them. At that moment, naturally, there would have been incidents that are characteristic of civil war - bloodsheds, raids, extreme violence, arrests and others.

On October 23rd 1919 Ossetians started a new rebellion in Roki area which soon spread to Ateni, Mejvriskhevi, Okoni and other areas. Ossetians were declaring socialist governments in the captured villages and were forming peasant councils. The Georgian government suppressed this rebellion as well. The Soviet historiography used to present this matter as though Ossetian uprisings were more progressive as its goal was to establish soviet authority and capture Georgians lands. While response of the government was reactionary as the government of Georgia was social democratic (Menshevik)...

Ossetians rebelled again in November 1919. The rebellion was headed by Znaur Aidarov and they captured a village of Khtsisi, declared soviet authority and elected peasants council with Znaur Aidarov as its chairman. Naturally, this was instigated by Bolshevik Russia that was led by Caucasian regional committee of Russian Communist party (B). Soviet historiography considered this act of Ossetians as progressive while defending of Georgian land by the Georgian authorities was considered as a display of bourjeois-menshevism".

By orders of the government of the democratic republic Georgian units defeated the opposition. According to Professor Togoshvili Georgian "Mensheviks were denying a right of self-determination of non-Georgians and clearly stand on chauvinistic positions of oppression of ethnic minorities".

It is interesting on whose territories were Ossetians and others trying to self-determine? It was indeed that very Bolshevik politics of self-determination on the Georgian soil that brought so many misfortunes for Georgian nation. In spring 1920 Ossetians started another even bigger rebellion that was led by revolutionary committee of so-called South Ossetia which consisted of S. Gagloev, A. Jatiev and L. Sanakoev.

On May 6th a meeting of the military-revolutionary council and representatives of local party officials took place in a village of Roki. It decided to establish the soviet government, to join Soviet Russia and to inform Moscow and Georgian governments about this.

And indeed, on May 8th 1920 Ossetians declared Soviet government in a village of Roki and "Soviet Ossetia" as part of the RSFSR. Ossetian armed units came from North Ossetia to help the rebelled. The Georgian government sent its armed forces headed by V. Jugeli against the rebelled Ossetians. The first clash between Georgians government forces and Ossetians happened near a village of Koshki on May 15th 1920. With this regard Jatiev informed South Ossetian RevCom the following: "Three units of Mensheviks attacked our guard post near a village of Koshki.. Thus the Georgian government is violating part of Russia (!). We are asking you to inform authorities about this and that starting from today we are in a state of war". Their patron and supporter - Soviet Russia was also informed about this...

To be continued

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