Confrontation (Part III)
25/06/2010 13:13
Vasil Kvirikashvili
Experts' club

Entry of Georgian army into the Tskhinvali region was responded by People's Commissar of foreign affairs of the Russian government Chicherin with a protest note: "... we are concerned to learn that infantry troops had been sent to South Ossetia where soviet republic was declared with a goal to eliminate this government. If this is correct we firmly demand that you withdraw your troops from Ossetia as we believe that Ossetia should have whatever authority it wants to have. Interference of Georgia into affairs of Ossetia would be completely unjustifiable interference into affairs of foreign country". And that was happening when Russia by the Russian-Georgian agreement of May 7th 1920 officially recognized the Democratic Republic of Georgia, its territorial integrity and undertook obligation of non-interference in internal affairs.

It is impossible to imagine greater cynicism! The reply of the Georgian authorities was sent to Chicherin on May 20th of the same year. The response stated: "The Georgian government is extremely surprised by the part of your letter that talks about intention of the Georgian government to suppress South Ossetian soviet republic with use of force. We felt obliged to pay our attention to a circumstance that there is no South Ossetia within the borders of Georgia. There are only Ossetian villages that are situated in the Gori district of Tbilisi province. These villages are indisputable Georgian territory... and that this territory according to the agreement is within the borders of Georgia and existence of other government other than that of the Democratic Republic of Georgia is unacceptable".

At the same time, the rebellion was suppressed with great severity. Part of the Ossetian population, mainly those who were members of the Bolshevik party and participants of armed units, fled to North Ossetia. In this period Georgian public opinion was satisfied with steps taken by the government. Ertoba newspaper wrote: "we were always indulging residents of java but we never managed to win their hearts. They were always muttering, arranging rebellions against us... and Georgian troops were no longer able to take any more of this permanent treason and poured its anger on their heads".

"This is the forth time when Ossetians treacherously rebelled against the democratic government of Georgia – wrote June 26th 1920 issue of Samuslimano Sakartvelo newspaper – Their rebellion always happens when Georgia is in a dire straits. And it was this misfortune when Ossetians tried to put a knife in the back of Georgian democracy. When Denikin was in charge in the North Caucasus they having acquired blessings from troops of Denikin invaded Tskhinvali. When Denikin was replaced by Bolsheviks they were engaged in robbery and attacks together with Bolsheviks. Ossetians who formerly served as tsarist officials now were trying their best to destroy the Democratic republic of Georgia. But Georgia always managed to fight back more dangerous enemies than Ossetians. It is notable that Georgia had already forgiven Ossetians three-times. When Ossetians saw force they pretended that they were sorry and were asking for forgiveness and the government of the democratic republic was nobly forgiving them. But treacherousness of Ossetians had no end. When Georgian troops were fighting off divisions of Bolsheviks that were coming from Azerbaijan Ossetians again put a knife into the Georgian republic. And Georgian troops then turned to Ossetians and put them in such a state that these Ossetians would never forget what their treacherousness brought on them. The Georgian troops cleansed Ossetians from treacherousness' and captured mountainous passes. So Georgian troops are completely free right now and Georgia can redeploy these free troops wherever they are needed".

Opposition parties also had positive attitude towards measures taken by the Georgian government. "Georgia is a democratic country. It will treat small nations with relevant respect but it will not open northern gates for anybody... This should be understood by everybody who supports declaration of the java gorge as a separate state" – wrote Sakhalkho Sakme newspaper.

We should say that a goal of Bolshevik organizers of the May-June 1920 rebellion of so-called South Ossetia was national self-determination of so-called South Ossetia, establishment of Soviet authority and incorporation of the mentioned territory into Russia. Moreover, they already considered "South Ossetia" as an integral part of Soviet Russia. They took arms in their hands to achieve their goals, asked for additional forces from other countries and practically declared a war against Georgia. How would any self-respecting independent country in this case? No doubt in the same way as it was done by the Democratic Republic of Georgia - would have defended its independence with arms in hand.

It is also worth attention that anti-Georgian movement of Ossetians was always linked with weakening of Georgia. During strong Georgia they were armed with complaisant and "adjusting" politics and were waiting for a suitable moment to thrust a sharp knife into the back of weakened Georgia. This was happening in the course of the entire period of the history. Unfortunately, Soviet historiography, as we mentioned above, used to hide all this and treacherous actions of Ossetians used to present in lighter forms and against the background of good-neighbourly relations between Georgians and Ossetians.
Such distortion of history not only did not benefit later process of development of normal relations between Georgians and Ossetians but it harmed it. Justice demands to note that in 1918-1920 - such small period of time – was marked with constant rebellions of Ossetians aimed at overthrowing the democratic Georgian government. Therefore it should not be surprising that those criminal acts were followed by juridically justified punitive measures of local authorities. It is confirmed by documental materials that these events were used by Georgian Bolsheviks for ideological work and declared national government of Georgia as enemies of Ossetian people and rebellions that were organized by Ossetians against local authorities as national-liberation movement of Ossetians. This agitation played a significant role in formation of hatred of Ossetian people towards local authorities which later turned into confrontation with Georgian people. Establishment of such damaging tendency was helped by unilateral and biased assessments of historical events. In 1918-1920 Bolshevik Russia who was still engaged in civil war could not render act ice support to separatists. It needed time and this time was approaching. Georgia was nearing to "fatal" February of 1921.

As it is known the main part in annexation of Georgia by Soviet Russia was played by the 11th Army. It is notable that part of the annexing army was so-called first revolutionary unit of Digorian Ossetians. The Ossetian unit which was headed by Etzeev first entered Georgian territory in 1919. Ossetians came to a village of Rekhvati of the Chiori community in Racha. The unit consisted of Ossetian communists: Dzandor, Simon and Daniel Takoevs, Butaev, Gardanti, Abaev, Kesaev, Bokukaev, Digurov and others. Despite the fact that they were hosted by similar-minded Georgian Bolsheviks Ossetians were compelled by their fear of authorities of democratic Georgia to return to their homeland in October of the same year.

In 1921 Ossetian unit took active part in annexation of Georgia. On March 10th 1921 fighters of the 98th rifle brigade of the Red Army and the first revolutionary unit of Digori captured Kutaisi after joint attack. The Georgian government that was sheltered there after they left Tbilisi had to leave for Batumi as soon as the Red Army appeared. Fighters of the 98th rifle brigade of the Red Army and the first revolutionary unit of Digori met in Kutaisi with units of the 9th and 11th Armies and together with them continued their march on Batumi and Sukhumi.

The abovementioned political situation was creating tensions between Georgians and Ossetians which later became one of the reasons for confrontation. Ossetians were capturing cattle that, in their opinion, that were left to Georgians after quelling the Ossetian rebellion of June 1920 and after the participants of rebellion left for North Ossetia seeking for shelter. In spring 1921 only in Tskhinvali up to 80 Georgian houses were burned down, furniture and harvest captured. 32 Georgians were killed. Some of them were burnt alive and many of them were beaten to death. Ossetians were raping women and children... residents of Georgian villages: Sveri, Kemerti, Mindiani, Katlani, Kasrani and Monasteri became refugees from February to April 1921 i.e. for the whole three months. "...We urge you – residents of the villages noted in their joint letter – to give us weapons in order to protect ourselves and return to our homes, or send us Georgian troops that would stand on the border as we are unable to live there any more as there are constant raids, they are taking whatever is left in our destroyed villages, are destroying our houses and are taking to Ossetians".

It is notable that Georgians immediately blamed RevCom of Georgia for being passive and aggravating the situation: "... We hereby should say that probably this RevCom is also involved otherwise why are not they taking steps to stop this?" – were asking they and as it is mentioned above were asking to deploy Georgian army in the area, only Georgian army and not of any other "well-wishing" nations. Yes, they knew a price of such assistance. Here is what we read in this letter: "The army that is stationed now in Tskhinvali is troubling us. They are coming to our homes and bothering us. They are demanding food, cattle, are destroying harvest and vineyards and we do not sleep calmly at night. Raids always take place at night. At that we always keep cattle in our houses as we are afraid they would be taken away.. If we take them out to pastures they are coming and taking those as they are not afraid to do this". A reader would understand which army is meant here. This is units of "liberation" Red Army that entered Tskhinvali region immediately after Sovietization. But then it is clear whose interests were they defending under the guise of "conciliatory judges".

Such violence even more aggravated pain of Georgian people that was caused by the annexation of Georgia. In the beginning relations between Georgians and Ossetians became unmanageable. It became necessary to send special units from the capital. In opinion of Commissariat of Foreign Affairs it was necessary to take immediate measures, in particular, sending 200 policemen to villages around Tskhinvali region.

In March 1921, 18 armed Ossetian bandits attacked a village of Sveri and robbed Georgians. Twelve Russian soldiers of the 11th Army stationed in the village of Dzartsemi captured robbers but the latters were released by orders of the Ossetians RevCom. There were plenty of similar facts. Ossetians who killed Georgians were released in similar fashion. In May of the same year a certain Jatin Kokoev went from Gori district to Dusheti district with his 15 armed men, raided Georgian population and declared himself as a head of the Dusheti district. At the same time he forcefully removed and unauthorizedly removed from posts representatives of the local authorities and spread word that Dusheti district as well as other Georgian territories was handed over to North Ossetia.

To be continued


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