Occupied Tskhinvali region: history, causes of conflict, processes of settlement and occupation - Part I
25/11/2010 14:33
Gocha Gvaramia
Experts' Club

Military aggression carried out by Russia against Georgia in August 2008 as a result of which, in spite of clearly negative attitude the international society, the Tskhinvali region and Abkhazia, to this day remain occupied, does not lose its relevance.

Notwithstanding the fact that Russia is pursuing a large-scale information war goal of which is to legalize their activities and show as though they comply with international law, finally the term "occupation of Georgian territories" has firmly entrenched on the international political arena.

From the first day the Club of Experts in its publications have been ingraining the idea that the Russian-Georgian war in August 2008 put an end to diversity of opinions around the conflicts in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region. Having increased the area of the occupied territories of Georgia and the number of refugees, imperial forces of Russia - instigators of the fratricidal war - finally took off the mask and showed their true colours. Georgia was once again left alone with an aggressive and brutal force of Russia. Activity of the UN itself in the conflict zone was inefficient and ineffective and its logical continuation was the August events. Throughout this period we have tried our best to objectively cover events that unfolded in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region. At the same time, based on reliable historical sources, we provided the public with many facts that reflect Georgian-Russian, Georgian-Abkhazian and Georgian-Ossetian relations.

The Club of Experts expresses hope that 2010 may become a reference point in the Georgian-Abkhazian, Georgian-Ossetian, and most importantly, Georgian-Russian relations. This November first by the resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of NATO, and then Jose Manuel Barroso on behalf of the European Union expressed support for territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia. It has been openly stated that historical territories of Georgia - Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region are occupied territories and Russia should leave them unconditionally.

It should also be noted that with regards to legal status of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region, the term "occupation" was first mentioned by Head of the US State Department Hillary Clinton during her official visit to Georgia in the summer of 2010.

Taking into account events occurring in the international political arena with respect to the occupied territories of Georgia and unfolding of a new wave of information war by Russia we want to once again provide a reader with a brief, but full information about what preceded the military aggression of Russia against Georgia in August 2008 .

As we noted above, the Club of Experts widely covered events of August 2008. Since the military actions mainly occurred in the Tskhinvali region, we will give the reader more information about causes of the current conflict, its escalation, course of settlement process in this region, as well as facts reflecting aggressive information policy of Russia.

To acquaint a reader with a general idea about the presented material we consider it necessary to begin with providing a concise yet comprehensive insight into the history of the Tskhinvali region based on historical materials that were published at different times.

I. Tskhinvali region: A brief history

The conflict zone - Tskhinvali region - is part of the Shida Kartli region of Georgia, the northern boundary of which always ran across a natural border line - the Great Caucasus Range. Shida Kartli has always been and is today one of the centres of the Georgian statehood. Political and geographical body of the country used to unite around it. This situation categorically excludes existence of any alien political entity or ethnic mass in the region (confirmation of this are ancient monuments of Georgian architecture, and inscriptions on them and local toponyms on this territory). At the same time, this was a reason that external and internal enemies perceived possession of the region of Shida Kartli as a condition for establishing control over the rest of Georgia. As we see the same perceptions prevail today as well.

With regard to a place of habitat of Ossetians, historical sources accurately state it. Their historical homeland was located on the other side of the Caucasus mountain range, to the north of it. All historical sources clearly indicate time and nature of migration of Ossetians to the Georgian land. This period is mainly XVII-XVIII centuries. Though the first settlement of the Ossetian ethnic groups in historical Georgia took place in the XVI century, in historical region of Georgia Dvaleti (on the northern slope of the Caucasus). Dvaleti, which was an integral part of Georgia, in 1858 by decision of the imperial authorities, was transferred to the Terek region.

Of course, even before XVII-XVIII centuries the Georgian state had relations with its northern neighbours, including Alan-Ossetians. Dynastic marriages were formed, military forces were hired etc. Georgian kings properly assessed importance of northern passes, and a lot of attention was paid to their protection, which was due to political necessity and served national security. As for migration of Ossetians from their places of habitat into Georgia, it was of two kinds. The first was of annexationist nature and coincided with difficult periods for Georgia. In this case, authorities of the country, with a change in the country's political situation, have sought to eliminate consequences of this invasion of foreigners. We can recall the era of George V the brilliant (from twenties of the XIV century) as an example.

More interesting is migration of the second kind, when, fleeing from poor and impoverished homeland, Ossetians settled on our land with consent of the Georgian state and Georgian feudal lords. The result of this migration was that by the beginning of XVII century Ossetians already lived in Dvaleti and at the upper ends of the Big Liakhvi River. Moreover these Ossetians, as it was described by contemporaries, were notable for their ferocity. Lawlessness of Ossetians also continued later, in the early period of Russian rule in Georgia.

By the end of the XVIII century there were only 2,130 Ossetian families (about 15,000 people) in Georgia, while in the thirties of the XIX century this number increased to 2700 families. This demographic pattern remained unchanged throughout the XIX century. It should be noted that according to "the list of families" in 1886 not even one Ossetian lived in historical Georgian city of Tskhinvali, which later became the centre of the so-called South Ossetia.

The term "South Ossetia" was first mentioned in 1830 in a series of articles of the Tiflisskie Vedomosti newspaper. And in the official documentation of the same period, Ossetians are called "Ossetians located south of mountainous Caucasus of northern Kartli". Set of the Georgian-Russian-Turkish-and Persian documents of 1864-1917 years that are collected in the 12-volume edition of acts of the Caucasian Archaeological Commission, the term "South Ossetia" is mentioned only once, while Georgian periodicals of 1852-1915 years mentioned it just twice. Only after the February Revolution of 1917 Ossetian separatists began preparations for capture of densely populated by Ossetians Shida Kartli region and its organization into a single administrative unit. In this respect, excessive activity was displayed by so-called "The National Council of South Ossetia" that was created by Russian Bolsheviks.

Administrative-territorial unit on the territory of the Tskhinvali region was formed on the anniversary of the Sovietization of Georgia - April 7, 1922, when by decree of the CEC and the Council of People's Commissars of Georgia, the northern part of Shida Kartli together with Tskhinvali was declared South Ossetian Autonomous District. And this at the time when autonomy was only granted to Ossetians, who appeared inside the borders of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic just in 1924. In 1936, the autonomous status of North Ossetia was upgraded, and it was called an autonomous republic.

Creation of so-called "South Ossetian Autonomous District" was an artificial act and its main reason was fight of Ossetians against the Democratic Republic of Georgia in 1918-1921 years. Unlike other autonomous districts of USSR and autonomous republics that were part of RSFSR, Ossetians enjoyed significant privileges compared to Georgians in the South Ossetian Autonomous District. They had all necessary conditions for development of national culture and economic development. majority of those employed in government were of Ossetian nationality; Ossetian language and literature were taught in schools; there was Tskhinvali State Theatre with its Georgian and Ossetian troupes in so-called South Ossetia; Tskhinvali Pedagogical Institute with Georgian, Russian and Ossetian sectors; branch of the Academy of Sciences of Georgia which prepared history of Ossetian literature, multi-volume explanatory dictionary of Ossetian language (the latter was done in their homeland), etc. As a result of all this ethnicity of Ossetians was more preserved in Georgia than in North Ossetia, where they practically took the path of Russification.

During the Soviet period the number of Ossetians in Georgia has increased significantly and reached 164 thousand people. It should be noted that most of them, approximately 100 000 people lived outside the so-called autonomous district, mostly in other cities and regions of eastern Georgia.

To be continued...

Archive data and information from public sources were used in the article


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