ThePoliticalCat

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Monday, August 11, 2008

World: What Really Happened In South Ossetia? Part I


Update: More information available here.

Well, we've been educating ourselves on the conflict currently prevailing in South Ossetia. Wikipedia has lots of interesting information, but because its user-edited, it may take some time to sort out the various details. Herewith the short version for the impatient reader.

Ethnically, the South Ossetians are descended from the Sarmatians, a Central Asian tribe. Linguistically, Ossetic is affiliated with the Indo-Iranian, or Indo-Aryan, group of languages. Historically, Ossetians have lived between the Caucasus Mountains and the Black Sea. South Ossetia was once a Russian province. However, after the Russian Revolution of 1917, South Ossetia joined the Menshevik Georgian Democratic Republic, while North Ossetia became part of the Terek Soviet Republic. Ossetians in both North and South number a total of approximately 700,000 people — a very small minority in the world. The majority (approximately 60 per cent) of Ossetians are Christian; however, there is a sizable Muslim minority. Sixty per cent of the Ossetian population lives in Russia in an area called North Ossetia-Alarna. Twenty per cent lives in South Ossetia. The majority of South Ossetians hold Russian passports.

From 1918 to 1920, the Ossetian population of what is today South Ossetia clashed with the Mensheviki Georgians, who accused the Ossetians of being pro-Bolshevik. The repeated clashes led, the Ossetians claim, to the deaths of 5,000 Ossetians. An additional 13,000 Ossetians perished due to hunger and epidemics.

In 1922, South Ossetia was designated the South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast as part of the USSR.

In 1988, the Ademon Nykhas (South Ossetian Popular Front) was created among a rising tide of nationalism in both Georgia and South Ossetia. A year later, the South Ossetian regional council requested that the Georgian Supreme Soviet upgrade the status of the region from an autonomous district to an autonomous republic. The Georgian Supreme Soviet responded by establishing Georgian as the principal language countrywide and adopting a law barring regional parties the following year.

Needless to say, the South Ossetians responded to these provocative moves by proclaiming South Ossetia a Soviet Democratic Republic. They boycotted subsequent Georgian parliamentary elections and held their own contest in December. The Georgian government (then headed by Zviad Gamsakhurdia) declared the election invalid and abolished South Ossetia's autonomous status. These events took place over the course of two years (1998-1990). During this time, the Georgian majority of the state (which comprises roughly 70 per cent of the total population, the remaining 30 per cent belonging to various different ethnic groups) was espousing a "Georgia for the Georgians" policy which appeared to be contemplating "ethnic cleansing," or to give it a better deserved, if more brutal, name, genocide.

You might get the idea from the ongoing series of events that the people involved have a long and complex history of conflict; and you would be right.

The following year, 1991, violent conflict broke out between the various ethnic and political factions in South Ossetia, resulting in the deaths of approximately 1,000 people. Some 100,000 ethnic Ossetians fled to North Ossetia. Approximately 23,000 ethnic Georgians fled to other parts of Georgia. Shortly thereafter, in 1992, Georgia accepted a ceasefire when it became likely that Russia would be drawn into the conflict.

But do we learn the lessons of history? Apparently, we do not. In 1992, the Georgian government came to an agreement with South Ossetian separatists not to use force against each other. The OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) agreed to monitor a mixed peacekeeping force of Russians, Georgians, and South Ossetians which had been set up to prevent further outbreaks of violence. South Ossetia held a referendum to decide whether its citizens wanted to be part of a de facto independent state or part of Georgia. This referendum was not recognized by the international community; however, the South Ossetians overwhelmingly opted to form an independent state.

Enter Mikheil Saakashvili and the "Rose Revolution" of 2003. While initially, the Rose Revolution proclaimed the noble goal of stamping out corruption in the notoriously corrupt Georgian government of Eduard Shevernadze, and certainly inspired movements towards liberation in other nations, it wasn't long before Saakashvili had begun adopting the tactics of his predecessors.

To his credit, Saakashvili has made an effort to stamp out corruption and did, initially, appear to be trying to increase minority representation in his government. But to his discredit, and he is now thoroughly discredited in the eyes of his European neighbours for good reason, he is really no different than all the other puppet "strongmen" the U.S. has supported in brutal regimes all over the world.

Many Americans have a naive idea of America as a nation of good, wanting only to support "freedom" throughout the world. These ideas are quickly belied as one looks at the type of "freedom" the U.S. government (not the people) supports all over the world. When faced with the nationalist Ho Chi Minh, the U.S. chose to support the unabashed dictator Ngo Dinh Diem. When faced with Fidel Castro, they preferred the corrupt gusano, Fulgencio Batista.

Say what you will about whether Castro is a brute or a dictator or a tyrant, there is no doubt that Batista was far, far worse. And whatever Ho Chi Minh's faults may have been, they were completely eclipsed by the brutal tyrant and dictator Ngo Dinh Diem.

Saakashvili's transformation from champion of liberty to corrupt puppet was quick in coming.

In 2004, conflicts began breaking out again. In May of that year, Saakashvili engineered a second "Rose Revolution" for the autonomous region of Ajaria. Ominously, he announced as he was welcomed by jubilant Ajarians that this “[...] will be the beginning of Georgia’s territorial integrity,[...]”. This statement created some discomfort for the autonomous South Ossetians, who had their historical memories of Georgia's attempted land grabs against the Armenia and Azerbaijan. Violent conflict between the South Ossetian separatists and the Georgian government became the order of the day.

Between 2004 and 2006, the South Ossetian separatists repeatedly clashed with the Georgian state. Throughout this time, Saakashvili was laying the groundwork for seizing and holding on to power, rather than bettering his people in any way. Auntie Beeb tells us that the U.S. military has had a presence in Georgia since 2002, and that the Russians were likely to be "annoyed."

No shit, Sherlock. Imagine how "annoyed" Americans would be if Russian or Chinese "military advisors" showed up in Mexico or Canada. You're damn right we'd be annoyed. After all, Georgia shares a border (the border of South Ossetia) with Russia. In the previously cited article, the U.S. Ambassador to Georgia announced that the Americans were in Georgia "to stay." Nice.

Part II to come soon. Stay tuned. Note: Wikipedia forms the source of much of this material. However, other sources have been consulted as well. We continue to research and refine our understanding of this crisis. We urge you to do the same.

Please point out any inaccuracies or mistatements in this article. Personal attacks will not be accepted, factual corrections are always welcome.

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9 Comments:

At 9:48 PM, Blogger allencharles said...

Some history of the area needs to be presented to if my comment is to be understood.

The South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast was established in 1922 by the U.S.S.R.
and remained a part of the U.S.S.R. inside Georgia until it failed. The new Georgian government declared their government as illegal and took away the freedoms the Ossetians had lived under since 1922. They Ossetians refused to accept the loss of their local government and have been in rebellion until the present. Over 90 percent of the Ossetians are duel citizens of both Georgia and Russia. One way of understanding their local government would be to compare an American Indian Nation and the US Government.

When the army of Georgia decided to attack and kill every Ossetian the Russian’s moved in to stop it . THEY HAD ALREADY KILLED 1,400 Ossetians .

This is where we find the situation today. When the Serbs attempted to wipe out the Arimeans in Kosvo, America did exactly the same thing to stop them and we bombed Serbia.

You can think for yourselves as to whether or not Bush is in order with his comments to Russia.
The people of Kosvo were not American citizens yet we felt a moral duty to protect them. If 1,400 American Citizens had been murdered just south of our boarder what to you think we would have done?

You decide?

 
At 10:26 PM, Blogger ThePoliticalCat said...

I absolutely agree with you. I thought my post stated that, but clearly I could have used an editorial eye. Thank you for your comment.

 
At 1:28 PM, Blogger allencharles said...

My post here was written to be posted on another site but fit here as well so I posted it unchanged. Your background is the best I have seen and like you I hold the belief folks need to kwow the facts before climbing on one band wagon or the other. I am disappointed that a potential new President spoke with such an uninformed understanding. How would it have looked to the world if Russia had stated at the time of the Kosvo problem" WE ARE ALL SERBS TODAY". God help us.

 
At 3:00 PM, Blogger ThePoliticalCat said...

John McCain is not fit to lead for various reasons, but this is, for me the major deal-killer: he does not make measured considered responses. The fact that one of his chief aides is a lobbyist for Georgia and that Saakashvili is clearly attempting to divert his countrymen's attention from his failures as a politician should have been considered before McCain spoke. Alas, it was not so.

I published your entire comment in an updated post today. Tomorrow I will publish an analysis of some of the possible causes behind this war. Once again, thank you for your comments.

 
At 6:30 PM, Blogger Ms. Manitoba said...

My dearest PolCat, I believe you are being a touch naive when you say that McCain's comments about the conflict are not a measured response. Don't you think that he, too, is drooling over the oil in that region and he has measured his options very carefully and has decided to support the Georgians?

 
At 11:29 PM, Blogger ThePoliticalCat said...

My dearest Ms. M, I don't credit that senile whackjob with the wherewithal to make a considered decision. I really don't think he's capable of analyzing the situation. He just does what his lobbyist handlers tell him to do.

 
At 3:07 AM, Blogger N. said...

Excellent presentation-thanks for the history.
I confess my mouth gapes open at America's total lack of shame or hesitation, accusing Russia for doing exactly what America did in Kosovo, as if Kosovo never happened. How corrupt, and then they talk about ethics!!.

About McCain: He is definitely a warmonger, even worse than Bush. Elect him if you want another major war for America. His proposition to forn a body of countries without Russia, that can act anywhere in the world without the constraints of the U.N and NATO, is all one needs to know to not vote for him.
Obama is not much better either, and it became clear in this conflict: He knew that Georgia attacked S. Ossetia, yet yet had stern words only for Russia. this means he tows the line of special interests, and has no courage.
I really started liking the Russians from this: Decisive, no theatrics, no endless talks, fast and effective action. The sad truth is that weakness invites abuse, and o one exploits weakness or poverty, or ambition, or naivete better than the good ol' USA.

I've been reading European newspapers all night, and they write things like

"American credibility has been mortally wounded, since Goergia and the other ex-Soviet republics under American influence today, find that the protective shield of USA has zero value in case of a conflict with Russia."

And "The myth of the American omnipotence, the super-power that could sell super-protection to Caucasus, rather melted in the gorges of S. Ossetia."

And " One thing is for sure, Russia is convincingly assuming the role of the super-power that absolutely controls everything in its jurisdiction."

 
At 11:04 PM, Blogger sashimi said...

As I understand it McCain was a POW under russian-affiliated care, and this is why he so biased and identifies with the Georgian president. And before you start america-bashing keep in mind that the american press is being very one sided in this (georgian) and are making it seem like theres only two paties involved when theres actually 3, I was watching one news show where a woman called in asking about the issue with the south ossetians having russian passports and therefore being russian, the news guy responded with something along the lines of well youre just repeating the russian slant and the issuing of passports is cold war tactics. Note that he did not mention any attempts at southern ossetian independence or the killing of ossetians. I doubt that the S. Ossetians are gonna get that independence. When this is all over I have a feeling some will genuinely Want to be russians whether they will be remains to be seen. Because they have a vested interest I really think someone else other than the russians (maybe china? kidding) should have been dealing with the situation but theyre involved now...

 
At 11:26 PM, Blogger sashimi said...

But a good well researched post in all, just reread what you wrote and I realize that I misunderstood your comment; I agree that the media pays more attention to detail when its britney spears on the news, to them wars are 'boring' after all and media is geared more to a fifth grade educational level.

 

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