Thursday, April 30, 2009

Russia to Guard Ossetia, Abkhazia's Borders

Russia signed a deal with Georgia's two breakaway regions Thursday giving Moscow the power to guard their borders — a move sharply criticized in Tbilisi.

President Dmitry Medvedev and the leaders of South Ossetia and Abkhazia signed the agreements at a Kremlin ceremony nearly nine months after the brief war between Russia and Georgia.

The deal is an apparent attempt to legitimize the presence of thousands of Russian troops in the separatist regions, which were at the center of the war.

Russia will guard the borders of both regions including Abkhazia's territorial waters in the Black Sea, according to the agreement.

After humiliating Georgia's army, Russia strengthened its control over the two regions and also took over swaths of territory that had been under Georgia's control before the war.

The U.S. and European Union consider this a violation of the cease-fire, which required all forces to pull back to positions held before the fighting in August.

Moscow's position was that the cease-fire had been superseded by subsequent agreements with South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

In signing Wednesday's deal with Abkhaz leader Sergei Bagapsh and South Ossetia leader Eduard Kokoiti, Medvedev indicated that Russia's intention was to strengthen this claim.

Is there any question now what's going on here?


Randy McDonald said...

Yep. Probably South Ossetia will be steered into membership in the Russian Federation while Abkhazia will try to be a Black Sea microstate.

It honestly doesn't bother me very much. Independent Georgia has never had a good record towards either territory, the populations displaced were never likely to return, not after such a length of time, and the territory's existing populations seem to favour this shift.

Will Baird said...

So, if the same thing had been said with a successful Serbia in Kosovo, you'd be saying the same thing?

Russia's not had much of a good track record /either/, Randy.

CW said...

Please see the historical maps on Abkhazia.

The maps included here give an idea of the frontiers of Abkhazia at various times in history. The Abkhazians call their capital /Aqw'a/, but it is more usually known in other languages as Sukhum (Sukhum-Kalé or Sukhum-Kaleh in the period of Turkish influence along the Black Sea's eastern coast; /soxumi/ in Georgian). The ending -i in the form /Sukhumi/ represents the Georgian Nominative case-suffix, and it became attached to /Sukhum/ from the late 1930s when (Georgian) Stalin (Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili) and his Mingrelian lieutenant in Transcaucasia, Lavrent'i Beria, began to implement a series of anti-Abkhazian policies. Abkhazians today, for obvious reasons, resent the attachment of this element from the language of a people they see as oppressors.

In 1921, Abkhazia and Georgia became Sovietized. On 31 March 1921, an independent Soviet Republic of Abkhazia was proclaimed. On 21 May 1921, the Georgian Bolshevik government officially recognized the independence of Abkhazia. But the same year, under pressure from Stalin and other influential Georgian Bolsheviks, Abkhazia was forced to conclude a union (i.e., confederative) treaty with Georgia. Abkhazia still remained a full union republic until 1931, when its status was downgraded, under Stalin's orders, from that of Union Republic to that of an Autonomous Republic within Georgia. This act of incorporation of Abkhazia into Georgia was conducted without the approval and against the will of the Abkhazian people and caused mass protests in Abkhazia. Thus the creation of the Abkhazian Autonomous Republic within Georgia was not the result of the granting by the Bolsheviks of autonomous status to one of the republic's minorities, as it is often alleged, but was rather the forced convergence of two neighbouring states by the incorporation of one of them, Abkhazia, into the other, Georgia.

Vladislav Ardzinba, first president of Abkhazia, stated: “In 1931 Abkhazia was transformed into an autonomous republic within the Georgian SSR. Seemingly it was the only republic whose political status changed under pressure from Stalin not upwards but downwards”. (See Pravda, newspaper, 14 July 1989).



21 May 1921

The Menshevik’s power, being bourgeois by its nature, oppressed the revolutionary movement of the national minorities and bred the antagonism between the certain minorities residing in Georgia throughout the centuries.

Soviet power has a different approach to this issue, advancing the principle of fraternal relations and equality between all workers.

The right to self-determination declared by the Great October Revolution is recognized as the best remedy for the eradication of national prejudices and the strengthening of relations between the workers.

On this basis, the Revolutionary Committee of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Georgia recognizes and welcomes the establishment of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Abkhazia and believes that the relations between the Georgian SSR and the Abkhazian SSR will be decided at the first Congress of the workers and peasants of Abkhazia, as well as of Georgia.

Let the workers of both socialist republics decide the forms of close and fraternal cooperation.

Revcom of the Georgian SSR

The mass-immigration of Kartvelians (mostly Mingrelians) goes back to the late 1930s. Abkhaz's script was then altered from a roman to a Georgian base. Abkhaz-language schools were summarily closed in 1945-6, following by a ban on broadcasting and publications. The Abkhazians as a nation were due to face transportation (like the numerous other peoples transported by Stalin from the Koreans in the late 1930s through to Abkhazia's Greeks in the late 1940s), and, as a 'scholarly' justification for that, the literary-historian Pavle Ingoroqva was commissioned to argue in print that the Abkhazians only arrived in Abkhazia in the 17th century, conquering the 'original' Abkhazians of history, who were thus a 'Georgian' tribe. This calumny was revived in the heady days of Georgian nationalism from 1988 AND IS WIDELY BELIEVED BY MANY ORDINARY KARTVELIANS, who for this reason still regard the Abkhazians as unentitled to be living in Abkhazia. See: Demographic change in Abkhazia:

Ruslan Xodzhaa quotes in his new book from his own earlier 'Documents and Materials of the Abkhazian People's Soviet 1918-1919' (in Russian, Sukhum, 1999) on -General Georgi- Mazniashvili's (Mazniev) behaviour: 'Not a single tsarist general raged as mercilessly when subjugating the Caucasian peoples as Mazniev in Abkhazia' (p.7). A contemporary assessment of Georgia at this time was given by an objective observer, Englishman Carl Bechhofer: “The free and independent social-democratic State of Georgia will always remain in my memory as a classic imperialist body, that is characterized with territory-snatching outside and bureaucratic tyranny inside; its chauvinism is beyond all bounds”. (In Denikin's Russia and the Caucasus, 1919-1920, London 1921, p.14.)

Randy McDonald said...

"So, if the same thing had been said with a successful Serbia in Kosovo, you'd be saying the same thing?"

Actually, I see the relationship as Georgia:Serbia and Abkhazia:Kosovo. Independent Georgia seems to have begun its history by starting pointless conflicts with its national minorities and subsequently failing to reach any kind of accord with angry separatists.

No one faction in the Georgian mess has covered itself with honour. That said, Georgian revanchism strikes me as no less petty and unrealistic than Serbian revanchism. If things change and some kind of reconciliation is possible, fine, I'd support that. As things stand, such just isn't in the cards. Why force Abkhazia and South Ossetia to be Georgian if they don't want to be?