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I woke up this morning and started to check the news, and bang, Georgia and Russia are at war and Russia claims 1,500 people have already died.

Anyone else's jaw hit the floor?

The lead-up to this was not well-reported. I know I've been a little away from the news cycle lately, and blogging even less, but even so I only started seeing mentions of South Ossetia in the last couple days. I had no idea the tensions were this high.

How much of this conflict is actually about Georgia seeking to join NATO and how much is it about control over South Ossetia itself? The press articles I've read do a very poor job providing background on this conflict. :(

Comments: 4

1: Captain Arbyte
2008-08-09 14:52:07 UTC

Does anyone know whether this is accurate?

2: max
2008-08-10 22:56:40 UTC


I'll provide you some background on the conflict.

In 1922 South Ossetian Autonomous Region was created. But its autonomy was nominal as the Georgian government pursued a policy of assimilation: the Osetins was forced to change their nationality in their documents, Ossetian geographical names was replaced with Georgian ones. In 1939 Northern Ossetia's alphabet initially based on the Latin alphabet was replaced with the Cyrillic one. Meanwhile in Southern-Ossetia it was replaced with the Georgian one. It resulted artificial separation into two nations.

In the late 80's a strong national movement rose up in Georgia demanding abolishment of all autonomous regions in Georgian area.

To protect Southern-Ossetia's rights its authorities decided to transform Southern-Ossetia from autonomous region into autonomous republic. But georgian authorities canceled the decision calling it "unconstitutional".

After 13 days, on November 23, 1989 members of the Georgian national movement led by Zviad Gamsahurdia enterd Tskhinvali - Southern-Ossetia's capital. The action was presented as a peaceful meeting. But among 30-60 thousand people who entered Tskhinvali were several hundred armed men. Not being able to enter the town (since all of its men actively resisted) Georgian troops encircled it and started siege which lasted for about 4 months and during it 6 people were killed and about 400 were injured.

In 1990 Georgia rejected acceptance of regulations concerning its status in USSR. Southern-Ossetia took the opportunity and declared sovereignty refering to the fact that Southern-Ossetia was not a part of Georgia before 1922.

Such situation did not satisfy Georgia where representatives of national parties and movements had just came to power.

The situation went down drammaticaly after a decision (which was made by Southern-Ossetia's authorities) to hold an election into its Soviet of People's Deputies. In return the next day Georgia abolished South Ossetian Autonomous Region and added it to Georgia on common basis.

On December 11, 1990 in one of the central streets of Tskhinvali a scuffle took place and resulted 3 deaths and 2 injuries. It gave occasion to impose a curfew and declare an emergency.

At night on January 6, 1991 Georgian authorities brought police units and national guard into Tskhinvali. Disorders began and resulted ousting of Georgian troops from Southern-Ossetia's capital. Confrontation between Georgia and Southern-Ossetia entered next level.

On January 29, 1991 a chairman of Supreme Soviet Turez Kulumbegov was invited to negotiations with the Georgian authorities in Tbilisi. On arrival he was arrested and imprisoned. On February 1, 1991 Georgia stopped supplying power to Southern-Ossetia. On May 4, 1991 Southern-Osetian Republic was abolished and Southern-Ossetia got an autonomy status again.

On May 26, 1991 Zviad Gamsakhurdia was elected President of Georgia.

Meanwhile bloodshed in the conflict zone strenghtened. By June 8, 1991 amount of burned villages reached 70. Amount of victims of the conflict from January 6, 1991 to September 1, 1991 reached 209 people, 460 innocent civilians were injured and 150 missed. The conflict costed Georgia heavy sacrifice as well.

On September 1, 1991 Southern-Ossetia got status of republic and new name Republic of Southern-Ossetia. On January 19, 1992 a referendum was held and more than 98% of people gave their voices for independence of Southern-Ossetia.

In February 1992 Georgian artillery, tanks and self-propelled guns located around Tskhinvali began intensive fire at residential settlements. Fire didn't stop till Jule 13, 1992 and resulted hundred victims.

On May 20, 1992 Georgian troops shot point-blank a column of women, children and old people who were civilians. 36 people of age 11-76 were killed.

On May 29, 1992 Supreme Soviet of the Republic of Southern-Ossetia approved an act of independence.

On June 24, 1992 a 4-side agreement was signed in Sochi by Georgia, Russia, Northern and Southern Ossetia. It regulated mechanism of settlement of the Georgia-Ossetia conflict.

On July mixed Russian-Osserian-Georgian peacekeeping forces entered Southern-Ossetia. Public confrontation had ended.

Subsequently borders of Southern-Ossetia were allocated, a constitution and a hymn were adopted. On April 8, 2000 a new constitution was approved by referendum. Southern-Ossetia had become a president republic. Three president elections took place in Southern-Ossetia by now: the first one in 1996, the second one in 2001 and the last one in 2006. The second referendum which took place on November 16, 2006 affirmed the Ossetians' will to be independent.

Today's conflict started when Georgian artillery recently started to fire at Tskhinvali. But the Western part of the world saw everything differently. CNN and BBC for some reason started to light on an accident from the moment when Tskhinvali had been already attacked. But U.S. citizens at first saw Saakashvili complaining for having been attacked by Russia. As a proof he showed a tape to the world on which, according to Saakashvili words, flok GRAD fires at Georgian territory.

According to Russian experts that was a Georgian folk, one of those which had ruined Tskhinvali. But who cares?

BBC and CNN just show Georgians injured in the conflict and don't show Southern-Ossetian victims which amount has already reached over 2 thousand people. All Russian TV-channels have sent their reporters to Tskhinvali and they have already taken many interviews with regular-citizens of Southern Ossetia. After watching them I can conclude that the Southern-Ossetian people want to be independent of Georgia and blame Georgia in military aggression.

I have been living in Kabardino-Balcarian Republic for about 16 years. It situated about 150 kilometers far from Tskhinvali. The people of Kabardino-Balkaria and Southern-Ossetia are rather like in their mentality. The people of Kabarino-Balkaria and Nortern-Ossetia want to help their neithbour and men from that republics already volunteer. That's not a fiction, they are real people who understand that Georgia is fooling the whole world. Georgia's authorities call the Southern-Ossetian people separatists. How could a nation, which want to be independent from its disturbing neightbor, be separatists? How could whole nation be separatists? Saakashvilli tries very hard to impress Western society, all his TV speeches are in English and addressed to the USA. After having been receiving military aid from USA for last several years Saakashvili hopes on active military help in defending Georgia. But Southern-Ossetia is under attack, not Georgia.

Hope this will help. I also care about the situation around Ossetia and I tried to be objective: I have analyzed the most

respected American and Russian mass media. Unfortunately two wars are taking place and one of them is informational.

Hope this will help. Bye!

Sorry for possible syntax and grammar mistakes.

3: max
2008-08-10 23:25:35 UTC

4: Anonymous
2008-08-14 01:27:09 UTC

No. This was a long time coming and not terribly unexpected. Perhaps it wasn't headline news but NPR at least had stories fairly occasionally about the problems between Russia and Georgia.

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