A Little War Today and What Little is Said
The recent conflict that has broken out between Russia and Georgia still continues on, and every day it seems harder to keep pace with Russian movement inside Georgia and Georgian resistance. But how has this come to be? We’re painted a picture by the US and its Western European allies that this is a continuation of Russian Empire mentality, that they’re still stuck in “Soviet” frame of mind.
Is there some truth to Greater Russia chauvinism consciously being played out by Putin? Perhaps this is true; we do know this has historically played out. Is this the whole story? Not even close. The media attacks the Russian push based on the cries of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and the played up threat of Russian militarism. We hardly here from our media the initiation of this conflict by the Georgians themselves [attacking the town of Tskhinvali], that provocative acts by the US and Georgia throughout the summer have resparked tension in the region, and that Russia is claiming an attempt at ethnic cleansing of villages in South Ossetia.
Many people don’t know much of the history of Georgia itself, a country that was once part of the Soviet Union, was the homeland of Joseph Stalin and was a spot of intense fighting in the Russian Civil War. The history of the Ossetian and Abkhaz people’s fight for autonomy begins there.
Ossetia, Georgia, and the Struggle against Menshevism.
The Ossetian people are a small national minority rooted in the provinces of North Ossetia (Russian Federation) and South Ossetia (Georgia). They are an Iranian people which established themselves in the Caucuses around 200 AD. The Abkhaz people are linguistically related to the Georgian people, but through centuries of struggle over their land by Byzantine Greeks, Ottoman Turks, and Imperial Russia, the character of its people is much different from the rest of Georgia. The history of the Caucuses is altogether one of displacement, ethnic cleansing, and a struggle for history.
In 1917, the Tsarist government fell in the midst of the First World War, and the Provisional Russian government led by a coalition of Social-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks set up the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic. This state consisted of the three countries we know today that comprise the Caucus region –Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan – and were for a brief period of time, autonomous of the Provisional Government.
When the Bolsheviks forced the Kerensky [Social-Revolutionary] government from power, a bitter Civil War throughout the old Empire ensued. Mensheviks and forces close to the old sitting government took the opportunity to break and form their own sovereign nations in the Caucuses. This however was not done genuinely out of nationalist sentiment, but political bitterness with the Bolsheviks. The Democratic Republic of Georgia was established under the leadership of the Menshevik factions in Georgia. All the while, the people of Ossetia, poor and destitute were rising up against the Transcaucasian Federation and then Georgian State. The National Council of Ossetia was created that called for self-rule and autonomy, and soon the Bolsheviks became a popular leading force in its organizing. A popular Ossetian uprising against the Georgians in the town of Tskhinvali [a site of the recent battle between Russia & Ossetians against Georgia] was crushed by the Menshevik Georgian People’s Guard.
Ossetians began joining the Bolsheviks, demanding autonomy that was already conceded to the Abkhazians – which was refused by the Menshevik government – and militarily organizing. Soon Ossetians declared Soviet power in the bordering region with Russia, they held to power for a short while, then were once again crushed by the Georgian People’s Guard, which was estimated to have at least seven thousand people and a couple of tens of thousands more becoming refugees.
Autonomy in the Soviet Union.
In 1921, The Red Army invaded and defeated the Menshevik led government. Soon after, the people of South Ossetia were given reasonable autonomy – as an Oblast – in the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic. The people of Abkhazia became a full fledged Soviet Republic shortly and then an Autonomous Republic within Georgia.
For the most part through the Soviet experience, the people of South Ossetia had a great deal of autonomy. In Abkhazia this was still relative, as the thuggish Lavernty Beria [First Secretary of the Georgian Communist Party] carried out a little known campaign of Georgian Chauvinism, encouraging Russian and Georgian resettlement in Abkhazia.
There was relative calm throughout the period of the Soviet Union until the unraveling of it. Through the 1980s’, the people of South Ossetia and Abkhazia feared the increased power of nationalists within Georgia and the looming dissolution of the Soviet Union would mean the reversal of their historical struggle for autonomy. They were right.
Georgian Nationalism and Chauvinism Re-Emerges.
In 1990, the Supreme Soviet of the Georgian Communist Party dissolved the autonomy of South Ossetia after South Ossetia’s attempts to secede from Georgia and join Russia –a similar action was taken by Milosevic and the Serbian Communist Party against the autonomous status of Kosovo. In 1991, Georgian nationalist Zviad Gamsakhurdia was elected as President of Georgia.
Soon however the country of Georgia was in the midst of civil war and different internal political conflicts in the state. Zviad Gamsakhurdia was quickly deposed. The political unity in Georgia amongst different political heads and factions was sensitive. The Republic of Georgia proceeded in little wars against Ossetia and Abkhazia to reconstitute Georgian “territorial integrity.” These early conflicts ended in military disasters for Georgia. The Supreme Soviet of South Ossetia, though officially dissolved by Georgia, reconstituted itself and instituted self-governance. Georgia attacked the town of Tskhinvali, and after a protracted struggle against Ossetians with their significant aid from Russia for over a year, the Georgians were forced out. South Ossetia became self-governing and in fact independent of Georgia.
In 1992, Georgia engaged in invading Abkhazia. This war was much brutal and intense than the war in South Ossetia. Abkhazians were subjected to Georgian and Russian displacement even through the existence of the Soviet Union. Abkhazians had by 1990 become a minority within their own land and they carried out an all out war against Georgian military and Civilians. Georgian civilians organized themselves into paramilitaries to fight Abkhazians. Forces of Armenians, Chechens, Circassians, and other ethnic minorities in the Caucus region and Georgia joined to fight the Georgians. In 1993, the Georgian military were humiliated and defeated. Abkhazia became a de facto independent republic.
Ever since the disastrous military defeats of Georgia by Abkhazia and South Ossetian separatists, the Georgian state had to reorganize and reconstitute itself. A long period of relative stability under the presidency of Eduard Shevardnadze in Georgia; there were a few mini-skirmishes and controversies with Russia. Georgia worked to establish autonomy for Adjara – bordering Turkey – while remaining a part of Georgia.
Renewed Georgian Arrogance and US Intrigue.
In 2004, Shevardnadze was deposed in what was called the ‘Rose Revolution’ by the forces around current Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili. While Shevardnadze was pro-Western & pro-NATO, he was not a strong nationalist and ruled with a slight hand. Saakashvili came to power on a strong nationalist, strong government & neo-liberal platform. He has also called for Georgia to join NATO and create stronger ties with the European Union. In 2004, Georgia stopped its active membership within the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) [former Soviet Republics] and this past week the Georgian parliament voted unanimously to end its membership permanently. Saakashvili increased the size of the Georgian military and attached them to the US military. A Georgian brigade has served in Iraq and the US military runs war games and training in Georgia. There is a political mindset in Georgia that this sort of little brother appendage-ism to US Imperialism will provide them with protection to challenge Russia and to route out separatists.
Like the Ukrainian ‘Orange Revolution,’ the Kyrgystan ‘Tulip Revolution,’ the Serbian 5th October Movement, and the current opposition in Venezuela, there was heavy ties, funding and training with various liberal NGOs’, some in the pay of George Soros and others with history of work with the US government and CIA. It is thought that George Soros flipped the bill of 42 million dollars in the organizing of the ‘Rose Revolution.’
Saakashvili, weeks prior to this brief war, was mobilizing troops into South Ossetia. The Georgian military led a planned and thought out attack against the separatists and isolation of Russian ‘peace-keepers.’ They put the region of Tskhinvali under siege and had eyes on the roads into North Ossetia, hopefully they could take possession of these roads quickly enough to make Russia given a second thought to confrontation.
But this military assault pushed by Saakashvili – who till recently was in discussion with Russia to stop economic sanctions and in discussion with the breakaway states – would be absolutely mad if he wasn’t secure in his frame of mind of security provided by his partnership with the US and other European nations. Georgia provides not only a little trinket in the “war on terror,” but valuable pipelines that can bypass Russia into the Black Sea for European consumption, and another strategic point [a proxy] to challenge Russian hegemony amongst the CIS.
It is probable though that Saakashvili is really miscalculating what the US can do and the political environment in the US. Saakashvili has close ties to Randy Scheunemann, a former lobbyist of the country and now a foreign advisor of John McCain. Sheunemann worked to build public support for the invasion of Iraq and had a close association with Ahmed Chalabi, leader of the Iraqi National Congress. When Condoleezza Rice was in Tbilisi recently, Saakashvili lambasted that the West had not done enough to deter Russia.
It seems to be clear at this point, Saakashvili overplayed his hand on the US and the US is trying to find a way to cover up its impotence in the whole affair.
To the Victors goes the Spoils?
In a recent interview on a BBC show entitled ‘Hardtalk’ the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, said outright South Ossetia and Abkhazia will never be part of Georgia again. With already several referendums of the people of South Ossetia expressing their desire to leave Georgia, Abkhazia becoming majority Abkhazian again, and the severe military defeat of Georgia in this war, the statement by Lavrov seems to be genuine.
Russia is now unchallenged power on the Caucuses for now and it has rid all Georgian military from the breakaway states. It has showed Europe it can snap their route for alternative source for Caspian oil and caught the US with its pants down. Russia has come out of this little war, so far, the victor. It does seem the process of some sort of reconciliation of Georgia and the Separatists is done, and the process for their unification with the Russian Federation is underway.