Aug 25, 2008
Georgia became independent after the 1991 break-up of the USSR into its component republics. Everywhere local potentates used nationalism, even micro-nationalism, to establish their power.
The area in which the Ossetian people lived was divided into two parts. One, North Ossetia, was attached to the current Russian Federation. The other, South Ossetia, with 70,000 inhabitants, was attached to Georgia. But the people of South Ossetia immediately declared their independence from Georgia. Georgia refused to accede to the population’s wishes.
In 1992, after an armed conflict with Georgia, the South Ossetians voted in a referendum for their independence. Starting in 2002, Russia gave them a Russian passport and stationed 1,000 of its own soldiers there. In November 2006, the South Ossetians again voted for independence and they finally also voted to join North Ossetia. Georgia did not agree to this arrangement.
When the president of Georgia, Sakashvili, who was elected in 2004, invaded South Ossetia this summer, his aim was to bring it back inside Georgia. But he probably had another reason. Faced with strong opposition in Georgia itself, perhaps he counted on welding the rest of Georgia together around this military offensive.
There are other situations like this in the ex-USSR. The Republic of Abkhazia with 200,000 inhabitants proclaimed its independence from Georgia in 1992. Armed conflict with Georgia in 1992 and 1993 ended in the victory of the Abkhazians, supported militarily by Russia. Some 200,000 Georgians were expelled from the country. Since 1994, 3,000 Russian soldiers have been stationed in Abkhazia.
Lost in all this are the interests of the population, who are ground up by the political calculations of the local politicians or by those of the Georgian, Russian and Western leaders.
Soldiers but also civilians – men, women and children – are dead from the battles or as a result of bombing. Their leaders invoke patriotism for Georgia, Russia or Ossetia to justify their appetite for power and wealth. But the dead are also victims of the leaders of the big Western powers, who view these people only as pawns on the political chessboard.