georgia’s separatist problems are not solely the consequence of Russian involvement


georgia’s separatist problems are not solely the consequence of
Russian involvement. David Darchiashvili argues that Ossetian and
Abkhaz separatism is not the result of a “Russian plot,” but of a “process of
‘awakening’ in these ethnic groups, which was distinct from the Georgian
As the Soviet Union unraveled, several of Georgia’s myriad
ethnic groups intensified their calls for self-determination, threatening both
the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia. Secessionist campaigns
in Abkhazia and South Ossetia were revived during the national
revitalization movement at the end of the 1980s when the renewed upsurge
of Georgian nationalism during Mikhail Gorbachev’s era of perestroika
increased inter-ethnic tensions within the Soviet republic,

 as manifold
national groups were permitted free expression throughout the USSR and
the manipulation of ethnic affiliation became a key dynamic in political life.
Both regions have traditionally been suspicious of the Georgian state,
fearing what is perceived to be Georgian “chauvinism” that threatens a loss
of ethnic identity. These suspicions were reinforced when Zviad
Gamsakhurdia became leader of the Georgian Supreme Soviet in 1990,
predominantly on the basis of his support for the rights of Georgians,
promulgated under the slogan “Georgia for Georgians”

Gamsakhurdia stripped South Ossetia of its autonomy and
introduced a state of emergency, escalating Ossetian demands for
reunification with North Ossetia into full-scale violence.4
Armed skirmishes
broke out, leading to full-scale war in the spring of 1991. The prospect of a
localized conflict spreading, together with the election of Eduard
Shevardnadze as Georgian president in March 1992, encouraged the two
sides to seek a more conciliatory stance and on 24 June 1992 the Dagomys peace agreement was signed, prompting the deployment within
the conflict zone of a Joint Peacekeeping Force (JPKF) that comprised
“national” battalions from Georgia, South Ossetia, North Ossetia-Alania and
Russia (500 troops from each). A quadripartite negotiating body, the Joint
Control Commission (JCC), was also established to foster political
reconciliation between the various sides. It included representatives from
Georgia, South Ossetia, Russia, North Ossetia-Alania and the OSCE.5
The situation in Abkhazia was somewhat different. The republic was
de facto independent during the 1920s, before Stalin incorporated it into
Georgia and encouraged ethnic Georgians to migrate to the region.
Consequently, by 1989 Abkhazians only constituted 18% of the population,
while ethnic Georgians accounted for 46%, unlike other regions where the
ethnic group seeking independence was in the majority. Gamsakhurdia
took a more conciliatory approach in relations with Abkhazia than with
South Ossetia and avoided all-out war. However, his successor,
Shevardnadze, was far more confrontational and, with both sides refusing
to compromise, war broke out in 1992

. The Georgian forces were defeated
by the end of 1993 and the 1994 Moscow agreement formalized a ceasefire, providing a legal basis for the introduction of a CIS peacekeeping force
that is made up of around 1,700 Russian peacekeepers, together with the
establishment of a UN observer mission (UNOMIG) to monitor the
Little progress has been made in resolving the political stalemate
with either region during the intervening years and in September 2005
South Ossetia celebrated the 15th anniversary of its “independence” with a
Soviet-style military parade watched by representatives from Abkhazia and
Russia. The impact of these separatist areas within Georgia has been
considerable. In addition to the fact that thousands of ethnic Georgians who
used to live in these regions have become refugees, Tbilisi has been
unable to govern or levy taxes in substantial portions of the country and
important trade routes have been disrupted. Furthermore, the presence of
thousands of Russian peacekeepers, who are not considered to be
impartial, e

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