South Ossetia, Georgia and Russia: a background primer.
by James K. Sayre
The region of the Caucasus Mountains has been dominated by Russia for the last two centuries. In the proceeding fifteen hundred years, this area had a succession of ruling empires, including Iran, Byzantine, Arab Caliphs, Mongols and most recently, the Ottoman Turks. In the early 19th century, Russian influence gradually spread southward to the borders of Turkey and Iran. After World War I, the newly-established Soviet Union inherited the colonial holdings of Czarist Russia in the Caucasus region and included them in the umbrella of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).
With the collapse of Soviet communism as a viable economic and social system in the USSR and eastern Europe in the late 1980s, the outer Soviet Republics went their own way and declared their independence. In the case of Georgia, several regions of strong traditional ethnic minorities, including South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Adjara, were not consulted in this move to independence from Russia, and so the seeds of future trouble were planted in fertile ground.
For some excellent background information, check out the ClubOrlov website of a brilliant and perceptive linguist who explains what is going on between South Ossetia, Georgia and Russia in his article, "The Trouble with Georgia." It may be viewed at: http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/.
The Republic of Georgia.
The Republic of Georgia is located between the Greater Caucasus Mountains and the Lesser Caucasus Mountains and between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. It is bordered on the north by Russia, on the west by the Black Sea, on the south by Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan and on the east by Azerbaijan. Georgia has an area of 26,911 miles (roughly 100 miles north to south by 300 miles east to west). It's population is about 4,989,000 (2001 estimate). Its capital is Tbilisi with a population of 1,283,000 (1991 estimate). It includes many ethnic minorities including Armenian, Russian, Azeri, Ossetian, Abkhaz, Greek and others. The lands of Georgia have been lived in for thousands of years. This land is rich agriculturally and also has rich mineral deposits. Georgia has some highly developed industries including steel, machine tools, aircraft, trucks, chemicals and wood products. (Note: these descriptions include the regions of Abkhazia, Adjara and the Republic of South Ossetia).
After Mikhail Saakashvili was elected President in 2004, with an amazing 96% of the vote, he began a vast military buildup that was materially aided by the Bush regime and Israel. The military budget of Georgia skyrocketed from $18,000,000 in 2002 to $900,000,000 in 2008, an increase by a factor of fifty times (50 X). None of its neighbors were threatening Georgia in the 21st century. In the last couple of years, Saakashvili has become quite a little tyrant, shutting down opposition newspapers, jailing his critics and also closing down an independent television station. Last year, he sent his police to brutally stop an opposition political demonstration in Tbilisi. He then declared martial law.
Recently in early September 2008, President Saakashvili, gave a evening speech on television telling the South Ossetians to sleep well and sleep tight. Late that evening, his military forces bombed Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia and also attacked it with rockets and artillery fire. At dawn he sent in columns of tanks and armored vehicles, which slaughtered as many South Ossetians as possible.They even ran their tanks through ancient cemetaries. After this brutal assault, the Russian military forces responded to the murder of both Russian peacekeepers and South Ossetians by attacking the Georgian military forces. Russian tanks came through the tunnel from North Ossetia and quickly drove the Georgians out of South Ossetia. The Georgia military forces had destroyed or heavily damaged about 80% of the buildings in Tskhinvali. Thousands of residents of Tskhinvali fled into North Ossetia for safety.
The Republic of South Ossetia
The Ossetians, an ethnic group distinct from Georgians, have lived in the Caucasus region for at least a thousand years, possibly much longer, South Ossetia declared itself independent of Georgia by armed resistance in 1991-1992. It has an area of 1,506 square miles (roughly 30 miles deep by 50 miles wide) and has a population of some 70,000. South Ossetia is very high in the Caucasus range, about 10,000 feet above sea level. It is flanked by North Ossetia, a region of Russia, with an area of 3,089 square miles and a population of 710,000 (2002 census). The 3,660 meter long Roksky Tunnel, completed in 1985, connects North Ossetia to South Ossetia.
South Ossetia has much fine, well-watered pasture lands, which support herds of sheep, goats and cattle. Its capital is Tskhinvali, which had about 30,000 residents before the recent Georgian attacks. The city has some manufacturing plants and many small businesses. About 80% of the buildings in Tskhinvali were either destroyed or severely damaged in the recent Georgian assaults, August 7 - 10th. On 26 August 2008, the Russian government recognized the Republic of South Ossetia as an independent state.
Abkhazia is on the Black Sea, located between southern Russia (Sochi, where the Winter Olympics are scheduled to be held in 2014, is nearby) and Georgia. Abkhazia has an area of 3,320 square miles and a population of about 177,000. It is bordered by the Black Sea to the west, by Russia to the north and by Georgia to the east and to the south. Its climate ranges from subtropical in the lowlands along the Black Sea to wet temperate in the Caucasus mountains to the north and east. It produces tea, wine, citrus, tobacco and deciduous fruits. Its capital is Sukhumi. The beach area on the Black Sea has accommodations for tourists, who are mostly from Russia and eastern European countries.
Abkhazia, formerly part of Georgia under Stalin and the Soviet Union, has been fighting to be free and independent since the early 1990s. It agreed to a cease-fire with the Republic of Georgia in 1994. In a 1999 referendum, 97.7% voted in favor of independence from Georgia. In early August 2008, after the Georgian assault on South Ossetia, it seized a small strip of land on the west side of the Inguri River, previously controlled by Georgia and made the river its new eastern border with Georgia. On 26 August 3008, the Abkhazia declaration of independence was accepted by the Russian government.
Adjura is a distinct region that is located on the Black Sea and borders Turkey to the south. Its area is 1,120 square miles. Adjura currently has the status of an Autonomous Republic of Adjara, within the Republic of Georgia. Adjara has a population of about 202,000 (2002 census), Its capital is Batumi, a port city. The climate of Adjura ranges subtropical along the coast to wet temperate in the mountains to the east. It produces tea, citrus fruits and avocados, as well as fish.
Russia Today television news show
Russia Today is broadcast on KMTP, Channel 32 out of San Francisco. Its news shows are on daily, usually at 5 AM, 8 AM and 9 PM. The Russia Today website is: www.russiatoday.com. These news programs, originating from Moscow, have only a few very low-key commercials, a pleasant change from American television shows.
Russian humanitarian efforts in South Ossetia
As chronicled each day on Russia Today television news, the Russian government and the Russian people have mounted a magnificient humanitarian effort to relieve the suffering of the South Ossetians after the vicious assault by Georgian military forces. These rescue efforts are well planned and comprehensive in nature. They provide a stark contract to extremely slow, late, racist and criminally negligent Bush regime response to the flooding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina back in September, 2005. My article on this subject, The Bush Flooding of New Orleans: an unnatural Disaster," may be viewed at: http://bottlebrushpress.com/bushfloodingneworleans.html.
ClubOrlov, "The Trouble with Georgia," may be viewed at: http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/, 2008.
Encyclopedia Britannica, Chicago: William Benton, Publisher, 1964.
Time Almanac 2002. Boston: Information Please/Time Inc., 2001.
Wikipedia: may be viewed at: http://wikipedia.org/.
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Web page last updated on 28 August 2008.