REVIEW

 

This book is a brief review on the history and sources of ethnic conflicts in the Caucasus, in particular, in Georgia in the years of 1918-1922. It brings together the most important information drawn from such sources as Georgian Archives of Harvard University, USSR Foreign Policy Archives, I. Stalin's and S. Orjonikidze's personal archives, etc.
Prof. A Menteshashvili was a historian; he was a lecturer at the University of Tbilisi, working much on the problems of national relationships in the Caucasus and in the former USSR, in general. Since the ethnic conflicts have become a subject of great concern and interest all over the world, the author has tried to trace their roots back in the history of this country.
In 1999 I have met him personally and have to admit that professor Avtandil Menteshashvili is one of the best Georgian historian. At that time I already had published his works in Russian language on the Net and professor Menteshashvili was very glad to hear this news from me. Moreover, I stated to work on this material in English language but unfortunately when I was going to give him this present I heard that he entered into the Heaven. Memory Eternal!
May God gives to the World more honorable historians such was Avtandil Menteshashvili.

    Besiki Sisauri (M.Div.)


REVIEW

The problem of ethnic conflicts seems to have become one of the most challenging ones in the home and foreign policy in a number of unitary and federative states, in particular, in the independent republics formed in place of the former USSR.
This can hardly be viewed as chance. It is rather a logical consequence of establishment of the Soviet Power in Russia and a crawling aggression of that power against independent national states that formed in the course of disintegration of the Russian Empire. After the "sovietization" of the republics of Transcaucasia — Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia, in two of them autonomous units were artificially formed according to a model applied by the Communists to the peoples of the Russian Federation, i. e., the former Russian Empire, who inhabited lands that had historically belonged to them, and were involved in the national liberation movement against tsarist autocracy. That model was aimed at curbing the secessionist tendencies of the peoples and reducing their right for self-determination to, a restricted statehood and self-government.
Another aim was pursued by creation of autonomous republics or regions within the "sovietized" republics: they were to weaken the central power in the young and formally independent republics and help Moscow keep in check rebellions regimed under the threat of destruction of territorial integrity, to check nationalist ambitions.
Georgia is an example of such a policy: the ethnic mines planted by the Bolsheviks of Russia and Georgia in 1921 began to blow up one after another in the period of new rise of the national-liberation movement in Georgia in 1986-1990 and are still undermining the political stability of the Republic of Georgia.
The so-called "Abkhaz" and "South-Ossetian" questions have evolved from certain roots and their history demonstrates the inhumanity of separative claims of Abkhaz and Ossetian extremists.
The most important fact to be pointed out is that when Georgia was declared an independent state on the 26th of May, 1918, its frontiers contained only a part of those territories which used to belong to it since the time of formation of the Georgian ethnos and statehood, i.e. for some millennia. Not an inch of this land which is now the country of Georgia, has ever been conquered by it, and the national minorities inhabiting its territory, except the Abkhaz, have lived together with the Georgians from time immemorial when they had come to Georgia in search of better life and shelter and safety, leaving their homelands.
This fact is particularly important to be taken into account, since the ethnic conflicts in Georgia, are actually political conflicts, a struggle of the Abkhaz and former South- Ossetian top Communist bureaucracy which had been discriminating the native Georgian population for years. This struggle is growing stronger right now, at the time of rise of the Georgian national liberation movement which has an anticommunist character. The struggle was inspired and supported (and is still supported) by reactionary forces in Moscow cherishing their nostalgic feelings for the disintegrating Soviet Union.
It was in the March of 1991 that a tripartite commission of members of parliaments of the USSR, RSFSR and Republic of Georgia recorded in a document submitted to the Soviet of the Nationalities of the USSR Supreme Soviet the fact that the conflict in Tskhinvali and adjoining districts is of a political and not ethnic nature.
It is certainly very easy to render an ethnic colouring to political ambitions, since the idea of sovereignty of an autonomous region or republic very quickly fills in the pores of social life of any people occasionally intailing an inadequate response of the people within whose state borders live those national minorities (e. g., the Ossetians) or that native population which is in minority (e. g. the Abkhaz).
The attitude of the world community to such a secessionism is quite clear, implying that national minorities can claim only a national-cultural autonomy which has absolutely nothing in common with a territorial-political formation undermining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a state.
Dr. Butros Gali, Secretary General of the UNO remarked in his speech of the 1st of July, 1992, that if every ethnic, religious and language group demands independence, there will be no end to disintegration, and it will become much more difficult to achieve peace, security and economic welfare.
In his speech of the 31 of July, 1992, at the UN General Assembly meeting, Mr. A. Chikvaidze, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Georgia pointed out that the claims of national minorities and ethnic groups may grow into a dangerous weapon in the hands of destructive forces of biological nationalism.
Prof. A. Menteshashvili's book convinces the reader of continuity of today's Abkhaz and Ossetian secessionism which originated as far back as in 1917-1920s in a union of Russian and Georgian Communists fighting against democratic Georgia and profiting by political ambitions of the Abkhaz and Ossetian Communists.
The reader will find many curious facts proving the inspired nature of the "ethnic conflicts" taking place at the dawn of the Georgian Democratic Republic, and will involuntarily take a new view of the present-day events.
Georgia is witnessing a process of stabilization nowadays, including Shida Kartli region in the territory of the former South-Ossetian Autonomous Region which was abolished in response to a declaration of independence of the republic and an effort to secede from Georgia, which contradicts to the provisions of modern international law.
Georgia has always been a country where representatives of all the nationalities live peacefully and friendly, and their cultural and religious rights have always been pro- tected.
The events in the territory of the former South-Ossetian Autonomous Region that have resulted from extremist aspirations of the enemies of independent Georgia, turning into bloodshed, are a sad exception which has given a good lesson to both sides.
The new government of the Republic that has replaced the authoritarian regime, has done everything possible to put an end to the fratricidal war in which both of the sides violated the laws of humanity.
By joining the family of the members of the Helsinki process and the United Nations Organization, Georgia has once more proved that in addition to declaring priority of International Law in the cause of protection of human rights, its government assumes certain obligations the guarantor of which is the whole world community of states.

Prof. Levan Alexidze

 


Copyright was given to Besiki Sisauri by the author himself.
Georgia's Publishing House "Samshoblo", 1992.