Abkhazia in the Context of Contemporary International Relations0
Pitsunda, The Republic of Abkhazia: June 29 - July 1, 2004. Paper Presentations.
Diaspora and the Historical Motherland Diaspora and the Historical Motherland
Liy-pha Ergün Özgür
As member of the Abkhazian Diaspora I will touch upon 5 topics.
1. The mass deportation of Circassians and Abkhazians and the reaction of the world community:
The Circassian and Abkhazians after the mass deportation in 19th Century (21 May 1864 was the last day) resettled in separate regions of the Ottoman land such as:
the Black sea, Central Anatolia, Aegean, Marmara and Mediteranian regions as well as several cities. A second deportation followed by the split of the Ottoman Empire, was from the Balkans to Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria after the 1877-1878 Russian-Ottoman War.
* Black-sea region ( Sinop, Samsun, Trabzon …)
* Central Anatolia (Sivas and Kayseri (the region called Uzunyayla) Ankara, Corum, Eskisehir, Inegöl, Konya, Tokat, Yozgat …)
* Marmara Region (Bandırma, Balikesir, Bursa, Adapazarı(Sakarya) Düzce, İzmit, Tekirdag … )
* The Mediterranean Region (Antalya, Adana, Mersin …)
* Aegean Region (Manisa, İzmir)
They were deported from their homeland and yet they do not have any rights to return back from the international persepective.
The world community pays no attention to these refugees while it is deeply interested in the fate of Georgian refugees who left Abkhazia after the Georgian-Abkhazian War of 1992-1993. This is a very important example of international double standards. If there is a mass return to the motherland who should be given the priority?
2. The adaptation processes in their new countries
The Ottoman Empire’s (and later Turkey’s) assimilatory policy denied the Circassians and Abkhazians the refugee status. Instead they were accepted as ordinary Turkish citizens. They adjusted to their new land and contributed to the foundation of the new Turkish Republic but refrained from keeping their original family names and could not teach their native language from the time of the foundation of the Turkish Republic until 2002. With the adaptation of Turkish laws to the European Union laws they were given this opportunity.
There is no place on the Turkish identity cards or passports which shows the origin of the people other than the identity which is Turkish for all Turkish citizens.
The number of Circassians and Abkhazians are not known because they were not considered during the census. However there are some estimations according to which 5 to 7 million Circassians and among them 600.000 to 1.000.000 Abkhazians live in Turkey.
3. The preservation of their original culture and language and attitude towards their homeland:
The Circassian and Abkhazian Diaspora preserved their culture and language because they still have links with the villages. But the culture and the language are in facing the danger of disappearing due to several reasons like assimilation, urbanization, political instability, new job opportunities in cities and mixed marriages etc.
The organizations dealing with culture in cities were closed for a long period of time during military interventions. As a result the cultural rights were deeply affected. On 10th of July 2004 a TV program started in Kabardian language and the program on the Abkhaz language was announced.
The globalization also affected migrations from Diaspora to other countries as Germany, Nederlands, England, Denmark, USA etc. Diasporas in these countries are in a position to teach their children about the country they came from and their original homeland their descendents came from.
In Diaspora, especially young generation’s views towards Abkhazia are very positive. They want to see their homeland, visit relatives, study and live in Abkhazia. Also a lot of members of the Abkhazian Diaspora in Turkey want to visit Abkhazia, but they do not want to have a Georgian visa.
Meanwhile because of the embargo especially used against Diaspora, it is very difficult for them to come to Abkhazia. This is an example of violation of the 13th article of the Universal Human Rights Declaration.
4. The work of Circassian and Abkhazian organizations and ties with the Motherland:
There are almost 70 organizations (Abkhazian and Circassian) in Turkey. The Federation of the Caucasus Associations was founded in July 2003 and composed of 42 member associations. There is another federation which is the United Caucasus Federation. There are also some separate foundations, clubs and platforms.
The Abkhaz Solidarity Committee which works as the authorized organization of the Abkhazian government in Turkey was founded just after the beginning of the Georgian-Abkhazian war in August 1992, upon the demand of all Caucasian and Abkhazian Associations. It deals with lobbying issues, connections with the Turkish government and coordination among the associations. The Committee is still dealing with the problems of Abkhazia, such as embargo, un-recognition, instability etc.
Diaspora and organizations are concerned with the latest developments in Abkhazia. During critical periods they organize meetings, press conferences, signature campaigns; publish declarations in newspapers.
I want to give just two examples:
a) During Shevardnadze’s visit to Turkey in April 2002 when there was another threat to stability in Abkhazia, a statement was made by the Abkhaz Solidarity Committee signed by 70 Abkhazian and Circassian associations all over the world and 6675 people said that “as natural citizens of Abkhazia, Diaspora would serve for their motherland in case of a probable war and for this purpose they would initiate a mobilization in every county where the Abkhazian and Circassian Diaspora lives”
b) During Georgian President Saakasvili’s visit to Turkey on 20th of May 2004, the Abkhazian Solidarity Committee, the Federation of Caucasus Associations and organizations prepared a declaration titled: “we are under the service of Abkhazia” and published it in two leading newspapers. Press conferences and private faxes to appropriate government offices, embassies, UN, OSCE were sent.
As a result the Turkish authorities suggested that Saakasvili “ does not start a new war in Abkhazia and try to preserve peace”.
5. How Diaspora sees the Motherland
Abkhazia is a sovereign country with all the necessary attributes of a state; the only thing missing is the recognition. As a member of Diaspora I want to see my motherland as an independent and democratic republic having good relationships with all neighbors including Russia and Georgia.
Democracy in Turkey is improving and the Abkhazian and Circassian Associations are more organized under Federations.
The fate of our future generations in terms of culture and language and our country depends on the close relationship of the Diaspora and the motherland. Diaspora associations have contacts with the World Association of the Abkhaz-Abazin Congress, The World Circassian Unity and also governments. From now on the relationship between the Diaspora and the motherland should be improved in terms of improving contacts with the civil society : NGOs, political parties, institutions etc.
In my opinion a long term program and budget should be prepared for the repatriation process. As for the young generations in order to help their adjustment in the motherland, summer camps would be helpful. Besides them there are many volunteers who wish to spend their vacations in Abkhazia during the summer periods, one or two months long language courses would be preferable.
The geopolitical potential of Abkhazia, and prospects for security in the Caucasus The geopolitical potential of Abkhazia, and prospects for security in the Caucasus
Director of Research Programmes for the Foundation for Civil Initiatives, and reader at Abkhaz State University
Abkhazia’s uniqueness amongst the regions of the Caucasus probably results from the ongoing redistribution of spheres of influence after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It has turned out to be a focal point for various geo-strategic systems of security to intersect – particularly the CIS, NATO, an expanding Europe, the Black Sea area, the Caucasus, the Southern Caucasus, and the Greater Middle East. This position brings with it significant risks for the survival of Abkhazia as a de-facto independent state, but also recognises the untapped geopolitical potential of Abkhazia. Despite its unrecognised status, this could become a key element of stability and consensus not only on a sub-regional, but also inter-regional and global levels.
Conceptual bases of a Georgian-Abkhaz settlement
The lack of any visible progress in conflict resolution in the Caucasus requires analysis of why the methods of resolution applied until now have not been effective. In the case of the Georgian-Abkhaz peace settlement, the result of ten years of official and unofficial peace processes, the situation has become worse since the very beginning of the 1994 talks and in the mid-90s, with the demarcation of the official Abkhaz and Georgian positions, periodical military action and further alienation of communities geographically bordering each other.
Some of the basic aspects of analysis can be highlighted:
1. Conceptualising Conflict Resolution
Peace processes in the Caucasus have almost always derived from traditional ideas of conflict resolution, where most conflicts can be solved through negotiation, aimed at achieving a mutually acceptable compromise. Current Western and Russian research into the failures of the peace-building processes of the 90s has begun to develop alternative frameworks that incorporate theories of conflict with practical solutions. This has led to different ways of conceptualising conflicts: conflicts of interest, and conflicts of values (or identity). Recent war studies suggest that conflicts of identity result from deprivation of profound and fundamental needs, and require different methods of resolution from conflicts of interest that entail the pragmatic objectives of the dispute – for example, power or access to resources etc.
According to the Theory of Human Need, these conflicts are solved only by fully satisfying basic needs. Compromise is practically impossible. It is in such fundamental needs as security and identity that Abkhazians found themselves victimised throughout the whole Soviet period of national autonomy within Georgia. From the Abkhazian point of view, independence is ‘a question of life and death’ for their national identity, whilst from the Georgian point of view their standpoint of ‘territorial integrity’ is based on ambitions for expanding living space, and acquiring political domination - in short, improving quality of life. Because of this, Abkhazians believe that their case for ‘independence’, based on the fundamental human need for security and identity, outweighs the Georgian case for ‘territorial integrity’, which, as a primarily political-economic consideration, is not comparable. Demands for a political compromise on the question of national status is, in the opinion of the Abkhazians, equivalent to demanding national suicide, as in the present demographic context, this threatens the very existence of Abkhaz identity.
The current Georgian-Abkhaz settlement depends entirely on the theoretical possibility of the Abkhazians coming to a compromise which still disregards their interests.
2. How much each side must stake as a condition of finding practical solutions
Not one of the suggestions made until now on the settlement have envisaged any solid guarantees of security, or the development of Abkhazian national identity. The stakes placed on the table clearly did not correspond to Abkhazia’s interests in any of the negotiations. As already noted, the Abkhazians are engaged with more profound challenges to their very existence and identity, not to mention their own political interests. Since from the point of view of the international community, as well as of the Georgians, the events of 1991-2 did not conform to international laws (it is not a secret that Abkhazians considered it genocide against the Abkhazian people), there remain reasonable fears from the Abkhaz side that this precedent could be repeated. These fears have been realised at least twice in the post-war period (the armed conflict in Gal/i in 1998, the events in Kodor/i in 2001). As Georgian writers recognise, the policies of their government towards Abkhazia ‘often place the emphasis on the use of force. It may be conceivable that this way is easier… but until Georgia becomes economically attractive, it is not in her interests to become a threat to her neighbours. And I think that for the Abkhazians the guarantee of security is more important than the economic attractiveness of Georgia’.
3. The principle of mutual compensation as an alternative to the principle of mutual compromise.
In contrast to the wholesale pessimism of current thinking about conflict resolution, and the possibilities of principled resolutions to ethnic conflicts (and especially conflicts of identity) on a long-term basis, the Theory of Human Needs presents a real opportunity for resolving conflict. It revolves around the idea of partial substitution of certain needs for others (based on interests) in a process of mutual arbitration and post-conflict negotiation.
By conceptualising the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict, and how much is staked by each side, it is possible to counterbalance the principle of mutual political compromises (which does not work in reality), with a principle of mutual compensation, based on the idea of exchanging the interests and needs of the conflict. From an Abkhaz point of view, the position of ‘territorial integrity’ is a resource to be exchanged, as in the event of this exchange nothing would threaten the fundamental needs of the Georgians on the territory of Georgia, (such as their identity or security) as it would on the territory of Abkhazia. The principle of mutual compensation would allow the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict to be resolved in the classic model of conflict resolution – by deciding which side wants the stone of the fruit, and which the flesh. This allows us to translate negotiations on to a practical level, without perpetuating the basic dilemma of the conflict – territorial integrity against the right to national self-determination.
It seems that amongst many Georgian intellectuals and officials, the practical rationality of the principle of mutual compensation has been quietly overlooked. And unofficially, this is how the Georgians have articulated the question of what price the Abkhazians are willing to pay for their independence. More recently, Prime Minister Bendukidze famously distanced himself from the ideological and political undercurrents in Georgian-Abkhaz relations, when he claimed that: “Today the expulsion of Abkhazia from Georgia will be even more beneficial for our economy, than the continuing conflict, and grandiose political statements”. This also demonstrates Georgia’s clandestine pragmatism, and her priorities in this conflict as primarily economic.
From the point of view of Abkhaz economic development, opening communication through Georgia to the South is not as necessary as achieving real progress in fully and sufficiently developing the operational investment potential of Russia (which gradually is also happening in practice). However, full integration with the Southern Caucasus through Georgia (not to mention bilateral economic cooperation) is perceived with great caution and apprehension, particularly with the risks to Abkhazia’s political development and her declaration of sovereignty. In this context, the agreement of the government of Abkhazia to open rail links through Georgia is dictated primarily by the principles of conflict resolution. The same can be said about the possible opening of Sukhum airport – the best in the region according to the UN mission. These examples demonstrate how the principle of mutual compensation can work on an economic level.
Additionally, it is important to critically review such basic peace-building issues as the neutrality of the mediators, which is now widely seen as lacking in common sense. Arguably, in the case of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict, instead of rhetorical declarations about the neutrality of mediators, open discussion about the interests of all the participants in the negotiations, including the mediators, would be more effective, and also possible within the framework of regional consensus in the Caucasus.
Local settlement and the integrational approach
A general characteristic of official negotiations in the Caucasus is their evident isolation from regional contexts, or more precisely, from the complex of regional security in the Caucasus. Although these conflicts have their own specific characteristics, it is difficult to deny their interrelationship, and their exclusion of vested interests from outside. Attempts to find a formula for bilateral compromise in any of these conflicts in the Southern Caucasus have collapsed. It is probably because of this that experts and leading politicians have suggested an alternative to implementing local negotiations: an integrated approach, directed at the search for a model of regional consensus, based on prioritising the collective interests of all players – both external powers and those of the Caucasus themselves. “The stability pact for the Caucasus”, a prominent document in this vein produced by Belgian academics, was never exercised, partly because it did not consider the interests of unrecognised states (which in spite of factual realities were viewed in it as members of the Former Soviet Republics of Georgia and Azerbaijan). Besides, leaving Russia in the shadows would hardly have satisfied her as traditionally the leading actor in the Caucasus.
Nevertheless, the continuing search for models of integration in the Caucasus takes the anxieties, potential risks and opportunities into consideration. The most basic drawback of such models is the status of unrecognised governments and the geopolitical players within them.
Models of integration for unrecognised peoples in the region are being explored, not only with reference to their advantages for peace-building through active regional cooperation, but also to the opportunity for the peaceful resolution of conflicts on the basis of natural competition – economic and political. In other words, it is about competing post-Soviet states – both recognised and unrecognised - and not about war for the exploitation of external resources (economic and political sanctions, military assistance etc.). At the same time, the directly opposing motivations of the participants are also evident: within such an approach, risks taken in reciprocation by unrecognised governments, in particular, are about losing what they have been fighting for (“losing the peace”), and are practically identical with the risks of defending it. It is not surprising that Georgian experts who support integration justify the advantages of this approach by saying that “integrational processes would have begun, which would have ultimately brought about the creation of a unified state.”
At the present moment, the region is dominated by processes of disintegration which reinforce mutual isolation as the consequence of sanctions (in relation to Abkhazia, Armenia, and Karabakh). Many Western experts have drawn the attention of the Caucasus participants to the fact that despite the new politics of the European fold, into which have been brought the states of the Southern Caucasus, “their mutual isolation from each other will not help them integrate into Europe, not to mention the European Union”. Meanwhile, within these politics, the lack of any clearly defined strategy in relation to unrecognised states again underlines the inadequate evaluation, on the part of the international actors, of the more complex realities of regional security: The actual influence on the real situation of security in the region is absolutely equivalent for the recognised as for the unrecognised peoples of the region – they are all equally important links in the single chain of regional security.
However, the readiness of Western academic research to represent unrecognised governments has instilled a degree of optimism (although not fully) in such European-wide security organisations as the OSCE. Abkhazian writers take the view that integration in the Caucasus could make use of institutional elements of the European Union and the OSCE, but even if functionally linked with these European organisations, however, this would mean a separate regional structure would have to be introduced.
The advantage of this approach, at least for the unrecognised states, is primarily the greater legitimacy of security guarantees, which owe their existence and mutual reinforcement to their implementation on three levels – Caucasus-wide (regional), local (bilateral), and international. Elements of the geopolitical competition of global and regional powers in the Caucasus will also obviously depend significantly on who stands in the vanguard of the process of integration in the Caucasus – Russia, the US, or the European Union.
Stabilisation of local and Caucasus-wide conflicts in this way suggests a common interrelated process. The resolution of conflicts and long-term stability could be realised by the formula of collective negotiating systems on the basis of the principle of mutual compensation - with the participation of all the participants of the Caucasus independent of their international status (including Northern and Southern Caucasus); plus the participation of international players (Russia, the US, EU, UN, OSCE); plus regional powers - aimed at finding a consensus for integration and a regional system of security.
Buffer mechanisms of stability in the Caucasus
Historical-political perspectives on the problem of buffer mechanisms
Economic development perspectives in the region, particularly Western interests in developing global energy projects, demand the urgent establishment of long-term stability. However, this is hardly imaginable in a scenario of large-scale confrontation with Russia over the ultimate redistribution of spheres of influence in the Caspian- Caucasus region. With these concerns, the governments of the Caucasus have been working out their own concepts of the region, and their own specific geo-strategic and geo-economic roles in them.
In the context of forming a balance of power and stability in the Southern Caucasus, the buffer mechanisms in the region gain special significance.
As historical debate and traditional political practice demonstrate, ‘buffers’ or ‘buffer states’ can vary significantly in their functions, as becomes clear from the geopolitical phenomena discussed above. The following is most often implied:
1. A policy of isolation from external threats (a ‘cordon sanitaire’);
2. A mechanism to unite conflicting and theoretically differing interests by making wide-scale military confrontation impossible and undesirable;
3. A means of finding “status quo formulae” or formulae for compromise through common interests in the buffer area;
4. Retaining the status quo or stability;
5. A connecting link or bridge between dislocated or discordant geopolitical forces etc…
It is evident from all these aspects, that buffers generally cushion the discord and displacement of military confrontation. Historical examples known to both sides demonstrate that when implementing a balance of power, the great powers have quite often scrambled to maintain the status quo, or to support buffer states (Afghanistan), when there were no significant ambitions or military/political resources to be exchanged.
After the collapse of the Russian Empire, and the post-war re-distribution, the Caucasian players themselves, Turkey, and the European powers discussed federate and confederate unions, and even a single independent Caucasus, and also buffer states in the Caucasus. In particular, according to Russian sources: “suggesting the military-political collaboration of Germany, the Georgian government engaged the benefits of this alliance in the following way – “to the Caucasian isthmus, the idea of bordering the new Russian border with the new state formations which were formed at the Brest negotiations…”. The idea of a buffer state in the Caucasus region, acceptable to the Georgian government, suggested in this way the ousting of Russia from the Caucasian isthmus. It is by these means that in the opinion of the Georgian leaders (N. Zhordaniya et al.) the independence of Georgia can be achieved.”
Caucasian specialists have also recognised the resolution at this time of Turkey not to have “ever, in any way whatsoever, a common border with Russia”, resulting in Turkish diplomats striving for the creation of buffer states between the Ottoman Empire and Russia. Trying to camouflage the new ambitions of Turkey, Talaat, the grand vizier of her government, aimed for the recognition, on behalf of the members of the empires of Germany, Austro-Hungary, and Bulgaria, for the independence of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and the mountain peoples of the Northern Caucasus.
Abkhazia and Georgia, having joined the Russian Empire independently (in 1810 and 1801 respectively), defined themselves differently after its disintegration in 1917: the former within a Union of the Mountain Peoples of the Caucasus, the latter within a Democratic Federation of the Caucasus, which demonstrated the different cultural, political and strategic orientations of these two traditional rivals of the Caucasus. During the Georgian occupation of Abkhazia (1918-1921), General Denikin seceded to the demands of the British army for the speedy withdrawal of Georgian troops and the designation of a neutral status for Abkhazia.
In this way, all the states of the Caucasus in this period tried to find forms of political union and geopolitical certainties for their (buffer) status, which could provide international support for their independence from Russia or other regional powers. These plans did not come to fruition, however, because of the imminent Sovietization of the Caucasus, and its incorporation into the USSR.
Sub-regional Buffer mechanisms and the Stabilisation of the Caucasus
The realisation of these ideas about buffer zones or states in the Caucasus is evidently connected with regional ‘insecurity’ (to coin the definition of Bzhezinskiy), and the ambition of finding guaranteed long-term methods of providing stability.
Many writers demonstrate that in several historical periods, the Caucasus has become like a transregional ‘buffer zone between competing empires’. Contemporary writers also fully admit the viability of the Caucasus as a ‘regional buffer between Russia and Turkey, and also between Russia and the West.’
The argument persists that the absence of buffer lines following the periodical absorption by dominant powers often becomes a reason for strained international relations, including localised and global wars. In addition to this, we should appreciate the existence of weak and quasi-states within the reach of the dominant powers, which could be only because ‘it is their existence in the form of a buffer state or defined element in the system of the balance of power that establishes the dominant powers’. We could suggest that in terms of stabilising factors, they can become not only international buffer zones, but also interregional buffer systems in the form of one or several buffer states.
The redistribution of power and the new geopolitical balance, which have resulted from the rivalry of the two geopolitical centres of power – Russia and the West – in the Caucasus in the last ten years, have resulted in the actual formation of the geopolitical buffer status of Abkhazia. This has happened as a result not only of natural military and political processes and relations, but also of the balance of powers in the region, primarily Russia and the USA, which has not depended on the degree of international legitimacy for the existence of a de-facto Abkhazia.
Analysis of the theory and practice of Abkhazian foreign policy does not accord with the widely spread opinion of the international community that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Abkhazia, even by her own demographic and geo-economic conditions, will always remain a puppet state - a medium exclusively of Russian interests in the region - if not reincorporated into Georgia.
Little real political activity in the arena of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict in any way bears out this description. In the years immediately after the conflict, not only the international community, but also Russia put unprecedented pressure on an Abkhazia devastated and made impotent by war – a pressure which, in the words of international experts, was comparable only with the sanctions placed on Serbia and Iraq. Yet such a fragile state showed such unprecedented resistance to all geopolitical centres of power, including Russia.
The deterioration of relations with Russia sometimes teetered on the brink of armed conflict: such as in 1995, when a mass uncontrolled return of refugees was planned under the protection of Peacekeeping Forces, and which was included in the Helsinki Watch report on the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict of 1995. In this period, there was friction even on the coastal border between Russia and Abkhazia because of the attempts to illegally break the economic blockade by trading with Turkey. In 1997, in one of the sessions of the Abkhaz Parliament responding to the coastal crisis, the question was raised about the withdrawal of Russian peacekeeping forces from the conflict zone. In this period, when deaths through hunger were not unknown in Abkhazia (on a territory on which the Georgians had initiated a war), the Abkhazians received unparalleled humanitarian and financial support from the international community.
With Putin’s accession to power, Russia’s foreign policy doctrine in relation to Abkhazia, as in relation to other unrecognised states, became more consistent and transparent. Now Russia did not hide the fact that she would resort even to unregulated conflict, and use the internal resources of the unrecognised states (in particular, by granting Russian citizenship en masse) to protect her own national interests on their Southern borders. Abkhazia for her part, with no hope even of neutrality from the international community in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict, took as the basic principle of her foreign policy the idea of an association with Russia for the retention of state independence of Abkhazia: in reality a Russian protectorate.
Russia took three years to convince Abkhazia to sign the protocol of the Georgian-Abkhaz resolution, as the Abkhazians believed that it did not respond to their national interests, even though the future of Georgian-Russian political relations at this time largely depended on the success of this project. At the same time, Russia could not resolve to large-scale military operations on the territory of Abkhazia, as the net result of such an operation would be so unpredictable and could have forced Russia entirely out of the conflict zone. However, as observers have noted, in the armed conflict in the Gali region in 1998 the Russians acted against both Abkhazia and Georgia.
Later, Russia was able to secure the maximum integration of Abkhazia into her economic and political space, although legally she did not belong to her. At this time, Abkhazia considered that this corresponded to her own national interests, and primarily, to the interests of retaining national sovereignty. The political declarations from the Kremlin on the one hand about supporting the territorial integrity of Georgia, and the political declarations of the State Duma and different political parties about the possibility of recognising Abkhazian sovereignty on the other, did not have any meaning whatsoever for Russia’s particularly pragmatic policy of maximum rapprochement between the Russians and the Abkhazians.
The overall balance of Abkhazia’s foreign policy is arguably more loyal to the West (and to Western values, in the formation of a state’s democratic foundations), than would be desirable to many orthodox circles in Russia, and as too complimentary, in the opinion of Cold War orthodoxies towards the West. Her policies in relation to Russia lead us to the conclusion that Abkhazia has fulfilled the regional geopolitical function of a ‘buffer-trimmer’, as an alternative to becoming a ‘neutral buffer’ or ‘buffer-satellite’.
The existence of such a state in the region, implementing sufficiently independent and consistent policies in relation to her own national interests, objectively enables the retention of stability for ten or more years. If in some moment of crisis in the political discussions, Abkhazia had acceded to the demands of Georgia about the formation of territorial integrity, then as well as a permanent partisan war on the part of the Abkhazians and related peoples of the Northern Caucasus, there would have been such a serious disruption to the status quo on the wider stage (i.e. the balance of power between Russia and the US), that today we could be faced with any kind of geopolitical result not only in the Caucasus region, but also in the Caspian Sea region. It is not inconceivable that this could have meant wide-scale, even military confrontation not only between Russia and the US, but also between interested regional players such as Turkey, Iran, and also European powers.
Therefore the most pressing problems today are whether to respond to the interests of active participants, notably Russia and the US; whether to retain the status quo/ stability as the basis of the further peaceful evolution of development in the region; or whether radical changes are necessary in the balance of power, which would undoubtedly materialise in the event of Abkhazia being absorbed into Georgia or Russia, with unpredictable consequences. In the event of a positive answer, the geopolitical structure of the Caucasus would change radically in terms of the negotiability of the borders created by Stalin.
And then the following question also arises: are the leading actors in the international community – Russia and the US – prepared to recognise Abkhazia as a buffer state in the Caucasus in a political attempt to compromise and support military-political equilibrium, as Britain and Russia did in Afghanistan, but the USSR did not in relation to its Eastern European satellites after the Second World War?
The interests of long-term peace depend on unconventional solutions, the political will of the leaders, and an agreed level of governmental political responsibility for the support of international security. The stabilisation in the Balkans in particular also demanded a re-thinking of borders, and also precedents such as UN recognition of Croatia’s place as the last independent state within the Yugoslav federation before its disintegration.
In this scenario, the legal recognition of Abkhazia with independent buffer status would not signify isolation, but a means of softening and separating dangerously conflicting interests, and at the same time a means of uniting common regional security perspectives. This approach, besides responding to all previously stated aims, would fully accord with the national interests of Russia and the US as well.
A Russian diplomat expressed this accord succinctly: “We could have been left in a compromising position: the de-militarisation of the Caucasus region, and the proclamation of its neutrality or disintegration. If Russia had not decided to retain this territory in her orbit, then she would have preferred to have a secure buffer, than a military-political NATO bridgehead in her back yard”.
What is more, the agreement to recognise the ‘buffer status’ of Abkhazia would signify for the US the possible materialisation of her macro-economic and geostrategic projects in the South-East with minimal costs, with conditions of guaranteed stability behind her and a strategic consensus with her main rival in the Caucasus – Russia.
This would also retain the historical idea of a buffer state in the Caucasus for Turkey, as a stabilising and preventative factor in her mutual relations with Russia.
This factor becomes more significant in relation to new approaches to the problematic Black Sea area. It has been noted that “the basic necessity of the strategic buffer is best of all explained by its opposite… The Black Sea region is at the epicentre of great strategic attempts to bring stability to the widening European sphere and its borderlands – to the region of the Greater Middle East … the Greater Black Sea area begins to appear in a different light: instead of a peripheral position on the European continent, it begins to look like a key component on the West’s home front … a zone of contact between the European and North Atlantic communities, and a Greater Near East coming through the Black Sea – a new Fould corridor. The task of this generation for the introduction of stability to the Greater Near East is made significantly easier if we have a stable and successfully integrated Black Sea region. This is not simply a question of geographical position… and access to military bases allowing us to fight better the war on terrorism. We have a key interest in the countries of this region successfully turning into these kinds of democratic and stable societies, which can in their turn, serve as a platform for spreading Western values further to the East and the South.”
However, the practical implementation of this concept outside agreed formulae of regional consensus will be understood by Russia as a new challenge from the West, and will become an additional flashpoint for escalating tensions in the Caucasus and the Caspian. This short-circuiting of geopolitics means that the question of cushioning conflict with the help of subregional buffers is by no means rhetorical in the case of Abkhazia.
From the point of view of Georgia’s interests, the ‘buffer’ status of Abkhazia would grant Georgia real independence, and neutralise the most powerful lever of external pressure, whilst retaining possibilities for economic partnership with Abkhazia and Russia. It would also provide the real possibility of long-term stability, so necessary for the participation of Georgia in global energy and communication projects.
The economic possibilities within the Caucasus will provide universal satisfaction of interests on the basis of the principle of mutual compensation, and the rationale of building a collective region-wide security. Of course, this is conditional on legitimate post-Soviet redistribution, and guaranteed stability (despite the lack of fully defined parameters of stability in the current ambitions of several small states in the Caucasus), within a fully-fledged integration of the Caucasus-Caspian region.
The role of the international community in these processes will be difficult to reassess. New strategy developments in international cooperation with relation to the unrecognised states have already been sounded out by Western and Russian experts. Practical action, especially in the implementation of the policies of the neighbourliness of the EU in the Southern Caucasus, will probably lead ultimately and inevitably to this.
The geopolitical potential of Abkhazia could be reclaimed in the new Caucasian paradigm of the international community, both as a natural buffer between conflicting or discordant regional and global interests, and at the same time as a connecting link in the fully-fledged integration of the whole region (including Northern and Southern Caucasus).
The negotiation process is known to have begun from the discussion of the idea of a unified state.
V.Avksentiev – Ethnic Conflict Resolution in the Search for a Paradigm.
J.Burton(ed.) Conflikt: Human needs theory. L, 1990. Pp152-3. Quoted from: Conflict in Contemporary Russia. Problems of analysis and regulation. Editorial URSS. Moscow 2000.Pp39-40.
For more detail: L.Taniya. Social opinion and the Georgian-Abkhaz peace-building process. From the New Eurasia collection: Russia and the countries of her Near Abroad. M:2002. No.14. Pp.44-118.
N.Akhalaya. Security is more important than Economic Attractiveness. “Caucasian Accent” journal 2004. No.4, Dialogue No.3.
Mitchell Ch. Necessitous man and conflict resolution: More basic human needs theory. In: Burton J. (ed.) Conflict: Human needs theory. Basingstoke. L.: MacMillan, 1990. P149-176. Cited from: Conflicts in Contemporary Russia. Problems of Analysis and Regulation. URSS editorial. Moscow 2000. Pp.39-40
The exclusion of Abkhazia from the Georgian state will have a positive effect for the Georgian economy, considers Kakha Bendukidze. IA REGNUM. 17.06.2004. 17:46
The UN mission on the definition of Abkhazia’s needs. 1998, p.23.
V.Aksentiev. The Problem of escaping ethnic conflict: contemporary views. Materials of the Conference of 21st-22nd May 2001, in Stavropol. www.Stavsu.ru/P.5
The Stability Pact for the Caucasus/ M.Emerson, S.Chelak, N.Totchi (Editor); Centre for European Policy Research (CEPR). 2000. http:/www.Ceps.be/PUBS/2000/wd/stabpactruss/152rus.htp.
G.Anchabadze. Under the Peace Sign. Interview in the journal Abkhazian Meridian. 2003. No17(15). P4.
J.Cohen. The European Union and Southern Caucasus: the dilemma of neighbours. Journal Free Georgia, (Caucasus supplement). No.3. 22.07. P1
B.Koppiters. Federalism and Conflict in the Caucasus/ Moscow Karnega Centre. 2002. No.2. P.49
L.Taniya. Variations of strategies of regulating the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict/ Central Asia and the Caucasus. 2003. No.5(29). P.55
For more detail about models of integration: L.Taniya. “The Georgian-Abkaz conflict and priorities of international participation in the Caucasus”. In the Collection “The Caucasus region after the Cold War” / International institute of Strategic Research. London. 2004.
I.V.Bocharnikov: The geopolitical expansion of Russia in the Caucasus, in 16-20. P.11 http//:www.e-journal.ru/p-time/. P.13
G.Avetisyan. On the question of a Caucasian homeland and aspirations of pan-Turkism/ Questions of history. 1999 No.1-2. P.4. http//.www.Hayastan.ru/armvest/
S.Lakoba. The history of Abkhazia. Sukhumi: Alashara. 1991. P.312
B.Koppiters: The Caucasus as a complex of security. in the collection: Disputed borders in the Caucasus. M.: All World. 1996. P.215
A.Rondeli: Particularities of the process of forming a regional complex of security in the Southern Caucasus. From the collection: Post-Communist Democratic transformation and geopolitics in the Southern Caucasus. Tbilisi. 1998. P116.
P.Bit. Those who cushion the blows. http:/petrobit.by.ru/art/thought/buffer.html. P4.
O.Pe and E.Remakle. The politics of the UN and OSCE in the Transcaucasus region. From the collection: Disputed borders in the Caucasus. 1996. M.: Whole World. P.129.
The protocols of the Georgian-Abkhaz negotiations were examined in the period 1995-8, when Russia was forced to re-take the initiative in the negotiations from the Western mediators. The protocols envisaged different models which would be of advantage to a federal reintegrated Abkhazia within Georgia.
A.Rondeli: Particularities of the formation of a regional complex of security in the Southern Caucasus. From the collection: Post-Communist transformations and geopolitics in the Southern Caucasus. Tbilisi 1998. P.116. As is noted in the article, a buffer-trimmer is able to “influence stronger neighbours, between which it is situated”, maybe to some extent manoeuvre, and lead a more or less active foreign policy.
V.Degoev. Models of Caucasus-wide security: for and against. P.6. On the web-site: PROJECT XX1. Globalisation for the CIS. Http:/Cis.ng.ru/2001
R.Amsus, B.Jackson. The Black Sea and redistribution of freedom. Http:/www.rusk.ru/07.09.2004./Pp5,6. Regarding the Greater Black Sea, experts understand “a Euro-Asian corridor of energy transfer, binding the Euro-Atlantic system with the Caspian sources of energy and states of Central Asia.” The Black Sea system is also spread “To the North from Transnistria, Odessa, and Sukhum, because a stable system would also require solving “shameful conflicts” along the North-Eastern coast, and access to the large trading rivers flowing into the Black Sea: The Danube, Dnestr, and Dneiper”. Into the Greater Black Sea “all the states of the Southern Caucasus – Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan should also be included”.
State and Language State and Language
Professor of Caucasian Languages, SOAS, London University
Though the title of this presentation may seem somewhat out of place in the context of the topic of the conference, I feel justified in discussing the matter in the conviction that a state's language-policy is an integral part of the way it presents itself to the outside world. It can, thus, help to shape general attitudes to the state and ultimately affect inter-state relations, both in the region and more widely.
Of course, everybody understands that Abkhazia's situation is far from ideal (whether we are speaking of politics or socio-economics). But I want to tackle the question of language in the way I think it should be addressed in the republic from the point of view of general philosophical principles, and not specifically within the. constraints of currently existing conditions. Though I shall not be concerned exclusively with the Abkhaz language, this will be my main focus and the obvious place to start.
Although Abkhaz and its divergent Abaza dialect have had official status as literary languages on their home-territories since the early days of the Soviet Union, the demographic facts and the dominance of Russian (or Turkish amongst the diaspora) mean that Abkhaz(-Abaza) must be classified as endangered (at least over the medium term). However uncomfortable, this is the reality with which planners are faced and which needs to be taken most seriously while there is still time to try to reverse the threatening decline into extinction. Perhaps it would be convenient to approach the problem by dividing it into three components: education; the media; relations with the diaspora.
I. Education. It surely goes without saying that the widest opportunities possible should be afforded to the homeland's autochthonous language. What constitutes these 'widest possible opportunities' is for local educationalists to determine. But the curriculum that existed for Abkhaz during the later Soviet period should surely provide firstly an absolute minimum, with, of course, improvements in quality where necessary, and secondly the basis for quantitative expansion, as and when the means allow. Those means would include the provision of modern text-books not only covering the grades for which the Soviets established Abkhaz as the medium of instruction in Abkhaz language-schools but to be introduced (gradually no doubt) for grades beyond the traditional switch-over point to Russian. This extension of the curriculum of tuition through the medium of Abkhaz will depend on crucial foundation-work on the creation of suitable terminology and the preparation of new text-books by local linguists and specialists in the subjects taught through the medium of Abkhaz, as well as on the availability of a sufficient body of suitably qualified teachers in both the language and the subjects concerned. At a time when finding both teachers and the money to pay them to cover just the barest essentials of education is no easy matter, this may seem a pipe-dream, but, as I said at the outset, I am talking about ideals. If nothing is done to improve education in Abkhaz, it will prove impossible to establish a truly Abkhazian educational system, especially when many take the view that standards are higher in Russian language-schools and think that children will be best set up for life, if they simply undergo their entire education in Russian. This is a dangerous view, as it is a powerful first step towards complete russification of the young. And one of the beliefs to be inculcated is the recognition that, for Abkhazia to retain its identity, the Abkhaz language has to have preeminence, whilst Russian has to be assigned nothing higher than the status of main1 foreign language, subordinate in importance to the mother-tongue.
If what I have said so far applies to Abkhaz language-schools, ^hen, as far as other schools in the republic are concerned. Abkhaz should be a compulsory subject for study for a certain number of hours per week upto whatever grade is judged appropriate by local educationalists, but I see no reason why this should not continue to the end of secondary education.
Apart from observing that primers, aids to the learning of spelling, and children's books in general should be of good quality, I have nothing to say about the nature of books for the teaching of the language. The reason for this is that, firstly I am most familiar with grammars for teaching a language not to native children but to foreigners, and secondly 1 have no memory of being taught English grammar during my years at school. Indeed, when I began Latin at the age of eleven, our Latin teacher told us that we would learn all our English grammar from him as we were introduced to the intricacies of this classical language. And this was true — English grammar was never taught to children of my generation. In a monolingual culture such as that essentially still prevailing in most parts of England, it is simply assumed that the children know the language because they have been speaking it at home from birth. This brings me to the most important observation one can make in the field of language-learning: if Abkhaz-speaking parents do not speak the language to their children and give them the fullest possible grounding in it in the years prior to their starting school, they are depriving their children of the most precious of gifts, namely the key to participating freely in all aspects of Abkhazian culture and thus becoming full members of the Abkhazian community. Abkhaz-speaking parents must be encouraged at every possible opportunity to take pride in their ancestral tongue and understand how crucial it is to pass on their knowledge of it to their children. Expenments have demonstrated that children can learn very easily in their early years any number of languages to which they are exposed — there is no need to feel that they should be exposed only to Russian in those first years of life for them to achieve fluency in this foreign language that they will undoubtedly need for the foreseeable future; exposure to both Abkhaz and Russian will cause them no difficulties, and, if their Abkhaz is weak or non-existent in the early years, circumstances are sadly likely to ensure that matters will not improve later in life, whereas the same is not true if the weakness at the first stages of a child's development is in Russian. In other words, early relative weakness in Russian can be easily corrected, but the same does not apply if the weakness is in Abkhaz.
So, how to persuade parents of this crucial truth? It is appropriate at this point to turn to the media.
2. Media. Many people hold to the simplistic belief that, if a language has survived difficult historical crises, it can probably continue to do so, even where it has minority status in a multilingual community. But since the middle of the 20th century we have been living in a world where instant-communication thanks to radio and TV has come to play an ever increasing role, and the now current universality of computers with access to the Internet has only speeded up this change in environment. In order to make full use of what has become an all-pervasive aspect of modern technology one really needs to be proficient in English, which has consequences for foreign-language teaching in local schools and at the university in Abkhazia. But then there is the role of TV for general entertainment, and the importance of this cannot be overstated, for viewers will be drawn to the most attractive broadcasts: just as they will read the most interesting newspapers, journals and books. Since the basic choice at the moment within Abkhazia is between Russian and Abkhaz across the mass-media, it is essential that the quality of Abkhaz-language output be maximally improved. During the Soviet period, when citizens had access to only the Soviet media, the quality of publications and broadcasts was of no real significance. That is no longer true, and it is far from encouraging that so much of what characterised Soviet attitudes still pervades official Abkhazian publications and the TV broadcasting 13 years after the collapse of the USSR. Standards in both areas should be raised, with more appealing news items and more attracting programming being offered to readers and viewers. And, assuming that the number of readers and viewers can be at worst kept steady and at best increased, one of the really important campaigns that the media could run would be to convince the Abkhaz-speaking part of the population of the unique advantage that they alone can bring to the task of preserving the language for future generations, which is to say that they simply should take every opportunity they can to speak it to their infants and children. If the language goes, Abkhazian culture, everything understood by the term 'apswara1, will ultimately perish as well. Most Abkhazians are aware of the fate that overtook their sister-language Ubykh in 1992, but perhaps to bring home the nature of the danger that now faces their own language, they need to be reminded of a starker fact: it is estimated that somewhere in the world on average one language follows Ubykh to the grave every two weeks... And all one needs to do to prevent this happening is open one's mouth and speak to one's children. Nothing could be simpler. I ask: can more broadcasting time and newsprint please be devoted to this topic?
3. The diaspora. As is well known, the majority of the world's population of Abkhazians lives outside the historical homeland, predominantly in Turkey. During the years of perestrojka a most welcome development was the establishment of closer ties between the home- and diaspora-communities with mutual exchange-visits, and, of course, much assistance came from the diaspora during the war. It seems to me, . however, perhaps wrongly, that the forging of ever closer links has not proceeded over recent years as one might have hoped. But what can be said of the language-issue in particular? As the result of a new law promulgated in Turkey in 2002, minorities there now have the right to teach their languages in that country, and there are groups there who wish to take advantage of this right for both Abkhaz and Circassian. I myself took part in a conference in Istanbul in October 2002 where I advised those concerned with these matters seriously to consider deciding in favour of roman-based scripts for the teaching of both these languages, just as I had previously spoken on this theme in Sukhum shortly before the war in July 1992. Regardless of which script relevant language-planners ultimately favour, there is now a wonderful opportunity for collaboration between interested parties in Turkey and those with valuable experience of teaching Abkhaz here in the homeland. It seems to me that, somehow, efforts should be co-ordinated between the relevant organisations on both sides of the Black Sea specifically to determine how best to co-ordinate and advance measures to instigate and/or widen the teaching of Abkhaz to ethnic Abkhazians both at home and abroad. Without support from Abkhazia, the enthusiasm stirred by legal changes in Turkey in 2002 might wither, whilst the knowledge that the majority Abkhazian community abroad are actually taking measures to preserve the mother-tongue might spur the home-community to think more soberly about, and act with greater determination in, this patriotic venture.
Abkhazia's other languages
If what has been said thus far represents some musings in relation to the present state of, and future possibilities for, Abkhaz, we have to remember that Abkhazia, like most regions in the Caucasus, is a cosmopolitan area with a heterogeneous population. What official decisions might be taken about the other languages spoken here? The Russian and Armenian populations have their needs catered for by the provision of schools teaching through the medium of these languages. And their continued existence, with the above-mentioned introduction (or, if they already exist, consolidation) of classes in Abkhaz, is to be supported. But one huge problem remains — the Kartvelian residents of the republic.
If I may deviate from the main theme for a moment. I would like to mention Georgia's Draft Language Law. which was made public in the autumn of 1988. It was probably when I first became acquainted with this document that I realised there would be trouble with the Abkhazians (and other minorities), because, with its restrictions for entry into higher education requiring applicants to pass a test in Georgian language, it was obvious that this was discriminatory against those ethnic groups whose young members could not pass such as test (e.g. the Abkhazians), and indeed it was so interpreted by various minority-groups inside Georgia. And this was only one example of the exclusive nature of the Georgian state that was being designed by political leaders in Tbilisi at that time — this deliberate alienation of the various minorities was one of the main reasons for the failure of the post-Soviet Georgian state —. but. as our theme is language, this is the aspect I choose to stress. It seems to me that a prime, if not the only, ingredient for a successful state is an overarching principle of inclusivity. which should dictate that the needs of all its citizens are met. Distasteful as it may be to many Abkhazians, it has to be recognised that the Kartvelians living here, primarily in the Gal District want to be educated through the medium of Georgian, and. in my humble opinion, they should be allowed the right to be so educated. That said, we all know that the vast majority of Abkhazia's Kartvelians are Mingrelians (not Georgians — I am assuming that most of those present do not confuse these two categories, as happens on the other side of the , Ingur). and most of these Mingrelians speak their own native language, Mingrelian. 1 have long argued, quite independently of the Georgian-Abkhazian dispute, in favour of the provision of some level of teaching of Mingrelian as a means of buttressing the survival of this sadly neglected language. This is a highly contentious issue within (ieorgia. because of the widespread inability there to distinguish between language-rights and independence-movements — I personally would advocate a radical federalisation of the Georgian polity, with wide political rights for the regions (including Mingrelia. Dzhavakheti. and Ach'ara). and. had such a reformation been part of the goals of those calling for Georgian independence from the late 1980s instead of the rabid nationalism that all too easily found a fertile soil there, maybe the wars in S. Ossetia and Abkhazia could have been avoided. But, to return to my central argument. Abkhazia was willing to make a contribution to Mingrelian culture, when in 1991 Gedevan Shanava's Mingrelian translation of Rust(a)veli's The Man in the Pantherskin' was published here — K'ak'a Zhvania's translation had been banned by Tbilisi during the 1966 800th anniversary celebrations of Rust(a)veli's birth. And after the war. the trilingual newspaper 'Gal' was instituted in Abkhaz. Mingrelian and Russian, a development I wholeheartedly support, though I would have adapted the script somewhat and. naturally, would have made the content less 'Soviet' and consequently more interesting. So. with reference to schooling for the Mingrelians of Gal, I would suggest offering a bargain: the Abkhazian state will give full support to tuition through the medium of Georgian on two conditions: (a) teaching OF Mingrelian must be included in the curriculum for ALL grades; (b) no Georgian historical textbooks will be tolerated as long as anything like the distortion of the history of the Western Caucasus inherent in such nonsensical theories as that of P'avle lngoroq'va. still so widely believed and disseminated (see Shnirelman 2001), is propounded in them.
The advantages of this approach could and should be: 1. Abkhazia is seen both internally and in international eyes as an essentially inclusive state, willing to recognise the cultural/educational rights of all its citizens; 2. a legitimate grievance of an important part of the population should disappear; 3. a spur will be given to Mingrelians in the Mingrelian homeland to think about how they too might secure parallel rights for Mingrelian in Georgia; 4. the survival of Mingrelian will be helped; and, most importantly from the Abkhazian perspective, 5. if ethnic tensions are lessened in Abkhazia and the state can secure the support of all of its citizens, the future of the Abkhaz language itself will be better safeguarded. Is not this a worthy and overwhelmingly patriotic aim?
Reference Shnirelman, V.A. 2001. The Value of the Past: Myths, Identity and Politics in Transcaucasia. Osaka: National Museum of Ethnology.
The EU in the South Caucasus The EU in the South Caucasus
Dr. Dov Lynch
Abkhazia in Contemporary International Relations
Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Abkhazia, Abkhaz State University and the Center for Humanitarian
European Union Institute for Security Studies
Thank you for the invitation to speak here in today. It is a pleasure to speak before such an audience on such an important and interesting question. The EU ISS was created in 2001 and launched in 2002 as an EU agency designed to provide research and policy expertise for the High Representative on CFSP, and for the main security decision-making body, the Political and Security Committee - although a full EU agency, I speak today not as an official voice of the EU but only as an autonomous voice inside the EU Council machinery.
I would like today to paint a picture of the wider context surrounding Abkhazia by outlining the evolution of EU thinking on a role in the South Caucasus and expose the debates inside the EU and with member states.
One should note from the outset that EU policy is not the result of calculated decisions taken by clear policy-making processes. Much is the result of contingent circumstances, the pull of events from the region, functional to the member state holding the presidency, the role of strong individuals inside the EU machinery.
The paper is divided into four parts - a first part will outline the strategic trends increasing EU attention to the South Caucasus; a second part will examine factors conditioning EU thinking on Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia; the third part will outline the debates that have occurred on a reinforced political profile. We will finish with an exploration of recent developments in EU policy. The focus falls on the three recognised states of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, as the EU's main interlocutors in the region.
The EU is in the throes of a revolution - in fact, two revolutions. The first consists of the greatest enlargement the Union has ever experienced. The impact of enlargement on the internal dynamics of the Union will be fundamental. The second revolution consists of the constitution of a new Union.
These will affect the Union's external policies. There are four strategic factors at play:
(1) The EU will have member states with new interests. Lithuania and Latvia
have been active in developing military ties with the three South
Caucasian states. The new member states will bring new urgency.
(2) The enlarged EU will have new borders on Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia,
and after 2007 on the Black Sea. These also bring a new immediacy to EU
thinking about its periphery.
(3) The EU has started to rethink policy to states on its new borders. For
much for the 1990s, EU 'foreign policy' revolved around the question of
membership/non-membership: if membership was on the cards, then the
EU had a full policy that given state; if it was not, the EU had little policy
at all. This is changing. The new European Neighbourhood Policy reflects an
attempt to develop policies to states where the EU has significant interest but where membership is not in perspective. This process is seeing the birth of the EU as a fuller foreign policy actor.
(4) For all the clarion calls, the EU has emerged as a security actor. In 2003, the EU launched three missions, with tasks from law enforcement to security and humanitarian crisis management. The Iraqi crisis stimulated thinking on a Security Strategy. One point in the Strategy is the need for a belt of well-governed countries around the EU. The EU is developing a strategic view of its borders, which will impact on its policies to the South Caucasus. For all of its difficulties - the list is long - EU security policy is not dead.
Until 2003, the EU had a low security profile in the South Caucasus. This is set to change.
EU thinking on the South Caucasus has been affected by a number of factors.
(1) The South Caucasus is crowded. This complicates thinking about a
reinforced political role by - apparently at least - leaving little room for
the Union to claim as its own. The UN and the OSCE have become
experienced mediators. The activities of Russia and the U.S muddle rather
than clarify the strategic shape of the region. The South Caucasus is busy
(2) Second is the complexity of the region's problems, which are deep and
pernicious. International organisations and European states have sought for a decade to assuage these problems. Progress has come by drips. In such circumstances, what value may the EU add?
(1) The South Caucasus is caught in a proximity/distance paradox. The
region is close enough that the EU has been forced to consider its interests
in promoting stability. At the same time, the region is distant enough that
threats from the region are not seen as immediate.
(2) The region did not have a lobbyist in the EU to catalyse greater interest.
(3) A number of EU member states have developed definite, even special,
positions in the region. Coordination - communication even from member
states to Brussels - has been poor.
(4) Finally, the South Caucasus was never a region in itself for the EU. EU
objectives were determined for whole former Soviet Union - states with
different geographies, political and economic systems and prospects.
Differentiation in thinking about the former Soviet Union has been slow
EU Thinking and Debates
EU thinking towards the South Caucasus has featured a series of debates. Participants have ranged from member states, the Commission, EU heads of mission in the region, the European Parliament, the Council Secretariat, and the Policy Planning Unit.
The debate has circled around several questions:
1) How can the EU advance conflict settlement - a condition on
which the effectiveness of EU assistance is seen to depend?
Through participation of the negotiating mechanisms? Or support
2) How can the EU balance a focus on states with the desire to foster
regional cooperation? What is this most appropriate framework
for advancing EU aims? Through bilateral/regional frameworks?
Since 1999, EU security activities did pick up in the South Caucasus:
1) Reinforced political dialogue with the three states;
2) Support to the OSCE in South Ossetia;
3) Some EU support to the rehabilitation of Azeri regions freed from Armenian
occupation and a declared readiness to support rehabilitation;
4) Support to the Georgian border guards and assistance to the OSCE;
5) Support to the rehabilitation of the Inguri power complex in Georgia.
In all, however, the EU had a low profile, with little presence in the negotiating mechanisms, no involvement in mediation, and an undefined overall strategy.
Since 2003, EU policy has become more defined to the South Caucasus.
First, on July 7, 2003, Heikki Talvitie was appointed as the EU Special Representative with a mandate to develop a strategy to advance stability and security. His mandate is to: 'develop contacts with governments, parliaments, judiciary and civil society, encourage the three countries to co-operate on
themes of common interest such as security threats, the fight against terrorism and organised crime and prepare the return to peace including though recommendations for action related to civil society and rehabilitation of territories. He will also assist in conflict resolution, through support to the UN Secretary-General and his Special Representative for Georgia, the Group of Friends of the UNSG for Georgia, the OSCE Minsk Group, and the conflict resolution mechanism for South Ossetia/
The EUSR has visited the region on numerous occasions, developed excellent contacts with many local and international actors, including a visit to Abkhazia in March. Ideas have been put forward to support the work of the UN in Georgia-Abkhaz conflict through targeted rehabilitation programmes.
Second, the South Caucasus has been invited to join the European Neighbourhood Policy. If they are ready for it, this means that Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan may be offered to develop with the EU joint Action Plans for adopting the EU model for politics and economics, with substantial EU support. No offer of membership but a promise of greater EU engagement and step towards Europe. Involve also a greater EU security/political role.
Third, the EU launched a Rule of Law Mission (EUROL) to Georgia within the context of ESDP, to deploy highly experienced personnel in various ministries at a senior level to provide guidance and coordinate international support, especially in criminal and justice reform.
Finally, the EU has started to play a more active political role in the region -through the EUSR - in seeking to ensure the peaceful development of events, in the crisis between Tbilisi and Ajara and with South Ossetia. The EU can play an important restraining influence on events in Georgian politics.
The aim of this short presentation is to highlight the growth in - trans-national border threats which is affecting world security. I want to show how this region –and Abkhazia, in particular - is affected by these challenges to international security, and what dangers may lie ahead.
Many of these problems are linked to weak borders and the end of the Cold War when old border regimes collapsed and new borders were created. At the same time there was a liberalization in trade on a global scale, and this rapid growth in commercial activity became an imperative for many states. In fact in many cases the trade and commercial imperative became more important than the security of frontiers.
Nearly 20 new borders were created in the west and more in the east and south of the former soviet space, and it became obvious that old structures and old ways of thinking about boundaries and structures would not suit the new environment. Moreover, the expansion of the EU and NATO on the old Cold War boundaries has produced additional pressures on this collection of new border regimes, which demarcate emerging states with economies which are struggling to establish themselves.
Overall, the world was not ready for the explosion in trade, accompanied by a growth in trans-national threats, facilitated by weak border regimes. Moreover, the dynamics and effects of global trade impact directly on the countries of the former Soviet Union. which are transit countries for global trade as well as new trade partners for the developed economies of the US and EU.
In the case of Abkhazia which was in a state of virtual conflict when the Soviet Union collapsed and remains in a state of conflict today, globalization is a phenomenon which currently goes on around this territory rather than within it. However, because of the conditions which exist inside Abkhazia, and are due to the conflict situation, organised criminal organizations are attracted to the area. Weak boundaries, availability of weapons, poor economic conditions, unemployment amongst a large IDP population which resides on the edge of the territory, are some factors which feed into this equation.
The main threats which are able to spread through the advantages offered by globalization and liberalization in and from areas of conflict are:
· Trafficking in human beings, and illegal migration.
· Drug trafficking.
· Trafficking in weapons.
· Trafficking in chemical, biological, radioactive and nuclear materials.
· Terrorism including cyber terrorism.
At their base all these threats are facilitated by organised crime which is a threat on its own, and one through which the finance necessary for them to flourish is generated. Whether it is trade in "conflict diamonds" or credit card fraud or the practice of Hawala; the issue of finance may turn out be the biggest of all modern trans-border threats as it underpins all the others. Indeed a European Commission conference in Dublin in November 2003 heard that Europe is losing the battle with organised crime, which is a conclusion that is likely to apply to other areas of the world as well. To give an example of the scale of the problem, money laundering and counterfeiting were estimated to be costing private companies across the world some 450bn Euros in 2000; this figure is much greater now. At the same conference in Dublin the illicit trade in drugs was highlighted as being the biggest threat to Europe, and in this context it is important to emphasise that terrorism gets much of the funding it needs from the proceeds of the illicit trade in drugs. Of course the weaknesses of the external borders of the EU and a borderless interior contribute to the problem which emanates mainly from Afghanistan, using routes which go to the north and south of this region with one route crossing the Black Sea, and feeding off the conditions which exist in and around the states and territories which are in crisis or conflict.
To emphasise the connection between globalization, organised crime, terrorism, and states in conflict, a recent report of a large counterfeiting racket in North Korea which was producing counterfeit US dollars highlighted the fact that the money was being “marketed” through organised crime groups in Moscow with connections in the Caucasus and in western Europe. For Europe the main distributor of the dollars was the Irish terrorist organisation, the Official IRA which has switched its focus from mainstream terrorism to global criminal activity.
One obvious aspect of global crime highlighted by this incident is that these threats are cultivated in areas of the world where conflict has cut – off any means of effective communication between the countries which are involved. Therefore, with an inability to communicate comes the inability to cooperate in solving the problem. This is precisely the reason why criminals and non-state armed groups use areas in conflict to promote their activities. For Abkhazia, therefore, it is crucial that in deciding what sort of society should emerge after the conflict, proper account is taken of this issue by strengthening local government security and social structures
Another trend which threatens security is trans-national transportation. There are approximately 650 million container moves a year globally. One container will cross several borders by land or sea. Yet according to a UN survey only 2% are checked. It is no surprise that containerisation is the chosen method for the transportation of threat materials and human beings. To respond to the threat there is the US Container Security Initiative which points the way to dealing with this problem, but it is currently limited in its scope and membership.
In the context of this region east - west transportation in the South Caucasus linking the Caspian and Black Sea is increasing. The volume of containers transiting the region is also increasing as new ports open in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea. Moreover, the road link from the Persian Gulf through Afghanistan to Central Asia will further add to container volume reaching the region, and will inevitably mean an increase in illicit trade.
I shall give two brief examples of this. Firstly, it is estimated that some 27,000 small arms and light weapons went missing from stockpiles in the Black Sea region in the 1990s, and further 50,000 were estimated to have been taken or acquired by non-state armed groups in the region. Secondly, in 1997 Russian officials confirmed a 1995 UN report that a quantity of weapons grade uranium had gone missing from a nuclear research laboratory in Sukhumi. Four years later, in 2001, the IAEA said it wanted to inspect the site, but has been unable to get the mandate to do so. In the case of Abkhazia which was in a state of virtual conflict as the Soviet Union collapsed and remains in a state of conflict.
In the greater Caucasus region the issue of trans-national border threats is not new but is exacerbated by the global issues which I referred to and which emerged after the Cold War. Moreover, the quantity of ongoing and frozen conflicts in a small geographical area further exacerbate the problem and make cooperation in resolving what are international issues harder to achieve.
However, as I said earlier the conditions which exist in and around Abkhazia are attractive to organised criminal I mentioned too the advantage offered to criminals by a large IDP population which in this case sits on the boundary of this territory,
Typically IDP communities without proper education, without land, and without employment provide fertile ground for organised criminals. The demographic trend within IDP communities typically means that the percentage of unemployed, uneducated young people of weapon-bearing age grows over time with obvious consequences, one of which is a deteriorating security situation, the other is growing criminality.. This means that the issue is as much a problem for the place to which they may return as it is for the region where they are currently located.
With conflict and conflict resolution typically comes a security vacuum which is filled by opportunism by the groups which previously fuelled the conflict. In other words individuals do not want to lose what has become a ‘way of life’ for them. As an example, in Northern Ireland, criminality grew as conflict declined and today the UK is left with a security problem which is principally criminal in nature rather than terroristic, and terrorist groups with global criminal commercial links remain. In this context I mentioned the IRA and North Korea. The IRA also has strong links to the FARC in Colombia and plays a pivotal role in the drugs trade in Northern Ireland with the inevitable consequences on society. These consequences impact tragically and directly on young people
Therefore as transnational threats increase around Abkhazia and globally the ingredients which make up these threats within the territory need to be accounted for. In this way Abkhazia will not only be able to stave off an explosion in organised crime in the future but can also play a useful role in regional stability.
Diasporal Policy and the Formation of the Abkhaz State Diasporal Policy and the Formation of the Abkhaz State
Yuri G. Argun
Since the end of the 20th century, as the USSR and Yugoslavia started falling apart, diasporal issues have been placed top of the agenda in the Eurasian region. In theory, “diaspora” (Greek term for “dispersion”) means that a significant part of a people (an ethnic community) stays or lives outside its country of origin, as a result of either the threat of genocide or particular political or social and historical factors. The term was first used to describe Jewish people living outside their historic homeland, i.e. not in Palestine. Later, it was also used to designate some “classical” groups, e.g. Armenians, Greeks etc. Nowadays the term “diaspora” has a wider meaning.
In the second part of the 19th century, after the mass deportation of the mountain peoples of the North-West Caucasus that followed the Russian-Caucasian and the last Russian-Turkish wars, the majority of the Abkhaz and Adygs found themselves outside their historical territory: they were displaced to the Middle East and Europe. The north-western and central parts of Abkhazia were totally devastated. Ethnic groups and territorial communities of Sadz people who then lived on the coast near the modern cities of Sochi-Khosty, Adler, Gechripsh, Tsandripsh and Gagra, disappeared, and so did the mountain communities of Akhchipsui, Tsvidzh, Aibgovtsy, Chua, Khamysh, Pskhyvtsy, Dalts, Tsabalts, Gumts and others, as well as the Ubykh people who are closely related to the Abkhaz (Abasa) and used to live between the Shakhe and Khosta rivers. The Abazyn people, who lived in North Caucasus, were also displaced. But it was the Abkhaz from Bzbrsk and Abzhu who suffered the most.
Deported Abkhaz people (Abasa) were stricken by innumerable disasters and suffering – tens of thousands of people perished from hunger, cold and epidemics. Abkhaz who were expelled but remained in their homeland were groundlessly accused of “treachery” and “betrayal” by the tsarist regime. Those who remained were declared a “guilty” and “temporary” population of the country and were thus stripped of the right to settle in the central and coastal parts of Abkhazia. Like the other mountain peoples, the expelled Abkhaz were prohibited from returning to their homeland. A resolution by Emperor Alexander II read: “A return is inconceivable”. Despite the ban, thousands of Abkhaz would overcome many hurdles and reach the Abkhaz coast from Turkey, but the tsarist administration sent them back.
Thus, on 12 August 1880 the ship Agios Petros sailed from Turkey to Batumi under a British flag. The ship, designed to carry 400 passengers, had three times this number on board – all poor Abkhaz, including four dead bodies. Because it was impossible to walk on the ship, people would crawl over one another like maggots. The smell was appalling: the ship had been cruising near the shore but the authorities never allowed her to anchor. The skipper was ordered to return immediately to Turkish waters. What’s more, the Caucasian governor sent an order from Tbilisi to “take all steps necessary to prevent the emigrants from stepping ashore” (Dzidzarzia, 1982, p. 389).
People, who had been left without food and water all this time, started dying. A leak appeared in the ship, and the water level in the hold rose by 1.5 arshins (about 1.5 m), but the tsar’s satraps did not waver: they fired gunshots on the ship as it was being toed to the Turkish shore by a steamer and convoyed by a military schooner, after which the convoy and the steamer returned to Batumi . . . Eventually, the skipper, wishing to unload his living cargo, approached the shoreline again, some 20 miles away from Batumi, and let all the Abkhaz disembark onto the rocks, where there was no water, or food, or plants or a road. Having spent 20 days in such unbearable conditions, 178 people died, 200 men escaped and the remaining 750, mainly women and children, all exhausted, were sent to Batumi. That was how Abkhaz settlements appeared near Batumi in the end of the 19th century.
The issue of the exiled Abkhaz returning to their historic territories resurfaced after the Soviets came to power. Inspired by the restoration of the Abkhaz state, a group of Abkhaz from Greek Macedonia addressed a letter to the Abkhaz authorities on 30 September 1925, asking to be returned to their homeland, i.e. to free Abkhazia. The first reaction of the relevant Soviet bodies was positive, but the issue proved to be so complex and thorny that attempts to address it lasted until 1931, when all vestiges of the appeal disappeared. The dreams of Macedonian Abkhaz to return to their ancestral land were dashed: the “father of nations” already had his own plans, according to which Abkhaz ancestral land was about to host another people, thus contributing to the Abkhaz linguistic and ethnic assimilation. Interestingly, it was at the beginning of 1931 that Abkhazia was annexed to Georgia with an autonomous status, following an order by Stalin, and without consultation with its people. In such conditions, descendants of the exiled Abkhaz, of course, were not in a position to raise the repatriation issue.
So, neither in tsarist times, nor in the Soviet era were any Abkhaz (Abasa) officially able to return to their ancestral land. At the same time, Georgia, having eliminated the Abkhaz authorities, systematically and massively peopled Abkhazia with Megrelians and Georgians. With Stalin’s aid Georgians were returned even from Iran, whereas the letter that Abkhaz (Abasa) living abroad had sent to the highest echelons of authority in the USSR remained unanswered until Gorbachev’s time.
To date, hundreds of thousands of descendants of the deported Abkhaz (Abasa) live abroad, many of whom are willing to return to their historical homeland, but find their route back closed. As per Mr Shevardnadze’s order No. 140 of 31 January 1996, Sukhum sea port and airport are closed. The same applies to foreign nationals wishing to cross the Abkhaz border from the Russian Federation via the Psou river. One might wonder if there are any descendants at all of the exiled Abkhaz who wish to return to their ancestral land? A mere two years after Georgian occupying troops were forced out and Abkhazia became an independent country, at a time when ships were still sailing between Sukhum and Trabzon, several thousand Abkhaz had returned to their historic homeland.
Paradoxically enough, whereas Georgia insists on a “dignified return of Georgians to Abkhazia” (with the friendly support of five world powers – Yu. A.), the Abkhaz are not allowed back to Abkhazia! Georgia demands that “Georgian refugees be returned to Abkhazia with due respect”, and that Abkhazia be returned to Georgia. Once again, it is trying to create a favourable situation in Abkhazia - using demagogy, tricks and terror – with a view to realising a century-old dream of enlarging its territory at Abkhazia’s expense and assimilating the Abkhaz into the Georgian ethno- cultural sphere. And the international community is simply turning a blind eye!
Meanwhile the Abkhaz authorities, of their own volition, have allowed the return of more than 50 thousand Georgians to Gal region. This is despite the fact that Georgia contested this humanitarian action, because it wants these Georgian colonists to return to Abkhazia under the Georgian flag. Unfortunately, this humanitarian step by Abkhazia was exploited in order to establish a favourable context for the Georgian special services to perpetrate terror acts, murders and kidnappings in the Gal region. All these crimes are being perpetrated because there is no condemnation of Georgian state terrorism in this region on the part of the international community and no action taken against it.
During the post-war decade the Abkhaz people has made its final choice. After the Georgian occupying forces had been forced out of Abkhaz territory, the Abkhaz Supreme Council adopted a constitution in which it is stated that “the Republic of Abkhazia (Apsny) is a sovereign democratic state run under the rule of law and encompassing the historical right of people to free self-determination”. Later on, in a referendum held on 3 October 1999, 97.9% of the voters voted in favour of the constitution now in force. Based on the referendum results, the Abkhaz parliament adopted the Act on State Independence of the Republic of Abkhazia on 12 October 1999. All three branches of power are now functioning: the legislative, executive and judiciary, as in any modern and civilised state.
In Abkhazia, the rule of law and a civil society are taking root, the economy is strengthening, state institutions are being improved, different parties and political movements are active, including opposition forces; alongside the state media, dozens of independent newspapers and magazines are printed taking on current issues, among others, on the need to improve state structures etc. But to form a fully-fledged modern civil society, an attribute of democracy, it is necessary to have international support as well as the support of the numerous Abkhaz diaspora, which, in turn, needs repatriation. So, today one of the most important problems facing Abkhazia is ensuring the return the descendants of the 19th century Abkhaz refugees to their historic homeland, because otherwise all prospects of maintaining and developing the Abkhaz ethnicity will be jeopardised. We hope for the support of the international community and its good will to solve this very important problem.
An independent democratic state with the rule of law is not a goal in itself but a necessary condition for the survival and further existence of the Abkhaz people, for the development and flourishing of its unique culture, its language, customs, traditions etc. The Abkhaz people have long realised it, which is eloquently confirmed by historical facts: after the Russian-Caucasian war ended in 1864, the tsarist government soon eliminated the Abkhaz princedom (the last in the Caucasus). The Russian administration started introducing customs that were foreign to the Abkhaz. The people responded with a rebellion in 1866. It is worthy of note that the Abkhaz people has a long and established tradition of statehood and has never abandoned its fight to restore it. Generation after generation, for the last 140 years, the Abkhaz have been struggling to restore their state in order to safeguard their ethnicity and culture. This is proven by undeniable facts.
Abkhaz rebellions in 1866 and 1877-187; the participation of an Abkhaz company in the "Wild Cherkess division" on the Russian side in World War I, the aim of which was to rehabilitate the Abkhaz people*;the creation of the first revolutionary Kiaraz detachment immediately after the tsar’s abdication, and its engagement in expelling the occupying forces of the Georgian Democratic Republic from Abkhazia in 1918-1921 as well as in the installation of the Soviet authorities in the region, the proclamation of an independent Soviet Socialist Republic of Abkhazia (SSR Abkhazia) on 31 March 1921 and the recognition of Abkhaz independence by Georgian SSR; the meeting in Duripsh in 1931 and a protest against the annexation of Abkhazia as an autonomy within a united Georgia; the issue of excluding Abkhazia from a united Georgia and its joining the Russian Federation, which provoked the poisoning of the head of the Abkhaz government, N.Lacob, in Tbilisi by Leonty Beria on Stalin’s instructions at the end of 1936 and then, again, repression of the Abkhaz political leadership, national intelligentsia, advanced peasantry; letters; appeals; protests; conventions in 1947,1953,1956, 1957, 1978, 1989, to name but a few. The steady and acute character of the issues raised by the Abkhaz and the various appeals made to the respective political authorities were exceptional in the former Soviet Union. For good reason.
From the beginning of the 20th century on and especially under Stalin’s totalitarian regime, the percentage of ethnic Abkhaz in Abkhazia shrank from 55.3% at the end of the 19th century to 15.1% in 1959, whereas the number of Georgians increased from 500 in 1886 to 240,000 in 1989.ethnicnamed In their own homeland, the Abkhaz became the fourth ethnic group after Georgians, Russians and Armenians. This became impossible after the incorporation of Abkhazia into a united Georgia - officially as an autonomy, but, in reality, without any rights. At this time, more particularly after political power was dismantled in Abkhazia in 1937, a special organisation, “Abkhazpereselenstroy”, was created and tasked with carrying out an organised and massive relocation of Georgians to Abkhazia, the costs of which were to be covered by the state. It was not until then that compact Georgian settlements appeared around the Abkhaz villages, changing dramatically the demographic situation. It was back then that the transfer of the Abkhaz alphabet to Georgian script started, radio broadcasts in Abkhaz were stopped, Abkhaz schools closed, geographical names were given a Georgian slant, and an active falsification of Abkhaz history started.
Many years have elapsed since then yet nothing has changed either in the mentality of the Georgian authorities or in that of a part of the writing intelligentsia. Attempts to dictate things to Abkhazia continue: either the country is called “Georgia”, or the Abkhaz are called a Georgian tribe, or the Abkhaz are said to have left the mountains and come to Abkhazia only a couple of centuries ago or else they say that both Georgians and Abkhaz are indigenous peoples etc. The international community and the friends of Georgia seem unreceptive to the idea of Abkhazia’s independence but they are very keen “to maintain Georgian territorial integrity”, an artificial creation from totalitarian times, even though Abkhaz and Ossetians would have to be eliminated in the process. The support from the “friends” of the Georgian administration is understandable to some extent; the country’s former leader, during his time as a USSR Minister of Foreign Affairs betrayed the country’s interests, contributing to its collapse and to German reunification. The question is why Abkhazia, having done nothing more than merely make use of its right to self-determination, is associated with all that?
Unfortunately, Georgian society today is stricken by a terrible sickness going by the name of aggressive nationalism: it is not in a position to think normally or build relationships with its neighbouring countries. This disease translates not only into absurd and unscientific theories with regard to the history of Abkhazia and the Abkhaz people, but also into lying to its own people and into the use of children and women in the government’s risky policies. In 1930s-40s the Germans sustained the Nazi movement that brought Hitler to power. Today, the German people and government, having come to realise the evils of Hitler’s troops, are paying compensation to former Nazi concentration camp prisoners. In the course of the 20th century, Georgia committed so many crimes against the Abkhaz (it occupied Abkhaz territory on two occasions, it perpetrated genocide on the Abkhaz people and its culture and it has been trying to deprive them from the holiest of all things – from their homeland) that a condemnation by the international society would be only appropriate, but alas …
At the same time, the Abkhaz have legitimate claims against the Georgian authorities. In the first place, they concern the removal of economic and political sanctions that were introduced against a ruined Abkhazia by the heads of CIS states on 19 January 1996, following a request by the head of Georgia, since these sanctions are premeditated, illegal and directed against the Abkhaz people. They further require that the directive of the Georgian president to close Sukhum sea port and airport be withdrawn. We also need to bring to the international tribunal in The Hague the issue of monetary compensation to be paid by Georgia for damages resulting from its military aggression against Abkhazia in 1992-93. According to the preliminary data, the economic damage suffered by Abkhazia during the military onslaught amounts to some 11.4 bn US dollars.
Only a sovereign democratic state and the rule of law may provide a reliable guarantee of the physical and ethnic survival of the Abkhaz people as well as its further cultural revival and the protection of the rights and freedoms of all peoples living in Abkhazia. The recognition of Abkhaz independence by the international community will be the main guarantee of the survival and further flourishing of the Abkhaz people.
In order to ensure decent conditions for the Abkhaz in their historic homeland, the People’s Assembly – the Abkhaz parliament – adopted a special directive “On the act of Abkhaz (Abasa) deportation in the 19th century” on 15 October 1997, blaming the mass extermniation and deportation of the Abkhaz (Abasa) to the Ottoman empire in the 19th century as an act of genocide, the worst crime against humanity.
According to the convention adopted by the UN General Assembly on 28 July 1951, the Abkhaz (Abasa) who were deported in the 19th century are recognised as refugees. Furthermore, the document establishes an “inalienable right of the descendants of the Abkhaz deported in the 19th century to a free and unimpeded return to their historic motherland”. For the successors of more than 300 thousand Abkhaz (Abasa) deported in the 19th century are considered refugees according to contemporary international law, and have the right to return to their historic homeland.
Today, we are once again calling upon the UN, OSCE, CIS and other international organisations and the Russian Federation, as the successor of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, to provide the necessary material and humanitarian aid to allow the free and unimpeded repatriation and integration of the descendants of the Abkhaz (Abasa) deported in the 19th century to their historic homeland.
Considering the above, I believe that it is necessary to include the issue of repatriation of the Abkhaz to their historical territory into the scope of negotiations being held to settle the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict, i.e., the necessity to ensure their free and unimpeded return to Abkhazia. This issue is all the more urgent since the State Committee on the Abkhaz repatriation as well as the Abkhaz Mission in Turkey have received several thousand applications from the members of the Abkhaz diaspora, asking the President of the Abkhaz Republic to grant them Abkhaz citizenship and to allow them to return to their historic homeland.
Ten years after it was proclaimed, the Abkhaz Republic is now demonstrating its vitality, its ability to solve the most complex problems with regard to the revival and development of the economy, notwithstanding its dilapidated infrastructure, its economic and political isolation and the suspension of external trading links. A revival process is now underway, which extends beyond the economy and includes the establishment of the rule of law, the development of civil society and improvements to state institutions.
Democratic rule has now become an integral part of all aspects of Abkhaz society. Abkhazia can now definitely be called a sovereign state. Of course, there are still problems to be solved and issues to be addressed. Yet to tackle this agenda, it is necessary to have the support of the international community.
Having said that, let me answer a rather delicate question, what would happen if Georgia accepted Abkhaz independence? First of all, this would strengthen Georgia’s authority within the Caucasus and worldwide. Secondly, it would be possible to talk about taking measures to promote trust between the Georgians and Abkhaz peoples. Thirdly, it would contribute to the economic revival of the conflicting countries and help them to tackle their social problems. It is a truism: it is better to have a good neighbour than have an enemy as a neighbour! If Georgia still intends to annex Abkhazia either with foreign support or by using force, this is not going to happen. Nothing can be achieved by force these days, not even by superpowers: neither the USA in Vietnam, nor the USSR in Afghanistan were successful, and neither would Georgia be in Abkhazia. Sooner or later, Georgia will have to recognise Abkhaz independence, because there are no other options left, and the sooner it does, the better – for Georgia itself and, of course, for Abkhazia.
Finally, it is pure fantasy to try and take your neighbour’s homeland, Abkhazia in this case, and offer them instead the broadest autonomy, i.e. to outfox them. The Abkhaz are sick and tired of hearing about the right to autonomy - they had had enough of this in Soviet times under Stalin. Stalin and the Soviets belong to the past. The present is a de-facto independent Abkhazia and an independent Georgia. Building a normal relationship between the two countries would be advantageous for Abkhazia, for Georgia, for the Caucasus and the world as a whole. All other speculations about the Abkhaz land are doomed to failure. The decision to grant independence to Algeria was not an easy one for the French government yet, having realised the futility of suppressing the national liberation movement by military means, in September 1959 France recognised the right of the Algerian people to self-determination. As early as 18 March 1962, after an Algerian referendum that had supported its self-determination, both countries signed an agreement on future economic and cultural co-operation. Abkhazia has gone through the necessary stages – it is up to Georgia now to make the next move. We have not lost hope in its ability to reason.
* The Abkhaz squadron was awarded a George’s cross for their “humanity in war”.
The ethno-demographic aspect of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict The ethno-demographic aspect of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict
Teymuraz A. Achugba
The Georgian-Abkhaz conflict is one of the most intractable of all the post-Soviet conflicts. The historic origins of this confrontation are inextricably connected to the ethno-demographic cataclysms in Abkhazia at the end of the 19th century: the mass deportation of the Abkhaz and the ensuing colonization of Abkhazia. The ethno-demographic aspect, namely, the ratio of different ethnic groups in the total population of Abkhazia largely determined the character of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict and the levels of tension in it. It was the demographic dominance of Georgians in Abkhazia, resulting from the artificial resettlement of Georgians and the ‘Georgianisation’ of some of the Abkhaz, which became the decisive factor transforming the Georgian-Abkhaz confrontation into a full scale war between Abkhazia and Georgia. The ethno-demographic factor still plays a significant role at the present stage of the G-A conflict resolution. Even today Georgia cannot accept the loss of political control over Abkhazia, nor the exodus from Abkhazia of the majority of its Georgian population who formed the military and political foundation of its colonial regime in Abkhazia.
It all began when the vast majority of the Abkhaz were expelled into the Ottoman empire, as a result of the tsarist Russia’s colonial policies in the Caucasus. Abkhazia became the object of mass colonization. The Russian Empire intended to populate the abandoned Abkhaz lands, known at the time as the ‘Black Sea’s dead coast’ with mainly Russian settlers who were the most reliable category of settlers, both militarily and politically. It soon turned out, however, that for a variety of reasons – geographical, climatic, cultural and others, the Russian peasant settlers were not destined to become the dominant population of Abkhazia. The inhabitants of the neighbouring Georgia were quick to seize the opportunity to settle Abkhaz lands.
It was during this process of developing and settling the lands abandoned by the indigenous peoples of the Caucasus (the Abkhaz, Ubykh, Adyg etc) that the Georgian intelligentsia began to acquire its colonial mentality. Back in 1873 the Georgian writer and collumnist Georgii Tsereteli explained to the readers of his newspaper that the whole of the Caucasus was the native land of the Georgians, or ‘Georgian land.’ In 1879 the same author expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that Russia ‘was trying to appropriate the deserted lands of our Caucasus along the Caspian and Black Sea coasts, which used to be occupied by the Georgian nation’. In fact, he was speaking of the demographic expansion of the Georgians into Abkhazia and the assimilation of those Abkhaz, who had escaped exile, with a view to appropriate their native land/motherland.
It is a paradox, that the actions taken by the dependent Georgia, aimed at the resettlement of the Georgian population in Abkhazia and the process of the ‘Georgianisation’ of the Abkhaz, pursued long term political aims – to incorporate Abkhazia into the future Georgian state. At the turn of the century this aspiration was shared by many Georgian parties: the Constitutional Democratic Party, the Social Federative Party, the Social Democratic Party etc.
The resettlement of Georgians in Abkhazia took place on a mass scale. It was no accident that the Georgian newspaper ‘Shroma’ considered Georgian acquisition of the land in Abkhazia and Circassiya as ‘one of the most wonderful events’ in the life of the Georgian nation. On 4 Feburary 1879 another newspaper, the ‘Droeba’, urged its readers: ‘Let us expand while there is still time to do it, before other peoples come and settle the empty spaces of our Caucasus.’ While the aforementioned issue of ‘Shroma’ pleaded with its readers: ‘Send us lots of Rachintsy, Lechkhumtsians, Upper Imeretians and Mingrelians from our mountainous regions!’
Overall, according to reports in the Georgian press, by the end of 19th century the Mingrelians and Imeretians occupied ‘best lands’ in the Sukhum okrug . Even on the public land settled by the Russian, German, Mingrelian, Greek, Estonian, Armenian and other ‘colonists’, Mingrelians constituted’ if not the largest, then the second largest nationality.’
This was the process of turning the mono-ethnic Abkhazia into a multiethnic . Hand in hand with the settlement of the land, went measures to assimilate the Abkhaz. On the insistence of the Georgian public services were held and classed taught in Georgian in the majority of the churches and church schools in Abkhazia. Moreoever, Georgian priests used to change the names of the newborn and repeatedly baptized Abkhaz babies, or simply register them according to the Mingrelian fashion. For example, they would change Abkhaz surnames adding the endings ‘aia’, ‘ia’, ‘va’ etc.
In order to carry out the ‘Georginisation’ of the Abkhaz and their country, the history of the indigenous population of Abkhazia was falsified. According to the author of the 1907 book ‘Abkhazia is not Georgia’ ‘in recent times a whole range of Georgian authors have addressed the Russian public with booklets and articles, proving that the Abkhaz live on the Georgian coast of the Black Sea and that Abkhazia is a province of Georgia, while the Abkhaz language and people are of Georgian origin.’ Written sources dating back to the beginning of the 20th century testify to Abkhaz dissatisfaction with these Georgian actions in Abkhazia. For instance, there is a reference to one occasion when the new head of the Sukhum okrug, an ethnic Georgian called Djandieri, ‘demanded that the Abkhaz should declare that they expressly wish to have their local self government carried out in Georgian’, the Abkhaz refused to do this. Moreover, they came fully armed to Sukhum and announced that if the Georgians ‘did not stop the revolution they were going to cut their throats’. Although this threat calmed down passions in Sukhum and Georgia, Djandieri recommended eight Abkhaz princes for deportation, as a punishment for these actions.
The new wave of Georgian settlement of Abkhazia continued to the turn of the century. It acquired a more organized and purposeful nature with the restoration of Georgian sovereignty in 1918. Immediately after the occupation of Abkhazia in June 1918, the Georgian Menshevik authorities used repressive measures against the Abkhaz in order to start an organized resettlement of Georgian peasants from different regions of Georgia in Abkhazia. The specially created resettlement departments in Tbilisi and Sukhum, financed by the Georgian government, allocated available land plots to the new settlers as a matter of urgency. They also expelled Greeks and Armenians from Abkhazia, buying their houses, estates and other property at low prices.
After the establishment of the Soviet rule in Abkhazia and the creation of the independent Soviet Socialist Republic on 31 March 1921, the mass influx of Georgian settlers into Abkhazia was temporarily stalled.
However, in 1931 after the Abkhaz SSR was incorporated into the Georgian SSR, as an autonomous entity, the process of artificial assimilation of the indigenous population of Abkhazia again became more active, together with the planned resettlement of Georgians, Mingrelians and Svans with the knowledge and the support of the highest echelons of Soviet political power. As a result, the Georgian authorities succeeded in changing the ethnodemographic situation in favour of the Georgians. The Abkhazpereselnstroj resettlement department which functioned for almost two decades built over 50 large settlements in Abkhazia. Georgian settlers who served as envoys of the smaller Georgian empire, became a tool for the colonisation and Georgianisation indigenous population of Abkhazia. There is no doubt that the geography and the structure of Georgian settlements in Ochamchiry, Gudauty and Gagry - regions with the predominantly Abkhaz population, the compact nature of these settlements, their monoethnic character, their position inside and in between the Abkhaz villages, along car and railway routes etc, fulfilled the de-ethnisizing function in the times of peace. It acquired a military and strategic dimension when the Abkhaz showed resistance against the assimilatory practices of the Georgian authorities. All this would be considered genocide under modern international law. In the period of 20 years between the 1939 and 1959 General Census, the number of Georgians in Abkhazia increased by 66.2 thousand people. This was 5 thousand more than the increase in the numbers of the Abkhaz who lived on their historic native land at the time. It is worth noting that from 1886 and until 1959, i.e., over a period of 73 years, the number of the Abkhaz living in Abkhazia increased by 2.2 thousand people, while the Georgians, Mingrelians and Svans – by 154.2 thousand people (see table).
Under the Soviet regime, like in Tsarist Russia, representatives of many ethnic groups - Russians, Armenians, Greeks, Laz, Ukrainians, Estonians, Turks, Tatars and others - were keen to settle in Abkhazia. In the 1940s, however, Germans, Turks, Tatars, Greeks and Laz were exiled by the Stalinist regime to Central Asia and Kazakhstan, as well as to some regions in Siberia. Their houses and flats, together with the rest of their property, were given to the new settlers from Georgia, free of charge. After the rehabilitation of the repressed peoples in 1956 the Georgian authorities tried to opposed their return to Abkhazia. For example, the majority of the Greeks were not allowed to go back. For information: according to official statistics in 1939there were 34.6 thousand Greeks in Abkhazia, but only 9.1 thousand of them remained in 1959. The entire repressed nations of Turks, Tatars and Germans were not allowed to go back to Abkhazia, whereas only those Laz who officially changed their ethnisity from Laz to Georgian were allowed back. Earlier, at the end of 1930s, the 40 thousand Abkhaz, as well as Mingrelians and Svans who lived in the Gali region , were registered as Georgians, unbeknown to them. Therefore, unlike the 1886, 1897 and 1926 census, later censuses lack information about Mingrelians, Svans and Laz.
The settlement of Abkhazia by representatives of other nationalities, in particular, the Georgians, continued, although the process was not as active as in Stalin’s time. The strategic course for demographic expansion pursued by the Georgian authorities remained unchanged – namely, to solve the problem of the final annexation of Abkhazia by reducing to the minimum the proportion of the Abkhaz in the overall population of the republic.
The last general census, held in 1989, once again demonstrated that the rate of growth of the Georgian population was much higher the rate of growth of the Abkhaz. According to the 1989 census, there were 93.3 thousand Abkhaz and 239.9 thousand Georgians in the republic. In other words, compared with the previous census (1979), the proportion of the former increased from 17.1% to 17.8%, while the proportion of the latter – from 43.9% to 45.7%. The proportion of Russians, Armenians, Greeks and other nationalities decreased both as a result of their slow expulsion from Abkhazia, and of the artificial boosting of the Georgian population. Due to the exodus of the representatives of non-Georgian ethnic groups from Abkhazia to other republics, their numbers in 1990-1991 decreased by another 6.7 thousand people.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union these trends in the ethnodemographic process in Abkhzia were openly encouraged by the Georgian authorities.Under their direct patronage Georgian ultranationalist parties and movements blackmailed the non-Georgian population, forcing them to sell their houses and flats and leave the republic. There is no doubt that the first and foremost motive for the Georgian-Abkaz confrontation in June 1989, provoked by the Georgian leadership, was to ‘cleanse’ Abkhazia of all the non-Georgians, including the Abkhaz. In the majority of cases the former homes of those expelled were purchased by a variety of public bodies (the Georgian Demographic Society , the Kostava Foundation and so on) with the financial, administrative and legal assistance of the Georgian government. The aim was to sell them on to Georgian nationals brought over to Abkhazia. In order to carry out an organized immigration of people to Abkhazia a number of illegal immigration bodies operated in Abkhazia from 1989: the Immigration/Resettlement Committee of the Abkhaz region and the All Georgia Committee for large and landless families.
Subsequent changes in the ethnodemographic situation in Abkhazia according to the plan set by the regime should have brought the leaders of the Georgian chauvinists to their cherished dream – to exceed the 50% threshold in the ratio of the Georgian population in Abkhazia. This would have allowed them to resolve cultural, ethnic and political problems such as the ‘Georgianisation’ of the Abkhaz, abolition of Abkhaz statehood and incorporation of Abkhazia into the unitary Georgian state.
The collapse of the Soviet Union, however, untied the hands of aggressive nationalists in Georgia to take more radical steps. In their haste to accelerate the events and relying on the huge mass of the Georgian population in Abkhazia they decided to finalise the ‘Abkhaz problem’ by means of military aggression. The G-A war (1992-1993), unleashed by the Georgian government, was a real humanitarian catastrophe for the multiethnic population of Abkhazia. The Georgian military and political leaders adhering to the principle ‘Abkhazia without the Abkhaz’ were carrying out a premeditated extermination of the Abkhaz people as such. The commander-in-chief of the Georgian occupation forces in Abkhazia G.Karkarashvili said in his TV address on 25 August 1992 that he intended to exterminate the whole 97 thousand of the Abkhaz. The colonel’s statement was backed up by deeds. The occupation forces did not spare anyone: neither children, nor women, nor old people; they erased all traces of Abkhaz settlements. At the same time they were expelling representatives of other non-Georgian nationalities from Abkhazia.
As for the Georgian population of Abkhazia, the vast majority of them, as expected, took an active part in the war on the Georgian government’s side. The Georgian military units set up before the war comprised of local young people and Georgian members of the Ministry of the Interior joined the regular Georgian army and police forces on the very first day. A wide scale recruitment campaign was started to set up new units staffed with local Georgians. One of the leaders of the Georgian population in Abkhazia, an active supporter of the Georgian intervention, reported with glee at the beginning of their military campaign that the ‘intervention of the Georgian army units has cheered up the Georgian population. We are now hopeful that we are not alone. Events of 14 August have put all Georgians – Zviadists or not – on the same side of the barricades!’
Numerous documents left behind by Georgian forces are a testimony to the fact that dozens of battalions and companies, comprised of local Georgians, were used against the Abkhaz. It is worth noting that if at the beginning of the military campaign the bulk of the occupation forces consisted of Georgians coming from all over Georgia, gradually their number decreased due to the active involvement of local commissariats . By the beginning of 1993 the 23d and 24th mechanised units, the whole of the 2nd army corps of the Georgian forces as well as the police units which constituted the basis of the Georgian military machine in Abkhazia, were staffed almost entirely by the local Georgians. The inhabitants of the Georgian settlements created in Stalin’s time were particularly active in setting up local military units and were noted for their violence and cruelty.
The Georgian settlers, brainwashed by the aggressive ideologues of Georgian nationalism carried out premeditated, ethnically motivated murders, looting, tortures, mostly against the Abkhaz. Their aggressive nationalism and xenophobia, condoned by the Georgian government, reached unprecedented levels. Mass murders, burning of people alive, rape, tortures, unprecedented in their cruelty, became a common occurrence. During this premeditated annihilation of the Abkhaz, the Georgians, as a rule, did not spare even their own neighbours, acquaintances, childhood friends and former classmates. All these actions were directed at cleansing Abkhazia and purging the Abkhaz. The Georgian press itself, a faithful servant of the Georgian strategic interests to restore the former minor empire, did not attempt to hide the terrible results of this ethnic cleansing in the occupied territories. The Shansi newspaper wrote, for example: ‘ We examined the battlefield in Stary Kyndgy. There is no village any more, just the charred remains of what was a village. Burnt down houses, trees, desecrated graves, no signs of life. Not a soul, no cattle, large or small. Not even a stray dog. In short, there is not much to say, it felt like Khatyn . Although this is just a beginning, Kindgy is fiction/fantasy compared with Tamysh.’
In order to exterminate the Abkhaz as a nation and as a state, the occupation forces used the Georgian population for a variety of purposes and not purely as a military tool. Practically all the Georgians, who had worked in the public sector, industry, various state departments and organizations joined the aggressors with enthusiasm. A military regime was introduced in numerous enterprises, factories, academic and other establishments. They began the production of armaments, ammunition, military uniforms etc. The police, prosecutor’s offices and the courts began to ‘enforce law and order’ Georgian-style – i.e. to punish the Abkhaz and to pardon the Georgians. The so-called ‘capture groups’ and ‘ filtration units’ arrested innocent civilians. The Abkhaz were being hunted down, removed from their homes, picked up in the streets and taken to different ‘headquarters’, where they would be beaten up. Some died; others disappeared without trace; others miraculously survived, but the experience had left them morally and physically handicapped.
Georgian authorities and their puppet structures in Abkhazia paid particular attention to the ‘Georgianisation’ of the occupied territory. Apart from the methodic and purposeful process of turning multiethnic settlements into purely Georgian villages and townships, the Georgian ‘partiots’ were at pains to change street names a la Georgian. Some official documents used the term “Abkhaz region’ or even “Sukhumi region’ instead of Abkhazia. During the war the media, as well as various meetings and demonstrations emphasized that Abkhazia was an inseparable part of Georgia, while the Abkhaz were arrivals from beyond the mountains, occupants of Georgian land, with whom there could be no coexistence in the future.
All these actions were masterminded and carried out by local Georgians, without the need of any prompting from above. They could not hide their joy at the fact that the ancient dream of the Georgian nation’s ‘forefathers’, including those of the 20th century, to appropriate Abkhazia, was coming true.
As a result of the genocide and ethnic cleansing, there was hardly any Abkhaz population remaining in the occupied territories, including the towns of Sukhum, Gagra and Ochamchira. The overall numbers of non-Georgians had also significantly reduced.
The active part played by the local Georgian population in the war and crimes committed by them against the Abkhaz decided the exodus of the majority of the Georgians from Abkhazia after the defeat of the Georgian army. The Georgian press had mentioned such a scenario at the very onset of the hostilities. “If the forces are withdrawn from Abkhazia before the settlement is achieved, the whole Georgian population – all the 250 thousand of them - would follow.”
The Georgian side artificially inflates the number of Georgian refugees from Abkhazia to 300 000, following the principle ‘the end justifies the means’. The exaggerated estimates of IDPs and the complaints of the Georgian authorities about their poor living conditions, is one of the levers to exert political and moral pressure on the international community and on the Abkhaz authorities. In other words, while there are Georgian refugees, there is an Abkhaz problem/issue.’ One of the Council of Europe’s documents on Georgia clearly states that “Georgia considers that any improvement in the living conditions of the refugees would weaken the international pressure exerted on the Abkhaz authorities and as such would deprive them of any chances of ever going back.” In reality, however, the number of Georgians living in Abkhazia in 1989 was nearing 200 thousand people, not 240 thousand, as stated in the reports of that year’s General Census (in other words, about 40 thousand Abkhaz had been counted as Georgians). At present there are around 80 thousand Kartvels (Georgians, Mingrelians and Svans) in Abkhazia, whereas the number of the Kartvelian population remaining outside Abkhazia is around 120 thousand. One has to bear in mind, however, that half of those live abroad, either in near abroad, mostly, Russia, or overseas. Moreover, the majority of these Georgians - former inhabitants of Abkhazia – have been granted Georgian, Russian, Ukrainian and other citizenships – therefore relinquishing their refugee status.
At present therefore, refugee status applies only to tens of thousands of those who have left Abkhazia, or even fewer. It would be wrong, therefore, to call all those, who left the Abkhaz territory during the war, refugees.
‘Georgian refugees’ exacerbate their situation even further by participating in various terrorist cells and groups set up by the Georgian secret services, the so-called partisan units, which have been carrying out subversive and terrorist activities on Abkhaz territory ever since the war, and have taken active part in May 1998 hostilities in the Gali region and in October 2001 events in the Kodori Gorge.
Crimes already committed and those which are still being committed by ‘refugees’ against the Abkhaz state and its people, and their unwillingness to be part of the independent Abkhazia are the main reason for the majority of the Georgian population from Abkhazia to support the military solution of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict. Sadly the Georgian public is also not ready or, more likely, does not want to make an objective assessment of the whole tragedy of the Georgian-Abkhaz confrontation, today or in the foreseeable future. Georgia does not intend to accept the blame/responsibility for the acts committed against the Abkhaz people over several decades, including the period of the Goergian-Abkhaz. war. Unfortunately, almost the entire Georgian society supports the idea of putting into practice the slogan of annexing Abkhazia and punishing the Abkhaz with the help of international forces and international courts. The more kind hearted Georgian public figures instead of the idea of using physical violence against the Abkhaz favour the idea of the gradual disappearance of the Abkhaz people inside the Georgian nation through ‘grafting the Abkhaz’ onto the Georgians. According to the Director of the Georgian-Abkhaz Institute in Tbilisi Zurab Shengeliya, “the space in which Abkhaz culture exists and develops is much more Georgian than Russian. In other words, when a plant is close to degeneration it has to be grafted onto a kindred but stronger stock.”
The return of the revanchist ‘Georgian refugees’ to Abkhazia would inevitably lead to the resumption of new large scale hostilities between Georgia and Abkhazia, as well as to unpredictable and tragic consequences for the whole of the Caucasus region.
In this far from the ordinary situation around “Georgian refugees’, the Georgian government and international organizations who have an interest in resolving the conflict should exercise political wisdom. Instead of trying to force the return of the refugees to Abkhazia and reanimating the ethnodemographic situation which existed before the war and which contributed to the conflict they should deal with settling the repatriated people in Georgia, the historic motherland of the Georgian people.
Such a solution of the artificially protracted refugee problem could open a way to the mutual recognition of Georgia and Abkhazia as two independent states and to a honourable resolution of the conflict between two neighbouring nations and countries.
Population by nationality in Abkhazia - changes from 1886 to 1989
Source: The General Census ( in thousands of people)
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Abkhazia’s Statehood in the Post-Soviet Period Abkhazia’s Statehood in the Post-Soviet Period
T.M. Shamba, A.U. Neproshin
The break up of the Soviet Union in 1990 sharply changed the state system and political situation in the country. The government of the USSR, understanding that an irreversible process was taking place under the influence of centrifugal forces, and seeking to impart to it a civilized character, wrote a law defining an order to the exit of republics from the USSR (it must be remembered that the Constitution of the USSR was written with such events in view, but the order of their realization had not been worked out). The newly legalized standards for exit from the structure of the USSR were promulgated in union republics, as well as in autonomous ones that were part of union republics, and regulated according to the law of the USSR of 3 April, 1990 “On the procedure of deciding questions connected with the exit of united republics from the USSR”, (Vedomosti VC USSR, No. 15, April 1990, pp. 252).
Article 3. In a union republic, being composed of autonomous republics, autonomous regions and autonomous districts, a referendum is carried out separately in each autonomous body. The people of autonomous republics and autonomous formations have the right to independently decide the question of remaining in the USSR or of leaving, and also to raise the question of their state-legal status.
Article 6. In a union republic, being composed of autonomous republics, autonomous regions and autonomous districts or compact residence areas of national groups, mentioned in the second part of article 3 of the present law, the results of the referendum are considered by the Supreme Soviet of the union republic in conjunction with the Supreme Soviet of the autonomous republic and corresponding Councils of deputies.
Article 9. The Congress of the deputies of the USSR, by presentation of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, in coordination with the Supreme Soviet of the exiting republic, considers the results of the referendum in the union republic on the question of exit from the USSR, and also the opinions of the highest organs of governmental power of the union, the autonomous republic, and the organs of governmental power of the autonomous regions and territories. The Congress of the deputies of the people of the USSR sets the exiting period, not exceeding 5 years, in the course of which questions arising in connection with the exit of the republic must be decided.
Article 20. Upon the conclusion of the transition period or in case of a long term settlement of questions, provided for by the present law, the Supreme Soviet of the USSR gathers the Congress of the deputies of the people to make a decision, acknowledging the completion of the process in accordance with the interests and to the satisfaction of the claims of the exiting republic on one hand, and of the USSR, the united republic, and also the autonomous republic, autonomous formation or national group, mentioned in the second part of article 3 of the present law, on the other.
From the moment such a decision is made by the Congress of the deputies of the people of the USSR, the exit of the union republic from the USSR is considered as having taken place, and the deputies of the people of the USSR from the leaving republic lose their power. The Congress of the deputies of the people of the USSR brings the corresponding changes into the Constitution of the USSR (3 April 1990, Vedomosti of the Congress of the deputies of the people of the USSR and the High Soviet of the USSR, m., 1990, No. 15, pp. 303-308).
As is proper every condition necessary for the granting of sovereignty of every union and autonomous republic of the former USSR was provided for in this document. A resolution was also passed by the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on 3 April 1990, “Regarding the bringing into action of the law of the USSR “On the procedures for deciding questions connected to the exit of a uniion republic from the USSR.”” (Vedimosti of the Congress of the deputies of the people of the USSR and the High Soviet of the USSR, 1990, No. 15, pp. 252-253.)
It is understood that the procedure of exit of republics from the USSR, or from the union republic (with regard to autonomous republics) is also possible up to the time of the effective legalization of the law, but only in the case where this does not violate the interests of the parties concerned – the USSR, union or autonomous republics. If a violation of the rights and freedoms of one of the interested parties occurs, or if violations of one of the subjects of international law are recorded in the procedure of the exit of a country from treaty relations, the legal documents, on the basis of which have been carried out illegal acts, are considered illegitimate and invalid from their beginning. Georgia”s actions represent one of such cases.
In accordance with the law of procedure of exit from the USSR, autonomous republics, in the event of exiting a uniion republic of the USSR, possessed the right to independently decide the question of remaining in the USSR, and its own state-legal status. However, Georgia, violating the law of 3 April, 1990, passing a unilateral resolution, and deciding the issue of exit also for autonomous republics within her, left the Soviet Union. Up to the break up of the USSR, as is well known, Abkhazia raised the issue of the restoration of her status of a union republic, lost by the will of Stalin. Abkhazia not only did not want to exit form the USSR, but it voted for the preservation of the Soviet Union.
The Supreme Soviet of the Abkhazian Soviet Socialist Republic, realizing the illegality of the acts of Georgia, passed, on 25 August 1990, a Declaration on the state sovereignty of Abkhazia and a Resolution on the legal guarantees of protection of the safety of Abkhazia (Journal “Soviet Abkhazia” No.164, 28 August, 1990):
“The Declaration on the governmental sovereignty of the Abkhazian Soviet Socialist Republic was adopted by the 10th session of the Supreme Soviet of the Abkhazia ASSR, 11th summoning, on 25 August 1990.
. . . The Abkhazian Soviet Socialist Republic is a sovereign socialist state, created on the basis of the realization of the Abkhazian nation of her inalienable right to self-determination, and the command of the people in the determination of their own fate. The sovereignty of the Abkhazian Soviet Socialist Republic extends on the entire territory of the Abkhazian ASSR.
The Abkhazian Soviet Socialist Republic possesses all fullness of state power on its territory, aside from the rights voluntarily handed over by it to the USSR and the Georgian SSR on the bases of the treaties concluded with them . . .”
Leaving the USSR, Georgia illegally included the independent state of Abkhazia as one of its constituents, violating article 3 of the law “On the procedures of exit from the USSR,” and defying the basic norms of international law. Taking into account, that at that time the government of Georgia denounced all legislative acts passed in the period of the existence of the USSR and the RSFSR, beginning from 1921, the Abkhazian ASSR, introduced into the structure of the former Georgian SSR in 1931 as an autonomous republic, naturally should have been excluded from its constituency. This dictated also that Abkhazia, in accordance with Article 3 of the law “On the procedure of exit from the USSR,” accepted the decision to remain as part of the Soviet Union. In agreement with Article 2 a decision was made about the participation in the referendum of 17 March 1991 concerning the necessity of the preservation of the USSR as a renewed federation. The Abkhazian ASSR participated in this referendum in which, from 318 thousand people having the right to vote, more than 166 thousand took part (52.3% of the population), with 164, 231 people voting for the preservation of the USSR, i.e. 98.6%.
In accordance with Article 24 of the law of the USSR “On a nation-wide election (referendum) in the USSR,” the Central Referendum Commission established that the Republic of Abkhazia, with a majority of votes of its population, voted for the preservation of the USSR, and, correspondingly, to remain as one of its constituents.
Here it is necessary to say that even though the Georgian enclave of Abkhazia did not participate in the referendum, 51.6% of all the citizens having the right to vote spoke for the preservation of the Union.
In the resolution of the Supreme Soviet, arguments were cited confirming the illegality of the claims of Georgia with respect to the territory and statehood of independent Abkhazia, based on the historical process of development interrelations between these two countries. A series of decisions were passed further:
“1. To recognize that the Democratic Republic of Georgia, violating the treaty of 11 June, 1918, and also the agreement concluded earlier between the Abkhazian People’s Soviet and the National Soviet of Georgia of 9 February 1918, exercised in the second half of June 1918, military interference with the aim of forceful annexation of the territory of Abkhazia and of liquidating the independence of the Abkhazian people.
This act, violating the principle of international law, which forbids the annexation of a foreign territory by the use of force, was illegal.
2. To recognize illegal and invalid the part of the treaty, concerning the territory of Abkhazia, concluded between Georgia and the RSFSR on 7 May 1920 under conditions of military occupation of independent Abkhazia.
3. By the resolutions of the Supreme Soviet of the Georgian SSR of 18 November, 1989, of 9 March and of 20 June, 1990, all governmental structures that had been and were existing in Georgia since February 1921 were recognized illegal and invalid, from which logically follows that all contractual relations between Georgia and Abkhazia concluded by the former organs of state power are also illegal and the entry of Abkhazia into the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic lacked legal basis. Consequently, the lawful form of the state of Abkhazia is the Soviet Socialist Republic of Abkhazia, created by the free will of the people of Abkhazia and proclaimed on 21 March, 1921…”
The formal ties of Soviet Georgia and Soviet Abkhazia arose in a certain historical situation and in a natural way they lost their strength, together with the disappearance of the Soviet government from the historical arena.
It is necessary to note one more important factor, determining the membership and attachment of Abkhazia to the USSR – the citizenship of its people. For this it is necessary to address the historical background. It is well known that Abkhazia, as a region, department, or independent principality, was part of the Russian dominion in Transcaucasia, together with the Tiflis, Erivan, and other provinces of the Russian Empire. The peoples of these regions were subjects of Russia and there was no discussion of citizenship to other countries or double citizenship, and there could not be. The ethnicity of the peoples living there was retained.
With the collapse of yet another Empire and the rise of a new state – the Russian republic (this occurred on the 1st of September, 1917), her legitimate organ – the Provisional Government – introduced in the country, comprising all the territories of the Russian Empire, the institution of citizenship. These were large-scale changes in legal regulation, also with regard to the issue of citizenship. All the former citizens of the Russian state, including residents of Transcaucasia, which in it turn includes Abkhazia, from this date acquired a new status, they became citizens of Russia. From this moment the operation of a principle began – the attainment of Russian citizenship “by right of blood,” i.e. if parents who are citizens of Russia give birth to children, the citizenship of the parents is automatically extended to the children.
After the October revolution the newly formed state was identified as the lawful successor of the Russian Empire, and correspondingly of the Russian Republic, and retained the recently introduced institution of citizenship. By the Decree of 11 (24) November the division of residents into ranks and estates was abolished and the privileges corresponding to these categories were eliminated. At the same time, the title of “citizens of the RSFSR” was generally confirmed for all residents of the newly formed state – the Russian Federation. On the 10th of June 1918 the Constitution of the RSFSR was passed, proclaiming all those who were included earlier in the citizenship of the Russian Empire citizens of the new state, i.e., the identification of a new republic took place, confirming a lawful succession from tsarist Russia and from the Provisional government. However individuals of those states that hastened to be separated from the RSFSR (Ukraine, Belorussia, Georgia), in accordance with the law of citizenship, also continued to be considered her citizens. The governments of such countries – of separatists, in particular Georgia, having obtained sovereignty on May 26, 1918, and having established their own independent states, renounced Russian citizenship. At that time, not even an agreement with Georgia on the right of option was signed, an agreement which would have provided for the creation of a Georgian state on its exit from the Russian Republic, acknowledging the choice of this state by the population of Georgia. Similar treaties were signed only with Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, which, by the conditions of the Brest Peace, remained independent. Therefore also in this instance the norms of international law, concerning the procedure of exit of a country from another state, were violated by Georgia.
Abkhazia, as an independent, sovereign state, through the institution of citizenship, continued to remain in the RSFSR and her residents had only Russian citizenship. This citizenship was retained in the period from 1918 to 1921, the time of the annexation and occupation of Abkhazia by Georgia, as residents of Abkhazia in this period made no claims about refusing the citizenship of the RSFSR, or about acquiring Georgian citizenship, either in the capacity of primary or dual, together with Russian. Moreover, if such a fact had also taken place, in the conditions of annexation it would have been juridically insignificant.
Soviet power was restored in Abkhazia on the 4th of March, 1921, which is confirmed by the radiogram to V.I. Lenin, I.V. Stalin and G.V. Chicherin of 31 March, at which time the independent Soviet Socialist Republic Abkhazia also was proclaimed and formed at the first Congress of the Soviet of peasants and workers. From the moment of liberation of Abkhazia from Georgian occupation, i.e. from March 1921, the country makes a choice in favor of remaining in the RSFSR in the capacity of a Union Republic, preserving by this action Russian citizen status for the population of Abkhazia.
As subjects of international law, on the 16th of December, 1921 the SSR Abkhazia and the SSR Georgia signed a Union treaty, in agreement with which a union was concluded with the Georgian Republic on federated contractual bases. Part of responsibilities of the Republic of Abkhazia was given over into joint competence with Georgia. At the same time the sovereignty of the SSR of Abkhazia as well as her territorial integrity were preserved, and this had no effect on the citizenship of Abkhazians or other ethnic groups in the republic. The peoples of Soviet Abkhazia continued to possess Russian citizenship. At the moment of signing of the mentioned Union treaty Abkhazia and Georgia enjoyed the rights of equal states, not connected with one another in a legal relationship. They continued in such equality after the signing of the mentioned treaty until February 1931.
The union of the sovereign republics of Abkhazia and Georgia (which at that time was part of a federation of Transcaucasian states) on an equal bases was secured also in the Constitution of the SSR of Abkhazia (April, 1925), Article 5 of which reads: “the SSR Abkhazia is a sovereign state, bearing state power on its own territory independently from other powers. The sovereignty of the SSR of Abkhazia, in view of her voluntary entry into the Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (TSFSR) was restricted only in the limits and by the articles indicated in the constitutions of these Unions. . . .” Firstly, the residents of Abkhazia, from the realization of this unification, did not lose Abkhazian citizenship and did not obtain Georgian, and secondly, the voluntary entry on an equal basis provides also for an equal possibility of the exit of Abkhazia from this union.
The statute on citizenship of the USSR from 1931 acknowledged that each individual living on the territory of the USSR is recognized to be a citizen of the USSR if he does not have the citizenship of a foreign country. The same document included an additional decision that if a citizen of the USSR (that citizenship being primary) is also a citizen of the united republic where he lives, then the choice of citizenship of the united republic is only the prerogative of each citizen of the USSR individually. The people of Abkhazia on their own basis made a decision in favor of: a) the preservation of citizenship of the USSR; b) the acquisition of the citizenship of Abkhazia, which is possessed to the present day.
The law on citizenship of the USSR of 1978 defined as belonging to the citizenship of the country, and, correspondingly, to Russian citizenship, those people who had such citizenship on that date, i.e. it acknowledge the principle of citizenship “by right of blood” and “by right of birth.” Individuals born on the territory of Russia up to the signing of the treaty of the formation of the USSR up to the 30th of December, 1922, (in the signing of which Soviet Abkhazia participated as a sovereign state, one of the founders of the Soviet Union) are recognized as citizens of Russia “by right of birth,” even if they afterwards lost this citizenship. The Law on citizenship of 23 May 1990 went in the same way. Both of these laws, accordingly, acknowledged the people of Abkhazia as having Russian citizenship.
The laws of 1978 and 1991 gave citizens of the USSR the right to live in any of its parts, in any union republic, remaining, by that, citizens of the USSR, and to have the additional accompanying citizenship. This principle of republican citizenship made possible the migration to union and autonomous republics with special ethnic composition and character, for people having an ethnicity unusual to these countries. Under this principle, emigrants possessing Georgian (supplementary) citizenship headed to Abkhazia from the regions of Georgia, and by their entrance created conditions that lead to the destruction and devastation of the ethno-politcal structures there. It is necessary to note, however, that the juridical legalization of the union republic’s and autonomous republic’s citizenship did not formally exist, and for this reason, during the existence of Soviet power only Russian citizenship applied in Abkhazia.
The practice of the last decade of the 20th century showed the following: as citizenship is a legal issue, uncontrolled changes of a demographic situation through the resettlement of people of a different citizenship in a country, leads to irrevocable consequences, even to the changing of the political status of a country, as well as to the replacing of the ethnic composition of the population of a country, or genocide, or the creation of the fifth column, setting as its task the overthrow of the existing political structures in a state, as it happened in Abkhazia.
The above principles, reaffirming the possession of the people of Abkhazia of Russian citizenship, became in the present time the basis for its official confirmation by means “of the acquisition of citizenship in the order of registration.” Since the peoples of Abkhazia like the populations of other former republics of the USSR (nowadays – CIS), not only had the right to Russian citizenship, but were by definition citizens of the Russian Federation, as nothing to the contrary was stated in the referendum on 17 March, 1991. In order to receive a document acknowledging the Russian citizenship a simplified procedure was introduced. The legalization of such a document is executed only by organs of internal affairs.
By 1991, on the territory of the former GSSR, which also had included the Autonomous SSR of Abkhazia, two independent of each other states appeared – Georgia, claiming its independence and leaving the USSR, and Abkhazia, continuing to remain a subject of the USSR. Consequently, the state-legal relationships between Abkhazia and Georgia, that had been created and regulated by the soviet legislation, were discontinued, also on the basis of soviet legislation.
It is a fact that from the moment of the adoption by Georgia of the Act on independence on 25th August 1990, and from the moment of the breakup of the USSR on 21st December 1991, Abkhazia remained subject of the latter, and in this capacity participated in the negotiations in which the question of the reformation of the USSR was decided. The Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of Abkhazia in that period was due to his position also a member of the Soviet of the Federation of the USSR (after its abolition – a member of the State Soviet of the USSR) and a member of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR.
Abkhazia did not take part in the elections of the president of Georgia or in the work of its organs of power and consequently was not able simultaneously to be a subject of the USSR and part of independent Georgia. Further, in accordance with the conditions for the exit of republics from the USSR, the Supreme Soviet of the USSR did not make decisions about the exit of autonomous Abkhazia together with Georgia. After the cessation of the existence of the Soviet Union, the Supreme Soviet of Abkhazia, on 23rd June, in accordance with the conditions of the procedure of exit from the USSR, made a decision about the abolition of the Constitution of Abkhazia of 1978 and about switching over to the Constitution of 1925, according to which Abkhazia was a sovereign state and a subject of international law.
It is necessary to note that actions of the Abkhazian SSR were determined by the law of the USSR “On the division of power between the Union of SSRs and subjects of the federation” of 26 April 1990 (Vedomosti of the Congress of the Deputies of the People of the USSR and the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, 1990, No. 19, pp. 429-433), the articles of which gave right to the following:
Article 1. “… Autonomous republics – soviet socialist states, are subjects of the Federation – the USSR. Autonomous republics and autonomous formations enter into union republics on the basis of the free self-determination of the people and possess all authority of state power on their territory, aside from responsibilities given over by them to the charge of the USSR and union republics.
The relations of autonomous republics and autonomous formations with respective union republics, are determined by the agreements and treaties concluded in the frames of the Constitution of the USSR, the constitutions of union and autonomous republics and the present law.
Article 6. To the exceptional charge of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics represented by its highest organs of state power and government, the following competences are attributed:
2) Acceptance into the USSR of new union republics, the confirmation of the formation of new, and changes of status of existing autonomous republics, autonomous regions, and autonomous districts.
3) Resolution of disputes between union republics, between union and autonomous republics, and autonomous formations in the case of their appeals on this question to the organs of the USSR:
Article 11. … In case of contradiction of the constitution of union and autonomous republics and the Constitution of the USSR, the Constitution of the USSR takes supremacy. In case of contradiction of laws and other acts of the highest organs of state power of union and autonomous republics and to the Constitution of the USSR, to the laws of the USSR and other acts of the highest organs of state power of the USSR, those acts are in effect, that are issued by the organs of the USSR.”
The position of the Abkhazian side, that had spoken for the creation of a renewed Union, did not come into contradiction either with international norms or with the then acting legislation of the USSR. Taking into account that the Republic of Abkhazia, at the moment of the formation of the Georgian Democratic Republic (26 May 1918) was already a sovereign state, and in view of the fact that the state-legal relations between Abkhazia and Georgia arose on the basis of the treaty of 11 June 1918 and a series of treaties and agreements of later dates, Georgia was not supposed by unilateral action to change the character of interrelations with Abkhazia and, still more, to consider it as its vassal. Besides that, this contradicted the legislation of the USSR regulating relations of union and autonomous republics. Therefore, the actions of Georgian leadership resulted in the breakup of state-legal relations between Georgia and Abkhazia. The documents passed by the Supreme Soviet of Abkhazia establish that as a result of the decisions of the Supreme Soviet of the Georgian SSR, mentioned earlier, the entry of Abkhazia into Georgia in any capacity was devoid of legal basis.
As a result of the denunciation by Georgia of all legislative acts and legal documents passed in the period from 1921 to 1991, including those concerning the mutual relations with Abkhazia, and also as a result of the unilateral adoption by Georgia of the decision to exit the USSR and create an independent state (which is contradictory to the treaty relations between Abkhazia and Georgia in accordance with which the entry of the Abkhazian SSR into Georgia was determined by the entry of the latter into the TSFSR and USSR), the treaty concerning the entry of Abkhazia into the Georgia automatically lost power. As Abkhazia continued to remain in the Union, correspondingly, it continued also to remain a sovereign independent state in the USSR in the borders of 1918 and subject to international law.
In the historical-political literature, covering the period of exit of Georgia from the USSR, reference is made to the documents denouncing the legal acts and mutual relations of indicated states. The primary sources themselves, of the documents, are not always accessible, for which reason we permit ourselves to bring in excerpts of such and will give a short commentary on their contents.
One of the documents leading to the cancellation of all mutual relations between the countries within a common sate- the USSR and Georgia, was the decree of the extraordinary 13th session of the Supreme Soviet of the Georgian SSR “On the guarantees of the protection of the State sovereignty of Georgia” of 9 March 1990. On the basis of the conclusions of the Commission of the Supreme Soviet of the Georgian SSR, it was decided that Soviet Russia violated the treaty of 7 May 1920 by bringing in military forces into the territory of Georgi. This was classified “from a legal point of view as military intervention and occupation” … “and from a political point of view – actual annexation.”
“Condemning the occupation, and, in fact, annexation of Georgia by Soviet Russia as an international crime, aiming towards the annulment of the effects of the treaty … and towards the restoration of the rights of Georgia recognized by the Soviet Union according to this treaty, the Supreme Soviet of the Georgian SSR declares illegal and invalid the union worker-peasant treaty between the Georgian SSR and RSFSR of 21 May1921 as well as the Union Treaty on the formation of the Federated SSR Transcaucasia of 12 March 1922” (Vedomosti of the Supreme Soviet of the Georgian SSR, Tb., 1990, No. 3, pp. 38-40; Regional conflicts in Georgia – South Ossetia autonomous region, Abkhazian ACCR (1989-2001).Vol. political-legal acts. Tbilisi, 2002, p. 225).
We cannot dispute the acts of the Georgian side, however it is necessary to note that: a) Russia did not recognize the fact of the annexation of Georgia, therefore, the denunciation of the indicated treaties and actions of Georgia are de facto unilateral; b) raising the issue of the allegedly illegal character of the above mentioned treaties is groundless, as these treaties were concluded by Russia with the then legitimate Government of Georgia, which had led the country for many decades – from 1921 to 1991; c) a country has a right to recognize the illegality of these or other treaties in the case of the change of the country’s state system. However this inevitably leads to a chain of political and legal consequences, including those that affect interrelations with neighboring and other countries. Georgia, with this act, violated an additional secret provision of the Treaty of 7 May 1920 according to which the Communist party had the right to be functioning in Georgia, not to mention the fact we noted earlier that the inclusion of the territory and statehood of the independent sovereign state Abkhazia in Georgia was illegal. This gives the right to review and denounce this treaty.
By its supplement to the mentioned Resolution of 9 March 1990, on the 20 June, 1990 the Supreme Soviet of the GSSR decided “to add to the resolution a paragraph of the following contents: “ … the Supreme Soviet of the GSSR declares illegal and invalid all acts that had abolished the political and other institutions of the Democratic Republic of Georgia and had replaced these institutions with political and legal establishments dependent on outside power (decision of the so called Revkom – Revolutionary Committee of Georgia of 16 and 26 February, 24 March 1921 and others).” (Vedomosti of the Supreme Soviet of the GSSR, 1990, No. 6, pp. 39-40. Regional conflicts in Georgia – South Ossetia autonomous region and the Abkhazian ASSR (1989-2001). Vol. Political and legal acts. Tbilisi, 2002, p. 229).
The present addition, together with the basic document of 9 March, 1990, acknowledges in the opinion of the contemporary Georgian leaders, the illegitimacy not only of the governing organs of Georgia which had been working on its territory from February 1921 to 9 March 1990, but also disavows all decisions of these “illegal,” “illegitimate” organs of power on its territory. But this, in its own way, signifies that the conclusion of all treaties with Abkhazia was illegal: the Treaty of unification of 16 December 1921 on the federated, contractual basis of the SSR of Abkhazia and of the Georgian Republic and the inclusion through it of Abkhazia in the Transcaucasian Federation (History of Soviet Communism in documents, 1917-1956, M. 1957, p. 339), ratified by the first Congress of the Soviet of Abkhazia on the 17th of February, 1922; articles of the Constitution of Abkhazia of April, 1925, and of Georgia, by the Transcaucasian SFSR and USSR, concerning the entry of Abkhazia in these structures (the Constitutions of Abkhazia and Georgia were confirmed in the congresses of these republics in 1927); the act of reorganization of Abkhazia into an autonomous republic in the composition of the GSSR on 19 February 1931 and all following acts, resolutions, and decrees of states, parties, and other organs of power of all levels.
It is especially necessary to stress the unlawfulness and illegality of all laws and acts of the Government of Georgia concerning the emigration in this period of ethnically Georgian populations from administrative regions of the territory of Georgia into Abkhazia, being none other than a purposeful policy of the Georgian leadership of the GSSR, agreed with the Georgian leadership in Abkhazia, as this inevitably led to the alteration of the demographic situation in Abkhazia, and the replacement and annihilation of the Abkhazian ethnos.
Our conclusion is supported by the fact of the cessation from 2 January 1992 of the Constitution of Georgia, which had had legal power from 1921 to 1992, and had determined the political and state policy of Georgia in the USSR and of Abkhazia in the indicated states. This fact is underlined in the Declaration of the Military Council of the Republic of Georgia of 21 February 1992, which became the final point in the determination of mutual relations between Russia, Georgia, and Abkhazia. This declaration emphasizes that the Republic of Georgia is the only legal successor of the Democratic Republic Georgia 1918-1921 by the command of its Constitution of 21 February 1921. (Journal “Sakartvelos Republic,” No. 36, 25 February 1992, in Georgian language; Regional Conflicts in Georgia – South Ossetia autonomous region and Abkhazia ASSR (1989-2001). Vo.l of political and legal acts. Tbilisi, 2002, pp. 269-270).
By liquidating the legal basis determining its interrelations with its neighbors, the government of Georgia, confirmed the absence of state-legal relations with Abkhazia from the moment Georgia declared its independence. Firstly, because of the violation of the conditions of the above-mentioned union law on the exit of a union republic from the USSR, secondly, because although Abkhazia was mentioned as a subject in the 1921 Constitution of Georgia, this document was worked out and passed by the Constituent Assembly of Georgia unilaterally without the consent of the Abkhazian side, therefore it was also not ratified by the Abkhazian parliament and, correspondingly, did not come into power. Thirdly, the Union treaty with Abkhazia of 16 December 1921 lost its power because of the denunciation by Georgia of all legal acts concluded after 25 April 1921, and because of Georgia’s violation of the conditions of the treaty.
Drafts of a new Constitution were prepared and published in Abkhazia. They were discussed by the public through mass media. A session of the Supreme Soviet of Abkhazia was scheduled for the 14th of August, 1992. The session was convened specifically to discuss these draft documents as well as the draft Treaty on the relationship between the Abkhazian Republic and the Georgian Republic, prepared by one of the authors of the given article (T. Shamba, Draft Treaty on the relationship between the Republic of Abkhazia and the Republic of Georgia. Abkhazia, 1992. No. 23 (June)). These drafts could have been adopted or rejected. But it was a civilized, parliamentary way of dealing with these issues – it was neither aggressive, nor separatist in nature.
Eye witnesses of those events describe them in the following way: “Responding by aggression and genocide to the appeal of the Abkhazian side to solve the problem politically through parliamentary discussions, Georgia defied the fundamental principles of international law. And hardly anyone will believe that a hundred thousand strong Abkhazian nation was interested in having this unequal war. The actions carried out by the Georgian occupants from the first minutes of invasion into Abkhazia would force anyone to take up arms and defend oneself. Is it aggressive separatism that the people of Abkhazia took up arms to defend themselves?” .
“The war in Abkhazia began with the introduction of Georgian forces in Abkhazia on the day when the parliament of the republic was supposed to discuss the afore-named plan of the federal treaty, which should have been presented to the Georgian side. Georgia brought down on Abkhazia all the might of its military potential, including combat aviation and armored tank forces. In response to the generally accepted, civilized, parliamentary methods of resolving problems, proposed by Abkhazia, Georgia used brutal force. In the coarse of thirteen months the people of Abkhazia were subjected to extermination, the cultural monuments of the nation where destroyed, and all the economic infrastructure of the republic was completely destroyed and ransacked. During the Georgian occupation of a large part of Abkhazia thousands of people were forced to flee the country. The governments of Israel and Greece organized evacuations of Jews and Greeks. Abkhazia was put in a situation when the only possibility of self-preservation became armed resistance to the aggressor” [Shamba S. The negotiation process: hopes and disappointments. Abkhazia – Georgia: Obstacles on the path to peace. Sukhum 2000. pp. 4-12).
This military intervention was undertaken with the aim to put in practice by the force of arms the slogan “Georgia - only for Georgians,” even though, as is well known, Abkhazia is not Georgia.
Inspired by the Georgian leadership Russia’s tough politics in relation to Abkhazia was aimed at forcing the latter to reunite with Georgia. However, the several years blockade of Abkhazia by Russia, which did not serve the interests of the Russian or Abkhazian people, did not give the expected outcomes. The people of Abkhazia, having suffered innumerable losses and destruction in an unwanted war, and being subjected to inhuman deprivation by the outside world, did not display the slightest aspiration towards an association with Georgia. The basis of the contemporary socio-political reality lies in the historical background of Abkhazian- Georgian relations, which to a large extent explains the distribution of powers and interests in this geopolitical triangle.
Already after the war in 1994 the parliament of Abkhazia, considering all the above, adopted a new Constitution, that proclaimed the Republic of Abkhazia a sovereign, democratic, state, based on law. This state historically since 1917 was legal according to the right of the people to self-determination, and in modern times its sovereignty was reconfirmed by bringing of the new Constitution into action.
Since several problems on the question of the sovereignty of Abkhazia remain unclear, in particular – the recognition by the world community – legal expertise of the juridical situation, in connection with the claims of Abkhazia to independence and statehood, was required. The necessary documents were submitted to a specialized non-governmental international organization “Community of Lawyers for Cooperation” (СЮСАТР), which performed an independent expertise and issued the following document:
“Conclusion on the legal appraisal and nature of the “Declaration on measures for political settlement of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict.”
As a result of the analysis of the legal situation of Abkhazia and its interrelations with countries of the world community, authors of the Declaration make the following conclusions:
“The Declaration on measures for political settlement of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict is an international (inter-state) treaty.
Both conflicting sides appear in it as equal subjects of international law, not connected with one another through state-legal relationships.
By its content the Declaration attests to the intention of each side to set up confederative relations.
Professor of international law R.A. Tuzmukhamedov.”
The following comes out of the study of the latest period of the existence of Abkhazia:
1. In connection with the imminent breakup of the USSR, Georgia, by declaring the independence of its state, left the Soviet Union in a unilateral action, breaking off all bilateral, multilateral, and international treaties which determined itsbeeing within the USSR.
2. In the period since 1989 Georgia passed a series of state acts, denouncing all international treaties and agreements with Russia and Abkhazia, which had applied since 24 February 1921.
3. Leaving the USSR in unilateral action, Georgia made an unlawful decision about the exit from the Union also of Abkhazia, which on the basis of the above documents, was a sovereign and independent state. Abkhazia had the right to decide independently of whether to stay in the USSR, and had the right to self determination as an independent or to remain in the composition of a union republic that was exiting the USSR. Therefore, illegally and in violation of the international law, the acting legislation and the liabilities in accordance with the signed treaties, Georgia declared Abkhazia to be territory under Georgia’s jurisdiction.
4. The Supreme Soviet of the ASSR and the Abkhazian government, not agreeing with these illegal decisions, made a decision to remain in the USSR, as the Constitution of 1977 allowed. Furthermore, the Law of the USSR of 3 April 1990 acknowledged the right of autonomous republics to decide independently the question about the fate of the sovereignty of their own country.
5. On the basis of the Law of the USSR of 3 April 1990, the Supreme Soviet of Abkhazia took a decision on the statehood of the country – from 25 August 1990 Abkhazia was proclaimed a sovereign state.
6. Abkhazia, being in the legal framework of the USSR, in accordance with legislation held referendum on 17 March 1991, which acknowledged that the majority of the population of the country expressed a will to remain in the USSR. Furthermore, since 1 September 1917 the Abkhazian people obtained the citizenship of Russia, which has not been broken up to the present time. The population of Abkhazia never officially refused this citizenship (through referendum or other means) and never accepted the citizenship of another country.
7. Being founded on the decision of the people in accordance with this referendum, through the fact of the declaration of Abkhazia as a sovereign state, and on the basis of the belonging of the people of the country through the institute of citizenship to Russia, the Supreme Soviet of Abkhazia passed a resolution on ceasing the action of the Constitution of Abkhazia of 1978 and at the same time on provisionally using of the Constitution of Abkhazia of 1925.
8. At the moment when discussion of the Draft Treaty, prepared by one of the authors of this book, on the fundamental relations between the Republic of Abkhazia and the Republic of Georgia should have begun, Georgia began military intervention against Abkhazia, which continued from August 1992 to September 1993.
9. After the war the Supreme Soviet of the Republic of Abkhazia in accordance with will of its people, on 26 November 1994, passed a Constitution, article 1 of which reads: “The Republic Abkhazia (Apsny) is a sovereign, democratic, legal state, historically confirmed by the right of people to free self-determination.” From this moment the people of the country obtained a different citizenship – Abkhazian.
The Georgian side does not accept the decisions of the government of Abkhazia, which are directed toward the acknowledgement of the sovereignty, which historically was diminished through the fault of Georgia. Georgia counteracts through all possible means the functioning of the Republic of Abkhazia on the basis on the Constitution of 1925. The question arises: why does Georgia has the right to return to its Constitution of 1921, proclaiming sovereignty and independence, and Abkhazia is not allowed to return to its own Constitution of 1925 ? Obviously the reason is that the Constitution of 1925 considers Abkhazian SSR independent and sovereign. This demonstrates Georgia’s double standard.
This problem should be considered from the points of view of the research on the acting legal norms of Georgia performed by the Institute of State and Law of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAC). The full text of the “Expert opinion on the state-legal relations between Georgia and Abkhazia at present ” is given in one of our works (Shamba T.M. National relations and the state-legal politics of Russia. M., 1999, p. 121). Below we introduce excerpts from this work.
“…In agreement with the Constitution of Georgia of 1995, Abkhazia is a territorial unit of Georgia (Part 4, Article 3) with undetermined status, while the status of Abkhazia will be determined after “the full restoration of the jurisdiction of Georgia over all territories of the country” (Part 3, Article 4).”
It is necessary to remember that the indicated Constitution of Georgia was passed when Abkhazia already was no longer within the territory of Georgia, and the overwhelming majority of the citizens of Abkhazia did not directly or through their representatives take any part in the working out or the adoption of the Constitution of Georgia. There are examples in international practice of attempts to decide the fates of peoples through the adoption of a constitution without people’s participation and ignoring their opinion. However such attempts finish without results. For example, the 1958 Constitution of France contained a section devoted to the Commonwealth of states, France hoped to create under its aegis from its former colonies from the time of their acquisition of independence. However, young independent states treated this unilateral initiative of France, and conditions of the main French Constitution without enthusiasm and the respective provisions of the French constitution stayed inactive until finally they were abolished in 1995.
At the same time the Constitution of Georgia speaks about “the restoration of the jurisdiction over all territories of the country.” We will note that at the time of adoption of the Act on the independence of Georgia of 26 May 1918, Abkhazia did not enter into the composition of Georgia, and was occupied by Georgian forces– at the end of June 1918. Further, in February 1918, between the authorities of Georgia, preparing for the declaration of state independence, and the authorities of Abkhazia, an agreement was concluded in which the existence of a single, undivided Abkhazia was recognized on the territory from the Ingur river to the Mzymta river.
However Georgia, in violation of all international legal norms, thinks that it is right to pass unilateral acts and decisions with regard to Abkhazia and to dictate the conditions of her existence. This is in practice what Georgia is doing with the support of the international community and indifferent attitudes of the former soviet republics.
Developing this idea, the authors of the “Expert opinion…” make the conclusion that “from the point of view of the legislation of Georgia, passed in 1989-1991 and developed in the form of amendment in later acts, Abkhazia cannot be considered as a subject of legal relations within Georgia, and state-legal relationships between Abkhazia and Georgia were ended.”
The adoption in 1995 of the Georgian Constitution, in which the legal framework, laid by the Constitution of 1921, is further developed and aims at the legalization of the inclusion of Abkhazia in Georgia. This happens despite the existing legal norm according to which unilateral adoption by any state of a constitution, providing for the inclusion of a given territory that has its own bodies of power, into this state without registering the opinion of the population of this territory, cannot have any legal ramifications. In just the same way, conclusion of treaties by third states with the state that considers a given territory to be under its jurisdiction, disregarding the opinion of the population of this territory, (treaties, in which claims to the indicated territory are not doubted), does not mean that the population of this territory cannot realize its right to self-determination and separate itself from the composition of this state. For example, international treaties, concluded with Great Britain and France before the break up of their colonial empires did not at all interfere with the appearance of new independent states that replaced their colonies. Moreover, the international treaties (only if they did not concern exceptionally colonies), did not automatically cease to act after the liquidation of British and French colonial rule, even though it is evident that territories under the control of British and French governments were reduced. These governments were not able to carry responsibility for the execution of treaties on the territory of their former colonies. It is impossible to decide the fate of a population of any territory without considering the opinion of the population itself; the will expressed by elected representatives of this population is reflected in the fact that a Russian military contingent is located with a peacemaking mission in Abkhazia according to a tri-lateral decision of the governments of Russia, Georgia and Abkhazia.
To give legal grounds for considering Abkhazia as part of its territory, the Georgian side refers to the Russian-Georgian treaty of 7 May 1920, which recognizes the river Psou as the border between the RSFSR and the Democratic Georgia, while the Sukhum district is included in Georgia. However, from the point of view of international law, the fact itself of its signing is a violation of international norms, and its contents from a legal point of view is insignificant.
Further in the “Expert opinion…” it is stated: “As Georgia (as is seen from the aforementioned legislative acts of 1989-1991) not only puts to question all the decisions and relations with regard to Georgia in the period of the existence of the USSR, but even legislatively disavows them, it is quite logical that the question of the legitimacy of the territory of Georgia under soviet power remains open, as remains open the question of the legitimacy of Georgia’s jurisdiction over Abkhazia. International law recognizes the change of status of borders from administrative into state as a result of exit from the state of its composite entity with its own borders, and the reorganization of this entity into a new independent state. However universal practice has many examples when as a result of the reorganization of some entities within a state into independent states new borders were drawn. For example, Ireland was understood both before it was conquered by England and when it was within the British Empire, as stretching over the territory of the whole island. However, at the time of the granting to Ireland of the status of a dominion (officially called The Free Ireland State) in 1920-1922, and then at the time of the declaration of independence of the Irish Republic in 1937, the northern part of Ireland remained within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. At the time of the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918-1929, а series of independent states were formed. In particular, Czechoslovakia appeared on the map. Meanwhile Czechia before the entry into the state of the Habsburgs was an independent state, and within the Empire it had administrative borders. On the other hand, before the formation of the Austro-Hungarian Empire Slovakia administratively was part of Hungary, and within the Empire also it was considered as part of Hungary. At the same time, Transylvania, which traditionally was part of Hungary, was given over to Romania as a result of peace treaties. More recent examples are the Dayton agreements, which provided for the creation of a Serb Croat-Muslim Federation on the territory of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Republic. Completely new borders that had not existed before, were introduced in the region.”
Further, the authors note that “in universal practice there are examples of a division into several independent states of one administrative-territorial unit, as soon as it leaves the composition of another state. For example, the Indian Empire was under the dominion of the English crown from 1877 to 1947, and then upon declaration of independence, three states emerged in its territory,: Burma, the Indian Union, and Pakistan (later the state of Bangladesh was separated from Pakistan). There are no grounds to insist that international law guarantees, in violation of the will of the people living in former Soviet union republics, the preservation of unitary states, formed on the basis of former union republics as a result of the break up of the Soviet Union. The existence of the present administrative borders of Abkhazia makes it possible to believe that an independent state could be formed within the same borders. As a rule, the right to self-determination of people in the form of an independence state is easier to realize if the people in a specific territory within a state, already haves self-government and effective institutions of power. It has already been discussed that the independent institutions of power in Abkhazia were already beginning to be formed in December 1917 (not to speak of the centuries-old history of Abkhazia’ statehood), as well as after Abkhazia became an autonomous republic in Soviet Georgia within the Soviet Union. In particular, according to the Constitutions of the USSR of 1936 and 1977 and to the Constitutions of Georgia of 1937 and 1978, the Abkhazian ASSR as well as other autonomous republics had the attributes of a state: their own Constitution, legislature, state symbols etc.”
Today historical justice has been restored. Abkhazia is a state with a clearly demarcated territory, Constitution, system of government and political power, legislature, concrete national interests and priorities in external affairs. De jure the sovereign Republic Abkhazia is independent. It does not ask anything from anyone or infringe on anyone’s interests. It insists on only one thing: on the recognition by the world community de facto of its natural right to existence and on its inclusion in the normal system of international relations.
It is necessary to mention one additional question. After the exit of Georgia from the USSR and the reconstruction of its own statehood, it gave up Russian citizenship and restored its own. Abkhazia, on the other hand, having obtained independence, sovereignty, and its own statehood on the basis of the listed above circumstances, retained Russian citizenship and instituted Abkhazian citizenship as well. However, on the territory of the independent sovereign state of Abkhazia, there are Georgians with Georgian citizenship. They refused to take Russian citizenship and did not wish to receive the Abkhazian one. A similar situation took place in practically all the states of the post-soviet space. This problem was decided everywhere in a simple way: people of a non-titular nation should decide on their citizenship regardless of their number in a new sovereign state, which was the case, for example, in Kazakhstan, where representatives of the titular nation represented only 40 percent of the population. There were various possibilities for solving the problem such as: accepting the citizenship of a country of residence; resettlement in a country of one’s citizenship; residence in the country without citizenship with limited rights (a number of limitations, including the voting system). This is a problem that should have been decided in Abkhazia long ago, since the migration into the country of different people, in particular those of Georgian nationality, without their acceptance of Abkhazian citizenship, is fraught with new problems.
Democratization In Conditions Of A Non-Recognized State Democratization In Conditions Of A Non-Recognized State
Director of the Information Agency ''Apsnypress''
Pitsunda, July 1, 2004
Two approaches towards conditions of building democracy: structural and procedural can be identified in the scientific literature. According to the first one democracy is formed under the pressure of such factors as the social-economical structure, the legal system, and the existing traditions. The procedural approach sees as the main condition for transition to democracy the nature of political elites, political values and ideals they share, their tactics and power technologies. According to this approach democracy is viewed as a “political project” implemented by the political elite, whereas the level of preparedness of the society for democratic changes is an attendant factor either making the process of democratic development faster or creating obstacles on its way.
I prefer to think that both approaches are complimentary. The creation and development of a democratic form of governance is determined by a series of objective and subjective factors. Various “political projects” proposed by political elites, and we are not talking here about utopias, have to take into consideration objective socio-economic conditions as well as cultural, religious and national traditions that had existed for centuries. The tree of democracy can grow only on a fertile sole.
The democratic development of non-recognized states in the post soviet space, where political elites unanimously claim that they follow democratic principles and values, becomes more difficult not only due to internal factors but also because of various external circumstances. The absence of international recognition and as a consequence – the political isolation, economic sanctions, the external military threat make the process of democratic development much more difficult.
The famous political scientist Robert Dahl distinguishes the following democratic institutions:
* Elected officials;
* Free, fare and regular elections;
* Freedom of expression;
* Alternative information sources;
* Freedom of associations;
* Universal human rights.
Without going deep into theoretical discussions about different scientific approaches to democracy I would like to focus in this presentation on the main political institutions of democracy and the way they are functioning in Abkhazia.
Political institutions of democracy have to provide effective participation of citizens in social life; dissemination of information about processes taking place in the society; pluralism of ideas and competitive opinions; public control over government activities and political decision-making concerning the most important issues.
The Constitution of the Republic of Abkhazia provides for the division of legislative, executive and judicial brunches of power, which are supposed to be independent of each other. In reality there is disproportion of competences in favor of the executive branch. Abkhazia is a presidential republic. The authority of the president is much wider than the authority of the Parliament. The President appoints the Prime Minister without coordinating the issue with the Parliament. Members of the Cabinet of Ministers are also appointed by a presidential decree without the consent of the legislative branch of power. The Parliament has no right to dissolve the government. Vote of no confidence can be used only against specific members of the Cabinet.
The controlling functions of the Parliament are minimal. The Parliament considers and approves the state budget and exercises control over its maintenance. The president approves programs in spheres of governmental, economic, social, cultural and national development of the country without any discussions in the Parliament.
Those who support the idea of a strong presidential power are justifying the maximal concentration of power in the president’s hands by the fact that the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict has not been resolved yet and that there is a threat of the resumption of military actions. Vladislav Ardzinba, who led the struggle of the Abkhaz people for their freedom and independence, had a huge credit of trust from the society. However the concentration of maximal power in the hands of a single person can lead to authoritarianism.
In recent years the question of redistribution of competences between legislative and executive branches of power to reach a balance between them, is actively discussed in the society. The majority of oppositional political parties are supporting the idea of strengthening role of the Parliament and increasing the role of the judicial branch.
It is known that one of the most important principles that provides for the independence of judges is the fact that they are not re-elected every five years. The October 1999 national referendum introduced an amendment to article 71 of the Constitution. According to the amendment every five years judges are appointed by the Parliament upon the presentation of the President. Unfortunately the judges, except V. Gurdjua, chairman of the Arbitrary Court, did not attempt to defend their own independence. Usually, the judges’ term of office is limited in the countries where courts have the right to revise the law. Even then the term of office is long enough.
There is no separate Constitutional Court in Abkhazia. The Supreme Court examines all the cases concerning the conformity to the Constitution of decisions by the President, the Parliament and other state organs including local self-government bodies. However the Supreme Court has considered no such cases so far. The Parliament has not passed the law on the Constitutional court yet. For example, according to the first article of the “Law on the election of the President of the Republic of Abkhazia”, only the person, who has lived in Abkhazia on a permanent basis “not less than 5 years before the election day”, can be elected President of Abkhazia. This article contradicts Article 49 of the Constitution and only the Supreme Court can take the final decision on this issue.
If the Supreme Court has to function as the Constitutional, it has to have the right to interpret the Constitution, while currently this function is performed by the Parliament.
In Abkhazia the President, the Parliament and local self-government bodies are elected. The President and the Parliament are elected for 5 years, and local self-government bodies - for three years.
The election system in the Republic is based on the principle of majority. 35 Members of the Parliament are elected according to 35 single member constituencies. The recently adopted law “On the election of deputies to the Peoples Assembly - the Parliament” gives the political parties and movements the possibility to nominate candidates in one third of districts. The development of the political system, the growing role of parties and movements brings to the agenda the issue of introducing a mixed proportional – majority system of elections.
In terms of the frequency of elections, there are no problems here. As for the freedom and fairness of elections, we have to admit that in the past there were violations on different levels during elections, and they are likely to take place during the upcoming presidential elections too. It is important that these violations will not seriously affect the results of the elections. It is an optimistic sign that candidates and their representatives more often go to courts when noticing violations, rather that “manage” the problems with their opponents themselves.
For the first time we have established the League of voters “For Fair Elections”. Ordinary citizens and representatives of non-governmental organizations united in a coalition for fair elections. Their aim is to contribute to open, fair and free elections. I consider all these factors as an indication of the growing legal culture in the society and increasing trust to Courts despite the problems, existing in this sphere.
Now I would like to say a few words about local self-government. The spring town and regional Assemblies elections in Abkhazia this year have demonstrated noticeable interest not only from the government side but also from different political parties and movements. In the past elections on this level were held formally, without real competition. However this spring voters in many electoral districts had a real opportunity to choose from several candidates. The struggle was particularly serious in Sukhum.
Gradually elected town and regional assemblies transform from a voiceless appendix of heads of town and regional administrations into active structures that are capable not only to vote for or against decisions taken on a higher level, but also to take independent decisions and control executive bodies.
Today heads of local administrations are not elected, they are selected from among the members of town and regional assemblies and appointed by the President. Some political powers in the Republic think that the citizens should elect heads of local administrations. This will contribute to a higher degree of independence of heads of local administrations, as well as to their responsibility and accountability to voters.
A state that has chosen a democratic way of development must provide the population with alternative information sources. Along with state (Abkhaz TV Company, information agency “Apsnypress”, newspapers “The Republic of Abkhazia” and “Apsny”) there are also independent Mass Media in Abkhazia. ASTV has monopoly on broadcasting news and talk shows on political matters due to the discriminating decree regulating the licensing of independent TV and radio. The situation with printed media is different. There are several independent newspapers in Abkhazia – the most popular are “Nuzhnaya”, “Ekho Abkhazii”, “Aitaira”, “Chegemskaja pravda”. They cover the most burning issues, criticize the of authorities and present a large spectrum of political opinions.
There is no legislation on Mass Media so far in Abkhazia. The Parliament approved only the draft, which needs alteration. The law will automatically reject the regulation concerning the licensing system for independent TV and Radio. The development of the legal basis for media requires the introduction of laws on the access to information, on defamation and on the freedom of information.
In recent years the political life in Abkhazia has become notably lively. The spectrum of political parties and opinions became wider. Up to now three political parties have been registered in the Ministry of Justice of Abkhazia: the Communist Party, the Peoples Party and the Republican Party “Apsny”. There are also 4 political movements: “Aitaira”, “Amtsakhara”, “Aidgilara”, and “Edinaja Abkhazia”. There is also a political movement “Akhiatsa”, created to support a specific candidate for presidency. Among the most influential oppositional political forces are “Amtsakhara”, “Aitaira”, “Edinaja Abkhazia” and the Peoples Party.
At the moment all the parties and movements are preparing for presidential elections. However, the process of democratization demands from them a high level of activity not only during presidential or parliamentary elections. After the elections among the important issues for them will be: the support for the ruling or oppositional course; public control over government activities; inner-party development that includes the strengthening of the party structure, the increase in quantity and transparency of program objectives and principles.
The existence of the civil society is a significant precondition and at the same time factor important for the establishing a political system of the democratic type. When I use the word combination “civil society”, I mean diverse forms of social activity of the population not conditioned directly by government politics. Civil society is the means for self-realization of individuals. It creates opportunities for the development and strengthening of democracy, limits the functions of the government and the level of its involvement in the life of citizens, exercises control over government activities.
The development of civil society in Abkhazia is negatively affected by the situation of “no peace – no war”. According to Natella Akaba “the negative perception of the civil society and other attributes of democracy is an absolutely natural and predictable result of the general politics of the international community towards Abkhazia”. By such politics she means the policy of isolation of Abkhazia, political and economical pressure on the republic, and the violation of basic rights of citizens, in particular the right to travel. According to Akaba “all these factors only strengthen the siege mentality among the population and creat barriers on the way to political transformation ”. (Collection “Aspects of Georgian-Abkhaz relations”, #9, page 112).
In Abkhazia like in Russia, leaders of civil society are mostly intellectuals, representatives of intelligentsia, they have no links with business. This fact limits the economic basis for the development of the civil society. Support of NGOs and independent Mass Media by western donors and funds raises a certain degree of mistrust among local authorities. Unfortunately the logic of officials, as well as of ordinary people, is often quite simple: donor support means that they buy NGO’s, otherwise what is the point to supporting anyone. However, those who state such things know very well that the first NGOs that appeared in Abkhazia immediately after the war, for a long time worked voluntarily.
In the West there are many NGOs that are financed not only by private foundations or by the business sector, but also by governments. And nobody says that the governments buy them. On the contrary, the society understands that NGOs undertake tasks that governments are willing to share with them.
Some NGO opponents were scared off by the prefix “non” in front of the word ”governmental”. The concept of a “non-governmental organization” itself is therefore perceived as something antigovernmental, which is not true. Of course, NGOs can criticize the government, but they are not created only for that purpose. There are many examples of positive cooperation of NGOs with authorities in different spheres of life of our society.
Because of the lack of resolution of state-legal relations with Georgia, the threat of the resumption of military operations and the absence of security guarantees from the international community, many people in Abkhazia are afraid of an internal division in the society and of its consequences. The Government calls upon the citizens to stay united. Unfortunately unity is often understood as agreement of opinion. However, if the people are deprived of their basic rights and freedoms, appeals for unity will not help.
It is important to emphasize that respect for one’s own dignity instead of blind loyalty to authorities, legal culture, civic responsibility for one’s own behaviour, civic initiative and creativity – all these factors are strengthening the state, not weakening it.
For the Abkhazia state the choice of democratic development is linked with the answer to the question: to be or not to be. By democracy we do not mean blind copying of western models. Democratic values are not alien to our traditional culture. On should mention here, first of all, the tradition of citizen participation in important decisions making. Even in conditions of the soviet totalitarian system Abkhaz people protested against discrimination and oppression. Organic combination of universal and traditional values will allow people not just formally agree with declared democratic way of development but implement it in real life.
There are various difficulties on the path of democracy building in Abkhazia. A certain degree of isolation of Abkhazia from the outside world and non-recognition by the international community have an impact on the level of democracy in our society.
The situation with human rights is not ideal in the republic. Unfortunately the work of the national and the parliamentary Commissions on Human Rights are not effective. Activities in the field of human rights protection are often limited to the education in the field of human rights. Recognizing the importance of human rights education, I, however, have to note that in practice it is much more difficult to protect the rights of a concrete person in a concrete situation.
Some sources of human rights violations should be looked for in the political-legal system of Abkhazia, others are due to external factors. For example: the basic right of Abkhazian citizens to have freedom of movement has been violated for a long time due to the blockade imposed on Abkhazia by Georgia and Russia.
The level of openness of our society is not high. However the threat of the resumption of military operations does not contribute to greater openness. People are reluctant “to wash their dirty linen in public”. They think that internal struggle can have negative consequences for the consolidation of the society in the face of a new war.
Civilized exchanges of opinions, discussions through the Mass Media and in the Parliament do not prevent the consolidation of the society. I think we should not wait until somebody starts pointing at our weaknesses and problems, instead we should openly talk about our problems. Ability to speak openly about one’s own problems is an indication of strength and maturity. It is the first step in overcoming one’s drawbacks.
Non-recognized states including Abkhazia are criticized more then the recognized ones. The mistakes of the latter are often overlooked at the time when non-recognized states dearly pay for similar mistakes. For instance, despite corruption, high criminal level, the presence of terrorist bands that name themselves “partisans”, Georgia has the support of the international community in political, military and economic spheres. At the same time economic sanctions against Abkhazia, adopted by heads of CIS states in January 1996, still exist. Everybody looks for terrorist centers in non-recognized states though it is very well known that neither Al Kaida nor Usama bin Laden or other Islamic fundamentalists have ever been to Abkhazia. Many modern recognized states were formed as a result of separatism and nobody sees that as a problem. At the same time Abkhaz separatism is labeled as “aggressive”. According to this logic, the people who number 100 thousand, who have survived a bloody war imposed on them by Georgia and who strive for freedom and independence, pose a threat to the whole world.
Finishing my presentation, I would like to emphasize that our internal stability can be reached only through a democratic society, which makes this stability long-term, in contrast to authoritarian regimes. If we become a democratic state that functions in accordance with the constitutional law, the state that is able to provide long-term stability, security and human rights protection, then we can count on external recognition of Abkhazia.
Perspectives for Abkhazia in the Contemporary International Context Perspectives for Abkhazia in the Contemporary International Context
Perspectives for Abkhazia in the Contemporary International Context
Dr. Natella Akaba
The forthcoming presidential elections this autumn in Abkhazia, and the consequences of regime change in Georgia, EU expansion and ongoing rivalry between Russia and the US in the South Caucasus – these and many other factors may well see an end to the status quo in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict. Although it is hard to forecast the potential actions of the new Georgian leaders in the long term, recent events would indicate that Saakashvili does not intend to put the restoration of Georgia’s territorial integrity on the back burner. In Budapest recently he made the unambiguous statement that the next peaceful revolution could take place in Abkhazia. Terms such as a ‘humanitarian barrage’ are used more and more frequently by the Georgian leadership. At the last NATO summit in Istanbul, Saakashvili challenged Western leaders to ‘together defrost the frozen conflicts’.
People in Abkhazia are inclined to think that if official Tbilisi policy towards Sukhum has changed at all since Shevardnadze’s time, then it has not changed for the better. Abkhaz politicians and analysts consider the official rhetoric coming from Tbilisi to have become more sharp and populist. They are concerned that increased political and financial support from the US and Western Europe for the Saakashvili regime could encourage him to use force. The posthumous rehabilitation of Zviad Gamsakhurdia in the last few days is significant. It is clear that in Abkhazia and in South Ossetia in particular, this gesture will be interpreted as threatening, demonstrating the continuity of Georgian politics with all its negative consequences.
Having said this, Georgian political scientists are of the opinion that Saakashvili has already made a series of positive signals towards Abkhazia. Among these are:
1) The resignation of the offensive figure of Tamaz Nadareishvili. He ceased, in fact, to be taken seriously in Abkhazia a long time ago, so his departure from the political arena went almost unnoticed here.
2) The disbandment of paramilitary semi-criminal groups such as the ‘Forest brothers’ and the ‘White legion’. We are not convinced members of these armed formations have ‘re-qualified’ as peaceable workers. Most likely they will remain among the criminal circles that make their living in direct proximity to the river Ingur. In addition, recent reports suggest that these people have now turned up in South Ossetia, although there is no precise indication of their relocation.
3) For the first time in ten years the Georgian parliament has not extended the powers of the former members of the Georgian faction in the Abkhazian Parliament 1991-1996 (the so-called ‘parliament in exile’). Ten seats in the Georgian parliament were reserved for Abkhazia. However, the so-called ‘government of Abkhazia in exile’ continues to exist.
4) Statements were made in the Georgian parliament about the need for a political and legal review of the Kodor events of 2001. However, thus far there has been no sign of support for these suggestions.
In can thus be established that the positive signals from Tbilisi have been weak and insufficiently articulated. At the same time, the actions of the Georgian authorities in South Ossetia clearly bear witness to the new Georgian leaders’ mood of determination, applying pressure and provocation. To provoke one’s opponent into tit-for-tat responses, not leave them time to reflect and force them to take precipitate steps – this is the style and manner of Saakashvili and his team.
In spite of the fact that the Georgian leadership has repeatedly expressed its intention not to force the pace until after the presidential elections in Abkhazia, people in Sukhum do not exclude the possibility that the situation may escalate, possibly in response to some sort of provocation. On 26th May 2004, Georgian independence day, for example, an event was initiated by a Zugdidi youth organisation on the bridge over the river Ingur, in direct proximity to the line of separation of forces. This involved five- and six-year old children from a Zugdidi kindergarten, dressed in military uniform and carrying toy machine guns. It goes without saying that in such circumstances a stone thrown by someone, or worse, shots fired in the air by one or other side could easily reduce the achievements of the peace process to nothing. It is clear that any destabilisation in the situation would affect the population of the Gal region in a most dramatic way, as was the case in 1998.
These and many other events are evidence that Abkhazia has entered a new phase of instability. In our view, the destruction of the peace process must not be permitted. This goes not only for the official peace negotiations but also the return of refugees to the Gal region, and a number of civil diplomacy initiatives to restore trust between peoples. A new round of violence would set the negotiations’ process back.
It is generally considered that a sudden alteration in the balance of power in the South Caucasus is not in Russia’s interests, and that therefore Russia could hardly remain neutral in the event of a new outburst of widespread violence.
In such difficult circumstances, when the sides are balancing between the status quo and an unknown (and therefore dangerous) future, it would seem sensible to develop a series of measures that might perhaps lead to a decrease in tension and create a new impetus for developing mutually acceptable concepts for peaceful resolution:
1) The Georgian side could give an objective assessment of events in 1992-3 and their dramatic consequences for Abkhazia. A step like this would have significant positive impact in both societies and could help to create a more conducive atmosphere at the negotiation table.
2) The sides could come to an agreement to temporarily set aside discussions concerning political models . At the present time, Abkhazia needs to concentrate on its internal problems – economic and social restoration and psycho-social rehabilitation of those who have suffered as a result of the war, irrespective of their ethnic identity. Georgia, as the initiator of military action, should *have a particular role in* undertake to address this set of issues. Moreover, Abkhazia and Georgia could together develop a programme for rehabilitation in Gal region and give the returning refugees the opportunity to register, which would enable the relevant international agencies to assist in settling* these people.
3) Particular attention should be given to the security situation in Gal region and the Kodor gorge, which continue to be areas of heightened danger and rampant criminal activity. This would be possible only in the event of an agreement between the Abkhaz and Georgian sides and in the presence of certain international guarantees.
4) Promoting the development of democratic institutions in Abkhazia is considered to be important not only for citizens of Abkhazia but for any parties interested in regional security. It is particularly important to focus on developing models for the coexistence of different ethnic communities on the territory of Abkhazia, including, of course, the Georgian community. Developing such a model could lay the foundations for a future model for peaceful coexistence between Abkhazia and Georgia and would assuage any fears and rule out reproaches over* discrimination against any particular ethnic community.
5) Abkhazia would be given thorough assistance by international organisations to develop the most acceptable electoral system, appropriate to local conditions and taking into account the multi-national make up of the population. Human rights offices could perhaps be established in various regions of Abkhazia.
6) Tbilisi could reject policies based on the principle ‘What is worse for Abkhazia is better for Georgia’, and could take the initiative in lifting the economic sanctions on Abkhazia. This would meet the needs not only of the population of Abkhazia but also of Georgia as it would undermine the criminal economy that developed as a result of the blockade. Georgia could stop preventing international development programmes in Abkhazia, and instead could promote them. With Tbilisi’s agreement, Russia, the UN and a number of European institutions could get involved in the long-term process of conflict transformation. This would include economic investment in Abkhazia and the economic and social rehabilitation of the regions, particularly those most affected by war.
7) As the Belgian academic Bruno Coppieters has suggested, in future some kind of participation for representatives from Abkhazia in the OSCE or even the Security Council of the UN could be envisaged on occasions where this might avoid further escalation of the conflict. This participation could form part of the mechanism for international guarantees for the non-resumption of hostilities.
8) Bearing in mind that remaining ‘one-on-one’ with Georgia is the least acceptable outcome of the conflict for Abkhazia, mediators and others interested in peaceful resolution could facilitate the process of institutionalising the traditional ties between Abkhazia and peoples and regions of the South and North Caucasus and Southern Russia.
Abkhazia In Contemporary International System Abkhazia In Contemporary International System
What is the relationship of Abkhazia with contemporary international system? The answer to this question can be found in the solution to the contradictions between common perceptions of both - Abkhazia, and the contemporary international system. These contradictions can be easily seen in the Caucasian regional context. This paper doesn’t attempt to answer all question regarding this problem. Also it doesn’t suggest some sort of solution to this problem. Only some principle issues regarding this relationship will be examined here.
At the beginning the definitions of the ‘international system’ as an element of the system analysis is provided. Following the definition of the ‘international community’ from the point of view of (not always fairly called) English school of International Relations. After that Abkhazia as a state is examined from the above-stated views. One of the key elements of the suggested discussion is the view on principle difference between the international community in European sense and the Caucasus region.
The term ‘international system’ derives from the ‘system analysis’. It is used here in the context of the description and explanatory levels of analysis of the international relations.
At the description level the ‘international system’ is one of the ways of reference to state or interstate system where on the level of state the groups and internal interests can be considered as subsystems, which form the foreign policy of the state, thus, forming the elements of international system. Two key processes characterize the international system – the conflict and cooperation. The efforts directed on regulation of these processes lead to establishment of rules and sometimes creation of the international or regional institutions – such as the United Nations, EU, CIS, etc. Though creation of these institutions does not solve all problems of the international system, their existence, certainly, modifies the nature of the system and it is possible to speak as about a mixed model when we talk about ‘international system’.
At the explanatory level the ‘international system’ determines the behavior of the states in the sphere of the international relations. The basic purpose of such analysis is to find natural characteristics in the system which all actors have to take account of. Security, as a rule, is considered as one of the corner stones of the international system because the essence of it remains anarchical by nature. K.Walts holds, that the structure of such system that limits potential for cooperation between the states and generates threat to security, leads to confrontation, arms race and war. Therefore, at the explanatory level of the analysis the elements of the system are secondary to the theories of the system the structure of which determines the behavior of its elements. Formation and reforms of such institutions as the United Nations, EU, CIS from the beginning of 90 years can be seen as an attempt to create such international system where its normative goal is based on development of potential for cooperation between the states. This identifies the normative aspect of contemporary international system as the dominant aspect of its development. Different kinds of peace-making and peace-keeping can be seen as one of the common characteristics of such development.
Having identified conceptually the position of Abkhazia regarding the above-stated levels of the analysis, it is easier to consider the position and potential of Abkhazia as a component of “the international society”, or at least to identify obvious inconsistency between existing international system and demands of the ‘international society’. There is no consent on the definition of the world structure in the academic literature. However, the events of the decade since the end of the Cold War, on the background of the statements of the supporters of globalization and liberal capitalism who proclaim their victory, led many thinkers to support the concept of the ‘international society’ based on standard views and norms, and often these views are found in the academic literature. Since Grotius put forward the concept of the "great community of the states” the theoretical debate around this idea continues. Such thinkers as Locke, Burke, Gladstone, Roosevelt and Churchill, saw existence of the states in community through functioning of such institutes as diplomacy, the international law, balance of power and the relationship of great powers. Such authors as V.Tishkov, P.Baev examine an acceptability of these principles to the post-Soviet space.
M. White has identified the international community as follows:
« … It is habitual intercourse of independent communities beginning in the Christendom of Western Europe and gradually extending through the world. It is manifest in the diplomatic system; in conscious maintenance of balance of power to preserve the independence of the member communities; in the regular operations of international law, whose binding force is accepted over a wide though politically unimportant range of subjects; in economic, social, and technical independence of the international institutions established literary to regulate it. All these presupposes and international consciousness, a world wide community- sentiment.
Application of these ideas on a post the Soviet space resulted not only in formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States but also in significant move of Russia, and the CIS states in the direction of core principles of the European integration. However both the Caucasian region, and Abkhazia remain problematic from the point of view of such integration. This paper looks at Abkhazia in the context of contemporary international system, with the view on integration into contemporary international community.
According to Montevideo criteria (Convention of 1933) Abkhazia fits three out of four principles of modern state. She has certain territory, population and independent government. Thus the principles of the internal sovereignty of Abkhazia are fulfilled. Only the fourth principle is not - the opportunity to establish the relationship with other subjects of international law. No other state so far extended its formal recognition to the external sovereignty of Abkhazia. The reason for this is that the states of the former USSR have been recognized by the international community according to the Soviet territorial and administrative division. Whereas the sovereignty of Abkhazia has been created as the result of the conflict of Abkhazia with Georgia and military actions of 1992-93.
The authorities of Georgia, Russia, other countries, and such institutes as the United Nations, EU, the CIS and others deal with Abkhazia de factor for more than 10 years. The authorities of Abkhazia independently make their decisions, which are taken into account at the level of the international system. For example, any decisions on the presence of the CIS peacekeepers and military observers of the United Nations in the zone of Georgia-Abkhazia conflict are impossible without coordination with de factor authorities of Abkhazia. To some extend bilateral relations of other states in the relationship to Abkhazia develop in the similar manner. The Russia - Georgia talks on such issues as electricity, railway or communications are unattainable without the consent of Abkhazia. There can be many more examples of de factor consideration of Abkhazia by the international community. Thus, from the descriptive point of view de factor external sovereignty of Abkhazia is realized.
However there is no direct interaction between expressions of Abkhazia’s de factor sovereignty and international system. Natural characteristics of the ‘international system’, which correspond with the acting elements of Abkhazia as a state, can be found in not direct mechanisms of interaction developed in aftermath of Abkhazia-Georgia war. For example, there is no opportunity for Abkhazia to express her opinion in the United Nations through a formal representative, however the authorities of Abkhazia have direct access to the Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations and an opinion reaches the United Nations and its corresponding departments. Abkhazia has not developed recognized diplomatic relations with the governments of states which have serious influence on the region, but Abkhazia has agreed to participation of Russia, Germany, France, Great Britain and the USA to play the role of Friends of the Secretary General of the United Nations on the settlement of Georgia-Abkhazia conflict. The ambassadors of these and other states visit Abkhazia on a regular basis. Also Abkhazia develops direct links with polities outside the international system – Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia and Transdnestr Republic in the context of conflict resolution on the post Soviet space, as well as Taiwan, Switzerland, some countries of Latin America, Europe and the Middle East in the context of search for the ways out of impasse. Abkhazia has direct economic and cultural links with some subjects of Russian Federation on the basis of economic cooperation and traditional ethnic and cultural ties. It is possible even to speak about gradual development of economic relations with Georgia.
Absence of direct interaction between Abkhazia and international system slows down developments in Abkhazia, but nevertheless this interaction gains strength. All of the above-described expressions of Abkhazias’ sovereignty are outside obvious influence of existing international system. Possibly the absence of threat to security is determining such state of affairs. Thus, from the conceptual point of view, the existing international system and external sovereignty of Abkhazia are in circumventing (indirect?) interaction. The behavior of Abkhazia in the regional environment in the relationship to the international system does not contradict its basic principles and values.
Next problem in this context is the establishment of Abkhazia within community of states. The problem of peaceful settlement of the Georgia-Abkhazia conflict within the norms accepted by the international community is on the forefront of such development. This question has to be addressed in the wider context of functional international community in the entire Caucasus region if we accept here that the situation there is interdependent and there is no solution to one of the conflicts without solution to the other. In turn this development is directly related to the perception of the region by newly formed Europe.
The Europe and Caucasus
The latest European integration represents perhaps most successful example of integration of states in a regional context. The comparison of the main principles of European integration to the relationships between the Caucasian states, as well as some features of the civil society in these regions hopefully will help to identify some principle questions that can spell light on the formation of «the international system» in the Caucasus region.
The existing international system has not provided environment for cooperation in the Caucasian region. It is not without a reason that the Caucasus is associates with confrontation, security threats, conflicts and wars. On one hand, the absence of the functional international system in the Caucasus is one of the reasons for such state of affairs. But on the other hand the attempts, both by peoples and states of the Caucasus independently to build the mutual relations have not developed into formation of regional institutions capable of addressing effectively existing issues. The relations between the states of region exist primarily on a bilateral basis, though other institutions such as CIS, OSCE, СЕ and the United Nations play their role in providing a common ground for the states with no relationship (for instance Armenia and Azerbajhan. Though these institutions have little influence on the states of the region and the regional conflicts. There ma be many reasons for this, but most important one – in my view - is structural, and cultural discrepancy between existing international system based first of all on the European principles to what today the Caucasus is.
The contemporary system of the European interstate relations was formed within, at least, five centuries. Despite of constant wars in Europe during this period, it is possible to speak about European system based on the certain principles where the key ones’ are: Christianity - as the dominating ideology, and capitalism - as a basis of its economy. Also one of the important factors is that the majority of European powers at the center of the European economy are former empires. Though the Christianity today is not the dominating ideological factor in the European Union, today it is more likely to be a neo-liberalism, but actually it is dominating cultural tradition in the majority of countries at the center of the European Community which has provided important grounds for the initial debate.
Another interesting observation in Europe is that till very recently there was no common European identity. Also it is important to note that after European powers formed European Union they continue to operate independently on the international scene. Today the conflicts in Europe are normally addressed through interstate institutions. It is only since the end of the Second World War that Europe began its way to formation of public culture based on cooperation. Today it is possible to speak about European Union to stretch from the Atlantic to Pacific oceans on the basis of the same fundamental principles. Hopefully one day the Caucasian states will find their place in this great society of states.
The Caucasus region is arranged in exactly opposite to Europe manner. There has never been any system of interstate relations comparable to European one. Peoples of the Caucasus exercise different branches of Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism. Though these religions have no significant impact on the social construction of the region, except perhaps some areas of the North Caucasus where some radical Islamic sects find some ground. Peoples of the Caucasus usually form multi-confessional and multiethnic societies on a secular basis, as, for example, in Abkhazia.
The traditional economy in region was based on agriculture. Peoples of the Caucasus have never independently developed any city structures that are comparable to European. The region was heavily influence by all sorts of empires. Nearly all of the industrial infrastructure of the Caucasus is created during the Soviet period. On the one hand during this period Caucasus has achieved some sort of peak in the economic development, but on the other hand the heritage of economic logic of Soviet Union and market economy of new independent states, in a context of globalization have little to do with traditions of the peoples of the Caucasus region. The Soviet administrative-territorial division has been recognized by the international community and on this basis the construction of the international system in region began. However till now there is no evidence that the interstate system inherited from the Soviet times have any chance to be transformed into society of states.
The society of the Caucasus, despite big differences in the languages, religions, economic development, political structure and demography has one common cultural basis developed in the region over extremely long period of time. It is difficult to tell what was the reason for such unique phenomenon. It is possible, that these peoples have formed, so-called ‘valley cultures’ that stably existed without much change of their social or economic structures in relative independence of the processes occurring on nearby plains. Perhaps common principles of the survival have played main role in formation of common mythology based on universal values.
Strong ties characterize peoples of the Caucasus. When Georgia has moved its army into Abkhazia in August 1992, the Confederation of Mountain Peoples of Caucasus mobilized and has entered groups of volunteers in structure of which there were representatives of many peoples of Caucasus into Abkhazia: Cossacks, адыги, abasins, kabardians, Circassians, ossets, Chechens and many others. They rendered essential help to Abkhazia in her struggle for independence. The Soviet heritage as well as international system that have divided Abkhazia and peoples of the Northern Caucasus, were not able to break the social fabric which played so critical role in influencing the balance of power in the region.
Having said the above it is possible to draw a conclusion that the existing international system in Europe and the Caucasus was created and developed in very different conditions. In this context it is also possible to say that Europe played the founding role for the whole of the international system whereas for the Caucasian peoples it was the Soviet Union. Considering the fact that contemporary Caucasus represents a security threat to Russia, the relationship of Abkhazia as well as other regional polities with Russia should be seen not as a traditional imperialism coming from the position of strength, but a quasi-imperialism issuing from the position of weakness. The resolution of conflicts on the territory of the former USSR is one of the main tasks of such imperialism. In this sense the interests of Russia both in Abkhazia and in Georgia coincide. That makes basis of influence of Russia on the conflict.
The limitations of this paper do not allow comparing many aspects of the interstate and social relations in the Caucasus and Europe. However it is certainly possible to draw a conclusion that existing international system in Europe and the Caucasus develop in very different conditions and manner. If Europe played the core role in formation of the international system – for the Caucasus region this factor is the Soviet Union. The Caucasus today represents a security threat to Russia. The view on the relations between the Caucasian states and Russia should be considered in the light of the relationship between former Empire with her former provinces, where the point of view of Russia on region is not the traditional imperialism based on force, but it is quasi-imperialism based on the position of weakness. Conflict management in the geopolitical space of the former Soviet Union is the single most important activity of this quasi-imperialism. In this sense the interests of Russia in Abkhazia, Georgia and other Caucasian polities coincide and form the basis for Russia’s presence and influence on the region. In this context the role of Europe in the region remain to be identified.
As was stated above the Caucasus represents a political body with its own unique structure where the relationship to the existing international system is not plane and straight. However this does not necessarily mean that the existing international system is not capable to address the challenges, which concentrate in the region. The values of the contemporary international community are obvious. They are - protection of human rights, liberalization of economy, removal of restrictions on movement of people, commodities and capital, development of civil society institutions. Only construction of functional ‘international society’ in the Caucasus will allow achieving settlement to the conflicts and will provide environment for steady development.
The basic obstacles to integration of both Abkhazia, and the Caucasus into the international community are imbedded in lack of common strategy in achieving this goal. The basic elements of the international society which have to be agreed upon by all of the political bodies in the region are the diplomatic system, balance of power, the attitude to war, applicability of the international laws, and also relationship to great powers and unions. Unfortunately today there is no evidence that the polities of the region make effort in achieving this normative goal that lead to integration and cooperation in region.
Abkhazia was formed as a sovereign, independent state as a result of necessary self-defense of her population from external aggression in 1992-93. Abkhazia realizes the sovereignty de factor. There is no formal relationship between Abkhazia and international system. However they interact indirectly. Absence of common views on such elements of the ‘international society’ as diplomatic system, balance of power, international laws, and also the relations to the great powers and unions is the basic obstacle to the settlement of the conflict with Georgia and integration of Abkhazia into the world community.
P.S. The analysis expressed in this paper is based on the assumption that Abkhazia has achieved internal sovereignty. The events in aftermath of elections held in Abkhazia on 3 November 2004, the degree of Russian involvement and influence on Abkhazia as well as the second round of elections held on 12 of January 2005 question the degree of independence of newly elected authorities of Abkhazia. Thus further discussion regarding the relationship between Abkhazia and International system has to take into account this important consideration.
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