The latest war between Georgia and Russia is the latest episode of tragic relations spanning two hundred years. Georgia, because of its small size but strategic position, finds itself a target of the great powers.
Throughout its history, Georgia has changed hands between the Greeks, Arabs, Turkey, Iran and Russia. Lately, the United States and Western Europe have landed into the fray. Indeed, analysts say that the current Russian intervention in Georgia has little to do with the Georgian people but is meant to combat US attempts to make inroads in the area.
Russia believes that it has exclusivity over the Caucasus region, meaning other world powers should keep off. The Russian Empire collapsed in the Revolution of 1917 but since then, governments in Moscow have wanted to control territories that used to be part of the Empire.
Georgia was part of the Russian Empire until 1917. After the collapse of the Empire, an independent Georgian state was established in May 1918. In 1921 during the Russian Civil War, Russian troops invaded the country under the orders of Joseph Stalin, who was a native Georgian.
Large-scale repressions orchestrated by a pro-Russian but ethnic Georgian security officer, Lavrentiy Beria, heavily demoralized the Georgian society and exterminated its most active pro-independence part. From August 29 to September 5, 1924 – a period of one week – 12,578 people, chiefly nobles and intellectuals, were executed and over 20,000 exiled to Siberia.
Georgia then became a republic within the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) until 1991 when the USSR collapsed.
As an independent state, ethnic tension has often plunged Georgia into crises and provided ample opportunity for the intervention of neighbouring countries. Ethnic Georgians account for 70% of the population; Armenians, Russians, Azerbaijanis, and Ossetians are the leading minorities. Thus, the country is always under the grips of instability. Georgia’s first president, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, was ousted in 1992. Former President Eduard Shevardnadze survived two assassination attempts in the 1990s.
In 2004, the US supported riots in Georgia that led to the ouster of President Eduard Shevardnadze, who was pro-Russia. The youthful Mikhail Saakashvili took office and adopted a pro-Western stance. Not only did Georgia contribute soldiers to Iraq, but the country has applied for membership in the American led, NATO. These developments have angered Russia. Georgia’s ill-advised attack against pro-Russian militia in South Ossetia gave the Russian government a good reason to invade.
The regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both containing minority ethnic groups, wish to secede and join Russia. Of course, Russia has only been too happy to provide the necessary assistance in a bid to destabilize Georgia. The local governments of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are not recognized by the central government of Georgia. Abkhazia is essentially independent, and South Ossetia is almost independent.
Another autonomous region, Ajaria, does not seek secession from Georgia; its local government cooperates with the central government and recognizes the constitution of Georgia as the guiding force for local legislation.
Disputes with Abkhazia, Ajaria and South Ossetia featured prominently as Georgia joined the Soviet Union in the early 1920s.
In July 1921 the Ajarian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR) was formed within Georgia. Abkhazia was initially a separate Soviet republic, but in 1921 it was merged with Georgia, and in 1931 it was downgraded to the status of an autonomous republic. In April 1922 the Soviet government created the political entity of South Ossetia and designated it an autonomous region within Georgia, while its northern counterpart on the other side of the Greater Caucasus, North Ossetia (now Alania), became part of Russia.
Georgia has a mostly mountainous terrain, more than one-third of which is heavily wooded. The main ridge of the Caucasus Mountains forms the Northern boundary with Russia. The Lesser Caucasus occupy the Southern and central parts of the republic.
REPORTS BY: MSN Encarta, Wikipedia, History.com
Filed under: Analysis | Tagged: abkhazia, ajaria, beria, caucasus, conflict, dmitry, eduard, georgia, joseph, lavrentiy, medvedev, mikhail, moscow, ossetia, putin, russia, saakashvili, shevardnadze, south, soviet, stalin, tbilisi, union, vladimir, war |