Sunday, August 28, 2016

Caucasus Report

South Ossetian Opposition Calls For Referendum On Unification

South Ossetia's de facto President Leonid Tibilov has sent out mixed messages regarding Ossetian unification. (file photo)
South Ossetia's de facto President Leonid Tibilov has sent out mixed messages regarding Ossetian unification. (file photo)
Ever since the population of Georgia’s autonomous republic of South Ossetia began campaigning in 1989 to secede from what was then still the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic, the option of reuniting the predominantly Ossetian-populated territories that constituted a separate Caucasian kingdom in the Middle Ages has been on the agenda.

South Ossetia’s recognition by the Russian Federation in August 2008 as an independent sovereign state failed to put an end to the debate, in which some local politicians declare that the region’s hard-won independence is non-negotiable, while others argue in favor of unification with the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania, which is part of the Russian Federation.

South Ossetia’s current de facto president, Leonid Tibilov, has been less than consistent on the issue. His election program stressed the need for strengthening the republic's sovereign status while crafting increasingly close ties to Russia. And in October 2012, he attributed the campaign for unification to unnamed forces seeking to thwart the consolidation of South Ossetian society.

Less than a year later, however, Tibilov told journalists that "the Ossetians are one people and should live in a single state within the Russian Federation. And if this comes about under my rule, I shall consider that I have fulfilled the mission entrusted to me."

The Yedinaya Osetiya (One Ossetia) political party quoted those words this week in a formal statement addressed to Tibilov  asking him to schedule a referendum, to be held concurrently with the parliamentary elections due in  June, on the unification of South and North Ossetia within the Russian Federation.

Yedinaya Osetiya was established in the summer of 2012 and registered in December of that year. It is headed by former Minister for Emergency Situations Anatoly Bibilov.

Bibilov was the candidate of the then ruling Yedinstvo (Unity) party in the November 2011 presidential ballot. The official results of the second round of voting, which showed opposition candidate Alla Djioyeva the winner with 57 percent of the vote compared with 43 for Bibilov, were annulled by the republic’s Supreme Court. Tibilov won the repeat election in March-April 2012, in which Bibilov did not run.

The eventual unification of the two Ossetian polities figured prominently in Bibilov’s 2011 presidential election program. But he simultaneously acknowledged that unification would be an arduous and protracted process. At the same time, Bibilov upheld the idea of a sovereign independent South Ossetia closely aligned with the Russian Federation.

Yedinaya Osetiya also initially expressed its support both for the republic's independence, and for the leadership of both South Ossetia and North Ossetia. At the same time, it listed several geopolitical options. In a statement released in February 2013, six of its leading members (not including Bibilov) affirmed that "the people of South Ossetia can in future decide on becoming part of Russia, or uniting with North Ossetia within Russia, or entering the Eurasian Union of Peoples in the capacity of a sovereign state, or it could take a decision on other forms of state reunification with Russia."

In order to discuss the proposed referendum on unification, Yedinaya Osetiya plans to hold a conference, to which speakers from North Ossetia will be invited, next month in the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali. It will also carry out what it describes as "a small-scale plebiscite" of the population of South Ossetia, with the stated aim of "destroying the existing taboo" on discussing a referendum on unification.

At the same time, the party admits that "the re-unification of Ossetia is a two-way street," and that "titanic work" will be needed in Russia for the planned referendum to yield the desired result.

Bibilov was quoted by the Ossetian state broadcaster on January 6 as saying that his party, which is not represented in the current parliament, will not initiate a referendum at this stage, as doing so would lay it open to the charge of using the issue for its election campaign. He added, however, that, if the referendum does not take place in June, Yedinaya Osetiya will hold it independently. Bibilov said an analogous referendum should be held in Russia, but doing so "could take years."

Goodwill Gesture

There has been no reaction as yet to the Yedinaya Osetiya initiative from either Tibilov or his North Ossetian counterpart Taymuraz Mamsurov.

Mamsurov, 58, is a fervent supporter of the idea of a united Ossetia within the Russian Federation, and even considers unification "a historic inevitability," but he admits it may not come about in his lifetime.

Nor has there been any official reaction from either Tbilisi or Moscow. With very few exceptions, the international community continues to uphold Georgia's territorial integrity and therefore views both South Ossetia and the breakaway Republic of Abkhazia as integral parts of Georgia, even though the leaders of the two entities unequivocally reject the possibility of voluntarily submitting to Georgian rule.

As a gesture of goodwill, the new Georgian government has nonetheless recently changed the name of the State Ministry for Reintegration to the Ministry for Reconciliation and Civic Equality.

As for the Russian leadership, having already incurred the opprobrium of the international community by formally recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 2008, it is unlikely to publicly endorse a course of action that would substantiate the existing accusations that it has annexed Georgian territory. (Whether it might nonetheless tacitly condone the campaign for a referendum on unification is a different question.)

Visiting Tskhinvali last month, the Kremlin's new point-man for the two breakaway regions, Vladislav Surkov, rejected as unrealistic even the suggestion that South Ossetia might accede to the new Commonwealth of Independent States' Customs Union comprising Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Surkov pointed to the region’s moribund economy (in 2013, 90 percent of South Ossetia’s budget revenues comprised subsidies from Moscow) and the seeming inability of the current South Ossetian government to resolve even basic infrastructure problems. 

Unification with North Ossetia, where the level of federal subsidies was 69 percent in 2012, would not necessarily improve the economic situation. The combined population of the two regions is approximately 800,000.

South Ossetian deputy parliament speaker Mira Tskhovrebova recently claimed that the idea of unification has become a "filter separating patriots from enemies," meaning that any South Ossetian official who instead backs the concept of an independent sovereign republic is branded unpatriotic, and thus a way for individual politicians to increase their popularity rating in the run-up to the June parliamentary election.

At the same time, Tskhovrebova also acknowledged that unification is "our people's centuries-old dream," and declared that "not a single Ossetian is against it."

A poll conducted jointly two years ago by the Moscow-based Center for Sociological and Marketing Research and an institute in Vladikavkaz (the capital of North Ossetia) similarly registered a high level of support for unification, at least in South Ossetia, where 80 percent of the population hold Russian passports. Of the 700 people polled, no less than 92.5 percent were in favor of the unification of South Ossetia and North Ossetia within Russia.

-- Liz Fuller
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Comment Sorting
by: HA from: Seattle WA
January 08, 2014 20:39
It makes no sense that South Ossetia broke from Georgia based on its separate ethnicity from Georgia, only to become absorbed by Russia. Such a referendum would only make sense within the nationalism Ossetian leaders claim to hold dear if it were a referendum calling for North Ossetia to secede from Russia and join South Ossetia in a unitary, independent state.
In Response

by: Squirrel
January 09, 2014 08:36
They broke from Georgia because they had never JOINED Georgia. It was like making Poland part of Spain - these nations have nothing in common. Ossetia used to be part of Russia, not Georgia, before the Soviets artificially redrew the borders within the USSR.

From the very beginning of Georgia's independence, Ossetians were struggling to break away from Georgia and join Russia again. Besides, Georgians tried to massacre Ossetians in 2008 to grab their land. So the problem is not only "their separate ethnicity", but also their distrust and hatred towards the Georgians.
In Response

by: Sey from: World
January 09, 2014 16:58
I don't understand what you mean when you say Georgians and Ossetians have nothing in common. Please, have you ever seen Georgians, Ossetians...Caucasians for that matter? They're all different, of course, but they're all the same. Ossetians have more in common with Georgians and other Caucasians than they've ever had and they'll ever have with Russians.

OK...let's not even mention Georgians here. Ossetians are ethnically Iranians, and most Caucasian peoples have a history of Iranian influence and Iranian (by "Iranian" I mean Pan-Iranian, not Persian) blood running through their veins...whether they like to accept it or not. Russians are Slavs.

Ossetia was in ancient times either independent (Alania) or subjected to Iranic, Mongolic, or Turkic rule...Russians only appeared in the scene some two to three centuries ago.

But what are we even arguing about? Take a deep look at Ossetians these days...they are, I consider, the most Russified of all Caucasian peoples. Listen to Ossetic being spoken, unlike Chechen or Circassian, it has become extremely accented by Russian.

The only thing that will come from unification is more Russification...if there can ever be more. As the article stated, South Ossetians hold Russian passports and mostly speak Russian.

What Ossetians should do if they want to survive as a people and a nation is to declare full independence, both from Georgia and from Russia. The goal should be a sovereign Ossetian state, not some Russian backwater client territory.

In Response

by: Rasto from: my comp
January 10, 2014 07:22
Looks liek you have never been to Georgia, I can reccomend you to book Holidays in Bakuriani or Borjomi, or go to Tbilisi you will meet thousands Ossetians livingh in the region. and other thousands intermarried with Georgians. Obviously if you speak none of teh langiages of Georgia you will not find out.
In Response

by: parvenu from: US
January 10, 2014 14:56
Yes, Soviets but more precisely Stalin who made his home country bigger. Simple as that.
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
January 12, 2014 15:21
Even so, Osetins are occupied by Russian invading Armies
and false "representation" by children of rape of Ossetia Women, starting with general Boldyrev Nazi Russian military
in Moldova in 1950-th, producing slaves of Russia.
Even North Ossetia was against it - to invade them, Russian
GRU murdered more than hundred children in Beslan.
South Ossetia was always Georgia that invited Knights from Ossetia and settled in Tchinvali during United Georgian Kingdoms with participation of Ossetia.
Majority of South Ossetia were Georgians, or intermarried with Georgians, and all were Christians, till Lenin invaded both Ossetias with genocide against Georgians and after WW2
Russians started influx and squeezing out Georgians and
their Ossetia friends.
In Response

by: Dask from: Poland
January 14, 2014 16:06
The comment above about Ossetians being "ethnically Iranian" is a lie. That accolade can actually be attributed to Georgians instead, by using their recent history in the region (Georgians only made it to the Caucasus a little more than 1000 years ago), their language and the roots it shares with Persian, the 4+ million Georgians (Gurji) people still living in Iran, and more. Ossetians are the original Alans and have nothing to do with Iran. As for the rest of the article, I hope Alania becomes united once more. Neither Abkhazia or Ossetia should have anything to do with Georgia. In fact, Georgia should apologize for its actions against their people from the past 200 years (this also involves helping Russians kill their people and exiling them to the Ottoman Empire, which is how Georgians became a majority in BOTH areas in recent times) as well as returning land that belongs to Abkhazia, Ossetia, Armenia, and Kabardians that was "gifted" to them by Stalin (this is true, see how Georgia grew five times in size after Stalin seized power in the USSR).
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
January 16, 2014 11:15
Too modest mud, Dask - not "Dusk" but the "Der'ma ushat".
Your masters, "Shtaby" of Russian Nazi propaganda "spyat"
Can make even a dog get mad - "Navodish ten' na pleten' "?
Neither Ossetians nor Georgians are ethnic Iranians, "Van' "!
Your Russian masters are degenerates - use anything to shit.

In the reference was Median UN, South-Eastern pre-Georgia
That was betrayed, invaded and in part annexed by Persians,
Later by betraying ally, Macedonians. Persia used one dialect
Of pre-Georgian Iberian-Caucasian language family - Median,
Mixed with Persian and Caspian Albanian. Russia lying freak.

Ossetians were mentioned regarding to Beslan, also Medians,
They were left there by Besso - during Darius braking through.
Caucasus was pre-Georgian linguistic and genetic, all around.
Later tribes of Israel joined in the North and Huns and Skiffian
Allies settled-helped hold invading bad tribes of Sam and Gad.

In South most Kingdoms were lost to Barbarian, like Urartians,
Greko-Macedonians, Romans and lead by Chaldean invaders
Of Muslim Worlds, two times Mongols brought by lying Russia.
All nations in Caucasus were Iberian-Caucasian descendants.
They knew it all alone - till again Moscow usurped by Prussia.

Georgia always was contributing to their brothers and sisters,
As for-fathers - Iberia-Caucasia race and Human Civilization.
Russia always annexing and repopulating it by its marauders
And multitude of slaves that bluntly lying. Stalin had no power
But only tried to save us all from Russia-cannibals disposition.

You gave up who you are, by mentioning Caucasus countries
That Russia-Putin thinks already are done deal of annexation
And also your arrogant language on territorial demands clear,
Only Russian Nazi bully would talk like you, with impudention.

In Response

by: Dog Bar from: Cuba
January 23, 2014 11:54
All lies, All of the time............
Who watches The watchers FBI ~ CIA ~ Israeli secrete service
American secrete service ~ MI5 / MI6
History is for people who can not understand the truth.
American propaganda likes you to think that there brand of the truth is the truth ~ never in a trillion years
Russia has always looked after itself
The French ~ English ~ Americans are a direct cause of
the ottoman empire being divided up into pretend states like Israel
then blame everyone else for it's troubles ~ What a land grab
Georgia ~ Poland like other regions have had to be administrated
because the west have little reguard for the peoples and a like
These regions have always been a cross road where warring factions have tryed to over run Russia with or without western backing. ie Nazi Germany.

Think of what America did in Cuba murder on a
unimaginable scale and in South America and Central America like Panama for example

Then there is the ottoman invasion of southern Russia
million had to flee murder most wanted

Then there is the case of Poland and its hatred of Russians and many a story of genocide by the hands of Polish forces.

Everyone wants to point the finger at Russia : First you must take a look at yourselves and ask yourselves Why?
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
January 24, 2014 05:41
"Dusking" for Russia, putting duck-tape on it's victims mouths?
It is hard to tell whether you are inhuman mouth of Russia,
Or a computer program-"neskladuha", forging humans
Out of cacophony of non-information list of names
Of enemies of Russia and its partner - Prussia.
Directly or indirectly, killing a Hundred Millions
During the Empire, fifty millions by red Russia
And in Afghanistan alone, bestially, 2 Millions
Is your master. What you listed is her victims...

by: Mamuka
January 09, 2014 01:12
I think a better translation of 'Yedinaya Osetia' is "United Ossetia." You know, like "United Russia" (yedinaya Rossiya).

I'm sure the name is just a coincidence. Do you think they also have a bear for a logo?

by: Anonymous
January 09, 2014 06:12
it will be good, Osetia must unite.

by: to HA from: Lithuania
January 09, 2014 08:20
Nationalism makes little sense over there. It's more about power and $. Russia has it. Georgia? Meh. Look at Kadyrov.

by: Tsoritæ from: Frankfurt
January 09, 2014 11:37
Let's say South- and North Ossetia reunited and got independent, how will this affect the economy? Will the independent united Ossetian state manage standing on their own feet? And how will the future relations with the neighboring Caucasian states be?

by: Rasto from: front of my computer
January 09, 2014 13:57
Ossetians would somehow have to pay for stealing Georgian land. Those 60 000 living in Samachablo who wanted to unify with Ossetians from North had to sell their properties and move out of Georgia. Ossetian Spokeswoman Tskhovrebova Georgian ancestor named ცხოვრება or Life(Tskhovreba) is probably turning in the graves, since she Russified her Georgian surname. The Destiny/Karma/God/Universal mills are milling slowly. The day to pay will however inevitably arrive.
In Response

by: Mamuka
January 10, 2014 00:24
Ossetians and Georgians have a long history. In fact the word "Ossetia" is somewhat Georgian with the -eti place suffix (eg Kakheti, Khevsureti, Javakheti, Apkhazeti... oops sorry about that last one). Nonetheless the bitter memories of the 1990s, kept fresh by the Russians, probably drive the residents of the region away from Tbilisi. But what kind of unification can they have with North Ossetia, connected by one windy mountain road? How many tiny nations like this have 4000 meter mountain ranges cutting them in two?
In Response

by: Rasto from: my comp
January 10, 2014 07:30
Bitter memories of 1990? Sorry you shoudl know better than me that after collapse of Soviet Union their first steps were not to stay within Georgia, to join Russian federation as a republic. Gamsakhurdia as a bitter nationalist did not help the cause, but even if was not, they would be still heading north towards north ossetia and Russia. The resentment is dragging not from 1990 but from early stages of democratic Georgia in 1918. It was them who invited communists and were conquering and anecting side by side with Russian bolsheviks and Stalin whole Georgia.
In Response

by: Anonymous
January 11, 2014 12:57
The point of South Ossetian nation would be to control the Roki tunnel and charge Georgia fees for goods transported through it.
In Response

by: Rasto from: my comp
January 14, 2014 19:56
Anonymous, Georgians do have another border point with Russia through Kazbegi and Verkhni Lars , if they really wanted to transport something to Russia by land.
In Response

by: Dask from: Poland
January 14, 2014 16:11
You're joking right? GEORGIAN land!? Georgians are not even native to the Caucasus! But Ossetians are! Stop preaching false history to benefit your shaky roots!
In Response

by: Rasto from: my comp
January 14, 2014 19:54
Hey you "inteligent" Rasto is a short version of Rastislav thus my shaky roots are Slavic, Georgian settlement is from times of Colchis and old Lazica from times before Christ. Current Laz people living in Turkey and Adjara speak language close to Mengrelians - ethnic Georgians. Georgian alphabet is dated to 6th century so your comments about 1000 years of Georgian presence in Caucasusu is pure stupidity. Georgian minority lives in Iran because during Shach Abbas raids in 17th century Georgia he has captured about 150000 Georgians and taken them as slaves to Persia. On Shida kartli and Samachablo, according to available Russian cenzus from 1910 , in that time lived in Tskhinvali only 11 % of Ossetian families, predominant population was Jewish, Georgian and Russian. According to Ethnographs and linguists - and Ossetian webs Ossetian Allans ancestors came from Iranian territory. I met some Ossetians and most of them have much darker skin than Georgians.Ossetians started to migrate from North Caucasus to Georgian Shida Kartli through ridge of Caucasus en masse about 200 years ago.Thats why 800 000 of them live north of the ridge and only about 80 000 - minority used to live south of Caucasus mountain ridge - on Georgian territory. Thats why most of the Geographical names in so called South Ossetia are of Georgian origin same as scripts on old cgurches both in so called Ossetia and also in Abhkazia

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.