On the Future of “South Ossetia”


Last week was marked by an election day not only in Tbilisi’s Mtatsminda district, but also in the breakaway region of South Ossetia. On June 9, 31,000 voters in the occupied territory elected 34 MPs, half elected proportionally, while the other half under the majoritarian component.

The elections beyond the occupation line were held peacefully and, like those in Tbilisi, the voters gave their trust to the representatives of the government party. However, interestingly, the support was not that strong, as the preliminary vote count showed that the United Ossetia party, lead by de-facto president Anatoly Bibilov, had lost the majority.

35% of votes, that is six MPs proportionally and seven under majoritarian from United Ossetia, got through, while all the other places were won by the party of the former de-facto president Eduard Kokoity. The fate of the majority will be decided by the six majoritarians who were running under the status of independent candidates. Apart from this simple election math, the main intrigue of the elections on the occupied territories was completely different and totally unconnected with the process of the elections.

Changes in occupied Tskhinvali were forecast a few months ago upon the return of the former de-facto ex-president Eduard Kokoity, who was sent away on an “honorable” exile. His return was regarded as the beginning of the end of the current government. And the June 9 elections clearly showed that the forecast wasn’t a mistake. Tskhinvalians are now waiting to see if the Kremlin will renounce Bibilov fully, making Kokoity once again a Trojan Horse which will start “the big cleansing.”

Meanwhile, Kokoity’s popularity is rising and his main motto about independent Ossetia is as popular as ever, unlike that of de-facto president Bibilov, who calls for unification with North Ossetia and joining the Russian Federation. The question as to why Bibilov and his motto might be unacceptable to the Kremlin is still unanswered, but the situation is far from simple: if we examine the reactions of Russian political experts and journalists who are close to the Kremlin, we can see that there is something in Bibilov’s initiative that they don’t like. And, unfortunately, it isn’t difficult to guess why Russia is not rushing to make a decision.

In reality, there is nothing beneficial in this hesitation for us: quite the contrary. If Russia includes “South Ossetia” in its federation, thus "making the century-old dream of the Ossetian people" come true, with it Russia will lose its leverage for pressuring Georgia. Not that we have the illusion that it will ever give us the territory back as a “federation” or “confederation,” nor that it will ever try to lie to us by giving such false promises. But, importantly, while the breakaway “South Ossetia” is an “independent country,” Moscow can continue trying to explain away the aggression by hailing it as “a conflict between two neighboring countries,” Georgia and ‘South Ossetia,’ in which Russia is just a third party, “having the role of a mediator” and “not to be blamed for anything if the equal parties were unable to come to an agreement about Truso Valley or even about who should own the Kazbegi-Stepantsminda area.”

On the other hand, Kokoity, who doesn’t support the unification with Russia, wants to conquer said the above areas first and only after that wants to announce the historic “creation of a Big United Alania” which will include both Kazbegi and Truso.

It is too early for the unification of north and south Ossetia without these two strategic territories, thinks Eduard Kokoity. Perhaps this is why the Kremlin is keeping the issue of Truso Valley alive in the media, testing the political sentiments, but in Tskhinvali and not in Tbilisi, as we mistakenly thought before.

If Russia takes “South Ossetia” into its federation, it will mean giving up the hoe and its long-term plan to annex other territories of Georgia as well, if not fully and forever, then to a large extent. This is of course not what Russia truly wants. However, the “Ossetia lobby” is still at work as before, quite successfully, and it will become clear soon whether Bibilov’s or Kokoity’s plans will prevail.

By Zaza Jgarkava

13 June 2019 18:49