Georgian Historian on Putin: Russian Leader Could Not Pass History Exam

The Russian President Vladimir Putin has recently offered his “alternative version” of how Georgia “occupied” the currently Russian-occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali (South Ossetia) regions.

"Georgia, with help from German troops, occupied Abkhazia in 1918, and Georgian troops were even crueler in South Ossetia during 1919 and 1920. This was essentially what is called genocide today," Russian President Vladimir Putin stated at a meeting with journalists on July 9.

GEORGIA TODAY spoke to the historian, Professor Jaba Samushia, the Deputy Director-General of the Rustaveli National Science Foundation of Georgia, to follow Putin’s alternative “historical facts” step by step and find historically justified answers to them.

As the Georgian historian noted, Putin’s knowledge of history “equals to the knowledge of the pupil of primary class”.

“It is too bad because when one makes a political statement, it should be based on specific facts and knowledge. The Russian leader could not pass a history exam and put himself in a very funny situation”, Jaba Samushia said.  

Samushia believes that Putin’s statement is a classic example of how the empire tries to use history to justify its violent actions.

Here, we offer to our readers Vladimir Putin’s alternative versions on how Georgia “occupied’ Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions, followed by the historically justified arguments of Professor Jaba Samushia.

Fake № 1: Ossetia joined the Russian Empire in 1774. Both northern and southern Ossetia came together, as an independent state. 

Answer: Ossetia definitely joined the Russian Empire in 1774. However, it was not based on its free will, but Russia occupied it. I talk about the occupation of historic Ossetia, namely, principalities existing in North Ossetia. As for so-called South Ossetia, there has never been any Ossetian administrative unit on Southern slope of the Caucasus, until Russia and later, Soviet Russia contributed to establishing an administrative unit there. Historically, so-called South Ossetia has always been included in Shida Kartli Region of Georgia and was a part of it.

Fake № 2: Abkhazia joined the Russian Empire in 1810 as an independent state, a principality, as well. Later, events began to take place within a single state. The southern part of Ossetia became part of Tiflis Governorate. No Georgia existed, there was the Tiflis Governorate.

Answer: The principality of Abkhazia really existed, but it was similar to other Georgian principalities existing at a time and was one of them. It was inhabited by Georgians. So talking about the existence of the independent principality of Abkhazia is absolutely unacceptable and foolish. Putin wants to create new history to cover his imperialistic plans, but at least he can ask how many Georgian cultural monuments are present in Abkhazia's territory – churches, monasteries, episcopal centers, manuscripts, etc. For example, Bedia Monastery, where Georgian King Bagrat the Third is buried, Likhni Monastery in the middle of Abkhazia where Georgian manuscripts even from the 11th century are still preserved, Besleti Bridge, etc. There are numerous examples. So, it is just another attempt of our Northern neighbor to occupy not only the territory but history as well, which is the worst. They can occupy the territory by force, but occupying the history is impossible, as Georgian-Abkhazian unity is too big. The Georgian mark in Abkhazia and signs of existence of ethnic Georgians are too big there.

This rich cultural heritage is Georgian and I’m afraid that they will try to destroy the monuments for hiding the Georgian mark there. However, this cultural heritage is so big that I think it will be impossible for them.

Fake № 3: Abkhazia was developed in the following way: when the Russian Empire collapsed after WWI Georgia made attempts to take over Abkhazia. The independent Georgian state appeared and with the help of German troops Georgia occupied Abkhazia in 1918.

Answer: It is total nonsense. There was no case of occupation of Abkhazia in 1918. Troops of the Democratic Republic of Georgia serving in Abkhazia fought against Denikin (Russian Lieutenant General in the Imperial Russian Army) and the warriors of so-called White Army at a time.

Additionally, there were no German troops in the territory at a time. They were placed on Georgian-Turkish territory and they were just Germans living in Shida Kartli Region of Georgia, who were dressed in military uniforms.

Fake № 4: The occupying forces acted very harshly. The Georgian troops acted even more harshly in Ossetia in 1919 and 1920.  This was what we call today “genocide”.

Answer: Ossetian people lived in many regions of Georgia and they never faced any trouble anywhere during the existence of the Democratic Republic of Georgia. Moreover, a few Ossetians from the Social Democratic Party were the members of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Georgia. They actively worked for Georgia’s independence.

As for the fact that there were rebellions on the territory of Shida Kartli Region of Georgia, they were inspired by Bolsheviks who used to come from North Caucasus and arrange so-called “rebellions” there. Consequently, Georgian troops had to expel them. There were no rebellions, just Bolsheviks used to arrange such confrontations in villages inhabited by ethnic Ossetians. However, there were many Ossetians in the Army of the Democratic Republic of Georgia who had to oppose them.

Fake № 5: The Georgian authorities would do well to remember this. It must not be forgotten if Georgia’s current government wants to mend relations with the people of Abkhazia or South Ossetia.

Answer: Georgia would always be able to manage relations with Abkhazians and Ossetians if there was no Russian intervention. The periods of the Democratic Republic of Georgia and the Soviet Union are its obvious examples. Moreover, if they look through the statistics, there were research centers of local culture, history, ethnography, etc., in Abkhazia and Ossetia. There were no similar centers in North Ossetia or in any other autonomous republics. None of the autonomous republics existing on Russian territory had their own television, while there was a local television in Abkhazia, there were universities operating in Sokhumi and Tskhinvali, etc.

In reality, the main center for studying Ossetian Culture and history (I mean historic North Ossetia, which is occupied by Russia), was Georgia, namely the scientific centers of Tbilisi and Tskhinvali.

So, Georgia would freely normalize relations with people living in Abkhazia and Ossetia if there was no Russian intervention. Russia does not love any nation - this country has its own imperialistic thoughts and has no empathy for anyone.  Putin tells us his alternative version of history and forgets the genocides Russia arranged in North Caucasus.

Fake № 6: During the Soviet era, it was decided to establish the Soviet Socialist Republic of Abkhazia, which included today’s Georgia. It wasn’t even Georgia. The Soviet Socialist Republic of Georgia was established during Stalin’s time, and Abkhazia was included. By the way, human rights activists never note this, which is strange.

However, on Stalin’s orders, the NKVD, governed by Beria, took very harsh measures on Abkhazians in order for Georgia to absorb this territory and the Abkhazians.

Answer: By mentioning Stalin, Putin raised quite an intriguing topic. He needed to mention Stalin because he was Georgian. However, everything happened before Stalin, in 1921. For a few months, Abkhazian Bolsheviks tried to obtain the status of Republic to Abkhazia. However, they were refused and Abkhazia joined the Federation of Transcaucasus as well as later the Soviet Union as an integral part of Georgia.

These events took place in 1921-1922, so I’d like to remind the society and Putin himself, who is a big “expert” of history that Stalin became the leader in 1924, after the death of Lenin. He was in government before, but served as a Secretary-General and had no real power. So, Putin just used his name, as an evil Georgian politician.

As for terror and genocide of nations, the Russian politician is talking to us about it. He, together with his state, destroys the ethnic environment everywhere they can. They tried everything to divide the Georgian nation according to their origins from various regions of the country, by mentioning them such as Megrelians, Ajarians, etc. These people now say that Georgians arranged genocide.

During the Soviet time, in 1937, all nations - Georgians, Armenians, Russians, etc. were destroyed. Generally, the year 1937 was the time of the Bolshevik Terror. It was a disaster brought by the Soviet Regime. By the way, it was created by the structure which raised up Putin – KGB. Today, their attempt to blame the year 1937 events on Georgians is nonsense. The ethnic component has nothing to do here because the Empire does not have origins. The Soviet Union equally destroyed all nations around it.

Fake № 7: This is a grim legacy that one of the first Georgian Presidents simply ignored when he took Ajara and Abkhazia’s autonomy, restulting in an explosive and fratricidal war.

Answer: Putin made several mistakes in these two sentences. First of all, no one abolished the autonomous republics of Abkhazia and Ajara. South Ossetia did not have the status of the autonomous district at all. As for fratricidal war, Putin does not have to go far if he is interested who started this war in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali. He must have the relevant documents in his cabinet, as he was the Security General at a time. Additionally, he can ask his colleagues about it, they will definitely give answers.

Fake № 8: At the time, I tried to convince Mr. Saakashvili. I said, “Mr. Saakashvili, do not take any military actions against Abkhazia or South Ossetia.” I said the same to the Americans: “No, under no circumstances." And what happened? They started a war. The result? It is well-known today. Russia had to acknowledge the independence of these republics and protect the Abkhazians and the South Ossetians.

Answer: I can’t say anything about it, as it is our modern history and everyone knows about the developments. The society can judge it itself. It does not matter, I once again say that this is occupation and until Russia frees itself from imperialistic thoughts, of course, it will always be a danger for Georgian statehood. We need to work more and more actively to avoid these dangers. It does not only mean to strengthen our economy but also to fight against hybrid war, which also includes intellectual war. What we have just seen from Putin is an obvious example of intellectual war. We should show our real history to Europe and the whole world and prove that what he said is absolute nonsense.

By Ana Dumbadze 

10 July 2019 21:19