Tskhinvali Region Is Not Alania: Regional Problems in Tskhinvali
OP-ED by Academician Roin Metreveli, Vice President of Georgian National Academy of Sciences
It is beyond one’s comprehension and maybe even rousing indignation when the de facto Ossetian leadership tries to redub Tskhinvali Region Alania. This, on the one hand, is but ignorance of history and on the other - a complete negation of reality.
Generally, to rename either a region or a place without taking into account their geographical development within a historical time is simply wrong. At this point, the arrangement of an opinion poll of the population comes across as a mere farce or rather an endeavor to veil a lay opinion showing negligence as regards the given issue. More than that, to carry out the renaming of the truly Georgian land arbitrarily is nothing other than blasphemy.
It is common knowledge the Ossetians are deemed to have settled in the North of the Caucasus – the present day North Ossetia – a couple of centuries ago, together with tribes of Skythian-Sarmatic origin. It is also a noteworthy fact that in the vast family of Indo-European languages, the Ossetian language is formed by the Northern and Eastern Iranian group of languages.
In the Xth-XIIth centuries, the Ossetian kingdom established relations with different countries, including Georgia. But in the XIth -and –XIIth -century Osseti, one of Georgia’s vassals after Tamerlan’s rampages, lost its integrity to eventually disperse into different directions - Hungary, the Balkans, etc. One group tried to put down roots in Kartli but the Georgian feudals retaliated and their attacks finally made them retreat. However, in the XVth-XVIIIth centuries, the Ossetians manage to settle down in the fore part and the lowland zone of mountainous Georgia, the northern part of Kartli, while a minor group found refuge in the Kingdom of Imereti.
Those having found abode in Kartli had to live within the dominion of Georgian feudals, the Machabelis and the Eristavis, and attend to them like other serfs. Interestingly, the Ossetians used to be engaged in the military campaigns against the foe harassing Georgia. As sources imply, the Ossetian peasants and serfs were dealt with due attention by King Erekle II himself.
A Few Words about Allans
Allan, to follow its definition in the Iranian source, denotes a name for an Iranian tribe mentioned in works by the XIIIth century scholar and writer Iacuti and also by Al-Fidas, the Arab historian and geographer of the same time period. According to the sources, the Allans populated a territory in Mid Asia – Islamic period- having migrated to the North of the Caucasian Ridges. To listen to Professor I. Makvarti, since the IXth century, the Allans had been known as Uss; the same name, Uss, is confirmed from the Mongol period by Academician V.Bartold - see V.V.Bartold, Allans, vol.2 M., 1963,pp.866-867. Along with this, the latter also quotes a note from encyclopedia of the Xth-XIth centuries, Al-Birum, having that “Allans and Usses” as kith and kin, lived between the Arali and the Caspian seas, who happened to migrate later to the North of the Caucasus. As a matter of fact, the form Uss serves as a basis for Oss in order to later turn into Ossi in the Georgian language, which, in its turn, was adopted in the Georgian fashion for the region as well eventually to be accepted by the Russian language as Ossetia. Further on, according to V.Bartold, - the Allans are looked upon as representatives of Greek Orthodoxy in a source of the XIII century: “The places of their settlements, at that time, spread a little farther in comparison to what they were before. By the time of the very first invasions of the Mongols, the space beginning namely beyond Derbent towards the North and even at the estuary of the River Volga were in the Allans possession, which most probably must be perceived as remnants after the collapse of Khazars’ kingdom. Broken and defeated by the Mongols, Allans were in part replaced into various regions of the Mongol Empire., the colony belonging to the Allan Christians are mentioned by Catholic missionaries in China,” V.V. Bartold, Allans, vol.II I.M.I963, pp.66. This extensive excerpt from the article ”Allans” by Bartold, an internationally acclaimed scientist, has been brought to the attention of the reader in order to clearly visualize the area outlined as a dwelling place for Allans, with which to underscore the fact that they had never lived to the South of the Caucasus. As for those called Ossetians, they appear on the stage of historical Georgia exclusively in the XVIIth century, and, as is corroborated, they do not comprise aboriginal tribes of the Caucasian population., even in the North Caucasus they started to dwell as settlers only XX centuries ago.
We have intentionally used sources only by foreign authors vis-à-vis Allans in the persons of I. Makvarti, V. Bartold in order to be free from any bias. The fact makes it clear that the people called Allans have never lived to the South of the Caucasus, mainly in Georgia – in the Region of Tskhinvali.
Consequently, it is made absurd when Tskhinvali Region is meant for the dubbing Alania in the fashion of the North Caucasus; consequently to think of integrating South Ossetia with North Ossetia is simply a blasphemy.
The categorical allegations of certain Russian politicians, that both South and North Ossetia were once constituent parts of Russia and that Stalin divided them to hand South Ossetia to Georgia with the view of setting up an autonomous region there - is in fact overwhelming. Maybe a politician is not expected to know the history of the Caucasus excessively well, however those who happened to have handed them such information are too distanced from the truth. Indeed, when making such announcements, one ought to be more cautious, to say little of how necessary it is to examine and re-examine facts. Unfortunately, many a fact from the history of Russian-Ossetian relations have been severely distorted of late [see Ossetians in Georgia by An. Totadze.,Myth and Reality, An.Totadze Tbilisi,2006].
Suffice it to get familiar with the works by G.Togoshvili, Ossetian by birth, especially with his encyclopedic articles, in the volume “The Georgian SSR,” under the title ”South Ossetia Autonomous Region, South Ossetia” [I981,pp.337-339] to realistically revive the history of South Ossetia. With this in view, it is interesting to read works by V.Abaev, B.Plyeva, O.Tedeea,Z.Gagloiti, P.Doguzov and others. Here is an excerpt from what the patriarch of Ossetian science writes – “The major part of the Caucasian Region is a natural border between the Georgians and the Ossetians…any endeavor to erase this border line shall entail a state of permanent conflict between the Georgians and the Ossetians… The first thing to do with this idea suggesting Ossetia’s breaking from Georgia is to immediately nib it in the bud. Not a single Georgian government can ever give assent to do this, as it would bring about nothing but encroachment upon the territorial integrity of Georgia. Anybody who may wish to maintain peace between Georgians and Ossetians must banish this thought of integrating southern and northern parts of Ossetia. Those wanting to keep peace between Russia and Georgia must too dismiss this thought. That is the reality.” [Nezavisimaia Gazeta, 1992.,22.I.No13]. No comment needed. What a pity that such a wisdom has been shown neither by the Russian nor the Ossetian bureaucrats and it leaves no doubt that the outcome will be distressing. Absurdly enough, Russian media has repeatedly stated that the Kuchuk-Kainary Pact, which was made in 1774 between Russia and the Osmans, annexed not only one part of historical Ossetia but, allegedly, entire Ossetia. At this point, they mean the northern part of Shida Kartli, where in the years that followed, the Autonomous Region of Ossetia was set up. Later, in 2004, on July 10, the Russian Duma made a bizarre announcement that, allegedly, in 1774, Ossetia integrated with Russia on a strictly voluntary basis. Proceeding from this, it was made definite for Russia to “equitably” protect the rights of the Osseti civilians. One can easily observe that on their part they demonstrate a complete incompetence or rather ignorance of history as such. It must be said that in those days the term “Osseti” did not exist in geography; it is clear enough, then, that the term “Ossetian State” can’t have existed either. Those Ossetians who lived in the mountains considered themselves to be refugees. However, from the second half of the XIXth century, the Russian bureaucrats have been applying their determined efforts to somehow implement in reality the imaginary terms such as the “North Ossetia” and “South Ossetia”; while until the XIXth century there practically exists no document which could possibly cater for the endeavor to dub the mountainous region of Shida Kartli Ossetia.
As a matter of fact, the three Ossetian tribes in the North Caucasia from Alagiri, Kurtati and Tagauri gorges joined the Russian Federation in 1774; notably, the fourth tribe from Diagori Gorge living in the domain of Kabardo joined Russia later in 1781. To cast an eye at the north part of Shida Kartli,where later was formed the so called autonomous district of Osseti, it belonged to the united kingdom of Georgia, later to Karli and then to Kartl-Kakheti kingdom indivisibly.The documents attached to the “Treaty of Georgievsk” let an opportunity to declare that the north part of Kartli and its extreme northern province - Dvaleti -belonged to the kingdom of Kartli and Kakheti, where Giorgi Saakadze enjoyed his rights that of a governor (XVII cent.).
After Georgia had been annexed by Russia (18O1), the north of Shida Kartli, along with Dvaleti, is found to be within the dominion of Imereti only for a while afterwards to become a constituent part of Gori District. Later, in 1858, adhering to the decree issued by the Tzar’s Governor General of the Caucasus Bariatinsky, Dvaleti had been handed to the Osseti of the “Caucasian Line”. Thus, only Dvaleti happens to be annexed to the North Osseti and not the part of Shida Kartli’s land, where consequently was formed the so called autonomous region of Osseti.
After the Democratic Republic of Georgia had been established in the year of 1918, the October Revolution destroyed the Russian Empire too letting Dvaleti enter the jurisdiction of Georgia again. On the basis of the Agreement made between the Democratic Republic of Georgia and Russia, on the 7th of May, 1920 - the border running on the major range of the Caucasus was officially defined as a border between Russia and Georgia. Consequently, it left no reservations that the extreme North of Shida Kartli – Dvaleti – was within the jurisdiction of Georgia. Russia had made it her goal to annex Shida Kartli and was therefore trying to create contentions between the Georgians and the Ossetians. Being up to that undertaking, Russia succeeded in inspiring armed insurrections targeted at one goal – to set up a soviet order of governing in “South Ossetia” and breaking it away from Georgia, because only after having achieved this would it be easier to get hold of the entire country. In 1920 the Soviet Russia and the Bolsheviks assisted Ossetian insurgents to declare Soviet Order in the so-called South Ossetia, pronouncing this territory to be part of Russia. It must be accentuated that the very act was formed by breeching all the norms existed: Georgia was territorially disintegrated, the will and opinion of Georgian population – trampled on. The regional resolution made by Russian Communist Party on March the 23rd 1920 reads:
1. to immediately organize a revolutionary committee in South Ossetia;
2. declare the Soviet Order;
3. form an armed detachment;
4. set up relations with North Ossetia… and allot one hundred thousand Rubles for the disposal of the Revolutionary Committee. There can be traced another appeal as well: “Moscow, to comrades Lenin and Chicherin. According to the order of the Local Caucasian Committee, of March the 23rd, confirmed by special Couriers to the same Committee… On June 8 - South Ossetia declares Soviet Rule”.
Other materials that exist also read clearly enough as to via whose prompting the Ossetians let the fratricidal war break out. Obviously, to even assumingly incriminate the so-called ”xenophobic” government of Georgia in the “genocide” of Ossetians means running the gauntlet of amorality.
The vicious plan of the Communist Party and the Soviet Russia to make Georgia soveticised was fulfilled, which, in its turn, meant that annexation of Georgia took place already a second time. Having done that, Russia broke the treaty of May 7th of 1920, made between her and Georgia. It is noteworthy, that the so called South Ossetia was warranted to have the status of an autonomous region without any grounds; consequently, in 1924, in June, the autonomous region was turned into the autonomous republic to, in the end, remain within the union of Russian Federation. The so-called Ossetia unified the regions at certain places densely populated by the Ossetians with feignedly annexed Georgian town Tskhinvali: As the “Caucasian Callendar” of 1900 has it, by the time the XXth century commenced, Tskhinvali was inhabited by Georgians, Georgian Jews and Armenians, surrounded by a couple Georgian villages. It did happen under duress arousing due indignation among Georgians [materials to be seen in the book entitled “From the History of Relations between the Peoples of Georgia and Ossetia”, Tb., 1991,pp.56-73]. The setting up of the autonomous region made the Georgian population of that area, in their native land, a minority, that for its part, must be looked upon as infringement upon human and national rights and freedom.
It does deserve a double take, that the Ossi people within Georgian union used to have all prerequisites to develop their economy. Before the Soviet Union collapsed, between 1990 -1991, the number of Ossetian comprehensive schools in Georgia counted a hundred, of which ninety schools were in the so-called “South Ossetia” and the teaching process was conducted in the Ossetian language; while the Ossetian language and literature were seen among independent subjects. To continue the recital: the Pedagogical Institute in Tskhinvali, an advanced training institute for teachers, music and art schools and schools providing tertiary education, agrarian, medical and other colleges. It is also noteworthy that according to the data of the census of population, in 1979, the number of graduates with higher education status per every hundred educated men across the Soviet Union, the so called South Ossetia occupied second place.
Further, in 1927 the Institute of Folklore was established in Tskhinvali, which later transformed into the South Ossetia Institute of Language, Literature and History and joined the Georgian Academy of Sciences. In addition to that, Tskhinvali prepared and released a multi-volume edition of the South Ossetia history (documents , materials), a two-volume edition of “The History of the South Ossetia” as well as four volumes of “The Ossetian Language Defining Dictionary”, next to the multi-volume edition of ,”Ossetian Literature”, three volumes of Ossetian fairy tales and a crown of this list – a compilation of Ossetian songs, attached with the musical scores, etc… It may be little known that Tskhinvali, at that time, was vibrant with the operating museum and an art gallery, the public library and the unions of artists and composers along the musical and choreographical societies, dance and song state national companies. What is interesting, Ossetia used to have their own national broadcasting system as well as their own periodicals and own fiction. It must be nonetheless interesting, that in comparison to the North Ossetia, South Osseti Autonomous Region issued books - five times more in amount and three times larger vis-a-vis circulation per every ten thousand inhabitants of Ossetian origin. It is clear as a daylight, the Georgian state and Georgian people gave to people of Ossetia an opportunity to evolve nationally, culturally, socially, politically and economically.
To reflect on the circumstances in the North Ossetia, who, to-date, is in the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation, it would be apt to draw a small excerpt from the publication of Head of the North Ossetia Supreme Council A. Galazov – “I sincerely feel grieved to see the young of my nationality, because despite their knowing foreign languages and the civilizations of the world, they do feel uncomfortable at home due to their not knowing even the basics of the Ossetian culture…. The national youngsters have been deprived of their mother tongue. Until last year, for instance, there was no school in the North Ossetia that would render teaching in the Ossetian language”. ¬[gazeta “Pravda”,1989,11-XI]. No comment needed.
To-date, when the devastated villages of Tskhinvali come to mind, when our fellowmen go uprooted from their abode in thousands having been turned into refugees in their own country, when along pains we do suffer from the offence of defeat, we acknowledge the circumstances realistically.
Having to state a sorry fact, we realize that in the XXIst century of hopes and expectations, Man remains as covetous and vicious as in the former centuries; violence has not as yet been curbed.
We firmly believe the world community ought to vociferously argue against the criminal intent of the Tskhinvali officials. It must be made clear for all that the Tskhinvali Region is the real Georgia and that Georgia is not Alania.