Many Ethnic Conflicts Erupted As Soviet Union Collapsed

By Jonathan S. Landay

McClatchy Washington Bureau
Aug 8 2008

WASHINGTON — Until heavy fighting erupted Friday, the feud between
Georgia and its rebel enclave of South Ossetia was one of the "frozen
conflicts," or stalemated territorial contests between ethnic groups
ignited by the former Soviet Union’s collapse.


South Ossetia is a mountainous enclave of about 70,000 people bordering
Russia. One-third of its population is Georgian. Ossetians, who speak
a language related to Farsi, seek union with North Ossetia, which is
inside the Russian Federation.

Georgia, whose 4.4 million people speak Georgian and Russian, voted
for independence after the former Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991.

Ethnic clashes erupted in 1989 as the Soviet Union headed toward
breakup, prompting the deployment of Soviet troops. Sporadic unrest
continued after Ossetian leaders declared their intention to secede.

The bloodshed abated after Russia, Georgia and Ossetian leaders agreed
to form a tripartite peacekeeping force in 1992. But talks failed to
resolve the standoff, and tensions flared anew after the 2004 election
of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, who declared his intention
to reclaim the enclave.

South Ossetia, which receives political and economic support
from Russia, voted to secede in 2006, but the referendum wasn’t
internationally recognized. The dispute became enmeshed in the larger
tensions between the United States and Russia over the expansion of
NATO, which Georgia is seeking to join with American backing.


Georgia also is grappling with breakaway Abkhazia, a region of about
250,000 people on the Black Sea whose separatist leaders receive
strong backing from Moscow.

Ethnic Georgians were a majority of the population there when the
Soviet Union collapsed and Georgia became independent. Ethnic Abkhaz
began agitating for independence and fighting erupted, prompting
Georgia to send in troops.

Georgia charges that Moscow provided the assistance that allowed
Abkhaz rebels to drive out the Georgian troops in 1993. Thousands of
ethnic Georgian civilians also fled.

U.N. military observers and Russian peacekeeping troops, whom
Georgia accuses of shielding the separatists, have kept a fragile
peace. Negotiations have made no progress.

Abkhazia formally declared independence in 1999, but hasn’t been
internationally recognized. It’s under an international economic
embargo, but receives goods from Russia via rail. Moscow also has
given Russian passports to most Abkhaz.


Trans-Dneister, most of whose population speaks Russian and Ukrainian,
declared independence in 1990 from Moldova, which is dominated
by Romanian speakers. The declaration has never been recognized

Hundreds of people died in fierce fighting that erupted after Moldova
became independent, prompting Russia to send troops. The narrow strip
of territory between the Dneister River and Ukraine has since gained
notoriety as a center of international organized crime.

Trans-Dneister’s leaders held a referendum in 2006 that reaffirmed
the independence declaration and set a goal of union with
Russia. Negotiations on ending the dispute have made no progress.

NATO has demanded that Russia withdraw its troops from
Trans-Dneister. But Moscow continues to maintain a base there,
ostensibly to protect a stockpile of weapons whose removal the
separatist leadership has blocked.


Nagorno-Karabagh is a region in Azerbaijan, an overwhelmingly Muslim
former Soviet republic. The enclave’s population is mainly ethnic
Christian Armenian.

Ethnic clashes erupted in 1988, prompting ethnic Azeris to flee
the enclave and neighboring Armenia, and ethnic Armenians to flee
Azerbaijan. The number of displaced people is estimated at about
1 million.

Heavy combat erupted after the territory declared independence in
1991 and its intention to unite with Armenia.

Aided by Armenia, ethnic Armenian forces defeated Azerbaijani forces,
then pushed beyond Nagorno-Karabagh’s limits, creating a buffer zone
that they still control.

Up to 30,000 people are thought to have died before Russia brokered
a 1994 cease-fire. Internationally mediated talks between Azerbaijan
and Armenia have failed to resolve the dispute.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

You may also like

Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS