Moscow And "Trialeti Ossetia"


Experts’ club

Feb 8 2012

08/02/2012 09:00
Giorgi Tsiklauri

New hotbeds of future conflict

An uneasy conscience betrays itself – meaning of this proverb was
fully demonstrated by spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
of Russia, when he made a statement that official Tbilisi supposedly
tried to prevent residents of North Ossetia-Alania from visiting
neighbouring Kazbegi region of Georgia. And, probably, Alexander
Lukashevich deserves to be thanked for the fact that he drew attention
to a subject, relevance of which is gradually increasing.

“In North Ossetia, there are quite a few natives of the Kazbegi
district, those who have relatives there, homes. And it is at exactly
this kind of people of the borderland who are ethnic Ossetians that
restrictive measures of the authorities of Georgia are aimed at –
Russian diplomat says. – A relevant database was created at the
Kazbegi checkpoint for this category of persons and their relatives.

They are not allowed to enter Georgia”. In this connection the
Russian Foreign Ministry did not fail to declare that “facts of open
discrimination of Ossetians on the Georgian border are again confirmed:
slogans of” all Caucasian Friendship” is just a hypocritical cover
for the provocative and continuously chauvinistic policy of Tbilisi.”

Before turning to reasons, which actually caused the righteous anger
of the Russian Foreign Ministry, we should remind one fact: every
state has the sovereign right to refuse entry to any foreigner whose
presence in its territory it for some reason considers undesirable.

And at that the state does not have to explain reasons for the
refusal. But for some reason we have to repeatedly remind Moscow about
this universal rule, which is daily followed all over the world, –
Moscow whose baggage of similar actions is certainly not comparable
with the Georgian experience. Though, entry on the Russian borders is
suspiciously often denied to such undesirable persons, as journalists,
human rights activists and dissidents. The category of citizens that
may encounter problems on the border of Georgia was mentioned already
and will be discussed below in more details, taking into account,
as they like to repeat in Russia, “new realities”.

We should also dwell on bogey of “Georgian chauvinism,” image of
which is so carefully nurtured in Moscow. A decent person, unlike Mr.

Lukashevich, generally would not touch this topic. Because an official
representative of the country in which clashes among ethnic groups,
murders on national and racial grounds, marches with swastikas and
Nazi salutes under the walls of the Kremlin have become the norm,
should be ashamed to rant about someone else’s chauvinism. The more
shameful it must be to “incriminate” neighbours, who, in response to
these farfetched claim, can bring out an example of very real campaign
of the 2006 mass deportation of Georgians from Russia and many other
shameful examples, using more offensive words than “chauvinism”
at that.

However, “there is no smoke without fire” and the words of Lukashevich
must be due to something. Let’s try to figure out what exactly is a
reason behind them …

On January 30th Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister commented on the
statement of the Russian colleague. David Jalagania described
Alexander Lukashevich’s accusations as “cynical” and recalled
how zealously Moscow protested in October 2010 in connection with
the decision of Georgia to remove visa restrictions for the North
Caucasians – and now it turns out, it is protesting for exactly the
opposite reason. Meanwhile, according to official data of the Georgian
Interior Ministry, in 2011 the Kazbegi-Larsi checkpoint – the only
legal checkpoint on the Georgian-Russian land border was crossed by
more than 191 thousand people. Out of which, the largest group, or
99,000, were Russian citizens. Of which the non-visa regime introduced
by Tbilisi for the North Caucasus, was mostly enjoyed by residents of
North Ossetia-Alania – more than 8 600 visitors. In second place, far
behind are residents of Dagestan – about 2 000. They are followed by
residents of Kabardino-Balkaria – 690 visitors, Adygea – 574, Chechnya
– 334, Karachaevo-Cherkessia – 317, and Ingushetia – 28 people.

But let’s leave aside the official statistics and take a look on the
internet. The blogosphere, which has become one of the best indicators
of modern life, presents a number of positive stories and trip reports
of North Caucasians in Georgia. Moreover, Ossetians, once again,
dominate. But then complaints about the refusal of entry and evidence
of discriminatory treatment are somehow nowhere to be seen on the
internet. With one exception and this exception is Vladikavkaz-based
organization Darial. It is its members that from time to time organize
press-conferences in the capital of North Ossetia and complain to
the press about the closed Georgian border. The last such meeting
was held on January 27th suspiciously in sync with the statement of Mr.

Lukashevich and in its content it was a little more detailed account
of his claims. These claims, we note, also highlight “natives of
Kazbegi district” – that is, a group of Ossetians, which, according
to a legend, is represented by the Vladikavkaz-based Darial.

According to the legend, the organization advocates for the cause of
nearly two thousand former residents of Georgia, ethnic Ossetians,
who, because of climatic and socio-economic conditions moved to North
Ossetia in 2006, when Russia closed the border and found themselves
cut off from their homes. And now it’s the Georgian authorities that
prevent them from visiting their native land. But this is the latest,
“soft” version, which apparently Darial deemed necessary to use to
achieve their goals on the humanitarian line in a more persuasive
manner. While in earlier versions, instead of social roots of the
problem main role was played by Georgians-Nazis who en masse banished
Ossetians from the Kazbegi district, and other tales of this kind.

And, since this region is indeed closely connected to Ossetia, and a
lot of the Ossetians really lived (and live to this day) it is easy
for Darial to, if necessary, present before the press some of the
local natives, who will speak before a camera all that organizers need.

The point of this effort is to introduce into the information space
a thesis of presence of a hitherto unknown “disputed territories” –
that is, it is about creating an ideological base for the expansion
of geography of the Georgian-Russian conflict. Representatives of
Darial have already started to call on human rights organizations –
together with such distinguished human rights activists as Vladimir
Putin and Eduard Kokoity – “to give a legal assessment to actions of
the Georgian government towards indigenous inhabitants of the region –
Ossetians.” And they also add that “… formerly, Kazbegi district –
gorges of Darial, Tyrsygomsk (Truso – ed.), Guda and Kobi valley-
was the eastern part of the historical Ossetia.”

For the first time Darial made itself known in the middle of 2009 –
a year after the Russian-Georgian war and the occupation of 20% of the
territory of Georgia by Russia. And soon after Eduard Kokoity in April
2009 for the first time said that Tskhinvali regime intended to demand
“return of the Truso gorge to Ossetia which in the twenties of the
XX century was given by the Bolsheviks into the administration of the
Georgian SSR.” Till the end of the 2010 rhetoric of the organization,
which was then very quickly set up in Vladikavkaz, included very few
“human rights” and “humanitarian” notes while territorial claims were
heard in full voice. Chairman of Darial Gairbek Salbiev have never
failed to raise the subject of “native Ossetian lands” whenever he
travelled to Tskhinvali or spoke to reporters in Vladikavkaz. It is
easy to see that the number of “disputed” gorges has since increased.

But this is just the beginning. The worst is still to come when we
look at maps, which is used as illustrations in the Darial-related
publications in the South Ossetian and North Ossetian media.

These maps depict “enhanced”, “historic South Ossetia.” But it is
not only expanded at the expanse of the above-mentioned places. To
the south of the former administrative border of the South Ossetian
Autonomous District is marked yet another and far more extensive
band of the “disputed” territory – it stretches from west to east
following the river Mtkvari (Kura) from the town of Kareli, passing
through Gori and reaching Tbilisi. To the north of outskirts of the
Georgian capital there is a territory that goes up to Truso valley to
which Darial started to lay claims. Together, this means an increase
of the current “South Ossetia” by more than one and a half times. At
that, according to them, “native Ossetian land” includes also (!) the
ancient capital of Georgia – Mtskheta. That’s it. The Jews that have
been living here for over two millennia, for all this time, were
not smart enough to proclaim the place of confluence of the rivers
of Kura and Aragvi a territory of Israel… And here, one relatively
young people that trace their descent to nomads of the steppes, are
suddenly suggesting to find their roots in the mountains, on which
Iberians- ancient Georgians in deep antiquity erected temples to
pagan deities Gats and Gaim …

Let’s summarize. There are some young organization, which declares
that is engaged in human rights and humanitarian activities. But,
this organization began with political activities – in particular,
together with the bandit regime of Kokoity it laid new territorial
claims against Georgia. And today, in a somewhat veiled form it
is promoting relevant ideological base, introducing the concept
of “Ossetian land” with regards of a good half of the region of
Mtskheta-Mtianeti. At the same time they are not yet saying, but
drawing on maps with twice bigger piece of the territory of Shida
Kartli. And suddenly it appears that this organization has a backing of
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. Of course,
there is no evidence – we can only speculate and draw conclusions –
but if someone thinks that the resulting picture has nothing to do
with the Kremlin and the purposeful activity of enemy intelligence,
it can attributed to extreme naivety and lack of familiarity with
similar projects more than enough of which has been seen by Georgia.

Now let’s try to answer a question: how should the Georgian government
react in this regard? There may be several options. However, it is
clear that studying of the Darial activity and compiling dossiers
on members of this organization would be the minimum necessary
operational work that the Georgian counter-intelligence was required
to do immediately. The same as for the preparation of the checkpoint
“black list” of persons who should not be allowed into Georgia in
order prevent activists of Darial from making a provocation. It is
well known how the Russian army loves keep peace (war) and “protect
compatriots” on a foreign soil. And information that the occupants
deployed in the Akhalgori district have been probing opportunity to
save someone else, this time in a nearby Truso gorge, were leaked
in late 2009 and early 2010. And then no one will understand how and
what it was. For example, they are still searching for a mass grave
of Ossetian virgins burned alive in Tskhinvali, but who cares now?

Elementary logic compels to recognize that the complaints of Alexander
Lukashevich and Darial do not sound out of nowhere. And there must
be the database and information on refusals of entry if people who
work in appropriate structures of Georgia have minimum competence
and responsibility. But this concerns not some abstract, innocently
infringed Ossetians, but quite specific individuals associated with
implementation of a particular political project. Ossetians as a whole,
as it was shown above, are actively using visa-free regime better
than others and, for the most part, encounter no problems at all. I
guess we do not need to explain why the Ministry of Interior Affairs
or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia without significant
reasons will not go into specific detail in their public statements
and draw attention to the work of counterintelligence, giving food
for speculation on this topic.

By the way, with respect to the Russian Foreign Ministry it should be
noted here that the statement of Lukashevich of January 27th was the
first concrete proof that Darial is not a local initiative at the
level of Tskhinvali and Vladikavkaz, and the project, as minimum,
is coordinated with Moscow. So far the public contacts of the
organization did not rise above the protocol meeting with Kokoity
and Mamsurov and in 2011 it was characterized by a sharp decline in
its activities – which can be attributed to the need to smooth out
the initial clumsiness and, after a pause, to remind about it in a
new “humanitarian” aspect. Under such cover which it is possible
to coordinate efforts with the Russian Foreign Ministry too. And
it does not matter who allowed or not allowed across the border –
Georgia is still unlikely to open its doors for activists of Darial –
but it does not stop them to work in the information field. At this
stage, more is not needed. And when it is needed, right people will
be sent into Georgia one way or another. For example, via the already
occupied territory, accompanied by armoured personnel carriers and
with cries in the media about poor citizens of the Russian Federation
that are forced by the Tbilisi regime to resort to extreme measures,
systematically being denied legitimate travel to their native land …

One would put a full stop here, but there are signs that the plan
drawn up in Russia has a much more extensive nature. Have you already
digested historically Ossetian Gori, Mtskheta and Dusheti? Then welcome
to “Trialeti Ossetia”. That was the name given by unknown authors of
Wikipedia a territory area spread on the Trialeti Range between Gori,
Kareli, Khashuri, Borjomi, Tsalka and Caspi, where among Georgian
villages there are compact settlements of Ossetians. Thus, “Trialeti
Ossetia” extends “the expanded South Ossetia” to the south and only
Javakheti region with its dominant share of the Armenian population
is between it and Armenia, where the 102nd Russian military base is
deployed in Gyumri. Does this lead to any thoughts?

The emergence of “Trialeti Ossetia” in virtual space, as well as
materials about “Tyrsyg” occurred in the beginning of 2010, which fits
well in the timing of Darial. Absence of any interviews and articles
in the press, which would theoretically justify claims to cover all
areas south of Tskhinvali, is a little confusing. But that, as they
say, will come with time – the whole project is just three years old
and it has been focused on the Kazbegi region so far. Therefore,
one can only wonder at the fact that another Ossetia has not yet
been found in the Kakheti region – there are compact settlements
of Ossetians there too. However, emergence of “Lagodekhi Ossetia”
is clearly prevented by its location in the extreme east of Georgia
and a lack of communication with the rest of Ossetia – a bad geography
does not appeal to our northern neighbour …

Speaking of geography. If one adds up all the maps with the “native
Ossetian land,” we get a blue dream of Russian superpower supporters:
the Caucasus, completely separated from north to south with “outposts”
of Russia. North Ossetia-Alania, plus the “South Ossetia”, enhanced
by the Georgian Military Highway, and the middle reaches of the Kura,
plus “Trialeti Ossetia” … Plus, as we know from the Russian media,
the “native Armenian Javakhk” and Native Armenian Armenia with the
Russian base and direct access to Iran.

And again, not only Georgia will be cut in half, but the entire
Caucasus, which, in case of realization of this idea, will not be
divided in the North and South Caucasus but into the west and east.

Isolated from each other by massive “Super Ossetia”, which will be
closely tied to Russia by a deadly feud with all the neigh neighbouring
Caucasian nations. No Caucasian integration, no transit routes, no
alternative oil and gas pipelines … Surely, in this picture all those
who follow periodic revelations of Moscow thinkers on the subject of
“de-sovereignization of Georgia”, “a new conquest of the Caucasus”
and other washing-of-boots-in-warm-seas, have already seen familiar
features. That is a development of the process that was initiated
by the Bolsheviks in annexed Georgia in 1922 through the formation
of the South Ossetian region in the lands of Kartli, Imereti, Racha
and Svaneti regions of Georgia.

Obviously the article is largely based on assumptions. But, sure,
on legitimate assumptions – given the recent history of Georgia
and existing situation of today. For it was “little things” like
this that the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia were started
from at the time, as well as attempts to foment conflicts in other
regions. And now we have the “new realities” in the face of Georgia’s
occupied territories that received Russian recognition and we need
to recognize that correct diagnosis at an early stage is half of
successful treatment of a disease.

Formation of the basis for expanding the geography of the conflict is
just beginning, although its contours have already been marked. And
this is the least calculated on Ossetians living in Georgia – if only
because all too apparent absurdity of the identified claims. It should
be remembered that, despite all the ugly aspects of the conflict
in “South Ossetia” in the early nineties of the last century, the
absolute majority of Ossetians remained “ours” and far ahead of all
other minority groups when it comes to integration. They are actively
represented at all levels – from ministerial to officers and soldiers
that were repelling Russia’s aggression in the vicinity of “sleeping
Tskhinvali.” Therefore, the worst reaction from the Georgian side
would be demonstration of any anti-Ossetian sentiment – which is one
of the goals of this provocation. And the fact that the provocation
will gradually gain momentum is in no doubt after the Russian Foreign
Ministry became involved in the Darial project.

Unfortunately, among the North Ossetian – especially among young
people – the idea of the new “native Ossetian land” in the heart of
Georgia may well take roots. All Caucasians have a soft spot for
all sorts of “upgrades” to their history. And Ossetians were also
placed here out of competition because of their role assigned to
them by the current policy in the Caucasus, and Moscow’s long-term
plans. In a world where they seriously talk about Ossetian Lon-Don
and are ready to move from the shores of Albion in the direction of
ancient Egypt, with its god Os-Ir-Is, “Trialeti Ossetia” is just a
light snack at the feast of ideological pseudo-senility. So, these
ideas will get some “public support” in the North Ossetia-Alania –
enough so that through hyperbolisation of the subject in the media
gradually introduce the thesis of the new “disputed territories”
and create a virtual conflict. In other words – to create a solid
information background to transfer the conflict to the point where,
if Russia suddenly gets another opportunity to pull the strings and
engage in a new “peaceful resolution”…