I’m glad there are quite a few much more realistic voices appearing in western alternative media, like open democracy. It’s good to see, there are alternatives to the much promoted old-fashioned realpolitik, that leads us all back to XIX century.
On the second full day of the Georgia-Russia war of 8-12 August 2008, Russian patrol-boats operating off the Black Sea shore of Abkhazia sank four Georgian vessels apparently intent on landing in the territory. The identity of these vessels is not yet clear, but it is interesting to note that a published list of military equipment in the possession of the Georgian government – equipment largely supplied over many years by Tbilisi’s western friends – includes a ship called the General Mazniashvili.
Why interesting? Because General Mazniashvili (aka Mazniev) is best known for his role in spreading “fire and sword” through Abkhazia and South Ossetia on behalf of Georgia’s Menshevik government of 1918-21. The naming of the ship is a revealing indicator of current official Georgian sentiment about a figure central to the pitiless effort ninety years ago to establish control over these two areas. It is also a reminder to Abkhazians and South Ossetians that their hard-won freedom from Georgian rule in the brutal wars of the early 1990s is part of a longer history of defence of their integrity that deserves the world’s attention, understanding and respect.
These peoples, and not just the Georgians – or Russians, or Americans, or anyone else involved in the latest war in the region – have their own history, many of whose artefacts have been deliberately pulverised in this generation (see Thomas de Waal, “Abkhazia’s archive: fire of war, ashes of history” [20 October 2006]). The lesson of the short war of August 2008 is that their Abkhazian and South Ossetian voices must be heard and their own choices must be included in any decisions about their future if the cycle of conflict – of which 1918-21 and 1991-93 are but two episodes – is going to be broken rather than repeated.
or this one
The embers of the five-day war between Georgia and Russia of 8-12 August 2008 are not quite extinguished, but the ceasefire agreement skilfully negotiated by President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and agreed with his counterparts Dmitri Medvedev (Russia) and Mikheil Saakashvili (Georgia) gives hope for an end to this intense, destructive and tragic conflict.
Donald Rayfield is emeritus professor of the school of modern languages, Queen Mary University of London. Among his books is Stalin and his Hangmen (Random House, 2005), which has appeared in five other languages. He is editor-in-chief of the Comprehensive Georgian-English Dictionary (Garnett Press, 2006), a work of 1,440,000 entries and nearly 1,800 pages in two volumes
Also by Donald Rayfield in openDemocracy:
“Georgia and Russia: with you, without you” (3 October 2006)
“Russia vs Georgia: a war of perceptions” (24 August 2007)
More broadly, when the citizens displaced and wounded by the war have been able to regain a modicum of security and humanitarian relief in rebuilding their shattered lives, the space must be made for a thoroughgoing investigation into its background, causes and lessons. It may be appropriate at this early stage to offer some preliminary notes to this larger project.
Much of the media reporting of the “short and nasty war” has been strong and detailed, with a good dose of scepticism in questioning the tendentious (and often downright mendacious) versions of events relayed by Russian and Georgians spokespersons alike. This is in contrast to the lack of attention among commentators to the essential task of exploring the roots of the conflict; indeed, a lot of the opinion-flood persists in ignoring completely the local and regional factors in favour of an instant resort to high geopolitics, as if South Ossetia and Abkhazia – which lie at the heart of what has happened – do not in themselves even exist.