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Caucasus: A History of Blood and New-born Democracies

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  • Caucasus: A History of Blood and New-born Democracies

    The situation in Caucasus is not simple.

    To better understand some of the issues involved, it is allways a good thing to read some history.

    This is a compilation and a translation of 2 great articles, from a Greek newspaper .

    I hope you like it, I believe it is worth the long reading.

    Caucasus: A History of Blood and New-born Democracies

    The ancient Greeks believed that the Caucasus was one of the pillars supporting the world. A mountain of Zeus chose to chain the rebel Prometheus. The term Ararat, where the Old Testament says that the Noah Ark settle after the flood, considered the hallmark of the ancient Armenian kingdom. The Roman poet Ovid placed Caucasus in Skythia and described as a cold and stony mountain, where the hunger dominates.

    The rocks and stones of the Caucasus mountain range have not yet melt from the blood which flowed during countless conflicts and wars, local and wide open, in the thousands years of tragic history. The post-sovietic regional conflicts, including the one that played the last few days in South Ossetia and Georgia, is only the latest chapter of this history of blood.

    Extreme strategic importance for the balance of forces was Kafkasia, the Eurasia region bordering on the south by Iran to the southwest with Turkey in the west to the Black Sea, east of the Caspian Sea and the north with Russia. It includes the Caucasus mountain range (length of 1,100 km and a maximum width of 160 kms) and the surrounding plains. The Caucasus mountain range separates Asia from Europe and countries of the region considered to belong to either one or both continents.

    Words such as «mosaic» and «medley», is too poor to describe it perhaps the most diverse region of the Earth. At least 150 are the ethnic nations or groups of the Caucasus. Based on the national and linguistic - cultural identification, the peoples of the Caucasus region have claimed (and most have won) the separate identity of the minority, either as self-govermental entities within the territory of the Russian Federation (with the exception of the tragic war in Chechnya) or as post-sovietic as independent states.

    The nation-states or regions that divide this area today is the northeastern part of Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and parts of Russia and Iran. In the Russian federal territory there are Caucasians autonomous or self-regulatory entities, Krai Stavropol and Krasnodar Krai, as well as the republics of Antigkea, Kalmikia, North Ossetia-Alania, Ingushetia, Chechnya, Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria and of Karachay-Tserkesias. In their territory, the last two share volume terms Elmprous (5,642 m), the highest peak in the Caucasus, but also the highest point in Europe and five mountain peaks, over 5,000 metres. Three areas still assert their independence, but until now without recognition by the international community: Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh.

    Russian Federation (The figures of people are from the official census of 2002)

    Stavropol Krai:

    Area 66,500 square kilometres, Population 2,735,139 inhabitants, capital of Stavropol (354,857 inhabitants), was founded by the era of Great Catherine by Prince Potemkin, 1777. Most of the cities of Krai established as a border fortresses during the Russian expansion in the Caucasus and the war against the Ottomans. This explains the name (Krai: border) since today is inside the territory (not a border with another country). Dominant national element is the Russians (81.6%), followed by Armenians (5.5%). There are also 34,078 (1.2%) Greeks.

    Krasnodar Krai:

    Area 76,000 square kilometres, Population 5,125,221 inhabitants, capital of Krasnodar. It is the region of the valley of the river Koumpan, the traditional homeland of Kozaks of Koumpan. The Kozaks of Koumpan considered Russians (86.2%), while demanding a separate minority cultural identity. More minority are Armenians (5.36%), living in the area from 18 th century. The 2002 census estimated 33 ethnic groups, with a population of over two thousand each. Illustrating that this is one of the most multicultural regions of Russia, residents of Krasnodar sefl-addressed as belonging to 140 different nationalities! Specific information: 4,418,715 Russians, Armenians 274,566, 131,774 Ukrainians, 26,540 Greeks (0.52%), 26,260 Belarusians, 25,575 Tatars, 20,225 Georgians, 18,469 Germans, 17,542 Kozaks, Antigke 15,821, 13,496 Turks, 11,944 Azeris, 10,873 Roma, 6,537 Moldovans, 5,022 Kurds, 4,835 Morntva the Volga, Tserkezi 4,446, 4,441 Gezinti Kurds, 4,141 Tatars Tsouvas, Osetis 4,133, 3,764 Assyrians, Lesginis 3,752, 3,425 Ountmourti Tatars, 3,289 Koreans, 3,213 Sapsougki Antigke, 3,138 Bulgarians, 2,958 Poles, 2,945 Jews , 2,857 Chechens, 2,723 of the Volga Mari, 2,609 Tatars in Crimea, Ouzmpekoi 2,210, 2,061 Baskiri.

    Republic of Antigkea:

    Area 7,600 square kilometres, Population 447,109 inhabitants, the capital Maikop (156,931 inhabitants). Located in the hills of the Caucasus and within the territory of Krasnodar Krai. Major ethnic groups are Russians (64.5%) and Antigke (kirkasiano sex, 24.2%), while living there and 1,726 Greeks (0.4%).


    Area 76,100 square kilometres, Population 292,410 inhabitants, the capital Elista (104,254 inhabitants). He has the legal status of the Kalmikous or Kalmouchoys, of mongolik origin, the only Budist religion group in Europe. The territory covered mainly by stepa. 56% of residents still living in the traditional way, in small rural settlements. The Kalmyk people representing 53.3% of residents of the Republic. The Russians amount to 33.6%. Also living in this region are Chechens (2%) and Dargini (2.5%).

    Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria:

    Area 12,500 square kilometres, Population 901,494 inhabitants, the capital Naltsik (274,974 inhabitants). As witnessed by its name, Kabardino-Balkaria is composed of two constituent ethnic groups: the Kamparntinous, ancient Caucasic affiliate with Antigke and Tserkesis. Speak a local dialect of the Caucasus bearing their names and most are Sunni Muslims. They represent 55% of the total population. The Balkar is the local branch of Karachay, north-caucasian origin and are considered descendants of ancient Alanon. Speak the Karachay-Balkar (belongs to the family of Turkish languages) and are also Sunni Muslims. During the Second World War were accused of collaborating with the Germans and massively displaced in the Asian part of Russia. The return allowed them in 1957 and currently numbering just over 100,000 members (12% of the population). The remaining people are mostly Russians (25%), who live in cities, while notable is the existence of approximately five thousand residents of Korean origin!

    Following the dissolution of the USSR, the revival of nationalism in the wider Caucasus region and the closure of state companies, Kabardino-Balkaria has experienced severe economic crisis, with unemployment rates of around 90%. Even today, is one of the poorest Russian regions.

    Republic of Karachay-Tserkesia:

    Area 14,100 square kilometres, Population 439,470 inhabitants, the capital Tserkesk (116,244 inhabitants). A by the nations of Karachay (Turk origin, 38.5%) and Tserkesi (or Kirkasion, 11.3%). The rest are Russians (33.6%) or belonging to smaller ethnic groups in the Caucasus. Done autonomous region in 1922, after the prevalence of Great October Revolution in the Caucasus. They split in two regions (Karachay and Cherkessia) at 1926 and reunified in 1957. In 1991 granted the status of the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, the Russian SSD. The privileged status of the Republic maintained after the break-up of the Soviet Union, now in the Russian Federation.

    Chechen Republic:

    Area 15,300 square kilometres, Population 1,103,686 inhabitants, the capital Grozny (210,720 inhabitants). The 93.5% of the population are the dominant ethnic group as the Chechens, who call themselves and Nochtsioi. The popular tradition wants the Russian term «Chechen» to come from the Caucasian village Tsetsen-Aoul, which defeated the Russian army in 1732. First written reports of their presence in the region back into Arabic texts of the 8 th century AD.

    The relations between the Sunni Muslim Chechens with the government in Moscow have not been harmonious ever, but got worst after the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991. Then, the local government has sought the full secession of Chechnya from Russia, which the central government refused, arguing the following reasons: legal, Chechnya was before the 1991 part of Russia (autonomous SSD, falling to Russia SSD) without the right to full secession, such as Ukraine or Lithuania, which were separate Soviet republics. Possible independence of Chechnya would be an example for other ethnic groups living in the Russian south. Most importantly, Chechnya is a key node in a network transporting Russian oil.

    But the leader of separatists Tzochar Ntountagiev ceased to recognize the Russian authorities and decome chairman of the Chechen Republic of Itskeria, having great popular support. Nobody acknowledged the new state, only Afghanistan, both controlled by the Taliban, and temporarily Georgia. The situation continued to escalate constantly, until it broke out bloody civil war between separatists and federal. The composition of these two camps was unclear, with local warlords to hand change depending on their interests and intentions of the moment. The civil war gave Russia a pretext to intervene militarily in 1994, and since Chechnya is (officially or unofficially) at war, with the exception of the three years 1996-1999.

    Today, Russia seems to have stabilised the situation, having eliminate key executives separatists and installing a friendly government in Grozny, even with heavy losses. Russia is failing however to control the separatists groups operating outside the major cities as these groups attempt to export the war in the neighbouring republics of Dagestan and Ingushetia, where Chechen minorities live in.

    Republic of Ingushetia:

    Area 4,000 square kilometres, Population 467,294 inhabitants, capital of the newly Magkas (only 275 inhabitants) in place of Nazran (125,066 inhabitants), capital of the Republic until 2002. The Ingushetia populated exclusively by indigenous peoples - Ingkousis (77.3%) and Chechens (20.4%). The Ingkousi, relatives to religion and language with the Chechens, self-addressed as Gkalkai themselves, which means in their language «citizens of the border». Post-Soviet and over the years, a secession movement from the Russian Federation appeared. However, was limited to small-clale armed conflicts and has not become the equivalent of Chechnya.


    Area 50,300 square kilometres, Population 2,576,531 inhabitants, the capital Machatskala (462,412 inhabitants). The name of Dagestan has Persian-Turkish origin and means «Country Mountain». Population is more heterogeneous federal subject of Russia, with a medley ethnic groups, of which nine exceed 80,000 members: Avaris (29.4%), Darginis (16.5%), Koumikis (14.2%); Lezgini (13.1%), Lak (5.4%), Russians (4.7%), Azeris (4.3%), Tavasaranis (4.3%), Chechens (3.4%). With the exception of Russians, other tribes are Iranian, Turkish or Mongolian, which have retained their special characteristics owing to the mountains of the region and the low urbanization (nearly 60% live in villages). For all these the Russian language is used, while at least thirty other spoken languages exist. Since 2000, the political situation in Dagestan is considered unstable. A series of terrorist acts and small-scale operations against state officials indicate that there ar efforts to bring in Dagestan in the Chechen war.

    Republic of North Ossetia-Alania:

    Area 8,000 square kilometres, Population 704,400 inhabitants, the capital Vlantikafkas (311,200 inhabitants). With the prevalence of post-sovietic nationalism, North Ossetia re-named Alania, which was added in the name of the Republic in 1994, indicating a small medieval kingdom of Alanon, ancestors of today Oseton, the 7 th century AD. The Alanoi introduced to Christianity by the Byzantines and did well from the «Silk Road» that passed from their territories.

    In September 2004, international public opinion shocked by the violent death of 335 civilians, mostly children, in Beslan, when Chechen separatists of Samil Basagief raided a school. Today, North Ossetia accepted an influx of refugees from South Ossetia, which are to be added to 70,000 approximately, who had forced to move in recent years during previous phases of the conflict with South-Ossetians separists and Georgia.

    Since the end of even the '80s, before the collapse of the USSR, the three former Soviet republics of South Caucasus, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan danced difficult pirouetes of the ballet of "nationalists" alongside the Baltic countries in north. In the early '90s became independent states.

    Republics, three countries do not have the structures of power nor a history, education or culture of democratic processes, at least in the way they are understood in the dependent reflexes of Western urban parliamentarianism. In all three countries, the elections raised major concerns, not only to draw leadership and supporters of the losers of the opposition in the streets, but have repeatedly cause embarrassment over the present Westerners OSCE observers. With their own bureaucratic reflexes, while recording anti-election issues, they contribute to the maintenance of the highly sensitive geopolitical balance in the region, with the stereotypes worded description of the emergence of any president in the elections as «free but not fair». But perhaps the most tragic element of fate of the peoples of the South Caucasus is that they live in countries currently performing as breakwater for the older games of spheres of influence of superpowers. What is everyday living for these ancient people with rich cultures? Tensions and conflict with neighbours. Post-Sovietic economic crisis. Poverty and unemployment that leads to massive (illegal) migration to the West, even Russia. Violent deaths and refugees from the nationalist conflicts, through which ethnic minorities seeking to divide the three South-Caucusian into six states. Add to all this the mafia and neo-rich with economic atrocities, their private armies and political assassinations.

    Republic of Georgia

    Area: 69,700 square kilometres., Population 4,630,841 inhabitants, the capital Tbilisi - Tbilisi, means «warm source» in Georgian.

    Georgians call themselves Kartvelempi, their country Sakartvelo and their language Kartouli. They cite the case of the legend who wants Kartlo as father, grand-children of the biblical Iafeth, son of Noah. The heart of the country, central and eastern Georgia stated in Byzantine sources as Kartli - Iveria, while the Ancient Greeks were Colchis, homeland of Medea. In medieval history was part of the large south-caucasian kingdom of Bagkratouni, with matches against the Arabs of the founder of dynasty (Armenian descent) Asot Kouropalati (9 th century.). The 12th and 13th century considered golden age of Georgian kingdom. Kings was David and Tamara. Until the final accession of their country into the Russian empire in the early 19th century, half the land belonged to the Ottomans and at Sachi Persia. The Second World War gave 700,000 souls, dead soldiers north to the Axis war machine.

    Critics blame for Georgian nationalism at the expense of national or ethnological minorities living in their country. The neighbours, the Armenians, blame that they deliberately leave the Armenian churches on Georgian soil to be ruined. The Greek populations of villages in Tsalka have repeatedly complained that Georgians either illegally occupy homes of Greek families who have emigrated to Greece or forcing owners to sell at derisory prices.

    The Georgians are a majority population of around 83.8%, according to 2006 figures. Georgian tribes joining in this figure with a variation in spoken language dialects are mainly Antzaris, Migkrelianis (the first post-soviet chairman Zviant Gkamsachourntia was Migkrelian), Svanis, Lazis and Chevsouris. Other ethnic groups in the country (not to calculate the Ampchazis and Osetis) are: Azeris (6.5%), Armenians (5.7%), Russians (1.5%) and Greeks, Jews (Georgia exists one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world), Assyrians, Chechens, Chinese, Kamparntinis, Kurds, Tatars, Turks and Ukrainians.

    The proclamation of independence of Georgia from the Soviet Union on 9 April 1991 was not the first in the 20 century: after the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, Georgia had declared independence on 26 May 1918 (when it was already a civil war erupt Red - White) choosing a national government that supported the Social Democrats Menseviks. Joseph Stalin, born in Gkori did not forget that issue. In 1918 the Armenians fought for control of areas east of the country, war ended with the intervention of the British. The British had put the country under the «protection» until 1920. Before, they had also halted the Georgian General Gkiorgki Mazniasvili, seeking to annex the entire Georgia coastline on the Black Sea to the (now Russian) port of Sochi.


    (de jure Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia, de facto Independent Republic)

    Capital Sochoumi, 8,400 area., Population 216,000 inhabitants, according to census of 2003 which was never acknowledged as legitimate by Tbilisi. Recent estimates (2006) indicate the population from 157,000 to 190,000 inhabitants. The difficulties of accurate calculation resulting mainly from the number of Georgians in Abkhazia who leave the area continuously, giving rise to the Government Saakasvili to blame separatists for the ethnic cleansing policy. The 2003 census estimated the population ratios as follows: Ampchazioi 43.8%, 21.3% Georgians, Armenians 20.8%, 10.8% Russians, Greeks 0.7% (1,486 souls).

    Ampchazis are considered descendants of ancient Avasgon of the Black Sea, with their own language, religion today is divided between Christian Orthodoxy and Sunni Islam. Relatives Ampchazis are considered the Sunni Muslims Ampazinis (spoken also Ampaza or Asoua), descendants of refugees from the Caucasus the 19th century, communities they also live today in Turkey, Egypt, Syria and Jordan.

    The Abkhazia, declared in 1931 by Stalin as Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic within the Georgian territory, went to a declaration of independence from Tbilisi on 23 July 1992. The war broke out immediately lasted one year, leading the military defeat of Georgian troops and a mass exodus of almost all ethnic Georgians living in Abkhazia.

    Since August 1993 special United Nations mission, UNOMIG, located in Abkhazia, established in Sochoumi, the capital of the autonomous region now. The peacekeepers initially observed the ceasefire agreement that had been signed by the warring parties in 1994. However, their presence has been literally between hammer and anvil because of liquid politic-military balance and the mission had victims - eight soldiers and three civilian personnel dead. The current strength of UNOMIG consists of 149 executives enstola (134 military observers from 33 countries and 15 police officers from 8 countries), and 97 people international civilian staff and 183 local civilian staff. The political head of UNOMIG, is Bulgarian, military commander (Brigadier) and the Pakistani Police Director Ukrainian. It has involved three Greek officers, two of Army and one of Navy, serving in a Sochoumi, at the offices of UNOMIG and two in secondary operational base of the mission in the city Ghali, near the border with Georgia. The administrative status of Abkhazia has not been finalized. Before the violent events of recent days with the ultimate aim to banish any Georgian influence in Abkhazia, 83% of the region controlled by the government supported Russia separatists based in Sochoumi. The remaining 17% was managed by the «Government» of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia (the only authority still considers legitimate by Tbilisi), located in the canyon of Kontori, and was one of the objectives of Russian military operations in the region.

    South Ossetia

    (de facto Republic of South Ossetia)

    Capital Tschinvali, 3,900 area., Population 70,000 inhabitants (figures 2006), considered that around two thirds of the population fled to North Ossetia after the outbreak of the recent war.

    According to the prevailing theory, Ossetis derive their origin from the ancient Alanous and that they in turn are derived from the Sarmates. The language, osetiki, belongs to the Iranian branch of the family languages. Recorded as Ossets in the Byzantine texts, immediately after the destruction of the kingdom of Alanon by Mongolous Chan. Introduced massively to Christianity the 12th century AD through the influences of Byzantine and Georgians. Some introduced later in Sunni Islam.

    South Ossetia claimed independence from Georgia in 1988. In 1989 the Supreme Council Osetiko asked in vain by the Supreme Soviet in upgrading Ossetia Autonomous Republic. The Ossetis boikoted the Georgian elections in 1990 by organizing their own. The then president of Georgia Zviant Gkamsachourntia declared illegal the election process Ossetia, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. The fighting began in 1991, to attack the Georgians and destroyed many Osseti villages. Score, hundreds dead and tens of thousands of refugees. With intervention of the international community, Georgia forced into a ceasefire with Ossetia with Russia since 1992 is part of a peacekeeping force and with guarantees for both sides not to use violence. In 2006, after an informal referendum, the inhabitants of South Ossetia decide declaring independence. As for the guarantees of non-violence, remained on paper.


    (de jure Autonomous Republic of Adjaria, in Georgia)

    Area 2,900 square kilometres., Population 376,016 inhabitants (official census 2002), Capital Batoumi. Population ratio: 93.4% Georgians, Russians 2.4%, 2.3% Armenians, Greeks 0.6%, 0.4% Ampchazis, 0.2% Ukrainians.

    After a brief occupation by successive Turkish and British troops in 1918-1920, Atzaria annexed Georgia that legitimated its rights by Turkey (was preceded by a brief military conflict between them in 1921) with the Treaty of Kars in 1923, where the status of government for the (Muslim) population was dictated by the Soviet Union.

    In 1991 residents of Adjaria called independence. The then government of Shevardnadze Entvarnt never took them seriously, but something has changed with prevalence of «Revolution of Roses» in 2003 in Georgia. Michael Saakasvili not difficult to crush the separatists and to force their leader Aslan Ampasitze to exile in Moscow. On 17 November 2007 Russia delivered to Georgia a military base maintained in Batoumi from the Soviet era.


    Capital Yerevan, 29,800 area., Population 3,229,900 inhabitants (3,002,594 census 2001). Population ratio: 98% Armenians, Greeks 1%, 1% Kurds Gezinti (pyrolatres).


    Capital Baku, 86,600 area., Population 8,676,000 inhabitants (8,265,000 census 2002). Azeris 92.5%, Russian 3.5%, 1.9% Lesginoi, Talysioi 1.8%, Nagorno Karabakh (de facto independent Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, de jure autonomous region, former socialist oblast within Azerbaijan)

    Capital Stepanakert, 11,458 area., Population 138,000 (unofficial estimates)

    Like Georgia, former Soviet and now national borders of Armenia and Azerbaijan were identified by the Treaty of Kars, 23 October 1923 signed between Turkey of Kemal Ataturk and the Soviet Union. Given to Turkey the territories it had conquered the Tsariki from the Ottoman Empire during Russin-Turk war of 1877-1878. Despite the fact that relations with Turkey, but also the overall foreign policy was largely determined on the basis of the Armenian Genocide by Neo-tourks of 1915, the Republic of Armenia ratified the Treaty of Kars on 13 December 2006. But the heart of many Armenians stays at the other side of the border: Near Kars are the ruins of Ani, «City with 1,001 churches», capital of the medieval Armenian Kingdom that the Seltzouks and the Turks conquered in the 11st century. However, armeno-Turkish border is guarded by the Russian special forces soldiers so far.

    The land borders Armenia - Turkey remained closed since 1993 because of the Armenian conflict with Azerbaijan on Nagorno-Karabakh, given the close relationship in Ankara in religion, and Turk-born Azerbaijanis. The area is about 270 kilometers west of the capital Baku and very near the border with Armenia. The Soviet Union by Stalin incorporated the mainly Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh as an Autonomous Republic within the Soviet Socialist Republic of Azerbaijan in 1923. On 10 December 1991, as the USSR collapse, a referendum in Nagorno-Karabakh and Sachoumian north led to the proclamation of independence on 6 January 1992 by Azerbaijan.

    Fierce war first erupted in armeno-Azerbaijani border and then in the Nagorno-Karabakh. Military operations costed the lives of thousands of people, while each ethnic cleansing in towns and villages with mixed population have caused waves of Azerbaijanis and Armenians refugees from Karabakh to Armenia and Azerbaijan. Since the cease-fire agreed in 1994, most of Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan various regions around (a total of approximately 14% of Azerbaijan's territory) remain under the control of separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh. Since then, the two sides carry out (on despair until now) peace talks with the mediation of OSCE Minsk Group. Azerbaijan and Turkey closed their borders with Armenia, affecting key economy of the country, with unique land commercial outlets in Georgia and Iran and, inevitably, its relations with Moscow.
    "All wars are fought for money" (Socrates, 470-399 BC)
    "Only the dead have seen the end of the war" (Plato, 427-347 BC)
    "We make war that we may live in peace" (Aristotle, 384-322 BC)

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    Re: Caucasus: A History of Blood and New-born Democracies




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