Abkhazia (or ‘Abkhazeti’ in
Georgian) was an area adjoining the west of Georgia, claimed by the Georgians
as part of their country (a claim now disputed by most Abkhazians) and
incorporated into Soviet Georgia in 1931 (after ten years of uncertainty
about the precise relationship between the two areas). In view of the
relevance of these two cases to later ethnic conflicts, we shall examine them
in some detail here, dealing first with Nagornyi Karabagh, and then with Abkhazia.
The documents on the process by which Karabagh (including Nagornyi Karabagh, which was its southern, largely Armenian, part)
became incorporated into Soviet Azerbaijan in the early 1920s demonstrate a
considerable degree of incoherence in early Soviet nationality policy. On 30
November 1920, the following solemn declaration was made by Nariman Narimanov, the head of
the Communist Party of Azerbaijan, and M. D. Guseinov,
Azerbaijan's Commissar for
Foreign Affairs: ‘With effect from today, the former boundaries between Armenia and Azerbaijan are proclaimed
annulled. Nagornyi Karabagh,
Zangezur and Nakhichevan
are recognized as a constituent part of the Armenian Socialist
Republic’ (Galoian and Khudaverdian, 1988:
In the light of future decisions, this looks like a
remarkable act of self-abnegation on Narimanov's
part: in the interests of national reconciliation he simply handed these long
disputed territories to Armenia.
This, indeed, is the way Stalin presented it in Pravda a few days
later: ‘On December 1st, Soviet Azerbaijan voluntarily renounced its claim to
the disputed provinces and proclaimed the handing over of Zangezur,
Nakhichevan and Nagornyi Karabagh to Soviet Armenia’ (Stalin, 1947: 414). The
decision was confirmed on 12 June 1921 in relation to Nagornyi
Karabagh by a vote of the Caucasian Bureau of the
Russian Communist Party, and reconfirmed on 4 July 1921.
By now, however, Narimanov had
changed his mind. The vote of 4 July 1921 was very close — four in favour, including Stalin's righthand
man in the Caucasus, Sergo Ordzhonikidze, and three
against, including the representatives of both Azerbaijan and Georgia. On 5
July, the original decision was overturned, because Ordzhonikidze
changed sides, and now Nagornyi Karabagh
was included in Azerbaijan,
though with the proviso that it would receive a degree of regional autonomy (Chorbajian et al., 1994: 178—9).
It is generally assumed that Stalin was behind this
change of heart, and that he had decided it was more important to placate the
Azerbaijanis and the Turks, for foreign policy reasons, rather than the
Armenians. According to the Armenian Communist leader, Alexander Miasnikian, ‘Azerbaijan
said, if Armenia
gets Karabagh, we shan't let it have any oil’ (Galoian and Khudaverdian, 1988:
33). Geographical and economic arguments were also advanced, and, indeed,
even a quick glance at the map of the region would show how ‘natural’ it
looked to include in Azerbaijan what would otherwise be an entirely isolated
enclave of Armenian territory (though the same argument applies in reverse to
Nakhichevan, which was made part of Azerbaijan
although it did not touch that republic at any point).
The future stability of the new arrangement would depend
inevitably on how the Azerbaijanis treated this compactly Armenian area in
the middle of their republic. As the sequel showed, Nagornyi
Karabagh fell victim to one of the normal rules of
Soviet nationality policy: where a union republic was set up, the titular
nation tended to treat the whole of its national territory as a mini-empire.
Moreover, Nagornyi Karabagh
was not even an Autonomous Republic (ASSR): it was established in 1923 as an
Autonomous District (AO), lower down the scale of Soviet autonomies, with
fewer prerogatives. Its borders were drawn deliberately to make sure that it
was separated from the territory of the Armenian SSR by an Azerbaijani
corridor. For all these reasons, the next sixty years saw a continuous
deterioration in the position of Armenian culture and the Armenian language.
authorities' investment decisions bypassed the area, 13
and the local Armenian population began to emigrate in search of better
economic opportunities. As a result, the proportion of Armenians in the
population of Nagornyi Karabagh
fell considerably, from 89.1 per cent in 1926 to 75.9 per cent in 1979 (Galoian and Khudaverdian, 1988:
We now turn to developments in Abkhazia during the same
period. Although the region had long been connected intimately with Georgia it was not a foregone conclusion when
the Soviet Union was set up that it would be
incorporated into that republic. On 31 March 1921 an independent Abkhazian
SSR was proclaimed; this status lasted until December 1921, when Abkhazia
entered the Georgian SSR, but through a treaty between equals, not as a
subordinate territory. In fact, the first constitution of what was still
described as the Abkhazian SSR, adopted in 1925, guaranteed the country
independence and, just like any other SSR at the time, the right of free exit
from both the TSFSR and the Soviet Union.
The relevant paragraph was altered under Georgian pressure in 1927 to read:
‘power is exercised subject to treaty relations with the Georgian SSR’ (Beradze and Apakidze, 1991:
A few years later (1931) Abkhazia was incorporated into Georgia
as an ASSR. Resistance to this initially was muted. The Abkhazians hoped that
their semi-independent status would be preserved. It was not. The big change
in policy came in the late 1930s, the turning point being the liquidation in
December 1936 of Nestor Lakoba, chair of the
Abkhazian Central Executive Committee (Chervonnaya,
1994: 29). After that, the majority of the Abkhazian intelligentsia were
eliminated in a series of purges, and the Abkhazian language was phased out
of secondary schools; people were still allowed to write in it, but after
1938 they had to use Georgian characters rather than the Latin ones
introduced in the 1920s (Comrie, 1981: 33). From
1936 onwards all leading party posts in the area were held by Georgians. The
twin processes of Georgian immigration and assimilation of local people into
the Georgian nation (‘kartvelianization’) reduced
the ethnically Abkhazian proportion of the population of the Abkhaz ASSR
drastically (between 1926 and 1959 this fell from 27.8 per cent to 15.1 per
cent) (Hewitt, 1999: 466).
But, as elsewhere, policy changes after the death of
Stalin allowed some degree of recovery. The Abkhaz proportion of the
population rose from 15.1 per cent in 1959 to 17.7 per cent in 1989 (it is
now estimated at 20 per cent); the separateness of the Abkhaz language was
recognized in 1954, when the Georgian alphabet was replaced by the Cyrillic
one; and, in general, the atmosphere became freer. This had an unexpected
result: it allowed Abkhazian resentment to come to the surface. This was an
indication that a serious problem existed. In response to repeated petitions
from Abkhazian intellectuals and party officials (in 1956, 1967 and 1978),
Nikita Khrushchev and his successors pursued a rather conciliatory line. The
Abkhazians were the only ethnic group able to enforce a compromise on the
central power by their protests. The reason was simple: they had a direct
line to Moscow, through the fact that the Black Sea coast, where Abkhazia was located, was a favourite holiday destination for Kremlin policy-makers.
The more extreme Abkhazian demands (such as the call for
secession from Georgia
and the abolition of the Georgian language's official status) were rejected
in 1978. But a party commission, headed by I. V. Kapitonov,
was sent from Moscow
to defuse the situation. The Kapitonov Commission
advised a range of conciliatory measures in the areas of education and
investment allocations. These were imposed on the Georgian party leadership,
thereby ‘defusing a potentially explosive situation’ (Slider, 1985: 65).
The Abkhazians now began to enjoy the fruits of positive
discrimination. More and more books were published in Abkhazian. As a result,
the Abkhaz language ranked first in the whole of the Soviet
Union in terms of book titles per person (the 1988 figures were
4.3 book titles for every 10 000 Abkhazians). An Abkhaz State
established, TV broadcasts in the language began, and the level of investment
in the area was raised. By 1989, Abkhazians held 40 per cent of the seats on
local elected bodies and 50 per cent of local executive posts, although they
constituted only 17.7 per cent of the population (Chervonnaya,
1994: 34). Abkhazians were appointed as first and second secretaries of the
local Communist party, and they were also well represented in other party
posts. As the Abkhazian writer, Konstantin Ozgan,
concedes, there was ‘over-representation of Abkhazian nationals in some …
posts in the autonomous republic’ (he adds, however, that these posts were
‘sinecures’) (Ozgan, 1998: 187).
Abkhaz—Georgian conflict, as we saw earlier, was a
constant theme during the Soviet period. Generally speaking, the centre
tended to take the Georgian side, but the compromise settlement of the 1970s
leaned somewhat more towards the Abkhazians, though certainly not granting
any of their constitutional demands. The Soviet authorities hoped that
concessions would make it possible for the Abkhaz to reconcile themselves
with their position within the Georgian SSR. This did not happen. In fact,
neither side was satisfied by the measures of the Brezhnev era. In 1980, a
large number of prominent Georgians signed a letter to the 26th CPSU Congress
complaining of discrimination against them locally, while the Abkhazians
countered that they were now ‘worse off than they had been under Beria’ (the
Georgian secret policeman who had run the area in the 1930s) (Lezhava, 1997: 224). 5 Thus
a tense situation already existed when the coming of perestroika made
it possible for both sides to voice their grievances publicly.
The Georgian nationalists stimulated Abkhazian
resentment by calling for the immediate introduction of the Georgian language
in every part of Georgia.
The Abkhaz had until then shown a strong degree of resistance towards
learning that language (only 2 per cent of them knew it in 1970); they
preferred Russian (61 per cent spoke it as a second language). 6 Georgian
nationalists also demanded the abolition of all autonomous districts
(including Abkhazia), because of their alleged incompatibility with Georgian
unity, and the recognition of Georgia's
special character as a Christian state. One leading Georgian nationalist, Irakli Tsereteli, provocatively
wiped out hundreds of years of Abkhazian history with this pronouncement:
‘Those whom we call Abkhazians are not Abkhazians. The Abkhazians were a
Georgian tribe. The present Abkhazians are the descendants of Kabardinians and Balkars who
came to Georgia
in the mid-nineteenth century.’ 7
One man, Vladimir Ardzinba,
gained and retained the leading position in the Abkhazian movement. His
evident Russian connections have given rise to the suspicion that the
movement for Abkhazian independence from Georgia
is really a Russian way of making sure that the pleasant seaside resorts by
the Black Sea do not fall into Georgian
hands. Ardzinba is, or was, a trained Moscow orientalist, specializing in the history of the Hittites.
He worked at the Oriental Institute when Yevgenii Primakov (who later became Russian foreign minister) was
its director. His eloquent speeches, in Russian rather than Abkhazian, in defence of the rights of small ethnic minorities, first
brought him to the notice of the wider Russian public, and there is no doubt
that there has been continuing unofficial support from Russia for his
movement. Whether Georgian publicists, as well as the respected Russian
specialist on ethnic questions, Svetlana Chervonnaya,
are right in their claim that the whole Abkhazian movement was Russian-run
and Russiandominated is less certain (Chervonnaya, 1994: 58).
The movement for Georgian independence was intertwined
fatefully with the Abkhazian question from the beginning. The Abkhazian
People's Forum Aidgylara (Unity) was set up
in the autumn of 1988 to press for the removal of Abkhazia from Georgian
control and its direct subordination to Moscow.
It held a rally in March 1989 at which calls were made for Abkhazia to be
raised to the status of a union republic. Local Georgians in Gali (a town in the south of Abkhazia) protested
immediately, and these anti-Abkhazian protests spread to the Georgian
The protesters' demands escalated rapidly. They began to call for an
This was too much for the head of the Georgian Communist party, who arranged
for Soviet troops to move in on 9 April 1989 and suppress the demonstrations
by force. There were at least twenty deaths and hundreds of wounded. The wellnigh unanimous reaction of Georgians was to turn
their backs on both the Communist party and the Soviet connection. The
repercussions over the rest of the Soviet Union
were also very serious: the nascent democratic movement recoiled in horror
from the government's actions. It could well be said that the Tbilisi slaughter of 9
April 1989 was the first nail in the coffin of Soviet power.
In the course of the next two years, while the Georgians
raced towards independence, the Abkhazians (encouraged by the Soviet
authorities) cut their links progressively with Georgia. Abkhazia became
independent of Georgia
in practice during 1991, thanks to the presence of a strong contingent of
Russian troops. (The actual declaration of Abkhazian independence took place
on 23 July 1992.) While the Georgian Supreme Soviet was busily constructing a
constitution that gave appointed prefects absolute powers over local
representative bodies in the regions, thereby in practice abolishing local
autonomy (Jones, 1993: 302), 8 the
Abkhazians went on quietly consolidating their separate institutions,
including a parliament in which they had majority representation. It was
partly the Abkhazian issue (alongside other perhaps more vital questions)
which led to the overthrow of President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, who was elected in May 1991 on a programme of extreme Georgian nationalism but was
criticized for failing to do anything effective to counter Abkhazian
separatism when in office. It is something of a paradox that Gamsakhurdia (having been overthrown by the Georgian
National Guard on 6 January 1992) subsequently allied with Ardzinba in planning a joint campaign against the
Military Council which had taken power in Tbilisi (Chervonnaya,
1994: 52). Shortly afterwards, a degree of political stability was restored
to the country, with the return of Eduard Shevardnadze to power (March 1992).
Meanwhile, semi-independent Abkhazia became a safe haven
for the Zviadists (the supporters of Zviad Gamsakhurdia), who seized
prominent Georgians, including the vice-president, Alexander Karsadze, as hostages, and held them on Abkhazian
Opinions in Moscow were divided over what
line to take in this conflict, but on 14 August 1992 Russia finally gave Georgia the green light to invade
Abkhazia, ostensibly to free the hostages. According to George Hewitt, Boris
Yeltsin ‘knew in advance of Shevardnadze's plan to invade Abkhazia and gave
approval by silence afterwards' (Hewitt, 1999: 479).
Nevertheless, the general tendency of Russian policy was
to maintain a balance between the two sides. They endeavoured
repeatedly to arrange peace deals between Abkhazia and Georgia, and on 27
July 1993 Shevardnadze and Ardzinba signed a
Russian-brokered peace agreement in Sochi
by which the Russians would send peacekeeping troops while all Georgian
forces would quit Abkhazia. With unofficial Russian support behind the scenes
(denounced by the Georgian prime minister, Tengiz Segua, as ‘Russia's
undeclared war on Georgia’),
the Abkhazian forces were able to resist Georgia very effectively. Whereas
an Abkhaz assault on Sukhumi,
the main town of the region, was defeated on 18 July 1993, before the
agreement, by the Georgians, after the agreement the Georgians were defeated.
On 27 September 1993, Sukhumi
fell to Abkhazian forces, and by October 1993 Georgian troops had been driven
Shevardnadze blamed Russia for this debacle, accusing
Yeltsin of betrayal. He said on 27 September that the plan to occupy Sukhumi ‘was
masterminded at Russian military headquarters’. His next move was to use
diplomatic means to improve Georgia's
position. He brought his country into the CIS and leased some bases to
Russian troops (8—9 October 1993). The Russians responded by helping Georgian
government forces to defeat the Zviadist rebels
(November 1993) and they arranged a further round of peace talks, between 11
and 13 January 1994, which resulted in an agreement on the return of Georgian
refugees and the deployment of Russian troops under the auspices of the
United Nations to secure a buffer zone. But the agreement did not hold. The
Abkhazians withdrew from renewed peace talks on 15 March in protest against Georgia's
disbandment of their parliament.
Boris Yeltsin then stepped in and used his good offices
to secure a peace agreement between the two sides — the Moscow Agreement of 4
April 1994 — which embodied a large number of Georgian concessions. The
concessions were not a result of Russian pressure, however. They were a
simple consequence of utter military defeat. The fact was that the Georgian
army, which until 1994 was really no more than a collection of personal
militias (Jones, 1997: 525), was no match for the combination of North
Caucasian volunteers and sympathetic individuals from the Russian military
who bore the brunt of the fighting on the other side.
Under the Moscow Agreement, Abkhazia received its own
republic, constitution, flag, state emblem and national anthem, although it
was not granted independent statehood. Russian troops were to be deployed as
peacekeepers. The Abkhazians could vet applications for return from Georgian
on an individual basis, which did not satisfy the Georgians, who had
wanted the ‘instant mass return’ of the exiles (Hewitt, 1999: 476). The
Russians, for their part, were happy to allow all the Georgian exiles to
return, and Shevardnadze and Viktor Chernomyrdin, the Russian prime minister,
reached an agreement on 10 July 1995 on this subject; the Abkhazian leader,
Vladimir Ardzinba, however, continued to oppose the
idea. The Georgians offered autonomy to Abkhazia, but Abkhazia rejected the
offer as insufficient; the Russians thereupon signed an agreement with Georgia that ‘Georgia's territorial integrity
should be restored’, though not by military force (15 September 1995).
If military force was not to be used, the only other
form of pressure the Russians could exert on Abkhazia was economic. When the
18th CIS summit met in Moscow on 19 January
1996 it decided to impose a complete blockade on Abkhazia until it agreed to
reunite with Georgia.
But economic pressure did not work either, perhaps because the blockade was
ineffective. The Abkhazians remained stubbornly independent. In August 1997,
Yeltsin announced further proposals for a settlement: Georgia's territorial integrity
would be recognized, and Georgian refugees would be allowed to return, while
Abkhazia would receive ‘substantial autonomy’. Shevardnadze welcomed these
proposals; but Ardzinba rejected them, adding on 14
August that Abkhazia ‘would make no further concessions’.
In January 1998, Shevardnadze proposed a UN peacekeeping
operation in Abkhazia similar to the one currently in force at the time of
writing in Bosnia-Hercegovina; both Ardzinba and the Russians rejected this, on the grounds
that ‘only CIS troops would be acceptable’ as peacekeeping forces. In May
1998, Abkhazia sent troops to drive the Georgians out of the southern town of
and the surrounding area; Georgian irregular forces fought back, but 35 000
Georgians were forced to flee. Yeltsin condemned Abkhazia for this invasion
on 28 May, the UN joined in on 30 July (by UN Security Council Resolution No.
1187). This was further confirmed on 28 January 1999 by UN Security Council
Resolution No. 1225, which expressed concern at the plight of Georgian
refugees in the area. This forced the Abkhazians to make some concessions:
Georgian refugees began to return to Gali on 1
March 1999. But on the main issue, which was independence, the Abkhazians
were not to be moved. On 3 October 1999, a referendum was held in Abkhazia;
97 per cent of those who voted supported independence.
Eduard Shevardnadze, who remains, at the time of
writing, the president of Georgia,
would no doubt like to end the Abkhazian insurgency by compromise, since
military victory seems impossible, but any concession on the vital issue of
sovereignty would simply play into the hands of his turbulent opponents
within the country. The situation could now be described as a stalemate,
patrolled by UNOMIG (United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia), which has
its mandate extended at regular, six-month intervals, and by Russian troops,
who stand between the Abkhazian and Georgian forces.
Developments in South Ossetia
followed a somewhat similar path to those in Abkhazia, and with similar
results. The separate status of the South Ossetians was recognized in 1922 when they
were granted an Autonomous District (AO) within Georgia — in other words, one
rung below the Abkhazians. Georgian nationalists also tended to place them
lower, claiming that they were recent immigrants with no right to the land.
There was no such place as South Ossetia,
said the Georgians: it was in fact ‘Samochablo’, a
land named after Machabeli, a medieval Georgian
prince. What was most immediately threatening to the South
Ossetians, however, was the drive to
make Georgian the sole official language: only 14 per cent of them knew
Georgian (38 per cent knew Russian).
As in the case of Abkhazia, the rise of Georgian
nationalism stimulated a corresponding Ossetian
national movement, Ademon Nykhas (Popular Shrine), which gained control of the
South Ossetian Supreme Soviet in 1989 and forced
through a resolution upgrading South Ossetia from an Autonomous District to
an Autonomous Republic (10 November 1989). The Georgian reply was to annul
the vote and send volunteers to the region to ‘defend the Georgian
population’ (30 per cent of the total in South Ossetia
in 1989). Fighting ensued. Negotiations with the Georgian leader, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, led
nowhere, which is not surprising in view of his comment at the time: ‘I shall
bring an army of 300,000 here. Not a single Ossete
shall remain in the land
(Zverev, 1996: 48). In August 1990, the Ossetian national movement was banned from taking part in
elections; the South Ossetian Supreme Soviet
replied by proclaiming a South Ossetian Soviet
Democratic Republic (20 September 1990) which would be subordinate directly
to Moscow rather than to Tbilisi; the Georgians responded, first by
abolishing South Ossetian autonomy (11 December
1990) then by blockading and invading the territory (January 1991), although
they did not succeed in conquering it.
Combat continued for the next two years, though at a low
level, since the Georgians were prevented from devoting their full attention
to South Ossetia by their many other
problems, and the Russians tended to take the Ossetians
under their wing. On 19 January 1992, 90 per cent of the South Ossetians voted to place their republic under Russia rather than Georgia;
many of them wanted unification with North Ossetia.
However, the widening of the conflict was prevented by the attitude of Akhsarbek Galazov, the North Ossetian leader, who refused to allow volunteers from the
Confederation of Mountain Peoples of the Caucasus to pass through his
territory to join in the fight against Georgia. The Russian nationalists
and Communists pressed for more direct Russian involvement, but Yeltsin
decided against this.
The alternative was mediation, and this resulted in the
conclusion on 22 June 1992 of the Sochi Agreement, between the Georgian
president, Eduard Shevardnadze, representatives of North and South Ossetia,
and the Russians, for the stationing of joint Russian—Georgian peace-keeping
forces in the disputed area. The South Ossetians have, however, retained their de
facto independence since then. This is, of course, not recognized by Georgia
(or by the international community). 11
The South Ossetian entity is something of a
throwback to Soviet times: its passports are USSR passports on the 1974 model,
its laws are Russian laws, its currency is the rouble,
its largest political party (since the March 1994
elections) is the Communist party. The Georgian blockade has deprived it of
electricity and gas; some inhabitants move north to North
Ossetia in winter to avoid freezing. It can only survive with
Russian support, and in fact its citizens would prefer to be citizens of the Russian Federation
(Gusher, 2000: 6).
Finally, we need to examine a number of other regions of
Georgia, where there were rather weaker grounds for separate status than in
the cases of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but where there were still
significant differences between the ‘Georgian nation’ properly so-called and
the predominant local ethnic group. The people of Ajaria,
in the south-west of the country, spoke Georgian, but in the Guruli dialect. The important distinction, here, however,
was in religion: the Ajarians were Muslims. This
was considered to be enough, in Soviet times, to justify setting up an ASSR.
After 1991, the Ajarian ASSR asserted and retained
a semi-independent position, under its president, Aslan
power rests not on mass support but on family and clan ties: he comes from a
family which was already dominant in the region in the fifteenth century. The
Bolshevik Revolution inevitably brought some changes, but even under Soviet
rule Aslan's grandfather, Memed
Abashidze, managed to retain a degree of control
over the area, until he was shot by Beria in 1937. In November 1991, the Ajarians voted by an overwhelming majority (94 per cent)
in favour of Abashidze's
party, which entered the elections under the name ‘The Union
of Georgian Traditionalists’.
The Ajarians do not wish to
secede from Georgia,
but they are determined to preserve a high degree of autonomy. The Georgian
attitude has evolved in the course of time from friendship to hostility.
Whereas Gamsakhurdia himself had appointed Abashidze in 1991, by 1997 the Georgians were describing
him as ‘the head of a regionalist mafia’. Abashidze's
alleged crimes included being secretly in league with the Russians, keeping
Russian troops on the border with Turkey
against Georgian wishes, and, perhaps worst of all, retaining two-thirds of
the revenues from the lucrative customs dues levied on international trade
passing to and from Turkey
(Radvanyi and Berontchachvili,
1999: 231—2). Ever since 1997, the Georgians have made a determined attempt
to throttle Ajaria economically. Abashidze's reply has been to try to create a
confederation with the other troublesome southern province of Georgia,
Dzhavakheti, and to enter Georgian politics
directly, through his Batum Alliance, which did
well enough in the 31 October 1999 Georgian elections to become the main
Dzhavakheti, which is ethnically 90 per cent
Armenian, supports a movement called Dzhavakhk that
aims ‘at least to obtain autonomy, if not to unite the region with Armenia’
(Hewitt, 1999: 488). There is also continuing opposition to central rule in Mingrelia, which was previously a stronghold of support
for Zviad Gamsakhurdia.
These smaller movements suffer from the disadvantage of lacking the outside
support enjoyed by the Abkhazian and South Ossetian
nationalists, but given the weakness of the Georgian state at the time of
writing, they may well succeed. If their demands were granted it would amount
to the disintegration of historic Georgia into a congeries of small states,
defined by George Hewitt, who advocates this solution, as Abkhazia, South
Ossetia, Mingrelia, Svanetia,
Ajaria, Dzhavakheti, Imereti, Kartli, K'akhetia, and ‘the Azerbaijani area’ 12
(which is located in the province of Kvemo Kartli, in the south-east of the country) (Hewitt, 1999:
490). In fact, there is already a distinct tendency for Georgia to fall apart into a
number of independent states, based on regional elites. Of the ten regions
enumerated by Hewitt, six were ‘already autonomous in practice’ by the year
2000 (Gusher, 2000: 8).
usual, diametrically opposite positions can be found in the literature on this.
As we saw earlier, Darrell Slider took an essentially favourable
view of the Brezhnev measures (1985: 65). Svetlana Chervonnaya
dismissed Abkhaz complaints as being without foundation (Chervonnaya,
1994: 34). But the English specialist on Abkhazia, George Hewitt, considers
that the measures brought ‘no long-lasting improvement’ for the Abkhazians
(Hewitt, 1999: 282).
from Itogi Vsesoiuznoi
Perepisi Naseleniia 1970 Goda, vol. 4, table 16.
in September 1989, quoted by Chervonnaya (1994:
197, n. 64).
also the revised version of this article (Jones, 1997: 516).
9 Gamsakhurdia also received support from another minority
group, the Mingrelians, although this did not
prevent his later military defeat and death, which probably took place in
refugees, who were expelled from the country after the successful Abkhazian
military offensive against Georgia,
numbered some 160 000 (300 000 according to the Georgians).Their language (Mingrelian) was different from Georgian, although they
did not claim to be a separate nation.
11 The course
of events in South Ossetia between 1989 and
1992 has recently been summarized clearly by A. Zverev
Azerbaijanis made up 5.7 per cent of the population of Georgia in 1989. Despite being
under some pressure to leave, they have tended to stay where they are. The
main ethnically Azerbaijani districts are Marneuli
(79 per cent), Bolnissi (60 per cent) and Dmanissi (64 per cent) (Serrano, 1999: 232).
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