- Posted February 13, 2014 by
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The truth about the problems in Abkhazia and how to solve them
Abkhazia (Original non-Russian name: Apkhazeti) and South Ossetia (Original, non-Soviet name: Shida Kartli) remain territories occupied by Russia. Both regions are artificially created, soviet-style dictatorships.
They are completely isolated from the rest of the world. No international monitoring or organisations. Instead the regions are full of Russian military and secret services, that keep everything closed and under control. People are being kidnapped and tortured by these structures on a daily basis, often based on ethnic background.
In 1992-1993 and in 2008, Russia organized an ethnic cleansing of Georgians in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. More than 400,000 Georgians were driven out of Abkhazia & South Ossetia and are not allowed to return to their homes until today.
The soviet-style puppet regime of Abkhazia exists only because Russia backs it with military might and financial support. Calls for international recognition conveniently overlook how it was established: through the killing of around 10,000 civilians in the 1990s and the expulsion of more than 300,000 people from Abkhazia over the past two decades.
It is for the international courts to define the legal nature of the atrocities committed by the Abkhaz militia and their Russian allies. But no one should ignore these acts while considering the future of a region that has been forcefully emptied of the overwhelming majority of its population.
The 1992-1993 conflict and the 2008 Russian invasion -- together with the constant harassment and intimidation of the non-Abkhaz civilian population -- have radically altered Abkhazia's demographics. According to Soviet census data, ethnic Abkhaz comprised 17.8 percent of the 525,000 residents of Abkhazia in 1989, while ethnic Georgians accounted for 45.7 percent, numbering roughly 240,000. By 2003, the ethnic Georgian population had decreased by 81 percent to just 46,000 (mostly in the Gali and Tkvarcheli districts); (Ukrainians, Estonians, Jews by 81 percent).
In the same period, the Abkhaz were the only ethnic group whose ranks increased - from the prewar tally of just 17 percent to about half the population. The outrageous process by which this occurred has been denounced as "ethnic cleansing" by the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and many others.
Abkhazia's declaration of independence
The illegitimacy of Abkhazia's independence is not solely due to the failure of the international community to accept its sovereignty. It stems from deeper problems: the past and current actions of Abkhazia's leaders, their ideology of ethnic supremacy, and the Russian military occupation of its territory.
After its actions in 2008(the August 2008 war), Russia effectively lost its status as a peace-keeper in the region. It has become a party in the conflict, the enemy of the republic of Georgia. The Russian Federation troups lost any right to be in Abkhazia and the South Caucasus.
So to solve this problem, Moscow instructed the Abkhazian government to declare independence shortly after the war with Georgia. And to hold a referendum about this independence, in which only 14% of the population - the ones in favour of independence - could take part.
Only certain residents of Abkhazia are allowed to take part in the vote. The ethnic Georgians who bravely remain in situ on their own land in their own country are forbidden to take part(More than 300,000 Georgians).
The EU rightly argued that “elections in this region of Georgia can only be valid after all refugees and internally displaced persons are given the right to a safe, secure and dignified return to their homes in Abkhazia”.
The Abkhaz people do need cooperation with Europe, and they deserve to be part of the world community. But the manner in which this happens is crucial. It cannot be done by validating ethnic cleansing, by ignoring the annexation of Georgia's sovereign territory, or by recognizing elections held in a society that is built on apartheid -- where a vast majority of the population has been expelled and most ethnic Georgians still remaining are not allowed to vote.
Meanwhile, proponents of the Abkhaz cause ask a powerful question: Why not apply the precedent of Kosovo, which achieved international recognition after a violent separation from Serbia, to Abkhazia?
But replicating Kosovo (a process of recognition that can hardly be described as flawless) is not applicable. The differences between the two cases are stark.
1. First, the most heinous crimes in Kosovo were committed by Milosevic regime, the adversaries of secession; in Abkhazia, they were committed by the secessionists and their Russian allies.
2. Second, the right of return of refugees to Kosovo was a precondition for self-determination; in Abkhazia, the so-called self-determination is linked with the refusal to allow the return of internally displaced people.
Put simply, Kosovo's independence was a way of punishing ethnic cleansing. In Abkhazia, such recognition would represent a chilling validation of ethnic cleansing, and a reward to its authors.
And b.t.w. can Kosovo serve as a model for Chechnya or Dagestan to solve the ongoing problems there?
And there's more that makes the Kosovo parallel problematic. The processes leading to independence and recognition also could not have been more different.
Abkhaz leaders have refused several peace plans proposed by the Georgian government, the United Nations, and Germany. In Kosovo's case, however, it was the Serbian government of Slobodan Milosevic that rejected peace efforts.
After the war, Kosovo came under U.N. administration for nine years before its independence was recognized by a vast coalition of countries, including the United States and most European nations. In Abkhazia, international organizations have been denied entry, and its so-called independence has been recognized only by Russia and three other non-European countries, which all receive Russian financial support.
Why Abkhazia's independence is fake?
Abkhazia's independence is a fake by the simplest norms of human rights and democracy:
1. The majority of the population was excluded from the referendum. Many are not even allowed to return to their own homes.
2. De facto there is no independent Abkhazia: the region is under Russian miltary rule.
3. The present government is not chosen by the people, it is a puppet regime that receives instructions from Moscow.
4. There is no democracy and no basic rights for the people remaining in Abkhazia. They are in poverty and under threat.
How to help the Abkhaz and Georgian peoples to gain back their freedom and human rights:
1. Acknowledge and explain the manipulation of people that has happened over the last two centuries. Do this actively through school curricula and the media;
2. Stop talking about it as an ethnic conflict or a conflict between Georgia and Abkhazia;
3. Send Russian troops, Secret Services and military bases out of Abkhazia. Place an international mission of truly neutral parties in charge of this transition;
4. Organize the return of the refugees to their homes;
5. Let all the people of Abkhazia (including the Georgian and other refugees) decide on their future. With all options objectively open.