Friday, 31 October 2008

Georgia: a danger to itself and Transcaucasian stability

by George Hewitt – EurAsiacritic

As the USSR was moving towards collapse, its final census (1989) counted 3,787,393 ‘Georgians’ in Soviet Georgia. The quotation-marks indicate my doubts about the legitimacy of the decision taken around 1930 so to classify speakers of the four Kartvelian languages (Georgian, Mingrelian, Laz, Svan). But, even if one accepts this categorisation, ‘Georgians’ only constituted 70.1% of the then-population. With a patchwork of ethnicities (including Armenians, Russians, Azerbaijanis, Ossetians, Greeks and Abkhazians), many living in compact (and even borderland) areas, the state was a perfect candidate for federalisation. But, instead of contemplating such a political structure for independent Georgia, the path fatefully chosen by those opposing communist-rule was that of nationalism, which quickly descended into ugly denunciation of (inter alia) the fertility-rates and lack of knowledge of Georgian among non-Kartvelians, coupled with widescale questioning of their rights to live on ‘Georgian’ soil. Particular resentment was felt towards the Abkhazians and South Ossetians, as they possessed eponymous administrative entities within this small republic. The powers granted by the Soviet constitution to autonomous republics (such as Abkhazia and Ajaria [Ach’ara], both inside Georgia but with ethnic Georgians of Muslim persuasion constituting the population of the latter) or autonomous districts (such as S. Ossetia) were restricted, rendering their ‘autonomy’ somewhat fictional. Nevertheless the nationalists wanted them abolished, whilst the S. Ossetians and Abkhazians set about forming their own national forums (respectively, Adaemon Nykhas and Aydgylara) to defend their ethno-regional interests (and, indeed, security) in the face of threats and very real dangers. Thus was the groundwork laid for downward spirals to war in both regions, and the Russians played no part in these purely Georgian-choreographed scenarios; verbal lashings across the Georgian media from late 1988 became concrete as of summer 1989.

No serious scholar doubts that the Abkhazians are the autochthonous residents of Abkhazia, reduced to a mere 17.8% of Abkhazia’s 1989 population by a mixture of emigration (following Russia’s capture of the North Caucasus in 1864) and calculated implantation of Kartvelians (largely Mingrelians from the neighbouring province of Mingrelia) during the repression of the Abkhazians between 1937 and 1953 by (Georgian) Stalin and (Mingrelian) Beria (or, after the latter’s transference to Moscow in 1938, the Svan K’andid Chark’viani, whose son, Gela, is the current Georgian ambassador in London). However, a deliberately manufactured myth has convinced many Kartvelians that the Abkhazians only reached Abkhazia in the 17th century and, thus, have no real right to claim the land. Resurrecting this theory in the late 1980s, the nationalists concentrated their attention on Abkhazia, and the first fatal clashes occurred in July 1989 in the capital Sukhum and Ochamchira, some 25 miles closer to the border with Mingrelia, though the quick introduction of Soviet Interior Ministry troops kept the ethnic groups apart and returned the area to an uneasy peace, which lasted until 14th August 1992.

Ethnically Mingrelian, Zviad Gamsakhurdia emerged as the leading Georgian nationalist, becoming the country’s first post-soviet president. Even he charged that the Ossetians had appeared in Georgia, settling in S. Ossetia, on the coat-tails of the Red Army, which invaded independent (Menshevik) Georgia in 1921. In fact, Ossetians have been in Georgia since the middle ages at the very latest (and possibly since pre-Christian times). Gamsakhurdia mistakenly believed that the Ossetian dispute would be easily solved, leaving the thornier issue of Abkhazia for later. War eventually broke out and was continuing, albeit at low intensity, when the USSR disintegrated (1991).

Unable to win international recognition for Georgia, in contrast to leaders in other former union-republics, and exhibiting signs of megalomania, Gamsakhurdia was toppled in January 1992, thereby sparking another (but this time true civil) war between those Kartvelians, based in Mingrelia, supporting the deposed president and those backing the insurrectionists. Realising their lack of appeal to the international community, the junta-members invited former Georgian Party Boss and latterly Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze home from Moscow to become their leader.

At this point (March 1992), the Western powers committed their first blunder with regard to policy towards Georgia: motivated by a desire to do their friend a favour but in total disregard of the internal realities of the (fast crumbling) state he was at that moment illegitimately heading, Western leaders recognised Georgia within the Soviet borders set for it by Stalin (who, crucially, had reduced the status of Abkhazia in 1931 to that of an autonomous republic within Georgia from that of a full republic in treaty-alliance with Georgia, as it had been throughout the 1920s), established diplomatic relations with it, gave it membership of the IMF and the World Bank, and, most prestigiously of all, admitted it the UN. Shevardnadze sensibly agreed to a ceasefire in S. Ossetia; the so-called Dagomys Accords established a tripartite (Georgian, Ossetian, Russian) peace-keeping force, providing a mandate for Russia and (notionally) still in force today. Within weeks, with the West having played all the cards that might have given it a restraining hand, Shevardnadze sent his troops into Abkhazia, undoubtedly in the (mis)calculation that his Zviadist opponents would rally to the ‘national’ cause against a perceived common foe. This did not happen, and on 30th September 1993 the Georgian fighters were forced into a humiliating withrawal, the vast majority of the local Kartvelian inhabitants following them into a now 15-year exile. On that day Georgia effectively lost Abkhazia, whose de facto independence was marred only by the fact that one portion of its territory, the Upper K’odor Valley, remained outside Sukhum’s control. A ceasefire was signed by the two ‘sides’ (a formal recognition that Abkhazia was not to be identified with Georgia) in Moscow in April 1994, handing peace-keeping duties in the demilitarised zone along the R. Ingur, Abkhazia’s traditional border with Mingrelia in Georgia proper, to the Commonwealth of Independent States’ (CIS) force of 3,000, almost all of whom have been Russians.

Both S. Ossetia and Abkhazia, offered nothing more than a return to the status quo ante bellum by Georgia and the world-community, have survived for almost two decades in a kind of limbo, blockaded, lacking investment and job-opportunities, subjected to periodic acts of sabotage and terror or larger scale attempts to take the territories back under Georgian control (e.g. the May 1998 offensive over the Ingur into Abkhazia’s Gal Province), and travel-restrictions (until Vladimir Putin during his first presidential term made Russian citizenship and passports available to those who wanted and could afford it); shortly before the end of his second term Putin ordered closer ties between Russia and the two regions’ administrative structures, having previously opened Russia’s border with Abkhazia (over the R. Psou) and lifted the CIS blockade. Celebrating the promulgation of its new constitution, Abkhazia formally declared independence in 1999, already possessing its own flag, emblem and national anthem.

Having done their favour for Shevardnadze in recognising his homeland, the West manifested no interest in Georgia, other than to offer a certain amount of aid to prevent total failure of the state; occupied with horrendous acts closer to home in the Balkans, it was quite happy for Russia to have responsibility for Transcaucasian peace-keeping. Matters began to change when excavations suggested that the Caspian’s oil-reserves were larger than previously believed. Enthusiasm grew apace as Georgia became a conduit for the ‘big oil’ via the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. This happened towards the close of Shevardnadze’s presidency, which came with the Rose Revolution of November 2003. During his campaign for the 2004 spring-election, Mikhail Saak’ashvili, declared it his goal to bring the ‘separatist regions’ back under central control. This was quickly achieved with the bloodless toppling of Aslan Abashidze, local potentate in Ajaria, in May. Ossetians and Abkhazians knew what to expect.

After his election-victory, Saak’ashvili immediately started courting America in particular, placing Georgia on a pro-Western course with numerous ministers and spokesmen fluent in English and/or Western educated in his own mould. George W. Bush’s White House was smitten, as were many influential voices in Washington and other capitals, especially when Georgian troops were offered for service in Iraq. The West’s second major error now came with the decision to increase shipments of arms to Tbilisi and to intensify military training. Was the question ‘Against whom will this weaponry be used?’ ever asked? Realistically, there could be only one answer, as proved on 7th August.

One of Saak’ashvili’s early actions against S. Ossetia was to close a local market on its border; though trade there was unregulated and untaxed, it did encourage a spirit of cooperation and provided work. A pliable Ossetian was also found to head a pro-Georgia government of S. Ossetia, located in the Georgian-populated part of the territory. In Abkhazia military personnel were somehow infiltrated into the Upper K’odor Valley in 2006 on the spurious grounds of performing only ‘policing’ functions; they were soon followed by the transference there of the long-standing, Tbilisi-based ‘Abkhazian government-in-exile’. Peace-negotiations were promptly suspended by Abkhazia’s president. US Republican presidential candidate John McCain visited Georgia in 2006 and voiced his wish that ‘the peoples of the disputed territories soon learn what it means to live in freedom’, betraying utter ignorance of local history and complete misunderstanding of the relations between them and Tbilisi, which lies at the very heart of current problems. Buttressed by strong support from US friends and worryingly bellicose advisers and appreciating that NATO-membership is jeopardised if territories remain disputed, the mercurial Saak’ashvili was always likely to act before the next NATO-meeting in December. That action duly came on 7th August in S. Ossetia. Saak’ashvili thereby followed his two predecessors into Georgia’s hall of infamy by bringing further disaster down on the heads of not only the S. Ossetians but also his own people, initiating the fourth war under Georgia’s three post-Soviet presidents. Russia’s response, relatively slow in coming, was predictably massive.

Expecting similarly to feel Saak’ashvili’s wrath, Abkhazia declared general mobilisation; thousands of extra Russian troops arrived by air and sea to reinforce the Ingur demilitarised zone. This was seen as the chance finally to rid Abkhazia of Georgian military personnel, and the K’odor entrenchments were bombed for two days. When Abkhazian ground-troops entered on 12th August, not knowing what resistance they would meet, they met none, for, just as over the Ingur, all that recent US and UK training had achieved was abject retreat. The quantity of munitions discovered in the K’odor Valley gives the lie to Saak’ashvili’s 2-year protestation that only a policing operation was underway there. Also found was a Georgian slogan: mizani dzalian axlosaa ‘The goal is very close’; recovered maps reveal the attack-plan to retake Abkhazia. Staggering amounts of weaponry were found abandoned in such bases as Senak’i; Russians have, quite rightly, systematically destroyed as much of Saak’ashvili’s killing machine as they could locate. This neutralisation was absolutely essential, though the nature of its realisation is debateable. If the arming of this volatile regime was the act of supreme folly I have argued, then those who, like Barak Obama’s adviser Richard Holbrooke, speaking from Tbilisi on 17th August, urge a speedy rearmament of the country are simply advocating its criminally irresponsible repetition, with all that this will entail.

If there is to be lasting peace and stability here, which should be the universal aspiration, Georgia must be persuaded by its true friends to acknowledge the error of its ways since independence. It must accept the loss of S. Ossetia and Abkhazia and recognise them. Georgia itself should consider becoming a federation (with decentralisation of powers to the regions, including Mingrelia, Armenian-populated Dzhavakheti, and Azerbaijani-populated Dmanis-Marneuli), disarm and devote what wealth it earns not to armaments (as in the past) but to improving living conditions across Georgia proper, where many live in hardship. It should abandon hopes of NATO-membership, as that will always irritate its northern neighbour, with whom it should finally build normal relations – Angela Merkel’s declaration in Tbilisi on 17th August that Germany now supports Georgian membership hints at another monumental miscalculation about to be made by a Western alliance supposedly committed to freedom and democracy (rather than the support of states with decidedly murky records in the observation of human and minority rights). International guarantees for S. Ossetian and Abkhazian independence and security should be provided, and these states should adopt a neutral stance to be above anybody’s suspicion (Georgia’s, the West’s, Russia’s). Georgia’s territorial integrity within its Stalinist Soviet frontiers is dead. Refusal to acknowledge this on the part of Georgia and the world-community can promote only further instability, death and destruction.

The truth about South Ossetia

After the west heaped blame on Russia for the conflict, it ignores new evidence of Georgia's crimes of aggression.

by Seumas Milne -, Friday October 31 2008

So now they tell us. Two months after the brief but bloody war in the Caucasus which was overwhelmingly blamed on Russia by western politicians and media at the time, a serious investigation by the BBC has uncovered a very different story.

Not only does the report by Tim Whewell – aired this week on Newsnight and on Radio 4's File on Four - find strong evidence confirming western-backed Georgia as the aggressor on the night of August 7. It also assembles powerful testimony of wide-ranging war crimes carried out by the Georgian army in its attack on the contested region of South Ossetia.

They include the targeting of apartment block basements – where civilians were taking refuge – with tank shells and Grad rockets, the indiscriminate bombardment of residential districts and the deliberate killing of civilians, including those fleeing the South Ossetian capital of Tskinvali. The carefully balanced report – which also details evidence of ethnic cleansing by South Ossetian paramilitaries – cuts the ground from beneath later Georgian claims that its attack on South Ossetia followed the start of a Russian invasion the previous night.

At the time, the Georgian government said its assault on Tskinvali was intended to "restore constitutional order" in an area it has never ruled, as well as to counter South Ossetian paramilitary provocations. Georgian intelligence subsequently claimed to have found the tape of an intercepted phone call backing up its Russian invasion story – but even Georgia's allies balk at a claim transparently intended to bolster its shaky international legal position.

Naturally the man who ordered the Georgian invasion of South Ossetia, president Mikheil Saakashvili, denies the war crimes accusations. But what of his Anglo-American sponsors, who insisted at the time that "Russian aggression must not go unanswered"?

British foreign secretary David Miliband now accepts Georgia was "reckless" and says he treats the war crimes allegations "extremely seriously". US assistant secretary of state, Daniel Fried, meanwhile concedes Georgia's attack on Tskhinvali was "wrong on several levels", but feels that discussion of its war crimes is "not terribly useful".

In the wake of the Georgian attack, Russian troops moved into Georgia proper, destroying Georgian military facilities used to mount the original assault – and inflicting their own civilian casualties in the process, notably in Gori. Earlier this month they pulled back from their Georgian buffer zone into now nominally-independent South Ossetia.

At the start of the August conflict, western media reporting was relatively even-handed, but rapidly switched into full-blown cold war revival mode as Russia turned the tables on the US's Georgian client regime and Nato expansion in the region. Clear initial evidence of who started the war and Georgian troops' killing spree in Tskhinvali was buried or even denied in a highly effective PR operation from Tbilisi.

Within a week, the former Foreign Office special adviser David Clark was for example accusing me on Comment is free of making an "important error of fact" by stating that "several hundreds civilians" had been killed by Georgian forces in Tskhinvali.

I based that on several reports, including in the Observer. Clark insisted there was "no independent support for this claim". But, as reported by the BBC this week, Human Rights Watch now regards the figure of 300-400 civilian dead in Tskhinvali as a "useful starting point".

Meanwhile, with the exception of a small item in the Independent, Whewell's significant new evidence about what actually took place in a conflict likely to have far-reaching strategic consequences has been simply ignored by the rest of the mainstream media.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Georgia accused of targeting civilians

By Tim Whewell

BBC File On 4

The BBC has discovered evidence that Georgia may have committed war crimes in its attack on its breakaway region of South Ossetia in August.

Eyewitnesses have described how its tanks fired directly into an apartment block, and how civilians were shot at as they tried to escape the fighting.

Research by the international investigative organisation Human Rights Watch also points to indiscriminate use of force by the Georgian military, and the possible deliberate targeting of civilians.

Indiscriminate use of force is a violation of the Geneva Conventions, and serious violations are considered to be war crimes.

The allegations are now raising concerns among Georgia's supporters in the West.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has told the BBC the attack on South Ossetia was "reckless".

He said he had raised the issue of possible Georgian war crimes with the government in Tbilisi.
The evidence was gathered by the BBC on the first unrestricted visit to South Ossetia by a foreign news organisation since the conflict.

Georgia's attempt to re-conquer the territory triggered a Russian invasion and the most serious crisis in relations between the Kremlin and the West since the Cold War.
And Georgians themselves have suffered. We confirmed the systematic destruction of former Georgian villages inside South Ossetia.

Some homes appear to have been not just burned by Ossetians, but also bulldozed by the territory's Russian-backed authorities.

The war began when Georgia launched artillery attacks on targets in the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, at about 2330 on 7 August 2008.

Georgia said at the time that it was responding to increasing attacks on its own villages by South Ossetia militia, although it later said its action was provoked by an earlier Russian invasion.
Eye-witness account

Georgy Tadtayev, a 21-year-old dental student, was one of the Ossetian civilians killed during the fighting.

His mother, Taya Sitnik, 45, a college lecturer, told the BBC he bled to death in her arms on the morning of 9 August after a fragment from a Georgian tank shell hit him in the throat as they were both sheltering from artillery fire in the basement of her block of flats. Read more...

VIDEO: Gia Karkarashvili, the Georgian Commander-in-Chief on TV threatens the Abkhazian nation with genocide

Gia Karkarashvili, the Georgian Commander-in-Chief on TV threatens the Abkhazian nation with genocide -August 24, 1992

The Georgian general leading the invading forces in the autumn of 1992, Georgiy (Gia) Karkarashvili, stated on TV that he would sacrifice 100,000 Georgians to kill all 97,000 Abkhazians, if that is what it took to keep Georgia's borders inviolate.

- This threat was even reported in the Georgian newspaper 7 dghe 7 Days (No.31, 4-10 September 1992, p.3): ''On 25 August Gia Karkarashvili, general of the National Guard stationed in western Georgia appeared on Abkhazian television. He issued an ultimatum to the Abkhazian side: if within 24 hours they should not lay down their arms and hand themselves over to members of the State Council, the Abkhazians would have no-one left to carry on their race: 100,000 Georgians would be sacrificed for the 97,000 Abkhazians, but Georgias borders would remain in tact.''

- And also 'UNPO Abkhazia Report' November 1992, Chapter b. Human Rights and Cultural Destruction.''(PDF File) ...Additionally, the Commander-in-chief of Georgian troops in Abkhazia, General Georgiy Karkarashvili warned in a televised formal address to the Abkhaz and Georgian people in Sukhumi on August 24, that no prisoners of war will be taken by the Georgian troops, that if 100,000 Georgian lose their lives, then [on the Abkhazian side] all 97,000 will be killed; and that the Abkhaz Nation will be left without descendants. The delegation saw a video recording of this ominous speech.'

- Central Asian Survey, 12(3), (1993), p.338

- BBC Summary of World Broadcasts

A similar threat came from the head of Georgia's wartime administration, Giorgi Khaindrava, on the pages of Le Monde Diplomatique in April 1993. Goga (Giorgi) Khaindrava, told the correspondent from Le Monde Diplomatique that "there are only 80,000 Abkhazians, which means that we can easily and completely destroy the genetic stock of their nation by killing 15,000 of their youth. And we are perfectly capable of doing this."


Shooted MI-8 Helicopter by Georgian troops - December 14, 1992 Georgian troops in the village of Lata shoot down a MI-8 helicopter with 60 passengers, including women and children, all of whom perish.

See also:

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

The famous writer, playwright and artist Boris Utizh passed away

Kabardino-Balkaria says good bye today with the popular writer of KBR, Honored Culture of the Russian Federation, chief editor of the magazine ‘Oshhamahue’, Boris Utizh(ev).

By the popularly favorite pieces suddenly passed away on 28 October. Two weeks ago – October 15, he was 69 years old.

‘Boris Kuneevich Utizh was telling the scientific and artistic intelligentsia of the country a talented scientist, journalist, teacher, a sponsor of explanatory and phraseological dictionary Kabardian language. He worked in various genres of literature – prose, poetry, art journalism, was a painter – sculptor’ – Said at the funeral rally, Vice-Premier Murat Thazapl. He was the conscience of the nation’, - said hundreds of people who came to bid farewell to Utizh to Kabardian town of Nalchik, where black Burkov pavement have been installed on a stretcher with a body of the writer. Widely known his plays ‘Tyrgatoa, Damaley’ ‘ Oedipus,’ ‘Prince Kuchuk’ on large, Kabardian the tragic figures of history. The author’s first national vaudeville ‘Aul (village) Svergaysvekruho effervescent and based on folk motifs, called" Kabardian Shekspirom "and regretted that there were no interpreter who could save the rich game of words and meanings, which owned a masterful author of many poetry Utizh.

Utizh Boris was a brilliant publicist, was a member of the Writers' Union of KBR and the Council for Kabardian literature, was a member of Community Advisory Council under the President of the Republic.

According to Muslim tradition betrayed the ground today its descent at a cemetery in the village Zaragizh Cherekskogo of KBR area.

Culture of the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic has suffered great loss. 28 Oct, 2008 at the 69-year life of the writer died People's KBR, Honored Worker of Culture of the Russian Federation, chief editor of the magazine Oshhamahua (Elbrus) "Utizhev Boris Kuneevich - described in an official obituary.

Utizh Boris was born in 15 October, 1940 in the village Zaragizh Cherekskogo KBR area. He graduated from Utah State University, postgraduate studies in the Institute of Linguistics of the Georgian Academy of Sciences, which defended a PhD thesis. From 1971 he worked as research fellow sector Kabardian language Kabardino-Balkaria Research Institute. He was one of the authors and tolkovogo phraseological dictionaries Kabardian language, participated in the development of topical issues of grammar, style and script Kabardian language. He worked as head of the department of native languages and cultures of the Institute of Advanced Training in 1991 - chief editor of the literary and artistic and socio-political magazine "Oshhamaho."

Boris Kuneevich Utizh(ev) belonged to the most vivid representatives of modern scientific and artistic intelligentsia of the country, was a talented scientist, journalist, teacher, artist-sculptor. He worked in various genres of literature - prose, poetry, art Publication. A widely known and recognized in the nation brought him Productions drama set the stage Kabardinskogo State Drama Theater. Aliy Shogentsuk are shown in many parts of the country and abroad. Plays "Tyrgatao, Damaley," "Oedipus," "Prince Kuchuk and others written by playwright typical deep insight into the problems raised, knowledge of life, history and culture of Adygea and other nations. They withdrew vivid images of major personalities, tragic figures in history. With great dignity designed theme homeland, enduring moral values.

Of particular tone and color works Boris Utizh attached skilful use of visual resources in their own language, gentle humor, freshness paints, zadushevnost intonations that are most visible in his poetry, combined in separate collections, and published in the magazine "Oshhamaho" .

Popular writer of KBR Boris Utizh have a lot of analytical articles on the burning issues of modern life, on educating the youth, language and culture. His rich artistic heritage to collect, examine and compile his followers and descendants.

Boris Kuneevich Utizh(ev) participated actively in the socio-political and cultural life of the republic, was a member of the Writers' Union of KBR and the Council for Kabardian literature, to meet with readers.

Chair of the long years of the magazine Oshhamaho, Utizh Boris made a significant contribution to the development and improvement of the literary press.

The bright memory of Boris Kuneeviche Utizh forever remain in our hearts.

Къэнахэм Тхьэм ящимыгъэгъупщэкэ. И ахърэт Тхьэм нэху ищ.

K'anahem Tham yashimig'ag'upshe. I ah'rat Tham nehu ish'

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Money for the Needy

By Dmitry Babich Russia Profile

Mikheil Saakashvili Won the August War with Russia – Economically

The decision of the international donor conference in Brussels to donate $4.55 billion for the reconstruction of Georgia’s infrastructure, damaged during the five-day-long war at the beginning of August, sparked controversy both in Russia and in some of the EU countries, since no funds were allocated to the actual battleground – South Ossetia.

The most striking aspect of the conference’s decision is the sheer amount of Western aid to Georgia, which obviously exceeds the country’s most hopeful expectations. Although representatives of 67 countries attended the conference in Brussels, it is obvious that most of the aid comes from EU-member states and from the United States, presently supposed to be dealing with the effects of the financial crisis. Besides, the first observers from the European Union who came to Georgia right after hostilities around Tskhinvali and Gori ended estimated the damage to be worth just $4 million. However, as new commissions from the EU and the United States were sent to Georgia, and the retreat of the Russian troops continued getting postponed, the estimations of Georgian losses soared to new heights.

“We estimate the damage to be worth $3.5 to $3.6 billion,” Henrietta Fore, the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) was quoted by the Vremya Novostei daily as saying at a meeting with journalists in Brussels. The European Commissioner for foreign relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner said that $3.7 billion of the total aid amount were “state subsidies,” while the remaining $850 million were “private donations.” Thus, economically, the five-day-long war turned out to be advantageous for Georgia, since the volume of the allocated aid exceeds even Western estimations of Georgian losses. An average Georgian is expected to receive almost $1,000 from American and West European donors, since only 4.6 million people officially live in Georgia, with many actually staying outside the country. In a letter to Brussels, the Georgian opposition expressed doubt that this aid will be properly used by Mikheil Saakashvili’s regime, and lambasted the latter for having succumbed to the Russian “provocation” and launched hostilities in the first place.

As for the Georgian region of South Ossetia, which first came under the attack of Saakashvili’s troops on August 7, the EU and the United States did not earmark a single penny for it, obviously relying on the aid the republic will get from Russia, which recognized South Ossetia as an independent state in late August.

“This is strange, because the amounts of Ossetian and Georgian refugees fleeing from South Ossetia were quite comparable. In fact, the Ossetian contingent initially outnumbered the Georgian one, with about 34,000 leaving South Ossetia in the first days of the fighting,” said Alexander Brod, a member of a special commission on South Ossetia formed by the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation. “The boldest estimates of Georgian refugee population do not exceed 30,000 people. The desire to channel all aid to Tbilisi shows that the EU and Washington decided to distribute the aid to their allies and not necessarily to those who need it most.”

Valentin Gefter, the director of the Moscow-based Institute on Human Rights, argued against the self-righteous posturing of the Russian authorities, pointing out the fact that most of the Ossetian refugees were able to return to their homes when the hostilities ended, while Georgian refugees cannot do so for fear of violent revenge on behalf of the South Ossetian paramilitaries.

“Out of the 34 thousand Ossetian refugees who fled to North Ossetia, no more than 2,000 stayed,” Gefter said. “Meanwhile, only a few Georgians returned. The other big question is the fate of the people who lost their homes. So far, only one person among Ossetian refugees got a certificate enabling him to buy housing.”

Substantial as it is, the Russian government’s aid to South Ossetia cannot be compared to the amount of Western aid to Georgia. Until the end of the year, 1.5 billion rubles ($58 million) is supposed to be spent on repairing the damage the Georgians caused in South Ossetia, and next year the amount is going to reach ten billion rubles ($384 million).

“It is good that aid is provided, but I would prefer to see it provided along humanitarian and not geopolitical lines,” Brod said. “Right now both sides support their clients. Russia had no choice since Georgia would not accept aid from Moscow. As for the European Union, it preferred Realpolitik.”

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Bailing Out Georgia - No, not our Georgia – the other one!

By Justin Raimondo

October 24, 2008 -

The US government is sending $1 billion to "rebuild" Georgia – no, not the Georgia located in the southern United States, where home foreclosure rates are double the national average, but the one located in the Caucasus, along Russia's southern frontier, where the President of the country launched a reckless invasion of a rebellious province, murdered thousands, and got his ass kicked by the rebels and their Russian protectors. Now we're sending him a billion dollars – by way of a reward.

Meeting in Brussels, Western donors pledged "more than $1 billion more than the World Bank's target." The announcement, as reported by the New York Times, "came as a financial crisis rattled the economies of donor nations. The United States pledged the largest amount, $1 billion over three years. An additional $642.8 million will be allocated by the European Commission over the next two years. Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, said the pledge should send ‘a strong signal to the world' that its members stand with Georgia. ‘The international community believes in and upholds certain values and norms of conduct, and those include the peaceful resolution of disputes,' Mr. Barroso said."

Who is sending a signal to whom – and for what purpose?

On the surface, none of this makes any sense. To begin with, all the damage to civilians and infrastructure was done by the Georgians. They bombed the city of Tskhinvali, capital of the rebel province of South Ossetia, destroying the city center, killing thousands, and rendering many thousands more homeless. Rebuild Georgia? It's the Ossetians who need the rebuilding – not that anything or anyone on this earth can rebuild their broken lives.

This is one humanitarian catastrophe that has gone completely unacknowledged in the West: indeed, justice is not only denied, but inverted: the Georgians, the villains in this instance, are being sent the aid. Sounds like an incentive to commit yet more aggression – not that Saakashvili needs any encouragement.

He refuses to include the Ossetians or the rebel Abkhazians in any negotiations, and his government has broken off meetings with the Russians over the terms of a peace accord. Faced with protests over his increasingly authoritarian rule, as well as a backlash against his hot-headed recklessness in starting the war to begin with, the region's star "democrat" and staunch US ally is even now maneuvering to launch yet another provocation against Moscow. It would be a welcome diversion from his growing internal problem.

With the West and much of the world undergoing a financial paroxysm of unprecedented proportions, what in the name of all that's holy are we doing sending a billion bucks to some godforsaken ex-Soviet republic on the edge of nowhere? The Europeans are sinking, too, and yet they're chipping in. What's the story?

The signal that is being sent here, both by the US and Europe, is that we will fight, if necessary, to extend Western influence into the Caucasus. The gauntlet is thrown – and Putin is sure to pick it up.

Some of the Europeans may be a little skeptical of admitting Georgia (and Ukraine) into NATO, but the US government and its European allies are giving the Georgian government unconditional support in its ongoing efforts to confront the Russians in their own "near abroad." The Russians, for their part, are acting much as we did when the French – still suffering from the aftereffects of the French Revolution in its Napoleonic phase– set up Maximilian I as "Emperor" of Mexico and threatened to extend their sphere of influence north of the Rio Grande.

This signal of support for Tbilisi is for the benefit not only of the Russians, and the Georgian government, but is also meant to reassure big Western investors who have already poured billions into the lucrative Ceyhan-Tbilisi-Baku oil pipeline, which is competing with the Russians in transporting oil from the central Asian ‘stans to the European market. The Western oil giants, locked out of the Russian market by Putin, are desperate to outflank the Russkies and bypass Middle Eastern suppliers. Billions in profits hang in the balance.

The CTB pipeline is yet another investment that is threatening to go south, bigtime, as regional tensions threaten to disrupt the free flow of oil over the troubled lands it snakes through. Like AIG, Bear-Stearns, and the rest of the lords of Wall Street, this concern is "too big to fail," and you can bet that the US government will take every possible action – including military action – to protect the banks who are underwriting the project.

As the response of Western governments to the financial meltdown makes all too clear, here in the West we have socialism for investment bankers and their partners-in-crime, and "free enterprise" for the rest of us, who work hard, pay taxes, and live by the rules.

Oh, but not to worry: they're rebuilding Georgia – with your tax dollars.

The costs are socialized, and the profits are privatized – that's what they call "democratic capitalism," or, in Europe, "social democracy." In both cases, foreign policy is merely an overseas projection of domestic political arrangements.

In detailing how the aid money is going to be spent, the Times' reporting on the donors' powwow implicitly rationalizes the expenditure:

"After hostilities broke out on Aug. 7, transportation routes from Georgia's main Black Sea port were cut off, and dozens of importers defaulted on contracts. The stock market plummeted, and Georgians made a run on banks, wiping out $165 million in deposits at the Bank of Georgia. The country's scenic Black Sea resorts, once popular with Russians, sit largely empty."

Hefty costs, but who ought to pay? Why, the perpetrator of the violence, namely Mikhel Saakashvili. Instead, he's being sent a big fat check. Welcome to the Bizarro World of American foreign policy.

As Mark Ames points out in The Nation, the evil-authoritarian-Russia-attacked-poor-little-democratic-Georgia narrative has been completely debunked – check out Der Spiegel's "Did Saakashvili Lie?" (short answer: yes). As reported as the crisis broke out, and subsequent reports confirm, the evidence is indisputable that the Georgians attacked the Russians first, killing over a dozen Russian peacekeepers legally stationed in South Ossetia in the course of a massive and deadly assault on the Ossetian capital. Not that the Western media, so easily manipulated by Georgia's amen corner, is acknowledging their initial "error," as Ames notes.

"Ever since I went down to South Ossetia to see the war for myself, I'd developed a kind of sick curiosity to see just how the Times and all the others were going to extricate themselves from the credibility-hole they'd dug. I had a feeling it was going to come, because Saakashvili was not only a blatant liar but an incredibly bad liar. I was in South Ossetia at the close of the war – I saw the destruction that the ‘freedom-loving' Georgians wreaked, and the bloated, rotting corpses on the streets of the province's capital city, Tskhinvali – so I was particularly interested in how long the sleazy tale of good vs. evil would last, and how the major media would squirm their way out of their biggest journalistic fiasco since the Iraqi-WMD blooper. Would the Times let their ombudsman out of the cage for another fake apology? ‘Oops! Who'da thunk our esteemed newspaper coulda screwed up this big twice in a row, dragging America into yet another war all on account of our inability to do our job as journalists?! Look, we just want to say we're sorry and move on, m'kay? So, have you moved on yet? Because we have'."

The lies spread by the mainstream media in the service of the War Party are bought and paid for by the corporate sponsors of the Russia encirclement project that has been the linchpin of our adversarial stance toward Moscow since Yeltsin's demise and Putin's rise. Having failed to pulverize the shattered Soviet colossus into the smallest possible splinters, the Western powers are now confronted with what they regard as a "resurgent" and inevitably revanchist Russia – which means that the Russians are no longer dirt poor and ruled by gangsters with American bank accounts. It also means they aren't going to be pushed around in their own back yard – at least not without putting up a heckuva fight.

Whether South Ossetia is Georgian, Russian, or none of the above – why is this any of our business? Who among us is qualified to untangle the interwoven threads of claims and counter-claims, extending back over hundreds of years, and come up with a just solution to the question of what constitutes Georgian "sovereignty"? Certainly no one who works for the US government.
Before one penny of "aid" is sent to Georgia, we should be asking: who will get this money? The Times gives us a breakdown:

"The World Bank had estimated that Georgia would need $3.25 billion "to cover budget support, social sector support and infrastructure development." Most of the aid, roughly $3.7 billion, will go to social and construction programs. An additional $850 million will be invested in the private sector, where donors hope it will offset the sharp drop in foreign direct investment."

None of this money is going to South Ossetia: it is all being funneled through Saakashvili and his cronies, who would rather leave the shattered infrastructure of bombed-out Tskhinvali as it is today, a stark reminder of what may very well reoccur should the Ossetians persist in going their own way. If anyone rebuilds, it will have to be the Russians. The private sector aid will be used to buy up Georgian assets on behalf of Western corporate interests. The difference between the World Bank figure and the number announced in Brussels – nearly half a billion – will cover bribes, covert action operations carried out by Western intelligence agencies, and other incidentals.

When challenged, proponents of foreign aid programs invariably reply: yes, but look at the minuscule numbers! Why, foreign aid is less than one percent of the total overseas budget, including, one supposes, military expenditures – but so what? The point is that these programs do real harm, in most cases achieving the exact opposite of their intended purpose. And in this particular case, the entire package is premised on a lie, and a freshly debunked one at that. What's really going on here is that the West is rewarding Saakashvili for his recklessness, and inciting him to commit fresh assaults. This course guarantees war.

The Cold War That Wasn't - Unreliable Sources

By Mark Ames

October 22, 2008 - The Nation

You may not have noticed it, but a couple of weeks ago, the New York Times slipped in a story that completely contradicted a narrative that it had been building up for two straight months, one that was leading America into another war--a so-called "New Cold War." The article exposed the awful authoritarian reality of Georgia's so-called democracy, painting a dark picture of President Mikhail Saakashvili's rule that repudiated the fairy tale that the Times and everyone else in the major media had been pushing ever since war broke out in South Ossetia in early August. That fairy tale went like this: Russia (evil) invaded Georgia (good) for no reason whatsoever except that Georgia was free. Putin hates freedom, and Saakashvili is the "democratically elected leader" of a "small, democratic country."

Yes, it was only a month ago that we were stupid and crazy enough to think that the United States had no choice but to launch a costly new cold war against a nuclear power, even though we still haven't closed the deal on a couple of mini-wars against Division-III opponents, and we were on the verge of bankruptcy. Ah, to be blissfully naïve--and bloodthirsty at the same time--wasn't it wonderful?

As the South Ossetia war raged in early- and mid-August, the Times published an editorial labeling Georgia's invasion as "Russia's War of Ambition"; it also published a series of hysterical op-eds, including William Kristol's comparing Russia to Nazi Germany (Hitler's charred skull must be spinning in its museum case from being turned into the cheapest cliché in the hack's analogy box), and another from Svante E. Cornell of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at Johns Hopkins--the same corruption-plagued institute that ABC News discovered was taking money from Kazakhstan's tyrant for issuing positive reports about that authoritarian oil-rich country.

Cornell 's piece argued that Russia attacked Georgia not in response to Georgia's invasion of the breakaway South Ossetian province but rather because Russia was just plain evil--and, in the style of evil villains everywhere, Russia had no motive other than to show "the consequences post-Soviet countries will suffer for standing up to Moscow, conducting democratic reforms and seeking military and economic ties with the West."

The hysteria of two months ago already seems so dated and even bizarre, from our mid-meltdown vantage--as if reading the hysteria from a black-and-white era.

And yet even as the hysteria gave way to serious questioning, and that dangerously simple narrative crumbled, the Times never recanted or corrected itself, never even had a fake mea culpa moment as it did after Iraq--an admission that came years too late. Instead of recanting, the Times took the sly road, slipping an article in between the meltdown stories that essentially told its readers, "Yeah, we screwed the pooch on Georgia, hope ya didn't notice, and, uh, have a nice day." Here's a taste, from October 7, 2008 (" News Media Feel Limits to Georgia's Democracy," by Dan Bilefsky and Michael Schwirtz):

TBILISI, Georgia--The cameras at Georgia's main opposition broadcaster, Imedi, kept rolling Nov. 7, when masked riot police officers with machine guns burst into the studio. They smashed equipment, ordered employees and television guests to lie on the floor and confiscated their cellphones. A news anchor remained on-screen throughout, describing the mayhem. Then all went black...

Now, 11 months later, Georgia's democratic credentials are again being questioned, and tested, as the country finds itself on the front line of a confrontation between Russia and the West. Georgia and its American backers, including the Republican and Democratic United States presidential contenders, have presented Georgia as a plucky little democracy in an unstable region, a country deserving of generous aid and NATO membership. But a growing number of critics inside and outside the country argue that it falls well short of Western democratic standards and cite a lack of press freedom as a glaring example.

It's interesting that the Times published this exactly two months after Georgia's invasion of South Ossetia--a military decision so off-the-scale idiotic that to call it a "gamble" is an insult to struggling addicts like Bill Bennett.

The real question, then, is why the Times waited until this late to question its own position--why wait until the war was long off the front pages, to publish an article about what everyone with an ounce of journalistic curiousity already knew--that Saakashvili was about as much a democrat as he was a military genius?

The push in the West by outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post to get a new cold war on hinged on two major fallacies: (1) that Russia invaded Georgia first, totally unprovoked, because Georgia is a "democracy"; and (2), that Georgia is a "democracy."

It's as if the Times deliberately forgot what it already reported about Saakashvili last year, after he sent in his goon squads to crush opposition protests:

"I think that Misha tends toward the authoritarian," said Scott Horton, a human rights lawyer in the United States who taught Saakashvili when he was a student at Columbia Law School in the mid-1990s, later hired him at a law firm in New York and has remained friendly with him. "I would put it this way: there is a remarkable similarity between Misha and Putin, in terms of their attitudes about presidential prerogatives and authority," Horton said. Like Putin, he added, Saakashvili has marginalized Parliament and taken to belittling the opposition.

Perhaps sensing that the Saakashvili-as-Thomas-Jefferson narrative was a wee bit vulnerable, the Times dug in to protect the other crumbling pillar of this fable: that Russia invaded Georgia first. Only this could explain its decision to go front-page with an "although there is no evidence, nevertheless, evidence suggests" article relying on evidence so absurdly flimsy that it would have made Sean Hannity nervous (from the edition of September 16, 2008, " Georgia Offers Fresh Evidence on War's Start," by C.J. Chivers):

TBILISI, Georgia--A new front has opened between Georgia and Russia, now over which side was the aggressor whose military activities early last month ignited the lopsided five-day war. At issue is new intelligence, inconclusive on its own [bold mine--author], that nonetheless paints a more complicated picture of the critical last hours before war broke out....

Georgia is trying to counter accusations that the long-simmering standoff over South Ossetia, which borders Russia, tilted to war only after it attacked Tskhinvali. Georgia regards the enclave as its sovereign territory.

Talk about projecting: that last paragraph should have read: "The New York Times is trying to counter reality's looming consequences on the paper's damaged credibility." Remember, this article came out long after most Western officials were coming around to the view expressed a few weeks earlier by the US ambassador in Moscow, who admitted that the Russians, rather than invading unprovoked, "responded to attacks on Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia, legitimately."

I called up a few journalists in Moscow whom I left behind in August to ask them what they thought about this story, and most of them laughed at the Times's "scoop."

"It was so clearly planted by Saakashvili out of desperation," one American journalist told me. "I just can't believe the Times is still pushing this line. Everyone knows he screwed up. Even if the taped phone calls are real, I'm sure the Georgians heard chatter like this every week, if not every day. It's embarrassing, really."

This wasn't the only "although there's no evidence, evidence suggests" Georgia articles that the Times pushed. Of all the Kremlin-villain tales that have become easy sells lately, nothing compares to the tale about the Kremlin allegedly waging "cyberwar" against its enemies.

For reasons I can't understand, American readers are utterly horrified by the idea that a country would do what any group of pimple-faced geeks already does--hacking into or overloading servers and sites to shut them down. To many Americans, shutting down some boring, poorly translated government site is far more horrifying than, say, bombing weddings. The "Kremlin cyberwar" story is the chupacabra of Kremlin Evil tales--there's no evidence that the Kremlin has waged cyberwar, but yet, it's so damn scary, and it sells papers, so why not print it?

The Estonians first tried suckering the West with the cyber-chupacabra a year ago, but subsequent investigation revealed that it was one of those "unprovables" at best.

But it's a hot story. So on August 13, with the Russia-Georgia conflict still hot, the Times, scrambling for a new angle on Russian evil, published this Kremlin chupacabra story, titled "Before the Gunfire, Cyberattacks:"

According to Internet technical experts, it was the first time a known cyberattack had coincided with a shooting war.... Exactly who was behind the cyberattack is not known.... The evidence on R.B.N. and whether it is controlled by, or coordinating with the Russian government remains unclear.

"Jumping to conclusions is premature," said Mr. Evron, who founded the Israeli Computer Emergency Response Team.

Yeah, but jumping to conclusions is so much fun, Mr. Party Pooper! Jump forward again to mid-September. It's becoming clear by this time that Saakashvili is neither a democrat nor an innocent victim. But the Times and other American media were still heavily invested in that narrative, so while they were scrambling around for ways to shore it up, Germany's Der Spiegel published an investigative piece--" Did Saakashvili Lie? The West Begins to Doubt Georgian Leader"--that showed their American counterparts basic Journalism 1A reporting:

Five weeks after the war in the Caucasus the mood is shifting against Georgian President Saakashvili. Some Western intelligence reports have undermined Tbilisi's version of events, and there are now calls on both sides of the Atlantic for an independent investigation.

This story was published the same day as the Times's "exposé" about phone conversations that the Georgians allegedly taped allegedly showing that Russia invaded first--even though everyone had already abandoned that theory. Der Spiegel's piece is an in-depth investigation spanning countries, viewpoints and organizations. For the Times, "investigation" meant taking some tape cassettes from Saakashvili's desk and reporting them on the front pages.

If this wasn't bad enough, a few days later even Condi Rice gave a speech blaming Georgia for starting the war (couched in a larger condemnation of Russian overreaction).

The timing couldn't have been worse: the Times had just been caught with its Saakashvili-enamored pants down in a way that even its competitors had managed to avoid. Soon they would be facing a massive credibility reckoning.

This was something I was looking forward to.

Ever since I went down to South Ossetia to see the war for myself, I'd developed a kind of sick curiosity to see just how the Times and all the others were going to extricate themselves from the credibility-hole they'd dug. I had a feeling it was going to come, because Saakashvili was not only a blatant liar but an incredibly bad liar. I was in South Ossetia at the close of the war--I saw the destruction that the "freedom-loving" Georgians wreaked, and the bloated, rotting corpses on the streets of the province's capital city, Tskhinvali--so I was particularly interested in how long the sleazy tale of good vs. evil would last, and how the major media would squirm their way out of their biggest journalistic fiasco since the Iraqi-WMD blooper. Would the Times let their ombudsman out of the cage for another fake apology? "Oops! Who'da thunk our esteemed newspaper coulda screwed up this big twice in a row, dragging America into yet another war all on account of our inability to do our job as journalists?! Look, we just want to say we're sorry and move on, m'kay? So, have you moved on yet? Because we have."

And this is where the secular-humanist god of the liberal media intervened. The Times and everyone else who peddled the neocon/Saakashvili line was saved from facing up to their colossal failure by an even bigger disaster, the worst disaster to hit this country since 9/11: the global economic meltdown. Someone's prayers were answered.

One of the prayer kingdom's biggest secrets is how common these "I hope a disaster comes and saves me" whispers are. For example, when I was a college student, every time finals week approached, I wanted to get hit by a car. Final exams meant facing the unbearable shame of four wasted months. So I'd slip on my headphones, zig off of the sidewalk and zag into Berkeley's traffic-clogged streets like an unleashed Irish setter, waiting for some hippie to splatter me on his VW van windshield. If it meant spending the next twenty years on a feeding tube, that seemed a fair tradeoff.

But the hippie drivers, with their insane respect for pedestrians, wouldn't cooperate. Like the evangelical Christian's apocalypse, my prayed-for mega-disaster that would save me from my private mini-disaster never arrived.

In that sense, the Times and all the other Saakashvili pom-pom-ers were lucky: the VW van that never hit me during finals week leveled the entire planet's financial well-being, saving journalism's biggest names from owning up to their failure. And the unmistakable evidence for this failure just keeps pouring in: today, for example, Reporters Without Borders ranked Georgia near the bottom of its press freedom index--well below notoriously despotic nations like Tajikistan, Gabon and even Hugo Chávez's villainous Venezuela. So yes, thank [NAME OF OMNISCIENT BEING] for the financial meltdown, because even though it may mean pink slips for many of the reporters and editors who screwed up the Georgia story, I have a funny feeling that when they're standing in the soup kitchen line a few months from now, they'll be thinking with relief, "Homelessness may suck, but it's a small price to pay for avoiding the colossal shame I was about to face over the Georgia war story. Thank you, global depression! You've made this journalist happy!"

Medvedev appoints ambassadors to South Ossetia, Abkhazia

MOSCOW, October 24 (Itar-Tass) - President Dmitry Medvedev appointed Russian envoys to South Ossetia and Abkhazia and met with them in the Kremlin on Friday.

"I've signed the decree appointing Elbrus Kanikoyevich Kargiyev the ambassador to the Republic of South Ossetia and Semyon Vyacheslavovich Grigoryev – the ambassador to the Republic of Abkhazia," Medvedev said at the beginning of the meeting, attended by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

"I would like you to share with your proposals on how you'll arrange your work; I'd like to note that you're beginning your work in a rather difficult period; these are young countries, where much is yet to be accomplished, even from the point of view of statehood of these new subjects of law," the president said.

He encouraged the new envoys to help Abkhazia and South Ossetia in these matters.

Addressing Lavrov, the president noted that the Foreign Ministry should manage this activity "in accordance with the law and provisions on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs."
"I wish you success," Medvedev said by way of conclusion.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Onur Oymen motion to censure to the Presidency of Turkish National Assembly

16 October 2008

To the Presidency of Turkish National Assembly,

I request a written answer by the Minister of Transportation Mr. Binali Yıldırım to my motion to censure.

Deputy of Bursa
(The vice president of the Republican People’s Party - CHP)

It is said that the number of people living in our country and protecting their relations with Caucasian countries is about three million. Some of those who are our citizens have difficulty to visit their relatives there due to insufficient transportation facilities. Our citizens of Abkhaz origin need to travel through Russia, taking a long and troublesome journey, to visit Abkhazia. Unfortunately, the ship that was once running between Trabzon and Sukhum have been cancelled. Likewise, there are no flights between Turkey and Sukhum. If these difficulties are due to limitations by the Georgian Government, the transportation is belived to be realised with explaination of the humanitarian aspect of this to Georgian authorities.

Does the government have any action for the restarting of navigation and starting of flights between Trabzon and Sukhum?

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Shared cultural heritage builds bonds and friendship

From the Caucasus to the World

Issue date: 10/21/08 

Spartan Daily

My heavy backpack pulls on my little shoulders as my short legs stumble down the bus steps.

It is autumn, and Jordan's climate is that of a desert. The cold, dry wind blows against my face and I squint, with my short golden bangs dancing across my forehead.

A teacher helps me down the steps. She looks at me and smiles.

"Are you Circassian?" she asks, noticing my unnaturally pale skin and "foreign" facial features.

I nod, smiling bashfully back and run off to my classroom.

Yet another day at elementary school, and it begins.

I am surrounded by unfamiliar people, but thankfully my best friend is there, smiling to see me enter.

She has saved me a seat by her side.

I interact with my classmates, but I never get as close to anyone as to Lina, my best friend.

I later learn that she is Palestinian, before even learning the difference between Jordanians and Palestinians, but her strong longing toward the occupied territories of her homeland connects me to her - someway, somehow.

I don't understand fully why I am different from the rest - but being around Lina comforts me.

At home, Mother speaks to me in a language I later learn is called Circassian. It is the language my grandmother speaks as well, but since other family members and friends spoke Arabic, it grew to be my first language.

A couple of years roll by and I continue to feel "different" until one day a new boy enters the classroom. The girls whisper to one another and I learn he is Circassian, just like me.

His name is Yaldar. It sounds familiar - it's a Circassian name. Hearing the name being pronounced in the classroom seems alien to me. How come there is another Circassian in the same classroom as I am?

He becomes another best friend of mine. We speak about Circassian dancing, some mutual friends. I enjoy having him, another Circassian, around.

When I think of it today, I cannot help but wonder: Was I discriminating against my fellow classmates just because they were not of the same ethnic back-ground as mine?


It is March 2009, and I am finally living in my home country, the Caucasus.

I wake up to the dripping lullabies of the morning rainfall drumming on my window's front.

It is 6 a.m.

I hear my neighbor speaking to someone in Circassian. I pull myself out of bed and peek outside the window, hiding behind my colorful, flowery curtain.

He is speaking to the old lady sweeping the streets. Her gray fuzzy hair is covered with a light piece of cloth. She smiles and wrinkles on her face arrange themselves in a way that accentuates her happiness.

I look in the distance, and I see the world known as Mount Elbrus. We call it Uashkhemakhue' in Circassian. It translates to the mountain of happiness.

I stand at the edge of a sidewalk, watching the cars pass me by in the capital Nalchik. I watch people's lives and happiness fills me to know I am home. But when will I really feel like a native to this beautiful land?

I glance around me and whisper:

"When Circassian becomes my first language."

Epic Harvest in Georgia - Russian TV examines US, Ukraine role in Georgia war

Official channel Rossiya's "Special Correspondent" programme on 7 September 2008 examined the role the United States and Ukraine played in the military conflict in Georgia in early August.

The programme began with footage of presenter Arkadiy Mamontov handling foreign-made weapons. He said that the machinegun he was holding was a Belgian one and "it was used in combat" in Tskhinvali, the capital of the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia. He then took another weapon and said it was an automatic rifle made in the US by Bushmaster. The automatic rifle had the Bushmaster cobra logo engraved on it.

"That's the way it is. US weapons are already near our borders. These weapons were used to kill Russian citizens. Georgia has been armed by NATO countries but it is of course America that gave it the largest quantity of weapons," Mamontov said.


In this part:

- small arms collection
- Georgian army filmed itself before death
- armoured vehicles and tanks- how Israel assisted in destruction of the Jewish district in Tskhinval
- mobile command post full of electronics
- photography as a second favourite hobby in Georgian army after killing civilians
- radio-equipment and systems of communication and reconnaissance
- air defence support by means of Ukrainian specialists and armaments.

Not exactly an unbiased account, very interesting footage and information though.

Epic Harvest in Georgia




Captured Georgian Military Equipment



Related News

Crisis in the Caucasus: A Unified Timeline, August 7-16, 2008

by Nicolai N. Petro, proffessor of politics

Originally compiled on August 28, 2008, this timeline is continuously being revised as more information becomes available.

Gordon Hahn - ROPV Announcement

Longer versions of both “Georgia’s Propaganda War” and “The Making of the Five-Day Georgian War: A Military and Diplomatic Chronology” as well as the exchange of views regarding the August war that took place on JRL between Professor Gordon M. Hahn, on the one hand, and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s chief PR consultant and two U.S. military officers, on the other, can be found at Russia - Other Points of View through the link

Gordon Hahn's 'Notes from the Underground'

The Making of Georgian-Russian Five-day August War: A Chronology, June-August 8, 2008
Download Georgia_Russian_War_TIMELINE.doc

Georgia's Propaganda War (complete version), October 17, 2008
Download Georgia_Propaganda_War_Long_Version.doc

Georgia-Russia War Discussion between Gordon Hahn and Johnson's Russia List, October 17, 2008
Download Georga_Russia_War_Hahn_JRL_Exchange.doc

Monday, 20 October 2008

Window on Eurasia: Circassian Diasporas Expand Ties with Homelands

by Paul Goble

Vienna, October 19 – Circassian diasporas in the Middle East are rapidly expanding their contacts with Circassians in the northern Caucasus, a development that gives the former a new focus for political activism and provides the latter with a political resource they can now deploy in defense of their interests.

This past week in Amman, Circassians from Jordan, Turkey and other countries in the Middle East, met with Circassians from the northern Caucasus to coordinate their activities to promote the survival of their language and culture in the face of globalization and pressures for assimilation (

The selection of the Jordanian capital as the site for the First International Circassian Language Conference may surprise some, but in fact it is entirely appropriate. Jordan has some 125,000 Circassians, the descendents of 3500 Shapsugs who arrived there when it was part of the Ottoman Empire after their expulsion from Russia in 1864.

(They are part of what is now a nearly five-million-strong Circassian diaspora with the same origins living primarily in Turkey and now in Europe and the United States who in recent times have been developing ties with Circassians still in their homelands in the North Caucasus – the Adygey, the Kabards, and Cherkess.)

Moreover, the Circassians of Jordan are both integrated and respected in that country. Jordan has the only Circassian-language school in the Middle East, and their Royal Highnesses Prince Ali and Princess Alia not only served as patrons of the meeting but in a mark of special favor attended the conference opening (

Unfortunately, the integration of Circassians there and elsewhere may be leading to the disappearance of these communities. Circassian is an extremely difficult language – it has almost 70 distinctive consonant sounds – speakers are surrounded by other larger language communities, and as a result, only one in six of the younger generation speak it even in Jordan.

In Jordan, many Circassian speakers now use Arab words, experts say, and in the Caucasus, Russian has so "invaded" the language that "about thirty percent" of their vocabulary consists of Russian words. But Circassians believe that if they lose their language, they will lose their nation.

Attending the two-day meeting in the Jordanian capital were 20 scholars, philologists, and politicians from Karachayevo-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria and Adygeya, the three republics in the northern Caucasus. The delegation was led by Adygeya prime minister Murat Kumilov (

Participants at the conference said that it was "not a tone-time event" but rather the beginning of a series of meetings that will be jointly organized by Circassian groups, the Jordanian government, and Russian diplomats and officials responsible for working with such ethnic communities abroad.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Documentary film - Abkhazia: Paradise in limbo

Abkhazia: A View from Europe. 

A Cinematic Essay

Many speak and write about Abkhazia in heated terms.

This small country had first to withstand a brutal war, and then a harsh economic blockade. It has since proclaimed its independence and is striving to achieve international recognition. Beyond its frontiers, very few know the pre-history of this state.

Here two Englishmen introduce this Black Sea country to an international audience.

The author of the script and the presenter is Professor George Hewitt, a specialist on the Caucasus (particularly its languages) who has visited Abkhazia many times.

But his companion in this trip, a member of the House of Lords in the British Parliament, Lord Nicholas Rea, is here for the first time. Whilst Professor Hewitt acquaints the audience with the history and culture of Abkhazia, Lord Rea off-screen independently studies the life of this society.

When they meet again at the end of the film, the presenter and his companion share the same conclusion: despite the difficult conditions, Abkhazia has managed to construct and develop a democratic society. It has now existed for 15 years and continues to progress successfully and independently, transforming itself into a fully-fledged State.

The film is addressed to the widest possible audience and for this purpose has been translated into many languages. 


Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Keeping the ancestors’ tongue alive

Children at Prince Hamzah School perform at one of the celebrations held by the educational facility, the only school that teaches the Circassian language in the Middle East (Photo courtesy of PHS)


AMMAN - The Circassian community will play the host and organiser of the 1st International Circassian Language Conference, to start Wednesday.

Organisers say the first-of-kind gathering has one major mission: To make sure that this language will not die among its children in the Diaspora after generations since the first exodus from the Caucasus, when thousands fled the repression in 19th century Russia.

The effort is coordinated with the Russian Centre for Culture and Science.

“The idea of the conference is to investigate and evaluate the situation of the Circassian language in the Diaspora and the homeland, and arrive at ways and means to stop its extinction,” said Loai Hakouz from the Circassian Charity Society, which organises the event.

Hakouz added that the conference will discuss topics related to Circassian writing and its role in teaching the language, especially since Circassian is more spoken than written in the Circassian communities outside Circassian-speaking countries.

In addition, participants will discuss the role of Circassian families in maintaining and teaching the language to the younger generation, and exploring possibilities of establishing, among others, an international database of the Circassian language with all its varieties.

High-profile representatives from Kabardinia, Bulgaria, Adiga Republic, Turkey and Syria, in addition to Jordan, among others, are taking part in the assembly.

According to unofficial estimates, the number of the Circassian community in Jordan stands around 125,000, all of whom are Muslims, who came to Jordan around 130 years ago.

Atef Yakhoth, a Circassian language specialist and one of the event managers and panellists, said that the Caucasian language is the oldest in the world.

“There are over 50 languages in the Caucasus nowadays,” Yakhoth said.

The specialist said this enormous variation in the Caucasian languages in a limited area is due to the different nations migrating through the Caucasian mountains.

“In addition, the rough mountainous terrain of these countries makes it difficult for its inhabitants to communicate and stay in touch,” he added.

The expert said that the reason for choosing Jordan to host the first conference is because Circassians in the Kingdom are held in high esteem among their people in other parts of the world, and also because Jordan enjoys an excellent reputation internationally.

“The Caucasian language is divided into three groups: South Caucasian (Kartvelian), Northwest Caucasian (Abkhazo-Adyghian) and Northeast Caucasian (Nakho-Daghestanian),” the specialist said.

According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the Abkhazo-Adyghian is spoken in Abkhazia, Georgia and the northwestern Caucasian region of Russia.

In Jordan those who speak, read and write the Circassian language are limited. “Not more than 15 per cent of the young generation,” the specialist said.

Prince Hamzah High School, established in 1974 in Amman, is the only school in the Middle East that teaches the Circassian language.

“Beside teaching the government-mandated curriculum, the school teaches the language from the kindergarten up till the 10th grade,” said the school principal Norma Batt.

Batt has 16 years of experience as an educator working at the ethnic school. She is married to a Circassian.

“All Circassian language teachers are originally from the Caucasus, living in Jordan and married to Circassians,” Batt added.

“Phonetically,” said Yakhoth, who is also a writer for different Circassian newsletters in the Middle East, “the Circassian language is the richest in consonant sounds”. He said it contains almost 70 distinctive consonant sounds.

With a lovely Qafa music (Circassian cultural song) as her mobile ring tone, Dana Bishmaf regrets that she doesn’t speak Circassian.

“I am convinced that not speaking the language is wrong, because the Circassian language is part of our identity,” the 23-year-old sports coach said.

She added that when they were young they used to speak and hear their parents speak Circassian at home, but “getting older, Arabic became easier to communicate with”.

On the other hand, Raad Libzo, 27, said that he was the first child in the family, so teaching him the language was his grandparents’ "pleasure and duty".

“I consider myself the luckiest among my siblings [one sister and two brothers]," he said.

“My parents communicate in Circassian at home. My brothers and sister understand it but don’t speak as fluently.”

Yakhoth, a father of eight, none of whom speak the ancestors’ language, described the task of keeping the language alive across generations as difficult.

"It wasn’t even easy for me personally to preserve the language that I learned from my parents and grandparents.” He added that it is his personal perseverance that enabled him to speak, read and write his mother tongue. Besides, influence of other more active languages is inevitable, he said.

But some young Circassians are aware of their responsibility towards their language and have mastered it.

“I learned to speak the language at home,” said Sari Nashawash, 23, who is pursuing his master’s degree at the University of Jordan. “We are five brothers and four sisters and we all speak Circassian at home.”

And the language grows and interacts with other tongues.

“When speaking the Circassian language nowadays, we tend to use other words, especially Arabised technological terminology like fax, mobile, radio… etc,” Hakouz said.

Agreeing with Hakouz, the specialist said that in the Caucasus, Russian “invaded” Caucasian. “About 30 per cent of the Caucasian dictionary is currently Russian.”

“The Circassian language today faces the competition of Arabic, English and French, the languages needed for work,” Yakhoth said.

Preserving Circassian customs and traditions helps preserve the language, he added.

“Traditions play a great role in protecting the language and preventing its extinction,” the specialist said.

“At social gatherings, we used to challenge each others by playing language games,” he said.

“Children as well as adults are given difficult sentences that are usually hard to pronounce and contesters have to repeat over and over till they perfect them.”

This is how they learn pronunciation, he added.

Participants in the two-day meeting will make sure that this learning process will keep the Circassian language, the incubator of a centuries-old heritage, alive.

Circassians in Jordan

The first wave of Circassian immigrants who were mainly of Shapsugh extraction, arrived in Jordan in 1878 and took refuge in the old ruins of Amman. These were followed by the Kabardians, who settled in Amman, Jerash (1885), Sweileh (1905) and Ruseifa (1909), and the Abzakh and Bzhedugh, who established settlements in Wadi Seer (1880) and Naur (1900).

All in all, about 3,500 people found a new homeland in the area.

The motive behind the Turkish move to settle Circassians in Jordan is still a subject of speculation. G.H. Wightman believes that this was done for strategic reasons and out of religious piety and charity.

The deployment of loyal subjects to turbulent regions of the empire is the most probable motive. Other scholars maintain that they were mobilised mainly for agricultural reasons after the loss of the Balkans, the breadbasket of the Ottoman Empire.

Life in Amman and its neighbouring villages was simple and slow-paced. The Circassians introduced settled agriculture into an area previously used for pasture. They applied their imported agrarian skills to establish large and well-kept farms. They used large-wheeled carts, another novel introduction, for transport and commerce. Though mainly farmers, there were many artisans among them, like carpenters, blacksmiths, goldsmiths, silversmiths, saddle makers, leather tanners, dagger and sword craftsmen and carriage makers. A high level of cooperation existed among them and a good standard of living was achieved. Community affairs were managed in the guesthouses of neighbourhood leaders. In addition, defence plans were devised and folk tales were recounted. Circassian was the principal language of communication and exogamous marriages were rare.

Due to their deeply entrenched traditions and the good neighbourly relations they maintained with other people, Circassian society was very stable and secure, despite the threat of raids posed by some bedouin tribes not in alliance with them. In fact, they succeeded in establishing a rudimentary administrative system and a gendarmerie. All these factors made their settlements quite attractive for other people, who started to flock to them in large numbers. Soon these became substantial social and commercial centres.

Source: The Circassians, a handbook by Amjad Jaimoukha, Curzon Press, London, 2002.