Thursday, 26 March 2009

Der Spiegel's News & find out aggressor of last August war

Temur Iakobashvili, the Georgian state minister for reintegration, has strongly denied reports that President Saakashvili issued an order authorizing launch of military operations on August 7 “to restore constitutional order” in breakaway South Ossetia.
Iakobashvili said the report was “part of series of lies and misinformation” by Russia, which aimed at misleading
EU-funded war inquiry mission, led by Swiss diplomat, Heidi Tagliavini.
Spiegel reported on its website on March 21, that Russia handed over to the EU-funded war inquiry mission an intercepted presidential Order No. 2 issued by Saakashvili, which the Georgian side had refused to reveal to the mission, citing that the document was a state secret. According to the same report, which also appeared on Spiegel Online’s English version on March 23, controversial remarks by Georgian military official, Mamuka Kurashvili, who said late on August 7 that Georgia was launching an operation “to restore constitutional order” in the breakaway region was a quote from the Georgian presidential order issued earlier on the same day. (

Below is what Civil Georgia reported in 8 August in its entirety.

“President Saakashvili said he had announced a general mobilization of reserve troops amid “large-scale military aggression” by Russia.
In a live televised address on August 8, Saakashvili said Georgian government troops had gone “on the offensive” after South Ossetian militias responded to his peace initiative on August 7 by shelling Georgian villages.
As a result, he said, Georgian forces now controlled “most of South Ossetia.”
He said the breakaway region’s districts of Znauri, Tsinagari, as well as the villages of Dmenisi, Gromi, and Khetagurovo, were “already liberated” by Georgian forces.
“A large part of Tskhinvali is now liberated and fighting is ongoing in the center of Tskhinvali,” he added.
He also said that Georgia had come under aerial attack from Russian warplanes on August 8, which was an obvious sign of “large-scale military aggression” against Georgia.
The Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs said that three SU-24 Fencer attack aircraft had breeched Georgian airspace on August 8, and one of them had dropped two bombs close to a police station in Kareli, slightly injuring several people.
“Immediately stop the bombing of Georgian towns,” Saakashvili told Russia. “Georgia did not start this confrontation and Georgia will not give up its territories; Georgia will not say no to its freedom… We have already mobilized tens of thousands of reserve troops. Mobilization is ongoing.”
“Hundreds of thousands of Georgians should stand together and save Georgia,” he added.

Note there is no mention of Russian forces in the Roki Tunnel: he gives quite different reasons.

Saakashvili’s story has changed: see Patrick Armstrong's piece (with Georgian sources) on JRL/2009/
( documenting these changes. The “Russians are already in the Roki Tunnel” excuse – of which Saakashvili put forth two variations) only appeared after the operation went so badly wrong.

And BTW – here’s the Civil Georgia report of the Kurashvili statement from 8 Aug ( So, if it's a "fabrication", it's not a recent one.

A senior official from the Georgian Ministry of Defense said Georgia had “decided to restore constitutional order in the entire region” of South Ossetia. Mamuka Kurashvili, an MoD official in charge of overseeing peacekeeping operations, told journalists late on August 7 that the South Ossetian side had rejected Tbilisi’s earlier decision to unilaterally cease fire and had resumed shelling of Georgian villages in the conflict zone.

Related issue

Georgia's Murky Motives: Saakashvili under Pressure from EU Probe

By Uwe Klussmann - Der Spiegel (23 March 2009)

An EU enquiry investigating the events of last summer's conflict between Russia and Georgia is shining an unfavorable light on Mikheil Saakashvili. A secret document may prove that the Georgian president had planned a war of aggression in South Ossetia.

Mamuka Kurashvili, the commander of the Georgian peacekeeping forces that had been stationed in South Ossetia before last summer's war, is no expert on the fine points of international law. But when the stout general, wearing a uniform festooned with medals, appeared before the television cameras of his native Georgia on Aug. 7, 2008, he proved to be surprisingly well-versed in the legal justification for the attack on the province, which had declared its independence from Georgia in the early 1990s.

Georgia, Kurashvili told the press, had decided "to reestablish constitutional order in the entire region." The general's words came at the beginning of a five-day war between Russia and Georgia, which quickly escalated into the most dangerous confrontation between East and West since the end of the Cold War. The conflict suddenly demonstrated to Europeans that an armed conflict with Russia on their own continent was no longer inconceivable.

Thanks to the determined crisis management efforts of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the European Union managed to broker a speedy cease-fire. Nevertheless, Europeans still lack a long-term strategy for the explosive region, a deficit that prompted the Council of the European Union to launch an enquiry into the conflict. Since December, diplomats, military officials, historians and experts in international law have been examining the factors that may have contributed to the war. Their efforts have paid off.

According to information obtained by SPIEGEL, the television appearance by General Kurashvili plays a key role in the investigation. His remarks indicate that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was not repelling "Russian aggression," as he continues to claim to this day, but was planning a war of aggression.

This is because Kurashvili may have been quoting directly from Order No. 2 from Aug. 7, a Georgian document that could shed light on the question of who started the war. When the commission questioned the Russian deputy head of the general staff, Anatoly Nogovitsyn, in Moscow, he quoted from the very same Georgian order. According to Nogovitsyn, the document also contained the phrase "reestablishment of constitutional order." If the order, which Russian intelligence intercepted, is authentic, it would prove that Saakashvili lied.

The Georgian government still refuses to show the controversial decree to the commission. Officials in Tbilisi argue that they cannot do this because the document is a state secret.

The EU investigators are particularly interested in the political leadership's possibly treacherous choice of words. "Most of South Ossetia's territory is liberated," Saakashvili, who is a trained lawyer, announced at 12:20 p.m. on Aug. 8, blaming "separatist rebels" -- South Ossetian militias -- for the fighting.

But four days after the war began, when the Russian military had already driven the Georgian army out of South Ossetia and was only 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the capital Tbilisi, Saakashvili made the surprise claim that he had learned at 10 p.m. on Aug. 7 that the Russians planned to send 150 tanks through the Roki tunnel, which connects South Ossetia and North Ossetia, which is part of Russia.

At that point, he claimed, he had "no other choice." Suddenly it was no longer a question of liberation, but of self-defense.

In fact, the Georgian leadership, as Western observers noticed, had already amassed 12,000 troops and 75 tanks on the border with South Ossetia on the morning of Aug. 7. In a decree ordering a general mobilization, which was not published until Aug. 9, Saakashvili noted that the Russian troops had advanced through the Roki tunnel on Aug. 8, which was after the Georgian attack.

The commission, which questioned senior military officers and politicians in Moscow and then Tbilisi in recent weeks, is closely examining such contradictions. But the EU representatives also received their fair share of ambiguous answers from Russian military officials and their allies in South Ossetia.

For example, the EU investigators sharply condemn the Russian military for not having prevented South Ossetians from burning down Georgian villages in their territory and driving out the inhabitants.

The commission's report, which is expected to be submitted in early summer, will also likely criticize Russia for having provided South Ossetians with Russian passports for years. International law experts see this as meddling in Georgia's internal affairs. Nevertheless, the EU investigations seems to be more of a problem for Tbilisi than for Moscow.

The stance taken by Temur Yakobashvili, Georgia's "minister for reintegration" of the breakaway province, shows just how nervous the Georgian president and his supporters are about the independent commission's findings. Yakobashvili, a Saakashvili confidant, has criticized the commission and its experts, who he claims are funded by Russian energy giant Gazprom -- a charge the commission strongly rejects.

Swiss diplomat Heidi Tagliavini, who was the UN secretary-general's special representative for Georgia and Abkhazia from 2002 to 2006, heads the commission. Her deputy is Uwe Schramm, a former German ambassador to Georgia. Former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer is an adviser to the commission.

The EU representatives' investigations are already seen as politically sensitive in Tbilisi today, long before their official publication, because more and more former allies of Saakashvili are now blaming the authoritarian president for the war and calling for his resignation.

Irakli Alasania, the Georgian ambassador to the UN during the war in the Caucasus, has become the spokesman of the opposition. Alasania is respected as a serious politician by the Obama administration. Saakashvili's adversaries include a former prime minister, a former foreign minister, a former defense minister and the former speaker of the parliament, Nino Burdzhanadze, who, together with Saakashvili, led the country's "Rose Revolution" in 2003.

Now Saakashvili's former comrades-in-arms want to mobilize the people once again. In a repeat of the events of six years ago, they want to stage a demonstration on Tbilisi's main thoroughfare, Rustaveli Avenue, calling for the ouster of the current president. For the Georgian opposition, the painstaking investigations of the EU enquiry come at a very opportune time.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

Monday, 23 March 2009

Window on Eurasia: Nemtsov Offers Moscow a Way Out on Sochi Olympics

by Paul Goble

Vienna, March 23 – Boris Nemtsov, a leader of Russian Solidarity movement and currently a candidate for mayor of Sochi, has provided Moscow with a way to hold the 2014 winter Olympics in Russia despite all the scandals and delays that have plagued the Sochi venue over the last several years.

In an open letter to President Dmitry Medvedev that was published first on his own blog ( and then in today’s “Yezhednevny zhurnal” (, Nemtsov suggests decentralizing the games so that most of the competitions could take place in facilities that already exist or that would be easier to build.

Noting that Sochi residents are “extremely concerned about the course of preparation for the winter Olympic Games,” Nemtsov points to five major problems. First, he says, “Sochi is physically not ready for the enormous construction, ecological, transportation and migration burdens” such construction would require.

Second, says, “the economic crisis confronts Russia with new realities,” raising serious doubts about a massive expenditure on funds for this prestige project at a time when so many Russians need more immediate assistance. Third, many in Sochi don’t believe the facilities will be used after the games in an effective way.

Fourth, experts suggest, planning for the games has been inadequate with the authorities intending to put up facilities that will damage the ecological situation of the city and region. Indeed, some of those who have looked into the situation in detail that the whole effort “looks like an adventure.

Nemtsov does not mention it, but there is another problem with the Sochi games as currently planned: they would take place on the site of the expulsion and ultimate genocide of the Circassian people in the 19th century, something that is already agitating their descendents in Turkey and across the North Caucasus.)

Given these problems, Nemtsov says, it is “completely possible” that Russia could lose its right to conduct the games, a development that he suggests would constitute a serious blow to its prestige. But there is a way out that is provided by International Olympic Committee rules, and it is one that Moscow should consider.

Under extraordinary circumstances, he continues, Article 35 of the Olympic Charter allows for the “decentralization” of the games to more than one city in the country to which they have been awarded. The current economic crisis certainly falls under that rubric, Nemtsov says, and he proposes a radical decentralization program.

While the opening and closing ceremonies would take place in Sochi and some sports connected with the mountains like bobsledding would occur nearby, competition in hockey, figure skating and other ice sports should be moved to existing sports facilities in Moscow, Yaroslavl, St. Petersburg and Kazan, and other competitions could take place in still other cities.

If facilities in these places need modernization, he said, the Russian people would certainly recoup any investment, something that might not be true if Moscow goes ahead with plans to spend enormous sums building up venues in Sochi. And more Russians would benefit rather than migrant workers who might have to be brought in for new construction.

“An attempt to realize the current plan for conducting the Olympics will lead to destructive consequences for Sochi,” Nemtsov says. “The real alternative today is the decentralization of the Olympics,” something that would be “in the interests of Sochi, Russia and the successful carrying out of the winter games in 2014.”

Many in Russia are likely to see this as a publicity stunt by Nemtsov in advance of the Sochi mayoral elections now scheduled to take place on April 26 or as a direct attack on Prime Minister Vladimir Putin because of the latter’s personal commitment to the idea of the Sochi games.

But Nemtsov’s argument is a serious one, and it does provide a way out for Moscow, allowing the Russian government the chance to keep the games it wants so much for status purposes without the obvious problems that holding the games in Sochi would involve both over the next five years and long afterward.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Adyghes and their Xabze (Etiquette)

Adyghe Xabze is in an orally transmitted rigid and complex code in which customs and social norms were enshrined. This system of morals had evolved to ensure that strict militaristic discipline was maintained at all times to defend the country against the many invaders who coveted Circassian lands. In addition, social niceties and graces greased the wheels of social interaction, and a person's good conduct ensured his survival and prosperity. The Xabze served as the law for ad hoc courts and councils set up to resolve contentious cases and other moot issues, and pronounce binding judgements. This code did not remain static throughout the ages. It was reformed and developed at some points in Circassian history, when two factors obtained: preponderance of outdated practices and the appearance of a charismatic personage to effect the transformation.

The first instance of this kind in recorded history was in the 16th century, when Prince Beslan (Beislhen) Zhanx'wetoqwe, nicknamed 'Pts'apts'e' (The Obese), modified the structure of the peerage system and updated the Xabze. Two centuries later, the legendary Zhebaghi Qezenoqwe (1684-1750), the quintessential fighter for justice in Circassian folklore, played a pivotal role in modernizing the code and removing outdated customs and practices, though he is sometimes erroneously accredited with originating it. He was an accomplished statesman by the standards of the time, being responsible for formulating Kabardian policies with respect to the Crimean Khans and their overlords, the Ottomans. One of his notable achievements was his counsel to Prince Aslenbek Qeitiqwe and manoeuvres to avert a war with Khan Saadat-Gery who attacked Kabarda in 1720 to avenge the destruction of the Tatar army in 1708 at Qenjalischhe. Stories of Zhebaghi's wisdom and sagacity are still very much alive in national memory. In one anecdote, he was asked about the difference between truth and falsehood. He enigmatically replied that only four fingers separated them. He lifted up his hand and placed four fingers between his eye and ear, and said, 'Everything your eye sees is true, and all that you hear is false, for no one tells the truth the way he sees it.' The most recent reform was made in 1807, when a group of Circassian judges and scholars, with the blessing of the nobility, amended and updated some articles of the law.

Source: Amjad Jaimoukha - ''Circassian Culture and Folklore.''

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

UNPO: Earth, Exploitation and Survival

Indigenous peoples around the world share an integral association with nature both economically and culturally. As such, any exploitation of natural resources present in their lands not only poses a threat to their local environment but is an affront to their culture and livelihoods. We believe that international and national legal frameworks offer inadequate protection to indigenous groups and their lands.

This campaign is designed to increase awareness of the exploitation of natural resources faced by indigenous groups across the world and build links and a sense of solidarity between groups that have been affected. The year 2009 is significant since it marks the 20th anniversary of the International Labour Organisation Convention No.169: Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries. The Convention confers a wide catalogue of obligations on governments to coordinate systematic action to protect the rights of indigenous peoples but has been ratified by only 20 nations to date [February 2009].

From 11th February 2009, the UNPO Day of Action, UNPO will publish a weekly article on its website for 12 weeks. It is envisaged that the articles will draw attention to the need for the wider ratification of the Convention and in turn put pressure on policy makers to consider its approval. The articles will offer in-depth analysis of 12 themes related to the effects of unethical, irresponsible and unsustainable development on indigenous peoples.

These articles will be accompanied by a series of 6-8 interviews and photo expositions with indigenous peoples in their homelands who have a real and comprehensive understanding of the struggles faced by their communities on a daily basis.

At a later date we will publish a Ken Saro-Wiwa dossier outlining his life, campaigns, writings and execution. It will provide a legal analysis of the precedent for human rights litigation in the United States under the Alien Tort Claims Act as being set by the outcome of Wiwa v. Royal Dutch Petroleum. Royal Dutch Petroleum et al are being tried for complicity in human rights violations against the Ogoni allegedly committed by the Nigerian government. The trial will commence on 27 April 2009.

Please sign our petition to support our campaign for the wider ratification of a Convention that should offer greater protection to indigenous people across the world.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Historical Maps: Abkhazia at various times in history

The maps included here give an idea of the frontiers of Abkhazia at various times in history. The Abkhazians call their capital /Aqw'a/, but it is more usually known in other languages as Sukhum (Sukhum-Kalé or Sukhum-Kaleh in the period of Turkish influence along the Black Sea's eastern coast; /soxumi/ in Georgian). The ending -i in the form /Sukhumi/ represents the Georgian Nominative case-suffix, and it became attached to /Sukhum/ from the late 1930s when (Georgian) Stalin (Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili) and his Mingrelian lieutenant in Transcaucasia, Lavrent'i Beria, began to implement a series of anti-Abkhazian policies. Abkhazians today, for obvious reasons, resent the attachment of this element from the language of a people they see as oppressors.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Ubykhs, by T. Tatlok - Caucasian Review, Vol. 7 (1958)


Born in Northern Caucasus. Philologist. Until World War II he worked in various academic and educational institutions, both in Moscow and in the Caucasus. Published monographs and articles on Northern Caucasus. Editor of the Vestnik of the Institute of Study of the USSR.

''The Ubykhs'', Caucasian Review, Vol. 7 (1958), pp. 100-109 (Munich)

The Ubykhs were a Circassian people, closely related, linguistically and ethnically, to the Abkhazians of the present-day Abkhazian ASSR, but who occupied a place quite apart in the western group of the peoples of the Caucasus. At the same time, they were not ethnically absolutely homogeneous but were split up into a number of tribal communities which differed from each other territorially, economically, and politically and had preserved certain linguistic peculiarities. Among these separate groups were the tribes known as the Vardane, Sasshe, Khize, Subashi, and Alani. Of these, the first two were the most progressive, economically and socially, and inhabited the valleys of the Vardane and Sochi Rivers and possessed a more advanced agriculture and horticulture.

The Ubykhs inhabited the Black Sea coast of the Caucasus from the Shakhe River to the Khosta (Khamysh) River. In the east they were contiguous with Dzhigets (Sadzy) and Akhchipsou, Abkhazian tribes living in the present Gagry and Sochi areas, and in the west, with the Shapsugs whose territory stretched along the sea as far as the Pshada River. The Abdzakhs (Abadzekhs) were neighbors of the Ubykhs on the north, occupying the northern slopes of the main mountain range within the confines of the Belaya River and Pshish River basins. It is difficult to estimate the number of Ubykhs existing at the time of their subjugation by Tsarist Russia in the middle of the last century, but some Russian sources have given a figure of forty to fifty thousand.

Until 1830 the Ubykhs did not have any serious clashes with the Russians as the Tsarist government did not wish to become involved with Turkey. However, the Adrianople treaty of 1829, in which Turkey ceded to Tsarist Russia all rights to the Black Sea coastal area of the Caucasus, opened the way for the Russians to attempt a conquest of the western Caucasus. These plans were already well advanced by 1830 and involved the occupation of the Abkhazian coast and the establishment of direct land communications between Sukhum and Anapa by the so-called “Abkhazian expedition.” The task of executing the plan, devised by Paskevich, was entrusted to Major General Gesse who, in July 1830, sent his force of two thousand infantry and cavalry from Redut-kale to Sukhum, from whence a part of it was dispatched by sea for a landing operation in Gagry while the remaining troops were moved along the coast from Sukhum via Lykhny to Pitsunda. Although the Russians occupied a few points along the coast of Abkhazia, they were forced to abandon the major portion of the campaign due to lack of familiarity with the local terrain and thus the Ubykhs were temporarily spared the “blessings” of Russian civilization.

The Ubykhs, however, did not remain indifferent to the approach of the Tsarist forces toward their frontiers and actively supported their neighbors in the struggle which had developed in the western Caucasus. There were Ubykhs in the ranks of the Sadzy (Dzhigets) who, in August 1830, resolutely stormed the Gagry fortifications erected by General Gesse. They also fought in the Kuban, where they came in answer to an appeal by the Shapsugs, Natukhais, and Abadzekhs to take part in the raids on the Georgievsko-Afonskoe and Alekseevskoe fortifications built by General Emmanuel in the summer of 1830.

From 1831 until 1836 the Russian command in the Caucasus refrained from any ambitious attempts to advance along the coast of the Black Sea and confined itself to the defense of Gagry in the south and Anapa and Gelenzhik in the north. However, the Ubykhs soon came face to face with the Russians when, acting on direct orders from Nicholas I who visited the Caucasus in 1837, construction was commenced on a series of fortifications along the coast, three of these, the Golovinskoe, the Navagiriskoe, and Svyatoi Dukh, situated on the territory occupied by the Ubykhs. This dealt a fatal blow to their coastal trade with the Turks and brought the danger of invasion by Tsarist forces into the interior of their land itself It is therefore hardly astonishing that these acts provoked the unanimous protest of the Ubykhs and drove them into a bitter struggle against the invaders. The resistance encountered by the Russian forces in the Ubykh land was so fierce that the Russian commander was constantly forced to reinforce these three garrisons and to give up all thoughts, temporarily, of advancing into the interior and to concentrate on defending the coastal areas and fortifications.1

The military organization of the Ubykhs at this time was described by General N. Dubrovin, the official historian of the Tsarist government:

Before undertaking an expedition... the Ubykhs chose a leader. He could only be a man noted for his bravery... During the expedition, the leader could rely on the complete obedience of his party... It was left to the leader to act on his own imitative and not to disclose his intentions to anyone beforehand... An uninhabited pass usually served as an assembly point for the party. Only decrepit old men and small children did not take part in the expedition. Everyone undertook to provide the necessary clothes… and food. When a force of from eight hundred to three thousand had assembled, the leader went to the assembly point to inspect the clothes and provisions of those present... After inspection, the force was split up into a vanguard and a rearguard. Men from the same village were formed into units of ten to a hundred men. Each unit had its own commander who gave orders, led his men, and, in important cases, reported to the leader to obtain instructions and to confer... The Ubykhs marched in files of two. They raided only at night, before dawn. Before a raid, the leader divided his force into three parts, the first two, consisting of the most able, for the attack and the third, consisting of the old and young, cooks, treefellers, etc, formed the reserve.2

The Berzek [Berzeg -- editor] family provided the military and political leadership during the first stage of Ubykh resistance against the Russians. Members of the Berzeg family were among the most frequently chosen to lead military raids. The well-known Khadzhi-Berzeg hailed from this family. He enjoyed great authority, not only among the Ubykhs, but throughout the western Caucasus In 1839, the Tsarist government placed a substantial price on his head.3

From the very beginning, Khadzhi-Berzeg did not confine himself to the defense of the territory inhabited by the Ubykhs, but set out to organize the joint resistance of all the neighboring nations and tribes. Together with the Shapsugs, he and his Ubykh forces attacked the Mikhailovskoe fortification on the Vulan River in 1837. With the Abkhazian tribe of Akhchipsou, he threatened the Sadzy (Dzhigets) in 1839 for not resisting the Tsarist troops. He conducted negotiations on joint action with the Pskhuvs and sent couriers to Pabal and Dal, whose inhabitants were threatening Sukhum-Kale.

This urge to unite in resisting the Tsarist invaders found an echo in the hearts of the West Caucasian peoples. The liberation movement became general in the spring of 1840 because of a terrible famine caused by a poor harvest and the loss of their cattle due to a particularly hard winter. Cut off from the coast by the Russian fortification, the inhabitants were unable to improve their lot by the usual trade with Turkey and hence had cause to resent the encroachment of the invaders. They rose against the Russians in early 1840 and, within a period of six weeks, stormed and captured four fortifications, the Lazarevskoe, Golovinskoe, Velyaminskoe, and Mikhailovskoe. Read more...