Georgia: South Ossetia Special Coverage
Global Voices Online has now set up a special coverage page for the crisis in South Ossetia. Along with The Caucasian Knot, the coverage is also being linked to from the New York Times South Ossetia page, and posts are also included on The New York Times blog.
On August 8, 2008 while the 2008 Beijing Olympics were officially being inaugurated, fighting intensified between the Georgian and Russian military on the outskirts of Tskhinvali, the capital of the breakaway region of South Ossetia. Earlier in the week, Georgia and the South Ossetian separatist government had concluded a truce after an outbreak of fighting for which each side blamed the other. The conflict has now escalated into war, with Russian forces bombing Georgia, and many dead.
South Ossetia is a region in the Southern Caucasus, formerly the South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast within the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic of the USSR, and currently a breakaway republic within Georgia. The South Ossetia region consists of a checkerboard of Georgian-inhabited and Ossetian-inhabited towns and villages. The largely Ossetian capital city of Tskhinvali and most of the other Ossetian-inhabited communities are governed by the separatist government, while the Georgian-inhabited villages and towns are administered by the Georgian government. This close proximity and the intermixing of the two communities has made the conflict in South Ossetia particularly dangerous, since any attempt to create an ethnically pure territory would involve population transfers on a large scale.
Violent conflict broke out towards the end of 1991 during which approximately 1,000 died and about 100,000 ethnic Ossetians fled the territory and Georgia proper, most across the border into North Ossetia. A further 23,000 ethnic Georgians fled South Ossetia and settled in other parts of Georgia. Currently, South Ossetia has an estimated population of 70,000 people.
The de facto independent republic governed by the secessionist government held a second independence referendum on November 12, 2006, after its first referendum in 1992 was not recognized by the international community as valid. According to the Tskhinvali election authorities, the referendum turned out a majority for independence from Georgia where 99% of South Ossetian voters supported independence and the turnout for the vote was 95%, but again it was not considered valid internationally given the lack of ethnic Georgian participation and the legality of such referendum without recognition from the central government in Tbilisi.
On July 13, 2007, Georgia set up a state commission to develop South Ossetia’s autonomous status within the Georgian state. According to the Georgian officials, the status will be elaborated within the framework of “an all-inclusive dialogue” with all the forces and communities within the Ossetian society.
Full coverage is available on Global Voices Online.
- 08.10.08 / 5pm by Onnik