An ultimate article about Georgian problem by George Hewitt.
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.
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