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The lecture delivered by the Ambassador of Georgia to Sweden H.E. Mr. Amiran Kavadze at the Uppsala Association of International Affairs

On 25 March, 2009 Georgian Ambassador delivered a lecture at the Uppsala Association of International Affairs. The presentation was devoted to issue: the Georgian-Russian Relations: Historic Outlook and New Challenges. The event was well attended by guests from Georgian diaspora, academis circles and students. Ambassador Amiran Kavadze answered the questions posed by the audience.

 

 

 

 

The main points of the lecture by Amiran Kavadze, Ambassador of Georgia
“Georgian-Russian Relations: Historic outlook, New challenges”
Uppsala University, Uppsala Association of International Affairs, March 25, 2008

Short Historic Survey

Creation of the Georgian statehood.
Georgia has centuries long history. The traces of Georgian statehood (Iberia or Kingdom of Kartli) can be found in 4th- 3rd centuries BC. The early Georgian kingdom was led by Parnavaziani royal dynasty. At that time the Georgian kingdom stretched from river Araks in South to the Caucasus Mountains in North.  In the 3rd century BC King Parnavaz introduced a new administrative code and set up a state religion in the country. In the 2nd century AD, the early Georgian Kingdom of Iberia strengthened her position in the middle of Caucasus, especially during the reign of King Pharsman II who achieved full independence from Rome.

Adoption of Christianity
The western Georgian Kingdom of Iberia became one of the first states in the world to convert to Christianity in 327 AD, when the King of Iberia Mirian II established it as the official state religion. According to Georgian chronicles, St. Nino of Cappadocia converted Georgia to Christianity in AD 330 during the time of Constantine the Great. By the middle of the 4th century though, both Lazica (formerly the Kingdom of Colchis) and Iberia adopted Christianity as their official religion.

King David the Builder
The struggle against the Seljuk invaders in Georgia was led by the young King David IV of the Bagrationi royal family, who inherited the throne in 1089 at the age of 16 after the abdication of his father George II Bagrationi. Soon after coming to power, David created the regular army and peasant militia in order to be able to resist Seljuk colonization of his country. The First Crusade (1096-1099) and the Crusaders’ offensive against the Seljuk Turks in Anatolia and Syria favored David’s successful campaigns in Georgia. By the end of 1099 David had stopped paying tribute to the Seljuks and had liberated most of the Georgian lands, with the exception of Tbilisi and Hereti. In 1103 he reorganized the Georgian Orthodox Church and closely linked it with the state by appointing as Catholicos (Arch-Bishop) a Crown Chancellor (Mtsignobart Ukhutsesi) of Georgia. In 1103–1105 the Georgian army took over Hereti and made successful raids into still Seljuk-controlled Shirvan. Between 1110 and 1118 David took Lori, Samshvilde, Rustavi and other fortresses of lower Kartli and Tashiri, thus turning Tbilisi into an isolated Seljuk enclave.

Queen Tamar
The reign of Queen Tamar represented the peak of Georgia’s might in the whole history of the nation. In 1194-1204 Tamar’s armies crushed new Turkish invasions from the south-east and south and launched several successful campaigns into Turkish-controlled Southern Armenia. As a result, most of Southern Armenia came under Georgian control. Although it was not included in the lands of the Georgian Crown, and was left under the nominal rule of local Turkish Emirs and Sultans, Southern Armenia became a protectorate of the Kingdom of Georgia. The temporary fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1204 to the Crusaders left Georgia as the strongest Christian state in the whole East Mediterranean area.

The Treaty of Georgievsk and the first annexation of Georgia
Erekle II, king of Kartli-Kakheti from 1762 to 1798, turned towards Russia for protection against Ottoman and Persian attacks. The Russian empress Catherine the Great was keen to have the Georgians as allies in her wars against the Turks, but sent only meagre forces to help them. In 1769-1772, a handful of Russian troops of General Totleben battled against Turkish invaders in Imereti and Kartl-Kakheti. In 1783 Erekle signed the Treaty of Georgievsk with Russia, according to which Kartli-Kakheti was to receive Russian protection. But when another Russo-Turkish War broke out in 1787, the Russians withdrew their troops from the region for use elsewhere, leaving Erekle's kingdom unprotected. In 1795, the Persian shah, Agha Mohammed Khan, invaded the country and burnt the capital, Tbilisi, to the ground. In spite of Russia's failure to honour the terms of the Treaty of Georgievsk, Georgian rulers felt they had nobody else to turn to. After Erekle's death, a civil war broke out over the succession to the throne of Kartli-Kakheti and one of the rival candidates called on Russia to intervene and decide matters. On January 8, 1801 Tsar Paul I of Russia signed a decree on the incorporation of Georgia (Kartli-Kakheti) within the Russian Empire which was confirmed by Tsar Alexander I on September 12, 1801. The Georgian envoy in Saint Petersburg, Garsevan Chavchavadze, reacted with a note of protest that was presented to the Russian vice-chancellor Alexander Kurakin. In May 1801 Russian General Carl Heinrich Knorring dethroned the Georgian heir to the throne David Batonishvili and deployed a government headed by General Ivan Petrovich Lasarev.

Brest-Litovsk Treaty, creation of the Democratic Republic of Georgia and the second annexation
The Russian Revolution of October 1917 plunged Russia into a bloody civil war. On the 3rd December 1917 a conference between a Russian delegation, headed by Leon Trotsky and German and Austrian representatives began at Brest-Litovsk. Trotsky had the difficult task of trying to end Russian participation in the First World War without having to grant territory to the Central Powers. By employing delaying tactics Trotsky hoped that socialist revolutions would spread from Russia to Germany and Austria-Hungary before he had to sign the treaty. After nine weeks of discussions without agreement, the German Army was ordered to resume its advance into Russia. On 3rd March 1918, with German troops moving towards Petrograd, Vladimir Lenin ordered Leon Trotsky to accept the German terms. The Brest-Litovsk Treaty resulted in the Russians surrendering the Ukraine, Finland, the Baltic provinces, the South Caucasus and Poland. Georgia was one of them, proclaiming the establishment of the independent Democratic Republic of Georgia on May 26, 1918. The new country was ruled by the Menshevik faction of the Social Democratic Party, which established a multi-party system in sharp contrast with the "dictatorship of the proletariat" established by the Bolsheviks in Russia. The country was recognized by the Soviet Russia (Treaty of Moscow – Urotadze-Karakhan Treaty (1920)) and the major Western powers in 1921. Notwithstanding this, neither Lenin nor Staling could not tolerate with the creation of the new democratic state at the near neighbourhood. In February, 1921 the Red Army led by Sergo Orjonikidze invaded Georgia and after a short war with national guards occupied the country. The forces were unequal and on February 25, 1921, units of the Red Army entered Tbilisi. In Moscow, Lenin and Stalin received the congratulations of his commissar Orjonikidze --"The red banner blows over Tbilisi." The Georgian Menshevik government was forced to flee. Guerrilla resistance in 1921-1924 was followed by a large-scale patriotic uprising in August, 1924, which was severely suppressed by the Bolsheviks.

Renewal of independence of GeorgiaRussia’s threats of fragmentation of the country (1990-1993).
After the 70 long years of Soviet domination in December 1991 the Georgian government proclaimed the independence. The autonomous areas of South Ossetia and Abkhazia added to the problems of Georgia's post-Soviet government led by Zviad Gamsakhurdia. By 1993 separatist movements in those regions threatened to tear the country into several sections. Russian direct and indirect interference in the crises also complicated Georgia's relations with its big neighbor.

South Ossetia.
The first major crisis faced by the Gamsakhurdia government was in the South Ossetian Autonomous Region, which was largely populated by Ossetians and Georgians. In December 1990, the Supreme Council of Georgia summarily abolished the region's autonomous status within Georgia in response to its efforts to gain independence. When the South Ossetian regional legislature took its first steps toward secession and union with the North Ossetian Autonomous Republic of Russia, Georgian forces invaded. Russia took Ossetian side and regularly had been sending military hardware, troops and ammunition to Tskhinvali. The resulting conflict lasted throughout 1991, causing thousands of casualties and creating tens of thousands of refugees on both sides of the Georgian-Russian border. President of Russia Yeltsin mediated a cease-fire in July 1992. A year later, the cease-fire was still in place, enforced by Ossetian and Georgian troops together with six Russian battalions. Representatives of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) attempted mediation, but the two sides remained intractable. In July 1993, the South Ossetian government declared negotiations over and threatened to renew large-scale combat, but the cease-fire held through 2008.

Abkhazia.
In the Abkhazian Autonomous Republic of Georgia, Russian Special Forces disseminated fear that the Georgians would eliminate Abkhaz political autonomy and destroy the Abkhaz as a cultural entity. The Georgian majority in Abkhazia resented disproportionate distribution of political and administrative positions to the Abkhaz. Beginning in 1978, Moscow had sought to head off Abkhazian demands for independence by allocating as much as 67 percent of party and government positions to the Abkhaz, although, according to the 1989 census, 2.5 times as many Georgians as Abkhaz lived in Abkhazia. Tensions in Abkhazia led to open warfare on a much larger scale than in South Ossetia. In July 1992, the Abkhazian Supreme Soviet Council voted to return to the 1925 constitution under which Abkhazia was separate from Georgia. In August 1992, a force of the Georgian National Guard was sent to the Abkhazian capital of Sukhumi with orders to protect Georgian rail and road supply lines, and to secure the border with Russia. When Abkhazian authorities reacted to this transgression of their self-proclaimed sovereignty, hundreds were killed in fighting between Abkhazian and Georgian forces, and large numbers of refugees fled across the border into Russia or into other parts of Georgia. The Abkhazian government was forced to flee Sukhumi. Significant number of Russian military personnel, regular air forces, mercenaries and volunteers from North Caucasus also fought on the side of the Abkhaz. After the failure of three cease-fires which were broken by Russian peacekeeping and Abkhaz militia forces, in September 1993 Abkhazian forces besieged and captured Sukhumi and drove the remaining Georgian forces out of Abkhazia. Abkhazian separatists committed ethnic cleansing of Georgian, which was confirmed by international organizations. In early 1994, a de facto ceasefire remained in place, with the Inguri River in northwest Georgia serving as the dividing line.
 

Russia’s brutal war with Georgia – August 2008

The latest aggression, which took place in the beginning of August 2008 against peaceful population of the villages in the Georgian-controlled territories in the zone of conflict we cannot qualify as just a provocation. Simultaneous military attacks on several villages had been undertaken by the separatists in Tskhinvali region. As a result of these attacks ten civilians and peacekeepers were killed. The Georgian government even declared a ceasefire, but Russian backed South Ossetian regime took advantage of calmness and continued shelling civilians, completely destroying two Georgian villages. The Georgian authorities had no other choice but to react and defend security of the civilian population. On 8 August 2008 Georgian military forces entered Tskhinvali and captured the town. It turned out to be a well thought and designed provocation from the Russian side. The Government’s military action was taken in self-defence, after repeated armed provocations, and with the sole goal of protecting civilian population and preventing further looses of lives of residents coming from various ethnic background. Russia had been preparing this war for a long time. It deployed its 58 army in North Caucasus, and time to time conducted military exercise in very close proximity with the main gate to Georgia – near the Roki tunnel. At the same time Russia transferred huge amount of military hardware and special paratrooper units in Abkhazia and moved all military machine to the administrative border with Georgia. On 7 August Russia instantly mobilized its armed forces and moved its military unites from two directions: North Ossetia and Abkhazia attempted to occupy Georgia under the pretext of protecting the rights of its citizens in two separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. On 12 August 2008 Russian military forces recaptured Tskhinvali and moved all military forces towards the capital of Georgia.

Russia’s main goals.  During the last few years Georgia was number 1 in black list of the Russian leadership. “The Big brother” wanted to demonstrate show punishment to Georgia and Western countries. In reality it was more than simply punishing Georgia for its aspirations to join NATO and EU, or even trying to displace president Saakashvili. The Russia’s desire is to return back into the Caucasus, and regaining the losses Russia feels it has suffered since the end of the cold war. The fact that Georgia is backed by the West made it a particularly attractive target for Russian leadership. There is no doubt, in fighting Georgia, Russia fought a war with the West. Russia also wanted to draw a red line on the map of Europe which the West and NATO should not cross.

Russia’s occupation of GeorgiaIn August 2008 Russian Federation chose a path of war and occupation and did everything to make sure that Georgia and its supporters are punished and humiliated. For this purpose, Russian occupants violated all the verbal and written agreements they have concluded. Russian army continued military action after the President of Georgia ordered on 10 August all Georgian troops to unilaterally halt fire and withdraw from the territory of the Tskhinvali region. Moreover, Russian Federation used the momentum and instead of halting military activities, undertook a series of raids on peaceful population, bombing peaceful cities, committing atrocities, destroying civilian infrastructure, blockading the country by closing east-west highway and targeting critical infrastructure of international dimensions, such as pipelines, ports, et cetera. Many Gorgian villages were destroyed, houses burnt down and all Georgian population was forcibly evicted from the province.

President Sarkozy’s mediation.  The EU mediated a peace deal between the Russian Federation and Georgia. Conclusions by the GAERC, North Atlantic Council and the EU emergency summit expressed their grave concern over the situation in Georgia, it was especially stressed that a peaceful and lasting solution of the conflict in Georgia must be based on full respect for the principles of Georgia’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity and conflict resolution should be based on the six-point peace plan suggested by President Sarkozy. It is extremely important to remember that lack of international involvement in the conflict zones is one of the reasons why Russian Federation attempted to invade and occupy Georgia. Despite Georgian claims over last years and months that Russian Federation was building its armed forces in the Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, international response was insignificant and too late. We certainly appreciate the support we had been receiving over last years. We are grateful to the US, EU, France, Sweden, Germany, Poland, Baltic countries for constant support and assistance and deployment of EU Monitoring Mission (UEMM) in Georgia, which, regrettably, is not allowed to enter the conflict regions. Besides in violation of ceasefire agreement several areas are still under the Russian control; particularly, Kodory Gorge in Abkhazia, Akhalgori district and village Perevi in South Ossetia, which had never been under separatists control before August 2008. 

Russia used the same means as the Soviet Union did in Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan.  It is absolutely clear for the whole international community that the pretext of the Russian side to defend Russian “citizens” and “peacekeepers”, under which it performed the aggression, are void of any credibility. These arguments very much remind us of pre-WWII situation in Europe. The real aim of Russia was to topple the democratically elected government, annex the two Georgian provinces, built up military bases there and forcibly turn Georgia off the European and Euro-Atlantic path. Russia’s government obviously thought that by employing the same means as the Soviet Union did in Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan could, in the best tradition of the “empire of evil”, flex its muscles and demonstrate to the whole democratic world who is the boss in the region. During the last decade Georgia has been held hostage for many years by one particular country, thus unable to do anything credible and substantial both in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region. Resolution of conflicts has never been the aim of Russia in post Soviet space. One would have never imagined that we would have to speak about the facts of military aggression and ethnic cleansing in the East European country in the 21st century, but, unfortunately, reality showed to be dangerously different.

Russia’s recognition of Abkhazia and South OssetiaAfter occupation of Georgia, less than three weeks after the war broke out, Russia’s president Dmitry Medvedev gave formal recognition to breakaway regions of Georgia – Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent countries. Western countries condemned Russia’s unilateral recognition of the two Georgian provinces. Certainly, nobody expected landslide recognition of the provinces. In this case Russia was supported by the only country - Nicaragua.

Future of Georgian-Russian relations.  What happened in Georgia in August 2008 has caused an irreparable damage to the Georgian-Russia relations. Improving these relations will be a generational task and will take years, if not centuries. The Russian government managed to wage war against the neighboring country without analyzing the repercussions of this war. Invasion by Russian Federation looks extremely cynical against the declarations of Russian government officials about the necessity of restoring centuries-old friendship among Georgian and Russian nations. Georgians had great respect towards Russian people, its culture and traditions and have never been enemies of Russians, but the actions by the Russian government are seeding this animosity currently. It is up to the Russian Federation now to mend the bridges that it has destroyed as a result of this brutal war. Russian occupation troops are still on the territory of Georgia. Nonetheless threat coming from the Russian Federation is still imminent.

New Prospects for Georgia:

  • Real non-use of force from Russia and surrogate regimes;
  • Real de-occupation and return of IDPs and refugees;
  • European and Euro-Atlantic integration is on top of the agenda;
  • Creation of NATO–Georgia Commission at the level of Foreign Ministers is a positive sign;
  • Signing the U.S.–Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership good security umbrella for Georgia;
  • EU Eastern Partnership is a tool for further integration, Georgia aims at reaching Association Agreement with the EU by the  means of the EP; 
  • Georgia should focus on economic development, improvement of living standards of the population;
  • Continuation of Democratic reforms (judiciary reform; free and fair elections; getting more free media; non-corruption policy; respect for minority rights, dialog with opposition…);
 
 
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