Iberia Forever

ანზორ თოთაძე

"ოსები საქართველოში: მითი და რეალობა"

z z z

ANZOR TOTADZE

THE OSSETS IN GEORGIA: MYTH AND REALITY

Publishing House "Universal", Tbilisi 2008

The present book highlights the anatomy of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict and on the basis of analysis of Georgian and foreign literary sources and official demographic data it discusses the issues of Ossets migration to Georgia in the XVII-XIX centuries and of the aboriginal population of Tskhinvali. It also displays the absurd consideration of the Ossetian dilettante scholars on "South Ossetia" joining Russia in 1774, the unprecedented facts of distorting the history of Georgia and their efforts to misappropriate the Georgian cultural heritage. By the offcial statistical data living standard of Ossets in Georgia is the highest in the former Soviet Union.

Editor: Academician Mariam Lordkipanidze

review: Professor Anzor Sakhvadze Professor Vazha Gurgenidze

ANATOMY OF THE CONFLICT

"I would like to be unbiased and clear up whether there were some hasty, senseless activities of Ossets, who intensified the contradictions through provocation. I would also like to say such events took place then. I mean declaration of sovereignty, which was fully orientated to Moscow with the prospect of uniting South and North Ossetia in the future. Aspirations of South Ossetians to join their Northern tribesmen can be understood from the human viewpoint. However, from the geopolitical viewpoint it is a mistake. The main Caucasus Ridge is a natural border between Georgia and Ossetia and any efforts of removing this border will cause permanent conflicting situation between Georgians and Ossets. To restore traditional friendly relations, first of all, the talk should stop on separation of Ossetia from Georgia. No authorities of Georgia will agree with this. And they will be right, because this will mean violation of Georgia's territorial integrity...

Who wants peace between South Ossetians and Georgians, should reject for ever the idea of South Ossetia's joining North Ossetia. Who wants peace between Georgia and Russia, should also put this idea aside. This is the reality".

VASILII ABAEV

famous Ossetian professor, renowned scholar

Armed conflicts in Caucasus are often mentioned as ethnic conflicts, which doesn't fully express their nature. The character of these conflicts has shown vividly that an important factor of the conflicts origin and their unsettlement by now is Russia's political, economic, demographic and other interests. That's why Russia has been striving and keeps striving even now to attach completely ethnic nuance to the conflicts and succeeds in this in any way. Thus, the conflicts are of ethno-political character. An exception is a conflict in Chechnya, which is mainly connected with the fight of the Chechen people for freedom and independence; however, ethnic elements are still characteristic to this conflict as well.

Immediately after dissolution of the Soviet Union some big or small conflicts took place in the former Soviet republics on the ethnic ground. This was expected, because in condition of totalitarian regime and dominating soviet ideology it was most dangerous to openly express opposing idea on national problems. The Communist Party possessed a system of opinions, which were considered eternal, among them in the sphere of national relations as well, strictly revealed mostly in the political

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form of public consciousness. But the national problems experienced development, ripening and required relevant settlement. Real situation was not taken into consideration in the process of forming the autonomies; everything was being personally decided in the Kremlin. But this was not the only factor of ethnic conflicts origin. Russia had indefinite influence on the former soviet republics and heads of some of these republics couldn't dare to protect national interests of their countries. Suddenly Russia found out that nothing was left from its unprecedented influence. Officially it was impossible to regain the former influence in the post-soviet space. Bipolar world, in which Russia and the USA were super-states, became unipolar. To restore its influence in the post-soviet space, Russia supported the separatist forces in separate republics and especially in the geopolitical and geoeconomic regions. Sometimes, still in the period of the Soviet Union dissolution, Russia itself took care of forming such forces and then did its best to widely stir up ethno-conflicts, which took away the lives of some tens of thousands of people. For example, it can be said for sure that unless Russia's support they won't have been Georgian-Abkhazian and Georgian-Ossetian conflicts in Georgia or, in any case they could have been hushed down without such bloodshed. Russia can even now immediately settle these conflicts, if it makes the separatists understand they won't get any military or economic assistance from Russia and if it honestly conducts its peacekeeping mission. But to fulfill its imperial intentions and to preserve former positions in the post-soviet countries, Russia, wherever it can or sees such need, artificially stirs up or promotes ethnic conflicts, impedes these conflicts deliberately to finally reach its influence again. These conflicts exist through support of Russia and the following conditions witness this.

Striving for independence in the former soviet republics coincide with the conflicts between nationalities, which is not casual. Proceeding from its interests, Russia cannot get used to loss of the spheres of its influence. Close relationship of the events distanced from one another in time and space was not casual either. The events ongoing in Tridnestrian region, Abkhazia and "South Ossetia" were governed from Moscow. The models of armed situations were prepared beforehand. It was thus in Abkhazia, "South Ossetia", etc.

Specific feature of ethno-territorial conflicts was not casual as well. The conflicts in Georgia are of vivid geographical expression - they are along the Russia-Georgia border. There live in Georgia far more multinumbered national minorities, the amount of which is far more than that of Abkhazs and Ossets. But Georgia has far less problems, as compared with them. The thing is that they live in a distance from the Russia's border and it is far easier and convenient for Russia to form ethnic conflicts in its

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neighboring Abkhazs (the amount of which in Abkhazia at present equals 42 000) and Ossets (46 000). Consequently, Abkhazia and "South Ossetia" have become for Russia a lever for influencing Georgia, just as Russia used different levers for influencing other former soviet republics, mostly those, which violated the territorial integrity. Russia's influence on Georgia makes it easier for Russia to implement its interests in entire Transcaucasus, which is promoted by Georgia's geopolitical position.

Russia's main political task is to provide its influence in the Caucasian region. Without solving it Russia cannot be a great state. That's why it does its best not to allow some other influence upon South Caucasus. However, the USA and western states think otherwise. As it is mentioned Russia cannot now and won't be able in the near future to play a decisive role in Caucasus and so influential gamblers should intensively participate in the "common Caucasian processes", first of all the USA and EU.

Centuries-old traditional friendship, relationship and mutual cooperation of the Georgian and Ossetian peoples faced a serious test, imposed on our peoples by some forces from outside. These forces try to impede in restoring "the broken bridge". With this aim in view they form "ideology" based on false and forged principles. This is witnessed by four thick books, published one after another, by the Ossetian separatist authors in Moscow only in 2006. Thus they want to form false past by rewriting anew the history of the Georgian and Ossetian peoples to change upsidedown the true relations of these two nations. All this hampers building of statehood, the process of integration of different ethnic groups living in Georgia.

Such efforts should have a relevant answer. Both for Georgians and Ossets, false knowledge and forged history form rich ground for development of such undesirable and harmful events, which neither now nor in the future may be positive for our peoples.

Within past years there appeared in abundance thick books, written by the Ossetian pseudo-scholars, in fact, dilettantes, forming wrong impression on the history of Georgia and entire Caucasus as well. They compiled their false history on nothing, mercilessly distorting the written sources, statistical data and, doing their best, try to present whatever they wish as real. All this serves one purpose - to justify existence of selfproclaimed "republic of South Ossetia" on the territory of Georgia as an independent state, to violate sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia. The Ossetian separatists are supported in this by the reactionary forces of Russia, which assist and encourage them. Without their help the separatists would not have dared to toughly interfere into the internal affairs of

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Georgia. The Ossetian separatists violate integrity of Georgia's territory and consider care of Georgia for its state territorial integrity to be aggression of Georgia. The dilettante Ossetian scholars make good use of difficult situation in Georgia, which usually accompanies gain of independence, building of a democratic state and through using fabricated history they try to force their people embark on the road of aggression, to stir discord and animosity between the Georgian and Ossetian peoples, which had long history of good neighborly relations and co-living.

History of the Ossetian people is mainly preserved in the Georgian sources, as the Ossetian people had no written language of their own. It was through the Georgian sources that they knew their ancient history. However, now they read the Georgian sources as it suits them and present the historical realities as if through distorting mirror. They forget that the ancient Georgian historical or literary sources, a part of which has been translated into foreign languages, are known not only to experts in Georgian studies, but to foreign, among them Russian, historians as well. Therefore those, who publish books in Moscow time and again and those, "who want to create the new past through rewriting history anew", should take into consideration that the ancient Georgian sources are being studied by more renowned scholars than the Ossetian dilettante experts. In the works of these diletanttes there is outlined only one idea, desirable to them - there exists Ossetia, consisting of two, North and South, parts. To justify this they have to prove the myth as if Ossets had lived in East Georgia, namely, in Shida Kartli, since time immemorial and that Ossetia had never been the territory of Georgia. They prove this as intensively as they can. In their opinion, in 1774 united Ossetia, both North and South, joined Russia and, consequently, Georgia has nothing to do with the territory of Russia. Within 70 year long period South Ossetia, which was Georgia's autonomous region, experienced colonial oppression and the standard of living of Ossets there was very low and, in their opinion, the problem of South Ossetia should be settled according to the fundamental principles of the international law, acknowledged by the UN, which give a guarantee for self-determination of peoples. In June 2006 at the meeting between the Presidents of Georgia and Russia, the President of Georgia made a statement on the ongoing annexation of the Georgian territory saying that Georgia would not concede even "a single meter of its land". Before this statement was made, the Russian diplomacy suspended using even verbal recognition of Georgia's territorial integrity. The foreign ministry of Russia completely forgot de jure being of South Ossetia within Georgia and for the last period had more than once announced that this "is the zone of conflict acknowledged at the international level", the status of which should be

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determined through talks. The Russian Foreign Service remembered "the right of nations for self-determination". Thus, what was written in the books was announced at the summit meetings or when such meetings were prepared. Publishing of the books, therefore, justifies itself.

There, probably, exists no state in the world, on the territory of which the representatives of neighboring state do not live. If they start appropriating the territories in these states with the aim of joining their historical homeland, the world would fail to avoid terrible clashes. Big states, therefore, should be guided in this case by common sense, because by permitting such ungrounded precedents, the opportunity would be given to gross violation of fundamental principles acknowledged by the international law.

The Georgia's main river Mtkvari historically determined division of Kartli into Zemo (Upper), Shida (Inner) and Kvemo (Lower) Kartli. According to the Georgian chroniclers, hagiographical monuments of the early feudal time and the VII century Armenian geography, the oldest name of Shida Kartli was Zena Sopeli. This historical province of Georgia, according to Leonti Mroveli, the XI century Georgian historian, embraced the territory "from Tpilisi and Aragvi to Tasiskari and Panavrad"1. According to the same chronicler, Uplos, a descendent of Georgian etnarch Kartlos, "ruled in the state from Tpilisi and Aragvi to Tasiskari and Panavrad and built Uplis-tsikhe, Urbnisi, Kaspi and called this area Zena Sopeli from Aragvi and Armazi to Tasiskari, which is now called Shida Kartli"2. Parnavaz I (end of the IV century - the first half of the III century), the first King of Kartli(Iberia) Kingdom, divided the kingdom into saeristavos (principalities), one of which was Shida Kartli, Zena Sopeli of the earlier period. Over entire period of our history, be it Greek geographer Strabo (who mentions about Shida Kartli as Middle Iberia) or Vakhushti Batonishvili, an outstanding Georgian geographer of the first half of the XVIII century, the XI century Georgian historian Juansher and other Georgian chroniclers or old Georgian writers, Italian missionaries or European travelers, all of them considered the Caucasus Ridge to be the northern border of Shida Kartli. It's really true that the Caucasus Ridge is the northern border of entire Georgia.

Georgia reached its greatest statehood power in the XII century and the first quarter of the XIII century. Within this period it was the most powerful state in Near and Middle Asia, which was considerably caused by the amount of its population as well. In 1254, according to the census data,

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1 "Kartlis Tskhovreba", vol.I, Tb., p 24.

2 Ibid, p 10.

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there lived in Georgia eight million people. It should be mentioned here that in the Middle Ages Georgia was settled entirely by Georgians and this fact did not escape the attention of the Italian missionaries, who conducted their activities in West Georgia for tens of years. "There is no trace of non-Georgian population living"1 in West Georgia in the Persian sources of the period of Tamerlane (Timur Lenk) raids. As for East Georgia, there lived in some amount the representatives of neighboring, but not of North Caucasian, nationalities.

Georgia played an important role in preserving Christianity in the East. This fact was recognized by the foreign scholars as well. German scholar K.Koch, who visited Georgia in 1836, mentioned: "When Greeks and peoples of Asia Minor gradually started professing Islam, Georgians and Armenians (in a lesser degree) remained faithful to the religion of their ancestors. It was just the Georgian nation that saved East Christianity from complete annihilation"2 According to evidences of the Persian historians Tamerlane expressed great astonishment that the Christian religion existed in Georgia surrounded by the Muslim countries. He promised to surely correct mistake made by his ancestors and to do away with this unjustice3. Tamerlane managed to make the North Caucasian peoples, a part of Ossets among them, to convert to Islam.

In result of permanent attacks of the enemy, Georgia was disintegrated into separate kingdoms and principalities. In that period Russia intensively kept oppressing the population of North Caucasian lowlands, Ossets among them, and Kabardinians finally blocked Ossets in the highland regions. Thus the North Caucasians had hard conditions for existence and they gradually started to migrate to Georgia - towards the southern slopes of the Caucasus Ridge. In the end of the XVI and the beginning of the XVII centuries there appeared in this way Lesghins in Kakheti, Ossets - in the northern part of Shida Kartli and Apsuas - in Abkhazia. Georgia, disintegrated into separate kingdoms, was too weak to liberate its territory from the comers. In the part of the territory located northwards to Shida Kartli, Ossets first settled as migrants beside the Georgian peasants. Later, first, by force, then due to annihilation of a greater part of the Georgian population in the clashes against enemies on the territory of Shida Kartli, Ossets, together with the new streams of their

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1 K.Tabatadze.The terms designating Georgia and Georgians according to the X-XV century Persian sources. See the book: Foreign and Georgian terminology designating Georgia and Georgians. Tb., 1993, p 248.

2 The evidences of K.Koch and O.Spencer on Georgia and Caucasus. Tb., 1981, pp 1717-172.

3 . K.Tabatadze, ibid. p 249.

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kinsmen from the North, gradually advanced to the territory of the Shida Kartli lowlands and settled as migrants in the ruins of the estates mostly owned by the Georgian princes - Eristavis of Ksani, Machabelis, Amilakhvaris and Tsitsishvilis.

The Ossetian scholar, Professor G.Togoshvili described in detail the Ossets migration in Shida Kartli in the XVII-XVII cc. He cites documentary material on the efforts of feudals to again settle1 the population in the villages of Shida Kartli desolated in result of the attacks of enemies and intra-feudal clashes and to subject Ossets under their power. In the beginning of the XIX century there appeared the term "South Ossetia". Appearance of this term, along with the intensive efforts of the Russian imperial forces, was also caused by the condition that Shida Kartli was directly bordered northwards, across the Caucasus Ridge, by historical Ossetia, in the period under research - by the Ossetian communities of Tagauri, Kurtati, Alagiri and Digori. Unless this situation and Ossetia being a direct neighbor of Georgia, the terms mentioned above wouldn't have appeared even in case a greater number of Ossets migrated to Georgia. Neither the issue would arise there of forming their autonomy in Central Georgia, historically and culturally Georgian land, which was dictated by imperial Russia. Ossets started to fight to occupy the Georgian territories. This process finally ended in forming the autonomous district of South Ossetia on the territory of Shida Kartli, earlier Zena Sopeli, in 1922.

Before that, when Georgia declared independence and was a democratic republic in 1918-1921, dictated by Bolshevik Russia several revolts were organized against Georgia on the Shida Kartli territory settled by Ossets. Despite the fact that, according to the agreement concluded on May 7, 1920 between Georgia and Russia the latter recognized Georgia's state independence and shouldered the obligation not to interfere into the internal affairs of Georgia, before and after that Russia kept undermining the foundations of Georgia's independence. In such a tense situation chairman of the government of Georgia N.Zhordania, appealed with the statement to the representatives of England, France, the USA and Italy in Tbilisi: "We have received de facto recognition, for which we express our deep gratitude, but "only mere recognition gave us no advantage for final preserving our freedom and state existence".The attitude of our allied countries in protecting our northern borders was especially a heavy blow for us, as Bolsheviks try to dissolve our state from there. We have more than once raised the petition for assistance in this struggle with ammunition and

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1 G. Togoshvili. The Georgia-Ossetia relations in the XV-XVIII cc. Tb., 1969, pp 165-224.

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food. We were promised this assistance but have received by now no bullets, no bread from you. Time has come when we cannot wait any more and cannot be satisfied with promises only "We are left alone again, probably, because your governments are unaware of the situation, or dissolution of our republic by the Bolshevik Russia is not considered violation of your interests. In such a situation supreme interests of our people dictate the government of Georgia to immediately find the ways for salvation without your assistance, without taking your interests into consideration"1.

In such a difficult situation, when the units of the Russian Red Army were approaching Georgia's borders, Ossets in Shida Kartli arranged several uprisings. The commanders of the Russian 11th army put hopes on revolted Ossets with the aim of attacking Georgia and expanding Soviet power in it. In the memorandum adopted by the revolted Ossets, they supported the "communist revolts started in South Ossetia, in Tbilisi and Kutaisi gubernias, where everything was matured and even over-matured for an upheaval"2. The revolted Ossets demanded autonomy and integration into the Soviet Russia. The Bolshevik Russia annexed Georgia in 1921 and on February 25 declared it to be the Soviet republic. For their assistance in this case, Ossets received in 1922 autonomy with the status of an autonomous district on the historical Shida Kartli territory. By forming an autonomous district a delayed-action bomb was laid for pressing Georgia in an analogous situation, which was successfully used by the Russian reactionary forces after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and declaration of Georgia's independence in 1991. These forces take no heed of regular processes of historical development and try to return the processes back to former space. That's why they aspire to expand, deepen and prolong the conflict as much as they can and thus to press Georgia, as the country is located in such geopolitical and geo-economic space, where the interests of numerous big countries are crossed. Acad. Mariam Lordkipanidze justly mentions that settlement of the conflict "depends on Russia and the USA, we should suit the interests of these two super powerful states"3, but they don't give such an opportunity to us.

Thus, the existing conflict is a political conflict between Russia and Georgia. Russia has tried to turn it into the ethnic conflict between Georgians and Ossets and succeeded in it.

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1 A. Menteshashvili. The Ossetian separatism in 1918-1920. See the appendix The Ossetian issue, Tb., 1996, pp 308-309.

2 Ibid., p 304.

3 The newspaper "Sakartvelos Respublika", August 11, 2004

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This is a brief history of the problem. The Georgian people do their best to settle the conflict in a peaceful way, without any blood. The presidential program of Georgia involves many important measures for conflict peaceful settlement. The government of Georgia suggests a state formation with autonomous status with more expanded rights than in conditions of an autonomous district. President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia stresses the need for fixing in the Constitution of Georgia a political status of the former South Ossetian autonomous district within Georgia, because this territory is not mentioned in the Constitution now. Along with maximum autonomy the power will be mostly distributed at the level of central government for full-value participation of the autonomies in central governance of the country. The bodies of local self-governance will be formed. Quota will be allocated in the Parliament of Georgia for the representatives of these territories. The Ossetian language will have the status of the official language along with the state language. The authorities of Georgia are ready to conduct other significant measures as well. Implementation of the program started in 2004. It foresees return of ethnic Ossets, which left Georgia in 1991-1992.

The authorities of Georgia, mentions President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia, are ready to do much more, but at the same time they will never permit division of Georgia and legalization of the status of independence for any territory of our country. Isolation of any territory from Georgia will face maximum resistance and until there exists Georgia and it has its authorities this will never happen, no one should have such illusions1. Historical justices should be restored through peaceful talks, which will become a firm basis for restoring the bridge broken between the Georgian and Ossetian peoples, for the future co-living of these two nations. The Georgian authorities strive for this as well. Still in 2004 the President of Georgia used to say: "We are ready to sit around the table of talks with the representatives of South Ossetia and to give them firm guarantees far more than North Ossetia - Alania has within the Russian Federation"2.

To take into consideration the events and processes developed within last century around the conflicts mentioned above, we may say that history repeats. The events developed in 1918-1920 and in the present-day period are as like as two peas. Dictated by the Russian reactionary forces, the present Ossetian separatists, like those in the past, demand the status of

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1 The speech delivered by President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia in Batumi at the international conference, see: International conference "Initiative of the government of Georgia in regard to peaceful settlement of the South Ossetian conflict", Batumi, 2005, pp 38-42, 50.

2 The newspaper "24 Saati", July 15, 2004.

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"independent republic" on the territory of central Georgia and integration into Russia.

This groundless unsubstantiated demand was responded by a renowned scholar, head of the department for ethnography of Caucasian peoples, the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Academy of Science of Russia, S. Arutinov. Answering the correspondent's question: "Remember how this terrible fire burst out in South Ossetia only because Ossetia declared itself a state independent from Georgia", he wrote in the journal "Rodina" (#1, 1992, p 71): "the conflict was unavoidable, if we take into consideration that it is not Ossetia at all, but the central Georgia from time immemorial, where the Ossetian population settled in abundance within last centuries. Ossets, surely, have the right to live there, but they have no right to declare their independent state on the mentioned territory. North Ossetia is a different case"1.

That's true; North Ossetia is a different case. To take no care of past mistakes may face jeopardy of repeating greater tragedy.

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1 Cited from: A. Menteshashvili. The Ossetian separatism in 1918-1920. See the book: "The Ossetian Issue", p 297.

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THE OSSETS' MIGRATION INTO GEORGIA

The first appearance of Ossets in Georgia was caused by attacks at Ossets conducted by Mongols and Tamerlane on the central lowlands of North Caucasus, followed by annihilation of their great amount. In result of these raids Ossets were forced to leave their dwelling places and find shelter in the gorges of Central Caucasus.

In the second half of the XIII century numerous attacks of Mongols and their rule weakened Georgia to a great extent. The population of lowlands considerably reduced in number. All this formed the situation favorable for appearance of the armed groups of Ossets in the environments of Shida Kartli. It was also in the interests of Mongols, as they considered Ossets to be their supporting force in conducting their expansionist policy in Georgia. As the Georgian chronicler mentioned, in 1292 in the period of no royal rule in Shida Kartli, "Ossets started destruction and raids in Kartli"1. Ossets stayed in Kartli for 30 years.

Analogous evidence was presented by Vakhushti Batonishvili, Georgian historian of the first half of the XVIII century:"Ossets started to destroy Kartli and isolated and occupied city of Gori". Ossets wanted to settle in Kartli, thus forming a danger to the land ownership of Georgian nobles. "That was why the eristavis of Kartli gathered together and headed towards Gori. Many Ossets and Georgians died in this clash and Gori was burned". Ossets appealed for help to Mongols in Mukhrani, which proceeding from their interest, supported Ossets and shouldered their mediation. Mongols managed "to reach peace" between Ossets and Georgians. As Vakhushti Batonishvili mentioned, from that time on there began animosity between Georgians and Ossets till the rule of King Giorgi Brtsqinvale (the Glorious). King Giorgi drove away Ossets, which came together with Mongols. He "took back the villages and castles occupied by Ossets in Kartli, subordinated those unyielding to his power, made them pay contribution and brought peace to Kartli by occupying all the approaches to it"2.

Thus, in the end of the XIV century, when King Giorgi implemented important measures in the country for bringing peace and cleared Georgia off Mongols, he annihilated ravaging groups of Ossets and ousted them from Georgia. The Georgian sources did not mention about compact settlements of Ossets for nearly two centuries since then.

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1 Kartlis Tskhovreba, vol. II, p 296.

2 Ibid., vol. IV, p 256.

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As relevant literary sources clarified, the new settlements of Ossets in Kartli highlands were formed in the mid-XVII century. This is also witnessed by the evidence of Ambassador of Russia to Georgia, according to which there lived about 200 Ossets in those places. In the XVII-XVIII cc Ossets gradually came to live in the Kartli highlands. However, they faced here limited and unfavorable conditions for living and barren soil. Vakhushti Batonishvili mentioned: "Fertility of these places was poor", Ossets "failed to sow grains due to lack of fertile soils". So Ossets' striving for the southern regions was natural. It was also promoted by reduction of the Kartli population caused by endless fights against conquerors. Their number was filled up by the Georgian population from the highlands. Ossets appropriated the dwelling places left by them. This process is characteristic even to our century as well. Mass migration of the Georgian population from the eastern highland regions of Caucasus to lowlands resulted in voluntary appearance of the North Caucasian population there and their efforts to occupy the Georgian territories.

Ossets used force to appropriate the Georgian lands and the process of their migration was sometimes most acute. Namely, according to one deed of purchase, compiled in the first half of the XVII century, no Ossets lived in Zemo Java either. The document said: "Zemo Java was made desolate by Ossets. God witnesses that not a single trace of man was left"1. Ossets completely annihilated Georgians living in the village Zemo Java. The Machabelis later settled it with Ossets. The process of Ossets settlement on the Georgian territories was mentioned by Vakhushti Batonishvili as well: "Ossets settled in the places, where first Georgian peasants lived and then their lords settled Ossets there. After that Georgians came to live in the lowlands as the number of population reduced there"2.

This witnessed that in that period Ossets settled in the places earlier belonging to Georgians in the Kartli lowlands. Analysing the maps, compiled by Vakhushti Batonishvili, J.Gvasalia justly pointed that "there were no villages with compact settlement of Ossets in the Shida Kartli foothills and lowlands, such villages were only at the mouths of the gorges." The territory populated with Ossets involved only a northern highland part of the so-called "South Ossetia". On the map, compiled by Georgian geographer Vakhushti Batonishvili in 1735, Ossetia was located beyond the Caucasus Ridge. The fact is of special mention that along with evidences preserved in the Georgian and foreign written sources, the verbal material, Ossetian

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1 Cited from: J.Gvasalia. Shida Kartli and the Ossetian problem. See the book: ‘The Issue of Ossets", p 95.

2 Kartlis Tskhovreba, vol. IV, Tb., 1973, pp 363-364

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folklore, architectural monuments of the Shida Kartli highlands, toponyms and epigraphic vividly proved migration of Ossets mostly from the XVII century. For example, an Ossetian scholar V.Abaev mentioned: "Historical and linguistic facts prove that Ksani Ossetians settlement in the present places of the Ksani Gorge took place not a long time ago, within last 200 years"1. Trace of the Ossetian culture was seen nowhere in Shida Kartli. All the architectural monuments there were Georgian. P.Zakaraia observed: "In that part of Shida Kartli, called "South Ossetia", everything, taken out from the earth by archaeologists and all the monuments erected overland, was Georgian. This pointed to Georgians always living there. If anyone created anything there, it was all Georgian. The traces of other nations were seen here only in regard to destruction and destroy"2. One of the oldest big churches, which after many reconstructions and changes reached us in the form of a cupola church, is Nikozi church. It is located near Tskhinvali. Its walls preserve fragments of Georgian inscriptions. It was first built in the V century. According to the evidence of Georgian chronicler Juansher, King Vakhtang Gorgasali "built the church of Nikozi in place of St Razhden burial and put a bishop there"3. Thus, King Vakhtang constructed the church of Nikozi in the place, where the altar was formerly erected for fire and St Razhden was buried. Vakhushti Batonishvili also gave us evidence on construction of Nikozi church: "The king put Petre as bishop in Mtskheta and Samoel as bishop in the upper church and he also put other bishops: in Klarjeti, Erusheti, Tsuna, Manglisi, Bolnisi, Rustavi, Ninotsminda, Cherami, Cheleti, Khornabuji, Agaraki, Nikozi at St Razhden burial place"4. Thus, Vakhushti named the Georgian land plots where the King "put" bishops. Epigraphic monuments of the Shida Kartli highlands give grounds for making analogous conclusions. Prof. G.Otkhmezuri has studied 32 epigraphic monuments of this region. Inscriptions on these monuments are nearly all Georgian (only very few of them are Greek and Armenian). The oldest inscription is dated of the VIII century, majority of them”of the IXX cc. We can come across many Georgian inscriptions made in the XVIII century as well. No trace of the Ossetian population is seen here. Study of epigraphic monuments of the Shida Kartli highlands enabled Prof. G.Otkhmezuri to make the following conclusion: "The Georgian

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1 V.Abaev. The Ossetian language and folklore, M., 1959, p 501.

2 P.Zakaraia. On the history of Shida Kartli highlands architecture, see the book: "The Issue of Ossets", Tb., 1996, p 125

3 Kartlis Tskhovreba, vol.I, p 199 4 Ibid., vol. IV, pp 113-114

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inscriptions are scattered all around the territory of the former South Ossetian autonomous region…As the epigraphic monuments clarify, the population here was Georgian. The region was governed by the eristavis or local grand feudals, who were Georgians and the language of state and church was Georgian1". That Shida Kartli and, namely, its highlands, was populated with Georgians from the time immemorial, was witnessed by expanded geographic names, i.e. toponyms, along with other factors. These names were of oldest Georgian origin and embraced many centuries. Toponyms are one, if not the only, of the measures to determine settlement of a nation in the long past in any region. Most renowned Georgian historian S.Janashia said: "Toponymy was the only source for determining the composition of the Georgian population for the period, when there were no written sources as of yet"2. Formation of the Georgian language toponyms in the Shida Kartli territory implied settlement of the Georgian population on this territory from the time immemorial. According to the research works by Georgian scholars, in mid and upper parts of Liakhvi, Ksani and the other gorges, i.e. the places in later periods settled by Ossets, a major part of geographical names was formed according to the Georgian language. Many toponyms, namely, Kutskhoveti, Chkhoreti, Satskhumeti, Chkhuneti, Tskhmori, Geri, Pachuri, Lapachi, Largvisi, Laguri and others, which are spread on the territory of the former South Ossetian autonomous district, are of Svan and Chan-Megrelian origin. It is supposed that "Shida Kartli probably represented that part of the territory, where the old Kartvelian language divided into Georgian, Svan and Zan languages"3. In general, Shida Kartli and its highlands are overfilled with toponyms. "Change of the names took place on the territories, where Ossets were occupying the desolated and unused places4. After formation of the South Ossetian autonomous district, struggle started against the Georgian toponyms and in some cases it was successful. Fortunately, the evidences on the old Georgian toponyms are preserved both in Georgian and foreign written sources. Migration of Ossets to inner lowlands of Kartli started from the end of the XVIII century and this process continued within entire XX century.

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1 G.Othkhmezuri. Shida Kartli highlands toponymy, see the book: "The Issue of Ossets", p 156.

2 S.Janashia.Works, vol. III, Tb., 1929, p 117.

3 J.Gvasalia. Essays historical geography of East Georgia (Shida Kartli), Tb., 1983, p 168. Cited: K.Kharadze.Against forgery of toponyms in Shida Kartli, see the book: "The Issue of Ossets", p 167.

4 . K.Kharadze. Op.cit. p 167.

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This was promoted, along with Ossets strivings for populating Kartli fertile fields, by the interests of some Georgian feudals”to increase the number of serfs in their estates emptied in result of numerous attacks of enemies and intrafeudal wars. The evidence brought from "Life-Will" of Iese Baratashvili, secretary to King Erekle, pointed to this: "I have sent a man to Ossetia to get Ossets, for which I spent much money, they promise, but are not seen yet, thus I try to increase the amount of serfs". The Georgian population reduced considerably due to permanent wars and mostly to raids of Lezghins, so that King Erekle II was forced to bring Ossets from North Caucasus and to form conditions favorable for them. He even granted rank of a noble to certain Osset Tujuki Kudukhashvili for assisting in bringing Ossets to Georgia. In the XVII-XVIII centuries and the first half of the XIX century Ossets lived in Georgia generally in a small amount. Mass migration of Ossets to Georgia from their historical home land”North Ossetia”started from 1860. Reliable evidences, based on trustworthy sources, are given in the Encyclopedia by Brockhaus and Effron. They say that in 1860 the amount of Ossets living in North Ossetia was 46 802 and in Georgia, namely, in the Kartli highlands”19 3241. So, in that period, there lived 2, 5 times more Ossets in North Ossetia than in Georgia. According to the same encyclopedia by the evidences of 1833 there lived in the Russian Empire 35 750 Ossets and if we take into consideration the proportions mentioned above, then in 1833 the amount of Ossets in Georgia equaled 14 000. According to other sources of the same period, there lived 14 000 Ossets in Georgia2. Earlier, by the beginning of the XIX century there lived 25 000 Ossets in the Russian Empire3. The information on the amount of Ossets by 1880, cited from this encyclopedia, is most interesting for us in regard to migration of Ossets to Georgia for settling there. In particular, in 1880, according to the data of the Caucasian statistics committee, in North Ossetia there lived 58 926 and in Georgia”already 51 988 Ossets. Therefore, within 20 years”from 1860 to 1880”the amount of Ossets in North Ossetia increased by 12 000, i.e. only by 1, 2 times, in Georgia”by 33 000, i.e. by 2, 7 times. In North Ossetia 47 000 Ossets increased only by 27 000 within 20 years, while in Georgia the amount of Ossets living there in far less number, namely 19 000, increased by 33 000. Such natural growth of the population could not have happened in such a short period. That means that in that period Ossets come to live in Georgia from North Ossetia in large amounts. We can determine the amount

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1 Encyclopedic dictionary, vol. XXII, St.Petersburg, 1897, p 263

2 The newspaper "Tiflisskie vedomosti", #72, 183o

3 A.Goldstein.Castles in the mountains, M., 1977, p 283

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of Ossets that came to live. In the end of the 70s of the XIX century there were born annually average 35, 7 babies and 14, 3 persons died per each 1000 Ossets1. Thus, natural growth in Ossets per each 1000 equaled 21, 4 persons. If we admit that within these 20 years annually natural growth was 21, 4 per each 1000 Ossets, then in 1880 the amount of Ossets in Georgia should have been 29 014. That year the amount of Ossets in Georgia was 23 000 more, which made up the amount of Ossets from North Ossetia together with their natural growth. We can also make rough calculations. If in 1860 the amount of Ossets in Georgia equaled 19 000 and in 1880”52 000, then in that period there lived annually in Georgia approximately average 35 000 Ossets; within a year natural growth of Ossets in Georgia made up 749 (35 x 21, 4) and within 20 years 14 980. If in 1860-1880 the amount of Ossets in Georgia increased by 33 000 and natural growth was 14 980, then it is clear that the rest 18 020 Ossets, i.e. as many as there lived in Georgia in general in 1860, were migrated from North Ossetia. Here we should take into consideration one essential moment. We have already mentioned that in the 1870s within a year 14, 3 died per each 1000 Ossets living in Georgia. This indicator of the death rate was very low for that period. It is twice higher among the representatives of other ethnic groups. To explain this we should take into consideration that Ossets coming to live in Georgia from North Caucasus were mainly healthy and of young and middle age, among whom the death rate is low. Well-known Russian scholars G.Chursin, V.Pfaf, N.Dubrovin, L.Zagurski and others consider Ossets to be migrants from North Ossetia to Shida Kartli. In G.Chursin's opinion, "On the territory of South Ossetia Ossets are comparatively newcomers. There lived other peoples there, which preserved memories about themselves in geographic names of many places"2. This opinion is also shared by Prof. V.Pfaf: "All the Transcaucasian Ossets remember that they migrated from the north"3. Both G.Chursin and V.Pfaf consider Ossets to be newcomers to Georgia, which migrated there mostly in the XIX century. As for the opinion of Acad. N.Dubrovin, he is well aware that there existed no South Ossetia and he mentioned about Southern Ossets as "the so-called". He wrote: "Due to lack of agricultural land plots, a part of Ossets migrated to the southern slopes of the Main Caucasus Ridge…Occupying the gorges of the rivers of Didi and Mtsire Liakhvi, Ksani and its tributaries, Ossets became serfs to the princes Eristavis and Machabelis. Just these migrants are the so-called South

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1 Collection of evidences on Caucasus, vol. IX, Tiflis, 1885, pp 238, 267

2 G. Chursin. Ossets, coll. South Ossetia, 1924, p 133

3 V.Pfaf. Ethnologic research on Ossets, coll. Of evidences on Caucasus, #2.

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Ossetian population"1. It is clear for an expert in the Caucasian studies that North Ossetia is a historical home country of Ossets: "Autochthonic Ossetia is located on the northern slopes of the Caucasus Ridge"2.

The Amount of Ossets in the Russian Empire

1833 1860 1880 1897
absolutely % absolutely % absolutely % absolutely %
Russian Empire 35750 100.0 66125 100.0 110914 100.0 171716 100.0
Among them Tergi region (mostly North Ossetia) 25450 72.0 46802 71.0 58926 53.0 96621 56.3
Georgia 10300 28.0 19324 29.0 51988 47.0 71508 41.6

Source: Encyclopedic dictionary, vol. XXII, St.Petersburg, 1897. A. Goldstein, Castles in the mountains, M., 1977, p 283. Ossetia and Ossetians, St.Petersburg, 1994. According to this source the amount of Ossets in Georgia in 1833 was 19 324. It should be a correction error, as in the encyclopedic dictionary published in St.Petersburg in 1897, in its volume XXII, the amount of Ossets in Georgia in 1860 was 19 324. The first national census in the Russian Empire in 1897. General code on the empire, vol. II, St.Petersburg, 1905, pp XV, 43.

In the XX century the opinion of Russian scholars on this issue did not change, as the facts give no opportunity to express different considerations. We have already mentioned above about the views of the Russian and Ossetian scholars on migration of Ossets from North Caucasus to Georgia in the beginning of the XVII century and, especially, in the second half of the XIX century. Among all these opinions we can point to the consideration of 1 N.Dubrovin. The history of war and rule of Russians in Caucasus, 1871, p 187 2 L.Zagurski. Administrative departments of the Caucasian region, Proceedings of the Caucasus department, Tbilisi, 1877-78, p 118. 20 scholar A.Goldstein, according to which Alans penetrated into the North Caucasian mountainous parts in the VI-IX cc and mixed up with the native population. In the X century they formed new people”Ossets and gave them their language and name”"assa", Georgians called Alans "Ossets" and their country”"Ossetia", from where the Russian name of this place and this people follows. Consequently, the language of Ossets comes from Alans, their culture, customs and psychic composition is mostly the same as of the highlanders of North-East Caucasus: Vainahs, Dagestanians, Georgians living in northern part of Georgia. A considerable part of Alania in the XVII century was dependent on Georgia. In the X-XII centuries Christianity spread from Georgia in highland Ossetia. Georgians built churches there. Scholar V.Pfaf came across one of such remarkable churches in a remote gorge. According to the elements of decor and other traits the church was dated by the XI century. In the XIII century Alans living in the river Don basin and lowlands of Front Caucasus got a fatal blow from the raids of Tatar-Mongols. Their lands were occupied by the Golden Horde. Alans were completely annihilated by Tamerlane in the end of the XIV century. After weakening of Tatars the steppes of Front Caucasus were occupied by Kabardinians. Within the XV-XVIII centuries a permanent war was ongoing between Kabardinians and Ossets. Kabardinians conquered the foothill lowlands of Ossetia and started penetration into the mountain gorges. Ossets living in foothill and lowland places subordinated to Kabardinian power, adopted Islam and started paying contribution to Kabardinian feudals. The highland region population living in remote places difficult for access was destined to poor wretched existence. In that period Ossets moved to the southern part of the Caucasus Ridge (the present territory of the South Ossetian autonomous district of the Georgian Soviet Republic), where they usually became serfs to the Georgian feudals1. The fate of Ossets, forced to be in the most distressed condition by Kabardinians, attracted the attention of many European travelers. For example, Jacob Rainegs (1744-1793) mentioned: "Kabardinians, being in the period of independence owners of plain territories, forced Ossets to work as their serfs and sold them as soon as managed to catch them. There still exist old Ossets, who are afraid and do not leave their mountains and never worry about whether there exist any other world and people except Caucasus and themselves"2. It is natural that Ossets living in the remote gorges of the Caucasus Ridge moved to live to the southern slopes of the

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1 A.Goldstein. Castles in the mountains, M., 1977, pp 282-283.

2 Jacob Rainegs. Travel to Georgia, Tb., 2002, pp 208-209.

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Caucasus Ridge, highlands of Shida Kartli due to hard living conditions and permanent feeling of fear. Then to improve their conditions they started moving to lowlands and settled on the lands of the Georgian feudals as migrants. A famous French traveler Jean Chardin, who visited Georgia in 1672-1673, mentioned that Alans lived to the north of the Caucasus Ridge1. He, certainly, meant Ossets in those Alans. The information about Ossets, living on the slopes of the Caucasus Mountains, was also presented by German scholar-traveler Moriz Wagner, who visited Caucasus in 1843-1846, in Tpilisi to earn some money through carrying baggage and doing other hard jobs to accumulate some money and to return back to the mountains"2. The present Tskhinvali region was entirely Georgian territory, which is clearly seen from the work by Ottoman author Gurjizade "The Book of Tbilisi Conquest". The book involves information important for the history of Kartli in the first quarter of the XVIII century. Gurjizade mentioned that King of Kartli Vakhtang VI was in his domain”known as Tskhinvali, Georgians’ vast places for hunting. It was just the very place where the Ottoman army "approached the place called Tskhinvali. Georgians, revolted against Islam preferred fight to talks"3. As we have mentioned above, the issue of Ossets’ migration from their historical home country North Ossetia to Georgia causes no doubts in the Georgian written sources and works by Georgian scholars. But here we mostly preferred to present views of only Osetian and Russian scholars. One fact should be mentioned in regard to this issue. The Georgian word "daosebuli" appeared in the Georgian speech from the period of Ossets migration into Georgia. According to the explanatory dictionary of the Georgian language the word "daosebuli" means very tired, exhausted, very weakened. Ossets that migrated to Georgia were very weak due to extreme poverty. This fact too, we think, points to migration of Ossets. Generally, ethnic names in the Georgian speech are often used for negative evaluations, e.g. Judah, Hurria, Chachan, Javakh, etc. We think the material cited is enough for elucidation of the problem under analysis and in other chapters of our book we cite analogous considerations of the Georgian, Ossetian, Russian and European scholars. From the 60s of the XIX century mass migration of Osets started to Georgia. They settled in the lowlands of Kartli having no restrictions in this. Compact settlements of Ossets appeared on the right bank of the river

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1 Travel of Chardin, Tb., 1975, p 294.

2 Moriz Wagner on Georgia. Tb., 2002, pp 33-34.

3 Gurjizade. "The Book of Tbilisi Conquest", Tb., 1975, pp 26-28.

22

Mtkvari in the regions of present Kareli and Borjomi (e.g. 71 Ossets lived in Bakuriani in 1885), etc.

An Ossetian scholar G.Togoshvili said that "Ossets tried to purchase land plots from landowners, to settle as migrants on the state-owned lands. This, surely, does not concern South Ossetians. Like the XVIII century situation, Ossets of Tagauri seemed to be much interested in migration to Georgia" Settlement of Trialeti Ossets is dated by the 40-50s of the XIX century"1. The relevant documents witnessed that in the end of the XIX century the Ossetian villages were formed in Kakheti as well. An Ossetian scholar Prof. B.Kaloev mentioned about it:"Within the XIX century a great amount of Ossets settled in the Georgia’s regions of Dusheti and Gori; in the beginning of the XX century more than 30 Ossetian settlements were formed on the territory of Zeda (Upper) and Kveda (Lower) Kakheti. These Ossets settled on the princes' lands"2. Intensive settlement of Ossets on the territory of the Kartli and Kakheti lowlands continued within the entire XX century. If in 1926 the amount of Ossets in Georgia was 113 000 and 60 000 from them lived on the territory of the former South Ossetian autonomous district and 53 000 beyond its borders, in 1989 their amount was already 164 000, among them 65 000 in the former autonomous district, nearly 100 000 beyond its borders, mostly in the cities and regions of East Georgia. If we analyze the data mentioned above, w'll first of all turn our attention to the fact that in 1926-1989 the amount of Ossets in the former autonomous district did not increase much“ by 4,8 thousand, i.e. 8%, beyond its borders in Georgia“ by 47 000, i.e. 87%. That was because a part of Ossets moved from the former autonomous district to live in the cities and regions of Georgia. That means ethnic mastering of the territory of Georgia by Ossets continued intensively within the entire XX century. Just in result of this, according to the data of the 1989 year census, Ossets made up 15% of the entire population in Kareli region, in Akhmeta region” 11%, in the regions of Gori and Kaspi”10-10%, of Lagodekhi and Borjomi”8-8 %, etc. The amount of Ossets largely increased in Tbilisi. If in 1886 there lived 314 Ossets in Tbilisi and 1446 “ in 1922, the amount of Ossets living in the capital of Georgia in 1989 was already 33 000. That means that within one century their amount in Tbilisi increased by 105 times, over last 60 years”by 23 times. According to 1989 year census only half of Ossets living in Tbilisi (16 000) were born there.

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1 G.Togoshvili. The relations of Georgian and Ossetian peoples in 1801-1921, Tb., 1969, p 26.

2 B.Kaloev. The Ossets, M., 1967, p 61, cited from S.Lekishvili, op.cit., p 271.

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Ossets migrated to Georgia through different ways. Prof. N.Berdzenishvili considered a main way of their appearance in Georgia from North Caucasus was the way Didi Liakhvi gorge”Dvaleti. The routes of this way are given in the Georgian historical sources and in the works of Vakhushti Batonishvili. This is very essential, because as Ossetian professor G.Togoshvili mentions "Even now some scholars consider Ossets in Kartli came from Darubandi and think groundless the consideration of their movement by the western way"1. Prof. D.Gvritishvili dedicated a special work to this issue. According to his consideration, based on the evidences of historian-travelers and on his personal observations, the ways and paths from North Caucasus mostly passed the gorge of the rivers Aragvi, Ksani, Patara Liakhvi and Didi Liakhvi and from there towards the Kartli fields. Main passes in the mentioned gorge were: 1. Rocki pass, which connected Didi Liakhvi gorge with Ossetia; 2. Bakh-Pandagi pass, leading westwards of Rocki; this way was called by Ossets "horse way", unlike "bullock cart way", "sledge way", "path way", because "bakh" in Ossetian means "horse" and "pandag" "way".Westwards to Bakh-Pandagi pass there was located Zekari pass, which joins Rocki pass; 3. Dzedo pass, which divides into several branches. One joins Rocki pass at Khvela, another joins Java-Oni, the so-called "chaavali" pass, it passes to Oni; 4. Mamisoni pass, through which Ossetian Military Road passed the Ardoni Gorge. This way was most intensively used and it was much reinforced by Georgians; 5. Sbi pass, which passing different gorges in the end joins Rocki and Kobi passes. Along with these main ways there were also minor ways as well. Through them Ossets could have relations with Georgia. Those, who owned these ways and paths, could also exercise control over the territory. Therefore, the state authorities of Georgia permanently took care for reinforcement of these passes, "to protect them from Ossets". When Georgia failed to defend this border of the north, the result was proper. Georgia lost the above-mentioned regions, where Ossets settled, which migrated from the north"2.

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1 G.Togoshvili. Nico Berdzenishvili and some aspects of Georgia-Ossetia relations, see the book: Research of the history of Georgia and Caucasus, Tb., 1976, p 39.

2 D.Gvritishvili. On the issue of Dvals identity and Ossets migration, see the book: Observer, I, Tb., 1949, p 118.

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ABORIGINAL POPULATION OF TSKHINVALI

 

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