10 აგვისტო, 2009
რამოდენიმე წუთის წინ ეკა-ლის საკმაოდ ემოციური და მძაფრი სტატია წავიკითხე გასული აგვისტოს ომთან დაკავშირებით. მან ჩემზე დიდად იმოქმედა და სურვილი გამიჩინა ურაკის ფურცლებზე ამ ტრაგიკული ისტორიის გახსენებაში ჩემი მოკრძალებული წვლილიც შემომეტანა.
ეს წერილი დაახლოებით ერთი წლის წინ დავწერე ამერიკელი მკითხველებისათვის. ქართული ვარიანტიც მქონდა, მაგრამ კომპიუტერში ვეღარ ვიპოვნე. ამიტომაც ინგლისურად გთავაზობთ. ეს ენა ბევრმა საკმაოდ კარგად იცით და იმედი მაქვს წაკითხვა არ გაგიჭირდებათ.
War that can be won without bloodshed
On the 6th of august we celebrated my eldest daughter’s farewell party at a particularly cozy pizza shop. Nino had decided to finish her senior year of high school in her homeland. Her American best friends first protested this “madness”, then said their goodbyes; weeping bitter tears and firmly promising to visit Tbilisi very soon. I was awaiting august 10th with contradictory feelings. On this day Nino was flying home through Kiev…
We are Georgians and this is our story.
They say during conflicts that everyone has their own truths. It is not quite so. There are always different points of view, but there’s only one truth. I’ll share my opinion and let’s try to find the truth together.
Any information that doesn’t suit the Kremlin is turned into pro-American and pro-western lies by the Russian officials and press. Russia tries to win over, confuse, or at least neutralize the western population. They have partially reached their goal. The calculation is simple. In a democratic western environment, to express different and often radical opinions from their government is the fundamental right of the people. Moscow puts this biggest achievement of civilization, freedom of speech, in its military arsenal and uses it quite successfully. But on its own territory, this is never allowed.
“Long live Stalin! He cares for us and we will obey him without question!” That was the Soviets’ outlook then and unfortunately now as well. There is a poll in Russia in search of a public figure that best represents their nation. Do you know who’s in the lead? Yes, my friends, you guessed right! Only Tsar Nicolas the second competes with Joseph Stalin and only for his Martyr’s death.
Georgia is a multi national country. Many different people have lived there for thousands of years. We Georgians also speak in more or less different dialects. The Kremlin decided to use even this to question our nationality. “Divide and conquer!” This is the basic principle of all empires. The Russians have not discovered anything new. They’ve tried to plant the seed of hostility among the multi-national population of the tiny Georgia for a long time now. This does not only include the Ossetians and Abkhazians. They’re slowly feeding us the idea that Megrelians and Svans aren’t really Georgians either. Since they accomplished nothing from inside the country, they talk to us through the international newspapers. “The local Svan population(Svan, not Georgian!), who speak a language close to Georgian, if you ever want to return to Kodori gorge, submit yourselves to the Abkhazian government.” This is a call by the of de facto Abkhazian president, Bagapsh.
Now the Russians not only have the right to invade the independent neighboring country but to decide their nationality as well. This is our answer, “caring” gentlemen: Don’t bother yourselves and don’t attack us with tanks to protect our interests! We are all Georgians.
The Kremlin knows they can’t win the Svans over. This is why they started to rewrite our history. Through my internet research, I ‘uncovered’ that the Svans had come to the Caucasus in the 10th century A.D. But from where, it has never been unearthed. Russians probably haven’t thought that up yet. Luckily, lies run on short legs. Greek historians, Herodotus and Strabo had mentioned the existence of Svans among other Georgian tribes on the shores of the Black sea as early as 5th century B.C. Probably, like the American and the Western European journalists, these Ancient Greeks were also bribed by Saakashvili. What long arms the Georgian President must have! Even a 2,500 year long time difference can’t stop him.
Let’s leave ancient history behind, and return to this reality. The Georgians never had problems with Ossetians and Abkhazians. How do I know this? First of all, I was born in the town of Gagra, which happens to be located in Abkhazia. My father is from Gali, and my mother is from Ochamchira. My husband is part Russian, and you wouldn’t be able to distinct my children from true American teenagers. For our family, the nightmare in Georgia is not only news for our entertainment, but a personal tragedy. We know the intimate details of what caused this horror.
The way the media perceives how all this started is that Georgia fell for Russia’s provocations and brought this war upon itself by doing so. And Russia merely responded to this action. Let’s remember the facts. President Saakashvili has been warning the world against Russia’s preparation for war against Georgia for a long time. But Georgia’s allying countries took this caution as an over exaggeration. Meanwhile the Ossetians intensified their armed offensive on Georgian Villages (Even though they had always been attacking here and there). 6 policemen were killed. Many civilians were wounded. In response, Georgians took 19 ambassadors of various countries to those locations so they could see what was going on with their own eyes. Wasn’t this a very peaceful and democratic step? But the situation couldn’t be helped by the verbal outrage of those American and European ambassadors. So how do you explain the fact that the Ossetians had started the evacuation of Tskhinvali a few days before war broke out? But I’m sure that the Russians will find a ‘logical’ explanation for this too.
Saakashvili says that the Georgian troops were allowed to go into combat only after the Russian tanks had breached our borders. For the record, Georgia is well protected by the Caucasian mountains from Russia. So the only way our northern neighbor could invade our territories was through the Roki Tunnel, which is located in territories controlled by separatists.
The Georgian army could stop the invasion and close our border only by crossing Tskhinvali. The Russians are talking about ethnical cleaning. What genocide could there be when Tskhinvali was already evacuated, and the Georgian forces were desperately rushing to block off the Roki Tunnel.. The American trained and well equipped Georgian army easily defeated its foes, liberated 70% of the South Ossetian territory and clashed with the 58th army of Russia.
Despite all of this, the pointlessness of this military confrontation was clear from the very beginning. Numbers defined the outcome this time. If the entire Georgian army stayed and fought to the very end like the three hundred Spartans had, it still wouldn’t be able to stop Russia’s countless forces. The key factor was actually the massive airstrikes by the Russian aviators. Saakashvili later confessed that despite his expectation of the empires aggression, he still couldn’t imagine the vastness of this invasion. No one thought that Russia, hidden behind a mask of civility, could dare to use such barbaric methods in the twenty-first century.
It’s unbelievable, but a fact none the less. The small Georgian army held off the huge Russian forces for three days. Severe battling broke out near the deserted Tskhinvali. The majority of the damage was a result of this assault. When the aggression from the Roki Tunnel failed, they decided to enter our lands through Abkhasia. (This was the reason why the Russians had reconstructed the railway of Abkhasia in July!!!) When it became apparent that the Kremlin’s aim was to conquer Tbilisi and replace its legitimately elected government, Saakashili immediately called all troops to defend the capital.(Remember, we have very small army.)
In the second conflict zone, Abkhazia, the Georgians didn’t even have any troops. At the president’s order, police forces had to leave as well. These mountain villages, inhabited by 100% Georgians and Svans, are now completely abandoned. For the record, Abkhazians never lived in these territories.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is a sticky situation. Saakashvili knew ahead of time that NATO wouldn’t send in troops to back up Georgia. Both America’s and Europe’s reaction proves this. It was no secret that tiny Georgia couldn’t win a war against the giant Russia. So what happened? How can anyone think that this war was started by none other than Georgia? I’ll tell you how: Didn’t you know that right before WWII little Poland had attacked the armed-to-the-teeth Germany? The Nazis were merely defending themselves. The Russians are using that same exact logic. It seems that this same event has come to pass more than once in the course of history. May I remind you of a fable by Aesop which tells us of an ‘insolent’ lamb who tiered up the ‘poor wolf’s drinking water? Of course, the fact that the wolf was on a high ledge, and the lamb below him and downstream, had no meaning. What mattered most was that the wolf was hungry.
Every single serious politician today acknowledges that Russia has been preparing this aggression for a long time now. The Kremlin’s goal was to destroy the pro-western government of Saakashvili.
Genocide! The people of Georgia had never committed genocide, and never will. Do you know why I’m so certain? Because I know the heart and soul of my own people. This isn’t Russia, where the terrorized people blindly obey whatever their leaders tell them.
Even if Saakashvili or any other official would ordered Georgians to physically assault their neighbors of different race or religion, the population would never obey. Among us, everyone thinks independently and takes responsibility for their actions. This is a national habit and Georgian ideology has been based on it for thousands of years. This individual freedom of Georgian men sometimes gets in the way of our unity, although on most occasions, it serves the nation well.
In the beginning of the twentieth century, when the Russian empire was raiding and slaughtering its Jewish communities, the so called “black units” arrived in south Caucasus also. Our people cast out these bloodthirsty religious fanatics from our country. In those dark times, the Jews in Georgia survived the raids.
Now, when not just conflict zones, but all of Georgia was bombed and Russian tanks cruise in civilian areas, Georgian Jews come out in protest in the streets of Israel and show support to their Georgian brothers and sisters.
A couple of days ago, Col. General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, the deputy head of the Russian military’s general staff nationally announced: “Tskhinvali doesn’t exist, it’s like Stalingrad was after the war.” According to the Russians, Georgians even killed 2,000 Ossetian civilians. I’ve never believed this for one second. My suspicions were soon proved true. After the cease-fire, foreign journalists entered Tskhinvali searching for evidence of genocide in vain. The town itself didn’t look like Stalingrad at all. It couldn’t even compare with the outskirts of Beirut after the Israeli military operation. The journalists didn’t even see significant damage in the hospital the Georgians supposedly bombed. The Russians claimed it had been damaged on the inside, but wouldn’t let them in to see. I wonder why.
If you ask me, it’s hard to find anyone braver than international journalists. The fact that Tbilisi has not fallen yet is not all thanks to NATO but the troops of “annoying” journalists, armed with cameras. Five of them have already given their lives to defend my country. Fourteen of them are injured. Is it not significant that all of them had fallen victim to Russian and South Ossetian guns, never Georgians?
We are free people and so aren’t afraid of the free press. On the contrary, we put our hopes on them. Come see, take pictures, dig deeper, investigate, find the truth, and tell the world. McClatchy journalist, Tom Lasseter stated in his report on the 17th of august that “The difference between Russian officials’ description of Tskhinvali and the facts on the ground are profound.” The Ossetian doctor in charge of the morgue was forced to admit that after the Georgian attack, there were no more than 44 dead. A single dead man is one too much, so why does the Russian government try to exaggerate the death toll? Where did the 2,000+ supposed genocide victims run off to? Oddly enough, Georgians and not Ossatians are demanding an investigation on that. But the Russians are doing everything in their power to get in the way of reporters. The only journalists who are permitted in the hot zone at the moment are those who have been approved by the Russian Foreign Ministry and only on a very short leash. Behold, my friends, the world of Russia.
Rachel Denber, deputy director for Europe and Asia at Human Rights Watch says: “Obviously there’s a discrepancy there, a big discrepancy…It’s not clear to us at all where those numbers (2,000 dead civilians!) are coming from.”
On the 19th of august, Matias Iorsh, the head of Monitoring Group of European Council, said that it was Russia who committed ethnic cleansing in Tskhinvali, during his meeting with the state minister of Georgia on re-integration, Temur Yakobashvili.
The question of ethnic cleansing and genocide was made clear for everyone. The truth in this matter is vouched by even Russian occupants and the separatists they protect. Just ask the people of Tbilisi what they think about Ossetians and Abkhazians. Then repeat this question to the separatists and you’ll find out who’s sustained by hatred. Georgians call them brothers. In return, separatists (not people!) promise to cut their throuts.
Genocide has taken place in my country before, and is occurring once more. The Russian occupants and separatists are the ones who are reaping havoc on the Georgian population. At the beginning of the 1990’s, more than 400,000 people were run out of Abkhazia. Out of this sum, around 250,000 were ethnical Georgians. This event repeated itself in South Ossetia. And today’s aggression has forced roughly 158,000 people to lose their homes. Most of which happen to be ethnical Georgians as well.
But I agree with the Russians on one point: Let’s ask the citizens of Abkhazia, and not only ethnic Abkhazians, most of whom are on our side by the way, but are rightfully afraid of opening their mouths, with who would they prefer to exist, the Russians or the Georgians. But Russia would never want to do this. Georgia’s multicultural country has no alternative rout. The Kremlin knows this. The Kremlin is driven mad by this. The Kremlin is terrified by it.
If there is no ethnic problem in Georgia to even speak of, then what’s going on? I’ll tell you what. It is about the division of the world on spheres of influence. We became the victim of the big game. If anyone ever believed that all of this had died with the past century, Russia’s bombs shook them right out of it.
This war is not only about the existence of an ancient country. This is much more complicated than that. Putin’s authoritarian Russia challenges the western civilization and its first clash happened in Georgia. The only oil pipeline from Central Asia to Western Europe which Russia cannot control, runs through Georgia. This is our gift and our curse. Otherwise, Russia wouldn’t be going mad over us. It wants to dominate Europe, and little democratic Georgia is standing in its path.
In some articles on the internet, a number of Westerners compare America with Russia, especially when spheres of influence are concerned. Have you gone mad, my friends? You’d better snap out of this hypnotic trance. Remember what values the Western world cherishes, and what Russia is trying to thwart. Do American soldiers rob and kill Iraqi and Afghan civilians? Do they steal toilet seats and old mattresses? This is exactly what Russians do. So, don’t talk about things you have no knowledge of and don’t insult your own soldiers. Do you think that in Putin’s regime you’d be able to speak your minds? You wouldn’t dare to open your mouth, and even if you did, you’d find yourselves sharing the fate of Vlad Listiev and Politkovskaya. I understand that even today, Russia’s democrats and political activist are standing up against the aggression with which Georgia has been treated, and I am amazed by their bravery, for they are facing literal elimination. But sadly, there’s an obvious shortage of such valiant people in Russia.
How can you talk about the ‘spheres of influence’ in the 21st century? You say that America does exactly the same things as Russia. Let me ask you something; does Mexico politically depend on USA? Does America invade this southern neighbor if she disapproves of some decision Mexico made? I don’t think so. Stop confusing people and come back to the 21st century reality. The time for ‘spheres of influence’ should have died along with the past century. Today, every country, big or small, should have equal rights on which path it chooses, and this is fair! This is the right that America stands for. You should accept this, defenders of old despotism!
The foreign minister of Russia called Georgia’s current government “America’s project”. Mr. Lavrov was mistaken. This project has a much deeper history. It was begun in the sunny streets of Athens, and went by the name of Democracy, which means, people rule.
Georgia was always drawn to Europe. Something like “America’s project” has existed among us for a long time. We have tried to find allies at the court of Luis XIV. Then, the Sun King had no interest in our small country. Later, for the same reasons, Georgia contacted the Christian Orthodox Russia and in the year of 1783 we signed Tractate of Friendship in Georgyevsk. Unfortunately this friendship lasted only for 18 years. In 1801 Russia swallowed Georgia up, but couldn’t quite digest it. At the beginning of the 20th century we won back our freedom, but for only a short time. Thanks to Europe’s ignorance, the Red Russia conquered Georgia once more. Our independent government fled to France. Georgia continued its fight for independence throughout the soviet period. Our dissidents were rotting alive in prison while the rest of us secretly listened to the Voice of America.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, we are independent once more, and will not give up our freedom under any circumstances. We are not America’s or anyone else’s “project”. We will fight for freedom with the last drops of our blood. I will not reveal a big secret by saying that America and Western Europe are centers of democracy. It is natural that we want to join them. At one time I believed that Russia wanted to do the same. It would have been wonderful and beneficial to the whole world. Unfortunately we were all mistaken. It’s all right, maybe one day they’ll come to their senses.
Americans and Westerners, do you believe that your countries are threatening Russia? This is nonsense and nothing more. But for some unknown reason, Russia still needs the image of an enemy and fights with an imaginary foe. There is only one world and everyone has the right to live in it, big and small. In the 90s, the West honestly helped Russia overcome its problems. Do you consider this a confrontation? Russia is a very wealthy country and has nothing to pity. In terms of honest economic development, it’s guaranteed a worthy life. Then why does it need a whole monopoly of energy sources and why does it try to have Europe under its control? Who does it want to use this against? Why does one need to reach for full hegemony when you can be part of one big family, possibly the richest one? The reason for Russia’s aggressive behavior is not only greediness. When something doesn’t suit the Kremlin, it shuts down the pipelines or raises its price unreasonably. Georgia has often tasted these energy mixed politics during severe winter times. If Moscow has its way now, stopping it in the future will be even harder. If Russia wins, forget old Europe, forget freedom and “people ruling”. What the Kremlin orders, you will sing. This is both painful and degrading. America would also have to give up its leading position in the world.
Some columnists compare the current situation in Georgia to Iraq and Afghanistan and threaten the people with a long uncertain war. Such ideas astonish us. I’m sure these people have never set foot in Georgia. A couple of days ago, I read Ilan Greenberg’s article titled ‘Big Love’. Here is what a person who knows Georgians writes: “Georgia is something like the Italy of the former Soviet Union, where mothers are considered saints and histrionic displays of emotion are proudly approved, where traffic police refuse to write tickets to pregnant women and grown men worship fresh produce…” In the same article, we learn from Lincoln Mitchell, an assistant professor of politics at Columbia university, who lived in the country of Georgia for nearly a decade, that: “Georgia’s light burnishes bright in a dark neighborhood. Many expats in Georgia have lived in other former Soviet republics, where national narratives feel like horror stories set against a Georgian island of magical realism. Scenes of sullen Slavs hammering vodka shots give way in Georgia to boisterous celebrations of copious wine, joke-telling as blood-sport, and supreme hospitality.”
I’ll give you one more quote. Ceil Brody, from New Jersey says: “Once you experience the culture (Georgian), you can’t help but fall deep for the people.”
Does all this remind you of Iraq or Afghanistan at all? Of course we all pity and feel deeply sympathetic toward the peaceful people of these wounded countries, but we certainly can’t suspect them of love for the Western way of life. There, even women, covered with black robes, pose a potential threat to the international forces. Georgians, on the other hand, are America’s natural allies because we share the same values. I don’t only mean Saakashvili’s government, but the entire population.
Everyone in the Western governments knows who the aggressors are and who the victims are. But Russia’s hypocrisy must have boundaries. Several years ago, the Kremlin handed out passports to south Ossetians and Abkhasians who lived among Georgians on our historic territories. (Exactly how Germany did in Czechoslovakia before WWII). Then, it provoked us and using the excuse of protecting “their citizens” invaded our country. (Putin followed Adolf Hitler’s steps once more.) Not only did Russia occupy the conflict zones but the rest of Georgian land as well. They accuse us of genocide when in bright daylight they killed our civilians and foreign journalists with cluster bombs even after cease-fire. Majority of the casualties among Georgian civilians happen after the battles because according to old barbaric “war traditions” the Kremlin handed the conquered cities over to the separatist militia to pillage and plunder. Their trophies include toilet seats, dish detergents, and old clothes. President Medvedev awarded medals to these thieves and murderers, and announced that the punishment of Georgia will be written down in Russian history in golden letters.
Now tell me, after all this, how can we still talk about Russian peacekeepers? This would be the same as bringing in a wolf to herd the sheep. Russia is trying to steal one third of our small country and the UN gives them the name of peacekeepers, which pretty much legalizes their being on our land. This is absolutely intolerable. We will never agree with such hypocrisy. We simply can not let this happen. We must finish what we started. The so-called Russian “peacekeepers” should be replaced by neutral international forces. Only they will protect Georgians, Abkhazians and Ossetians without choosing sides. Only under such circumstances can true justice be revived.
How do we get out of this? Some say that Georgia wants to drag NATO into military confrontation. What political blindness! War is the last thing we need. After any serious fighting, there would be nothing left of our beautiful little country. God forbid this ever happen. But it will not help if the world only expresses verbal indignation and watches how Russia destroys Tbilisi from a distance. According to America’s Intelligence, we already know that Moscow has brought SS 21 missiles to south Ossetia and trained them on Georgia’s capital. Tbilisi has a population of over a million. NATO has a lot of political and economical leverage. I am sure that with the right calculation of forces and economical sanctions, NATO can put an end to Russia’s aggression toward Georgia without even firing one bullet. Let’s do this. Let’s be true citizens of the 21st century.
“The victorious Russia has found itself in complete isolation. That raises the question of whether it was a victory.” Comments Alexander Golts, a Moscow based independent military analyst.
No matter how much the Kremlin boasts, we Georgians don’t feel defeated. On the contrary, we won. Moscow didn’t reach its main goal, to replace our pro-western government. The past events opened the eyes of the world and revealed Russia’s true face. It might have come at a heavy price, but Georgia has still reached its current goals. We will never give up our freedom. Mikheil Saakashvili has made this clear. Today, the whole world supports Georgia. There will come a day when Russia will become a democratic country too. This is our hope and this is the only solution from this uneasy situation.
Friday, August 22, the Russian occupants began to pull back its troops. On their way out, they set fire to wheat fields while keeping Georgian firefighters away with machine guns. A few days ago, the Russian military aviation set fire to the Georgian forests, among them Borjomi’s internationally recognized forest reserve and the valley of Aten. About 500 hectares are completely burned to the ground. Unique evergreen breeds that were in the Red Book have been destroyed. Many animals were killed; among them black bears and harmless roebucks. Last night, the occupants burned Galmukhuri’s children’s camp. This is the ugly face of Moscow’s “peace mission”. When the Russians blew up Georgian ships, tons of oil leaked into the Black sea. These Barbarians are trying to cause an ecological catastrophe in our country. And this is a terrible crime, not only against Georgia, but the whole world.
The occupants aren’t even planning to leave the port city of Poti, which lies a 100 kilometers from the conflict zone. Even as we speak they are burning houses in Georgian villages in the so-called buffer zone around south Ossetia.
You should have seen the “prisoners of war” that they had released, majority of which were made up of severely beaten grandmas and grandpas over 70.
Today, Georgia needs the world’s support more than ever. Until the last occupant leaves our land and is replaced by a real international peacekeeper, there will be no rest in this region. And stability in Caucasus is in the best interests of the whole World.
Now your turn has come, our western friends, will you protect your own values and freedom?