Gamarjoba from Georgia: Separatist Movements

By Claire Kalikman

[dropcap]S[/dropcap]o what is Georgia?

Georgia: not the U.S. state, but the small Slavic country at the crossroads of western Asia and Eastern Europe. It is perhaps most prevalent in Americans’ minds from a recent episode of the show Veep.

Quick facts:

“Gamarjoba” means “hello”.

Georgians speak the Georgian language, a language with its own writing system.

The capital is Tibilisi.

The population is 3.7 million. Its physical size is about 27,000 square miles, a bit bigger than West Virginia.

The country is bounded by Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Turkey, and was formerly part of the Soviet Union.

The current governmental system is a unitary semi-presidential republic, meaning governance by a president, and a prime minister and cabinet.

The vast majority (80%) of the population belongs to the Orthodox Church, and the leader of the Church is the most respected individual in the country (90% approval rating).

Recent history: Separatist Movement / Annexation

As headlines have recently been dominated by news of the increasingly violent Catalonian separatist movement, we turn the lens to a less-often covered part of the world. The separatist movements in Georgia of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Joseph Stalin was an ethnic Georgian, and gave the two territories to the former Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic following the Bolshevik Revolution.

South Ossetia declared independence from Georgia during the 1991-2 South Ossetia War. Abkhazia declared its independence after its war with Georgia in 1992–1993. Neither declaration was recognized by Georgia.

The Human Rights Watch published in a 1995 report that, “Human Rights Watch takes no position concerning the causes of the conflict or the status of Abkhazia. It has, however, documented that both sides of the conflict showed reckless disregard for the protection of the civilian population, and are responsible for gross violations of international humanitarian law – the laws of war.”

In 2008 tensions flared up again in the Russo-Georgian War, as South Ossetians bombed a car full of Georgian peacekeepers. Russians backed the breakaway republic, and war ensued. Under the pretext of peace enforcement, Russia launched an invasion into Georgia in favor of South Ossetia. Abkhazia soon joined in and launched attacks against Georgia. Russia Today, a Russian propoganda site, said in a 2012 article, “Russia had to interfere in that conflict under its peacekeeping obligations. This interference quickly led to Georgia’s defeat and Russia recognized South Ossetia as an independent state, along with another breakaway republic, Abkhazia”. Ethnic cleansing by South Ossetians against ethnic Georgians ensued.

In 2008, the UN Security Council passed a resolution affirming support of Georgia’s sovereignty and borders, and urged a peaceful resolution.

Nicolas Sarkozy, then-President of France, negotiated a ceasefire that same year. Russian forced withdrew, but Russians still recognized the two territories as separate republics. This caused Georgia to sever diplomatic ties with Russia.

Georgia now officially sees these two regions as Georgian, but under Russian military occupation. Few member-states of the UN aside from Russia recognize independence. Interestingly, many other breakaway territories recognize the independence of South Ossetia and of Abkhazia.

In 2015 The New York Times reported that the International Criminal Court may try to prosecute people involved in the war, with a “primary focus..on officials from South Ossetia and Georgia, not on Russian troops who backed the Ossetians in Georgia.” Nothing has yet come of these efforts.

Transnistria (of Moldova), Artsakh (a territory of Azerbaijan under Armenian control trying gain its own independence), and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic

(a partially-recognized republic in Western Sahara). It remains to be seen if the somewhat-successful Catalonian movement will embolden separatists in Georgia.


Claire Kalikman is a freshman in Morse College. You can contact her at