Journal of Refugee Studies, Volume 8, Issue 1, 1995, Pages 48–74.
The Caucasus contains Europe's richest patchwork of peoples, languages and cultures. As the Soviet Union collapsed, a number of ethno-territorial problems needed to be handled with extreme sensitivity if open conflict was to be averted. The gross insensitivity on the part of nationalists in Georgia that led to the bloody wars in South Ossetia and, primarily, Abkhazia are examined and placed in the historical context that has seen mainly North Caucasian minorities subjected to frequent demographic manipulation by two of the region's imperial powers, Russia and Georgia, who have regularly acted in concert over the last 200 years. Parallels between Shevardnadze's war in Abkhazia and Yeltsin's assault on Chechenia are drawn, and the case of such minorities in Georgia as the Mingrelians, the Armenians and the Meskh(et)ians is touched upon. The West's blind adherence to the principle of ‘territorial integrity’ is criticized for abandoning minorities to the whim of the local bully.
B. G. Hewitt
SOAS, University of London
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