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Books on Georgia


Update No: 333 - (25/09/08)

Everybody always claims that the other side started any war and that their involvement was in pure self-defence. Even Hitler fixed various incidents to justify his claim that the Poles attacked Germany in 1939! 

Point Counterpoint - Who is right?

A) One point of view - Putting one's foot in it
Georgia is in a deeply difficult situation. To all appearances, its president, Mikhail Saakashvili, made a gross error. He sent Georgian troops into South Ossetia on August 7 to try to repossess this outpost of Georgian territory. It is along with Abkhazia de jure part of Georgia. But it is a place, like Abkhazia, where de facto the inhabitants are intensely pro-Russian, keen to rejoin with North Ossetia inside the Russian Federation. Some four-fifths of the population already have Russian passports, use the rouble, the Russian post office and to all intents and purposes have for many years been small colonies of Russia.

The Russians went, as they saw it, to their defence. They won the war of course in no time, five days in fact. And world politics has not been the same since. Some are talking of a new Cold War.

Quite why Saakashvili did it is a mystery. Nothing could have been more obvious than the outcome.

There is speculation that he was put up to it by some Western 'supporters.' This is President Dimitry Medvedev's point of view. NATO officials, however, totally deny complicity, which is not the same as US (not NATO) military advisors who have been working in the country for some three years.

Did some prominent US figure speak out of turn? Saakashvili should have remembered that there is all the difference in the world between 'diplomatic' support and actual 'military' support.

It was totally inconceivable that the US, bogged down in two failing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, would venture with force into Russia's backyard in the Caucasus. 

B) Another point of view - Georgia Says More Evidence on War’s Start May Emerge

More fresh evidence confirming that Russian forces moved into South Ossetia, before Georgia’s military action in Tskhinvali, may emerge as analysis of intelligence materials continues, the government of Georgia said on September 20. 

In mid-September the Georgian government released intercepted phone conversations between the South Ossetian militias to back its claim that Russian military hardware moved into the region at least 20 hours before the Georgian forces launched its military operation. That is not to say there was any Russian intention of moving further than South Ossetia, where Russian troop movements for many years have been the norm. 

The Georgian government reiterated on September 20 that the file containing intercepted phone conversations was lost during the war when the surveillance team moved operations from Tbilisi, the capital, to the central city of Gori.

“Georgian intelligence officers later sifted through 6,000 files to retrieve copies,” the government said in a statement. “This analysis is not complete. Hundreds of recordings remain to be evaluated. It is, therefore, possible that fresh evidence will become known in the coming days or weeks.”


So far we have heard from the Russian side and the Georgian one. Here is the view of a prominent Georgian who lives in Russia:-

Tina Kandelaki: From Georgia with loathing
The television star Tina Kandelaki might be expected to feel aggrieved about Russian action in Georgia, her native country. Not a bit of it. Moscow's media has more freedom, she says, and her President, Mikheil Saakashvili, will go down in history as Mikheil the Destroyer. Tina Kandelaki: "Saakashvili did everything possible to bring about the war between Russia and Georgia.”

Tina Kandelaki has one of the best known faces in Russia. She's one of the country's top television presenters, has appeared on the covers of Russian FHM and Playboy, and runs a successful production company. She is also a Georgian, one of an estimated one million Georgians who live in Russia, and whose lives have been turned upside down by the recent conflict between the two countries over the breakaway territory of South Ossetia.

Up to now, Russia's Georgian community, which includes a large number of influential cultural figures, has maintained a low profile over the conflict and kept public statements to a minimum. But Ms Kandelaki, speaking to “The Independent” is angry. The focus of her anger is not Russia's President, Dmitry Medvedev, or its uncompromising Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, nor is it the Russian army, which occupied large swathes of Georgia last month. Ms Kandelaki is angry with one man only – Mikheil Saakashvili, the Georgian President.

"Saakashvili did everything possible to bring this about," says Ms Kandelaki. "Of course the Russian response was disproportionate, and difficult to deal with, but it was all Saakashvili's fault."

Ms Kandelaki, 32, has a personal history with the Georgian President. Born in Tbilisi, she became a TV star in her native Georgia, before moving to Moscow to further her career 10 years ago. She says that three years ago on a visit to Tbilisi, Mr Saakashvili asked her to come back home and run a Georgian TV channel.

"To start with, he was charming, but his whole career is based on personal power and overcoming his own personal complexes," she said. "He told me that he would go down in history, along with David the Builder, a medieval Georgian king. He's not David the Builder, he's Mikheil the Destroyer."

She accuses Mr Saakashvili of running Georgia like an autocrat, trampling free speech and whipping up hatred against Russia. "Twenty four hours a day they show propaganda about how bad the Russians are," she says. "Everything there is controlled by Saakashvili – business, and the media. There is no freedom at all."

Indeed, Ms Kandelaki makes the controversial claim that Russia, where television is notorious for being under the close control of the Kremlin, has a freer media than "democratic" Georgia.

"In Russia, every time I'm on television I talk about how I'm a Georgian; I talk about how much I love my country, and nobody has ever told me to stop saying this, I've never received a call saying I should talk less about Georgia, and I've never been discriminated against for being Georgian."

A spokesman for the Russian Union of Georgians said that most members of the expatriate community have Russian passports, although the minority with Georgian passports now have no consular representation since Mr Saakashvili cut diplomatic links between the two countries in the wake of last month's conflict.

Georgians in Russia have been on alert since 2006 when, during an earlier dispute between the two countries, Russia cut all transport links and banned the import of Georgian wine. Many Georgian citizens were rounded up and deported.

"Two years ago, there were big problems for Georgians, but this time we haven't had any reports of discrimination or attacks," said the union's spokesman. "One Georgian cafe was burnt down a month ago, which might be linked, but otherwise everything is peaceful."

But other Georgians in Moscow reported that there had been problems. Zurab Makashvili, a shop owner, said that he had been abused by customers when they realised he was Georgian. "Now I just tell them I'm an Armenian," he said. "Russians usually can't tell the difference."

"We're angry with the US and we're angry with Russia," said Tea Kenia, 28, a Georgian who was born in Sukhumi, the capital of Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia, but left for Moscow with her family in 1992 when the Abkhaz separatists defeated the Georgian army. "Georgia is just a small country where two superpowers are fighting."

Ms Kenia prefers not to talk about the conflict with Russians. "I just decided not to discuss it with my friends because I know we think differently," she said. "For me, the situation is a bit strange now. I don't feel entirely safe."

Ms Kenia said that her family's car, as well as the cars of several other Georgians living in the same apartment block, had been vandalised, their tyres slashed, at the height of the conflict. "It's difficult to believe that it was just chance – all the cars belonged to Georgians," she said.
Mr Saakashvili has accused some Georgians living in Russia of being traitors and earlier this year charged that criminal elements which he flushed out of the country when he came to power had moved to Russia, and were now working for the Russian security services.

But one thing that all Georgians living in Russia seem to agree on is that Mr Saakashvili was misguided in trying to take Georgia out of Russia's orbit and embrace the US and Nato.

Zurab Tsereteli, a Georgian sculptor who is a close friend of the mayor of Moscow and has built a monument to Russian-Georgian friendship in the city, compared the war to a lovers' tiff. "Even if you really love your wife, you'll still have to take a break sometimes," Mr Tsereteli told a Russian newspaper. "Sometimes you need to take a break from love, and that's what's happening now. But tomorrow the romance will start again, and it will be passionate!"

Ms Kandelaki agreed that Mr Saakashvili's reorientation of Georgia will be temporary: "Russia is much closer to us than America; the Russian and Georgian cultures have been intertwined for centuries, and each is unimaginable without the other. If we want to be happy we must find a connection with Russia, and everybody understands this except Saakashvili. We are so close to Russia. For America, we are only a small place where they can put their military bases. After all, we're only 40 minutes away from Iran."

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