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