While I have mainly restricted myself to religious thoughts on this blog, I have been concerned by the unfortunate events in Georgia (საქრთველო) of late. Now, it was in the immediate aftermath of the breakup of the evil USSR that Georgia itself underwent fragmentation, not without violence, whereby Abkhazia and South Ossetia in the main attained de facto independence (subsidized and supported ever since by Russia, even to the extent of granting Russian passports to the majority in each rebel area), but few seem to recall with anything but indifference that this occurred at the cost of expelling many Georgians from these regions, persons who had every right to abide there.
To think that all this occurs in a country only slightly larger than my home State of Tasmania! Georgia stands to lose about 20% of her territory...
While significant parts of South Ossetia remained ethnically Georgian and under Georgian control, presumably until the present disastrous war, the victorous separatists in Abkhazia expelled 200,000 or so Georgians (strictly speaking, Mingrelians, bilingual in Georgian and their own closely-allied tongue), in a feat of ethnic cleansing - insane sinister term! - that made that autonomous republic majority-Abkhaz for the first time: this immoral fait accompli is behind the failure of all conciliation with Georgia, for Abkhazia has no desire to permit the return of so many refugees, refugees who if returned would swing the population and votes in Abkhazia back to reunion with Georgia, refugees who, denied their moral right of return to their homes, have dwelt in appalling slums in Tbilisi ever since.
It seems all too obvious that, given the incredible foolishness of the Georgian government in trying to seize back control of the South Ossetian separatist areas without realizing the likely Russian response, the dismal process of ethnic cleansing is becoming a fait accompli in all of South Ossetia too. Given the estimated 160,000 refugees from the conflict displaced within Georgia, the vast majority being Georgians, it appears that the end result of the foolhardy adventure has been the driving out of most remaining Georgians and central government control from all of both South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Whether or not Russia now or later recognizes Abkhazia or South Ossetia, or even annexes them, they are now more than ever what they have been in truth for more than a decade: Russian protectorates, divorced from Georgia, and cleansed of Georgians. The Russian military will doubtless retain stronger footholds in both henceforth.
So, what of all this? The Georgian government has in essence to accept the unacceptable.
It seems to me that the best that could be hoped is for the situation to be regularized: that is, for Georgia to petition for the retrocession to itself of majority-Georgian border areas of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in return for recognition of both as independent from Georgia, with guarantees of non-intervention in both. For in fact this is what the situation has been virtually from the first years of Georgian independence. It can only be hoped that such limited border readjustments may permit some of the many hundred thousand Georgian refugees to return 'home'.
What more to ask? A shrewd move would be to offer to recognize South Ossetia as independent - but to recognize it as independent in union with North Ossetia. Better a puppet state straddling the Caucasus between Russia and Georgia - an attractive albeit foredoomed scenario - than the worst-case of Russian annexation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and the semipermanent occupation of adjacent areas of Georgia itself, à la Czechoslovakia 1938.
(And just to bring in further worrisome facts: one of the southern regions of Georgia is majority-Armenian, and another has a plurality of Azeris - consider the actions against prostrate and fissioning Czechoslovakia of Hungary, Poland and the USSR after the Munich agreement...)
Perhaps saddest is the way the Russian media coverage has been so slewed towards its own government's propaganda as to persuade the Russian populace that their armed forces have acted in defence of persecuted minorities against a criminal regime, whereas the truth is almost the opposite. (Certainly Ossetians were killed in the initial, so-stupid Georgian advance: but the Georgians have since paid a far higher price.) The governments of both states have only recently been elected in democratic elections - but that in Georgia was certainly a freer and fairer poll than that in Russia, where military-fascist and authoritarian traits are all too discernible in its leadership and political apparatus, just as throughout Russian history.
I note that the Catholicos-Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church has been striving to intervene in the cause of peace and humanitarian relief; but I suspect the Cæsaropapist tendencies of the Russian Orthodox Church have been to the fore as usual, anointing Russian aggression mislabelled as liberation just as in the past. Thus two nominally Orthodox peoples war with each other; the Georgians doubtless remember how for a century their own autocephalous Church had been suppressed by the Russians, and even their liturgy celebrated in Russian.
I can only pray to St George, St Nino Equal-to-the-Apostles and Evangelist of Georgia, and the Most Holy Mother of God, that they obtain of God mercy for all the peoples caught in this unhappy and fratricidal conflict.