Asim Oku, AIA Turkish and Caucasian section
Russia continues to kindle nationalist moods among Armenians of Samtskhe-Javakheti in Georgia. The purpose of Moscow is to shatter and weaken Georgia as much as possible, and for the sake of it the Kremlin is ready to sacrifice its only ally on Caucasus – Armenia. As for Armenia, the conflict to Georgia over the Armenian enclave is fraught with a political disaster.
Javakh: The First Volley in the Battle for Autonomy
Tense situation in Samtskhe-Javakheti area inhabited by ethnic Armenians in the south of Georgia, aggravated even more since the beginning of the month. On October, 5 the employees of Tax service of Georgia arrived in the main city of area – Akhalkalaki for inventory check of the several shops suspected in concealment of taxes. This harmless enough, at first sight activity, caused mass disorders and aggressively mob of 300 people came to the building of tax police. The servicemen of the Ministry of Internal Affairs interfered, mass fight broke there and several people received wounds and traumas.
Immediately after that the heads of Armenian community of Javakh made a statement naming the inspection and closing of shops an illegal, and the actions of authorities on dispersal of crowd – a provocation. In the statement it was marked that ” dispersal of peace picket ” is an attempt of authorities “to put pressure on Javakh after the decision of Council of public organizations of Javakheti on September, 24, 2005.”
On the night of October, 13 in the city of Ahalkalaki unknown people scattered leaflets printed in Russian, which were signed by the unknown organization “Brigade of freeing the Ahaltzihi”. Under the text the Turkish coat of arms (a crescent and a star) were printed. In leaflets, adressed to the Armenian population it was ordered for them ” to clear immediately the area and to leave for Armenia, Russia, America”. “Otherwise, you will be subjected to a genocide, as your ancestors in 1915”, the leaflets threatened.
The Council of Armenian public organizations Samtskhe-Javakheti, and also the majority of inhabitants of Akhalkalaki have expressed the opinion that it is another attempt to provoke the Armenian population of area on reciprocal actions with a view of destabilization of conditions in this area.
Here it is necessary to mention the events, which preceded disorders. On September, 23-24 in administrative center Samtskhe-Javakheti – Akhalkalaki “The status of Javakh in the state structure of Georgia” the leadership of the local Armenian community signed an application to the authorities of Georgia. The apply contained the categorical demand of granting Samtskhe-Javakheti a wide autonomy with the right of self-management and granting Armenian language the status of the second official language in the area. The leaders of Javakh declared that they will not be satisfied with lower status than the one offered by Tbilisi to South Ossetia. The demands were accompanied by charges in address of the Georgian government, claiming that it neglects the interests of Armenians of Samtskhe-Javakheti and considers them as the citizens of “second chop.”
This statement looked like some kind of a “declaration of war” – especially on a background of compromising position of Georgia and more than a constrained policy of Armenia. When at the beginning of this year the situation in Samtskhe-Javakheti aggravated, Tbilisi have taken steps on improvement of social and economical situation in the region. The Georgian authorities are going to allocate money for creation of new workplaces in Javakh and for development of a transport infrastructure. For these purposes in Tbilisi allocated about $100 million, and that makes about one third of American grant. According to the Prime Minister of Georgia Zurab Nogaideli, in 2006 construction of two railways through Samtskhe-Javakheti will be started: one will connect this region with Tbilisi, another – with Armenia. The Georgian leadership is going to invest also in the repairs of schools Samtskhe-Javakheti, and also allocated $4000 on repair of therapeutic branch of hospital in Akhalkalaki. The representative of the president of Georgia in the region Giorgi Khachidze, (the Tbilisi-appointed governor of Javakheti) declared, that Georgia understands the Importance of development of this region.
Yerevan: The “Problem of Javakh” Do not Exist
On the background, the statement of the leaders of Armenian community of Samtskhe-Javakheti that their region is in desolation looks like an obvious exaggeration. It was recognized by the Armenian representatives in Georgia, which are not connected with Javakh, and, what is even more important – the leaders of Armenia. The representative of the Armenian community, member of the Georgian Parliament Van Baiburt declared that the participants of the conference are trying to “aggravate situation artificially” and after the already carried out reforms in Samtskhe-Javakheti “the social and economical situation here is not worse than in the Mtsheta, which is half an hour far from Tbilisi.”
In its turn the Armenian leadership emphasized that it does not support the separatist moods in Samtskhe-Javakheti. At the joint press conference with Zurab Nogaideli at the end of September in Yerevan the Prime Minister of Armenia Andranik Margaryan declared that there is no tension between his country and Georgia because of Javakh. The sides “work on improvement of social and economical conditions in the area territory,” he emphasized, noting that any charges in address of the Georgian leadership are a provocation. “I think that this problem do not exist. It appears each time only when it is in someone’s interest to create it”, he said.
“The Russian Intelligence Added This Problem into the Agenda”
The question is “who is interested”? It is abundantly clear that not the Armenia. Georgia today is the only neighbor of Armenia with which it has normal relations. Besides, energy carriers from Russia come through Georgia to Armenia. If the ethnic conflict in Samtskhe-Javakheti transforms into conflict with Georgia, Armenia appears in political and economical blockade. It is natural that “the war on two fronts” is bad for Yerevan. So the Armenians do everything to remove any tension in relations with Tbilisi.
However, Russia is very interested in escalation in Samtskhe-Javakheti. From the point of view of Moscow, separatist moods there are fine tool for weakening Georgia and forcing the government of Mikhail Saakashvili to abandon a pro-Western course. If the two already existing rebellious enclaves – Abkhazia and South Ossetia is joined by the third – Samtskhe-Javakheti, Georgia faces a threat of total disintegration and can cease to exist as a sovereign state.
Therefore, from the very beginning the Kremlin persistently warmed up spontaneous anti-Georgian moods in Javakh and, after the curtailing of the Russian bases became a reality, it started to intimidate local Armenians with a “Turkish threat”. The Russian agents were spreading rumors that Turks will come to Javakh under the aegis of NATO, and it will be inevitably followed by “ethnic cleansings.” The abovementioned leaflets warning of “genocide” is the part of the campaign of terror.
There is no doubt not only in Tbilisi, but in Yerevan and even in Baku that the current demands of the leaders of Samtskhe-Javakheti, accompanied with threats of carrying out of a referendum on the question of autonomy, and disorders in the area are inspired by Russia.
The Armenian writes: “The efforts of Russia to provoke destabilization in Javakh and by that – in the whole Georgia, were not crowned with success only because the authorities of Armenia hampered the further escalation of the events.”
Azerbaijani political scientist Rasim Musabekov in plain terms writes: “the Russian Intelligence pushes Armenians to make territorial claims to Georgia.” According to another Azerbaijani political scientist, Zardust Alizadeh, “the Russian Intelligence, together with the leaders of local Armenians entered this question (over the situation in Javakh) into the agenda”. “The Armenians do not want to acquire second enemy in region. This aim is pursued by the pro-Moscow forces of Armenians both in the Armenia, and in Russia.”
The statement of the President of the Union of Armenians in Russia Ara Abramyan, who is closely connected with the Kremlin, about “the awful situation in the area” and “the unwillingness of authorities to solve the problem of Javakh,” is very typical. This statement is antithetical to those of the leaders of Armenia and representatives of the Armenian community in Georgia.
Russia seeks the ways to exsanguinate Georgia, and makes it almost openly. Till now Yerevan succeeded in preventing these plots, but today the situation in Samtskhe-Javakheti can easily became uncontrollable. The consequences of this can be tragic not only for Georgia, but also for Armenia, which Putin calls “the most reliable partner of Russia.” Today it sounds, as a mockery…