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Ethnic Ossetian People Feel Oppressed in Kakheti Region


Gela Mtivlishvili, Kakheti

The number of ethnic Ossetian people in the Kakheti region has diminished significantly. Several ethnic Ossetian people said that their migration increased after the Russian-Georgian armed conflict in 2008. Liana Jioeva from the Tsitskanaantseri village in Kvareli district said that after the war ,strange people were moving about the village and called upon the Ossetian people to leave Georgia. Ethnic Ossetian people have many problems in the region regarding the usage of agricultural plots and pastures.

Ethnic Ossetian people mostly live in four districts within the Kakheti region: villages of Areshperan, Pona, Bolkva and Lapniani in Lagodekhi district; village of Tsitsknaantseri in Kvareli district; village of Kitaani in Gurjaani district and villages of Pichkhovani, Argokhi, Koreti and Sabue in Akhmeta district.

According to the 2003 census, 2239 ethnic Ossetian people lived in Lagodekhi district; now their number is less than 1, 000.  The Ossetian people have almost completely abandoned the villages of Koreti, Sabue and Argokhi. The Ministry of IDPs from the Occupied Territories, Refugees and Accommodation has purchased houses in those villages and they intend to resettle eco-migrants from the regions damaged by natural disasters.

Lasha Papashvili and Archil Gegenava Purchased All Plots in the Villages.

In the villages where ethnic Ossetian people still live, the representatives of the ethnic minority face many problems. There is no drinking water, public school, nursery school or doctor in those villages. The biggest problem is the cultivation of the plots. During Eduard Shevardnadze’s governance, when plots were distributed among the local population, the ethnic Ossetian people only received 0, 25 hectares of land instead of 1 hectare. However, they could not legalize those small plots; they allege that obstacles were created because of their ethnicity.  Nevertheless, they cultivated the plots, received harvest and kept their families for many years.

In 2010, residents of Tsitskanaantseri remained without plots. The locals said the surrounding territory of the village where they had gardens was purchased by the businessmen Archil Gegenava and Lasha Papashvili and the plots were registered to them in the Public Registration Agency.

“In the 1990s, when plots were distributed, each family received a minimum of 1 hectare of land, but we Ossetian people received only 0, 25 hectares of land. Nobody works in the village and people earn their living by cultivating plots and cattle breeding. Lasha Papashvili and Archil Gegenava purchased all the plots in the village. We have neither gardens, nor pastures and cannot send our cattle to the forest either. If we do not have at least cattle, how will we survive? We have only one solution – to flee from here,” said Tamaz Jaoshvili from Tsitsknaantseri.

Ethnic Ossetian people believe that the selling of plots in their village aims to compel them to increase their migration.

Kvareli District Governor Levan Gamsakhurdia said that this assumption is not grounded. “They allege that they are persecuted on ethnic grounds; in order to eradicate similar problems, we asked the Ministry of Economic Development to sell the plots near Tsitskanaantseri village on auction in order to enable local residents to purchase them.”

The villagers said they cannot purchase plots on the auction because they cannot pay the increased price.

“It is an auction and we cannot break the law. The plot will belong to the person who will pay more,” said Kvareli district governor.

Plots in Lapniani Were Assigned to Zurab Adeishvili’s Relative

The population of the Lapniani village in Lagodekhi district also remained without plots. After the collective farm was abolished, JSC “Pichkhibogiri” was established in the village. The plots were assigned to JSC which later purchased poisons for 21, 000 USD from Imedi Ltd to poison the vine-yards in the village. According to the agreement, unless the JSC paid the debt, Imedi Ltd was to get 95 hectares of land in exchange for the money. Lapniani residents said they did not receive any poisons and consequently, could not pay the debt. The disagreement between the villagers and Imedi Ltd started in 2001 and still continues. Local resident Leila Tabilova said the villagers appealed to the prosecutor’s office three times but in vain. The plots and vine-yards in the village were assigned to the Imedi company where an agricultural company planted olive trees.

Mamuka Khidasheli, the Commissary of the Lapniani territorial entity, stated in a private conversation with us that the olive garden is supervised by an individual with the surname of Adeishvili who lives in the village of Mtisdziri. We found out that he is related to the Minister of Justice Zurab Adeishvili. Zurab Adeishvili is from the village of Mtisdziri by origin. Despite numerous attempts, Agrofirm could not contact Imedi representatives. The governor of Lagodekhi Dimitri Loladze and the Deputy Governor of Kakheti Giorgi Sibashvili noted that they are not aware of the problem of Lapniani residents.
Residents of the village of Kitaani in Gurjaani district collectively sent petitions to the local authority several times. As a result of the school optimization process, the school was closed down in the village. “You do not need school because you have few children. We requested at least primary school because children cannot walk 7 kilometers, but nobody pays attention to us,” said Vara Jeiranashvili.

The Culture House was also closed down in the village. The building was robbed and destroyed. There is no outpatient in Kitaani village. The public transport does not run to the district center either.

Georgian human rights defenders and experts think that in addition to the socioeconomic conditions, the Ossetian people have abandoned Georgia because of ethnic and political factors.

Paata Zakareishvili, conflict scientist: “I arrived in Areshperani village after the war in 2008 and found that the old people who lived there before the war and saved houses for their children who lived abroad had to leave the village after 2008 and joined their children either in Tskhinvali or in Vladikavkaz. I cannot say that they decided to resettle only because of social problems. The Ossetian people used to leave Georgia before the August war too but after that the migration process became more intensive. According to some superficial research, about 40% of the population has left the village after 2008.”

Ucha Nanuashvili, executive director of the Human Rights Center: “The ethnic Ossetian people migrate from Georgia because of socioeconomic conditions mostly. However, there are several cases when Ossetian people left Georgia on ethno-political grounds as well. Those people had close relations or were relatives of officials of South Ossetia’s de-facto authority or with the residents of South Ossetia. The government of Georgia tried to use those people for their political goals but part of ethnic Ossetian community refused to cooperate with them and left the country. Very often, people try to represent the Ossetian people as enemies. So, the Ossetian people have a feeling that if a new conflict breaks out, they might face some danger. So, the ethnic Ossetian people left their homes and moved to either Tskhinvali or to Vladikavkaz.”

“After the war, strangers visited our village several times and shouted ‘Ossetian people leave the village’. Neither local governmental officials tried to hide their aggression against us soon after the war. They alleged that we were guilty,” said Liana Jioeva from Tsitsknaantseri.

After the war in August of 2008, others also visited Areshperani village and shouted the same at local people: “Some of them were masked, others were not. They shouted at us to leave the village. Young people left the village at that time,” said Tamar Tedeeva from Areshperani village.

The incident between Ossetian and Georgian people occurred on ethnic grounds. On June 15, 2010, several Georgian young people broke into the house belonging to Roin Bagiev in the village of Pona in Lagodekhi district. They beat and injured him. “They told us to leave the village but where shall we go? We have nowhere to go. It is the main cause of our quarrel and controversy,” said neighbors of Roin Bagiev, Izolda Bolotaeva and Lali Gamaraev. Roin Bagiev blamed police for not responding to these aggressions. He said law enforcement officers do not properly react on behalf of the persecution of ethnic Ossetian people.

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Name: Luck
2011-07-15 13:56
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