“Georgia, like most post-Soviet nations, is a country where the concept of nationality is crucial. A national agenda for Georgians is barely compatible with the thesis of a Georgia for everyone (i.e. for Georgians, Abkhazians, Ossetians, and for all other citizens regardless of their ethnicity). This is not a problem specific to Georgia. It is characteristic of almost all the post-Soviet nations, including Russia itself in many ways.”
It is useful to read Sukhov’s piece in conjunction with a further Open Democracy article, which examines another post-Soviet state struggling to come to terms with ethnic division, Moldova.
Transdniestria, Moldova’s own breakaway region, shares characteristics with South Ossetia. Although as Andrey Kalikh observes, the chances that serious violence will develop there remain slim.
However, many of the frozen conflicts, as well as those which have involved fighting more recently, have undoubtedly arisen because ‘ethno-nationalist’ states have been carved from multi-national space.
Although its size and diversity prevent Russia from being described in such terms, political forces in the Federation, including the Kremlin, have undoubtedly, from time to time harnessed national chauvinism for pragmatic purposes.
For its failure to encourage the creation of multi-ethnic states the west is also culpable. Baltic states have been allowed to join the European Union without dismantling discriminatory citizenship laws for instance. Anti-Russian sentiment is indulged where large Russian minorities are still present. Smaller minorities’ interests have been disregarded by western opinion on the assumption that they simply represent manifestations of irredentism by Russia or other largish states.
And of course, outside the former USSR, Kosovo has provided a precedent, whereby western institutions have indicated their willingness to underwrite ethnic separatists’ aspirations, without any urge to compromise or attempt to accommodate them within the larger state.
No wonder the argument for multi-ethnic states is weakening in the former Soviet Union, rather than strengthening.