Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Very important quote from the Russian Foreign Ministry statement re legal aspects of Abkhazia and South Ossetia independence

This quote is important as Russia tries justifying the legality of recognising South Ossetia and Abkhazia independence by Soviet law of succession of a state. This is one of the main legal justifications which Armenian side brings about in relation to Karabakh independence too.

From the statement by Russian Foreign Ministry (emphasis mine):

"Since the outbreak of the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia in early 1990s, as a result of Tbilisi actions, Russia has been doing its utmost to contribute to their settlement on the basis of recognition of the territorial integrity of Georgia. Russia has taken this position despite the fact that the proclamation by Georgia of its independence violated the right of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to self-determination. In accordance with the Law of the USSR "On the procedure for addressing the issues related to the secession of a Union's Republic", autonomous entities that formed part of Union's Republics were entitled to resolve themselves the issues of their stay within the Union and their state legal status in case of the secession of the Republic. Georgia prevented Abkhazia and South Ossetia from exercising that right."

*see also Russian parliament recognises Abkhazia and South Ossetia independence


spm said...

yes, but the problem of NKR is not the justification or legal basis, the problem is to find someone who accepts your independence on whatever basis. Someone powerful enough so it matters. Otherwise double standards never stopped being applied by both sides be it the "democratic" West or authoritarian Russia.

spm said...

actually, this reminds me of infamous comment as old as Treaty of Sèvres. Spoon made of paper.... NKR has all necessary papers to be independent, but it takes large army to make a point.

artmika said...

Agree, double standards and "paper spoon" are very relevant here.

Ani said...

Taking the (dubious) logic that this statement would apply only to countries that seceded from the Soviet Union, these are the other ASSRs in play:

Nakhchivan (Azerbaijan)
Adjar (Georgia)
Crimea (Ukraine) (uh-oh...)
Karakalpak (Uzbekistan)

Here are the other oblasts:

Nagorno Karabakh
South Ossetia
Dzierzynszczyzna (Belarus--I must admit this is my personal favorite!)
Gorno-Badakhshan (Tajikistan)
Marchlewszczyzna (Ukraine--close second favorite)
Karakalpak is on both lists for some reason

There are also autonomous "okrugs" as well, all within Russia...

Anyway, it seems that the parallels between South Ossetia and Nagorno Karabakh are iron-clad, and having made this statement, Russia would be hard-pressed not to recognize Nagorno Karabakh if asked.

Just be clear, I'm not arguing for or against, or stating "enthusiasm", just making the parallels legible.

spm said...

I said it before here and on Nazarian blog. Russia has no particular interest to accept NKR independence. Actually it is interested to keep both Armenia and Azerbaijan under control by preserving status quo. However, at this very moment, I am sure Russia desperately lobbies some of its allies to follow its steps and accept Ossetian and Abkhasian independence. Armenia is one of such ally. It is a brief moment when Armenia has a little leverage and may ask in exchange to accept NKR independence. Not sure if Russians will agree to upset Azeris for the sake of Armenian declaration, but I am not sure either if Armenian diplomacy does anything in that respect. Seems policy making in Armenia doesn't go beyond beating protesters on the streets.

Onnik Krikorian said...

Actually, Nagorno Karabakh has more an argument for independence than South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Firstly, it is not a mafia state subservient to Moscow and trapped in time as Abkhazia and South Ossetia are.

Secondly, the largest ethnic group in Avbkhazia were Georgians (over 45 percent of the population).

Thirdly, since when did handing out Russian passports to 70 percent of South Ossetians (30 percent are ethnic Georgians) consitute "recognition of the territorial integrity of Georgia."

And before Armenians get too carried away, the Russians reaffirmed yesterday their support for the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.

This conflict had nothing to do with South Ossetians and Abkhaz (and the latter have a very flawed case for independence given the ethnic cleansing they unleashed on the Georgian population).

It's a charade and is only about Georgia's pro-West and pro-NATO orientation. Such bogus and flawed legal arguments are a smokescreen and actually, a lie.

Perhaps Armenia should be more concerned with why Moscow has recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia, but hasn't recognized Nagorno Karabakh and shows no interest in doing so.

SPM is right. There is no interest in Russia recognizing NKR and one supposes that unless Azerbaijan was to adopt a foreign policy closer to Georgia, they really wouldn't intervene militarily.

For now, keeping Karabakh unrecognized is more in their interest, but don't doubt if Azerbaijan was more of use to Russia than Armenia they'd ditch it instantly.

artmika said...

I agree, it’s in Russia’s interest, as of now, to keep Karabakh status quo, so that they would put pressures on both sides whenever it suits them.

Ani said...

Well, yes, I agree that they have no interest in recognizing NKR. That's why I'm frankly astounded by their statement, citing this legal precedent. Either it applies to both South Ossetia and Nagorno Karabakh (etc.) or it doesn't apply to either, because both had the exact same standing in the Soviet Union.

artmika said...

That's the reason I gave this statement on legal precedent such a prominence so that hopefully Armenia's foreign policy specialists will work on it and try to get out of it as much benefits for us as possible. Assuming, of course, that our foreign policy is in professionals' hands.

Ani said...

I do hope that the Armenian foreign policy specialists aren't getting all their tips from us...

artmika said...

me too :)

Haik said...

I just read you comment re spoon. incidentally it came to my mind as well before reading your comment. and I posted a comment re that in the below posting :)

I think it was in the Congress of Berlin.
Khrimian Hayrik was waiting in the corridors while other nations were claiming their freedom.
Contrary to that Serj was waiting in Beijing and Shavarsh Slug Kocharian was becoming the deputy foreign minister.

Haik said...

That USSR law of upgrade from an Autonomous Republics was in the core of the 1988 kKarabakh Movement.

The demand was for Moscow to implement that law and grant Karabakh a 16th republic status.

Ironically in 1989 when Abkhasia war was in full swing the USSR was still somehow functioning and they could grant Abkhazia an independence if they wanted to.

Frankly this is a big bullshit- USSR doesn't exist and therefore none of its laws exist.

It is all about that who has the strongest steel.

Gevorgyan said...

"Frankly this is a big bullshit- USSR doesn't exist and therefore none of its laws exist."


Yes my friend. USSR doesn't exist, but there are emerging divided Nations, just a short list of them concerning Russia follows:

List of divided nations

Ainu people
Divided between two countries after Japanese and Russian colonization.

Japan - encompasses 2 areas: Hokkaidō and Honshū
Russian Federation - encompasses 2 areas:Kamchatka peninsula and Sakhalin.

Sami people
Divided after Finnish and Scandinavian settlement. Located in the northern areas of:

Kingdom of Norway
Russian Federation
Kingdom of Sweden

List of divided nations by territory

Divided by the Chinese Civil War in 1949.

People's Republic of China
Republic of China (recognized only by 25 countries; see political status of Taiwan)
Tuva (now part of Russia), part of northern Burma, and Outer Mongolia (now the independent state of Mongolia) are also within the official borders of the ROC.

Divided between Russia and Georgia.

North Ossetia-Alania (autonomous republic within Russia)
South Ossetia (de facto independent state, but officially part of Georgia)


Ani said...

Here's how Russia is trying to differentiate Chechnya conflict from the present situation (from today's New York Times article

Still, Russia, a sprawling nation with many nationalities, has faced its own secessionist pressures, notably in the Muslim region of Chechnya, where Moscow has fought two wars to crush an independence movement. Even as they were hailing the independence of the two enclaves, Russian officials were trying to explain why Chechnya did not deserve the same right.

They contended that when Chechnya had had autonomy in the late 1990s, it became a source of tremendous instability, and Russia had no choice but to reassert complete control.

“You know what they did to their own place,” the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, said Tuesday. “They turned it into a place where international terrorists were feeling at home.”

Be that as it may, there are plenty of reports that South Ossetia has been involved in nuclear smuggling and counterfeiting operations (here's another NYTimes story on this angle:, so that justification rings very hollow.

Anyway, will the Russians let Ossetians truly be happy and create one country called Ossetia? This would mean that North Ossetia would have to secede from Russia. I'm waiting to hear what they will have to say on this proposal ;)

Haik said...

Don't understand me wrong. Every nation or people has the right for self determination. Abkhaz , Ossets or Artsakhtsi, Chechen or Sami people.
However this was not respected because there is the 2nd contradictory approach that is the Sovereignty established in Treaty of Westphalia in 1648.

So the great powers pick and use the ones suitable to them e.g. for Russians S Osetia can gain independence but not N Ossetia. And so on. I can bring many more examples but everybody knows them.

Ani said...

Yes, Haik, and the thing is that Nagorno Karabakh already has developed civil structures in place, whereas South Ossetia really hasn't got anything going for it except a criminal economy. It would be wonderful to think that the citizens of NKR would be able to have a peaceful and fair vote on sovereignty, but I can't imagine Azerbaijan allowing this.

spm said...

Dear Ani, you get it a little wrong. No need to check Russian government bulletins in search for document recognizing the independence of North Ossetia. As soon as new independent countries form their governments (I assume after gaining independence they will create a "democracy" show elections) their parlaments will ask Russian federation to accept them as federation members.

I can even bet on this.

Ani said...

Oh, my dear spm, I don't get it wrong at all, but you didn't see the tongue in my cheek as I wrote that about North Ossetia...

As I've said all along, this isn't at all about self-determination, it's about increasing Russia's borders. Russia wants Abkhazia very dearly because it needs more hotel space for 2012 Olympics and covets all that beach front for its oligarchs. They want South Ossetia because--well because it was part of the bargain. We'll see how much investment money they actually come up with to do something with that place, but I don't think it will get the attention that Abkhazia will.

spm said...

Yes, Abkhazia has nice coastline and mountain lakes which oligarchs would love to put in use. But geopolitically, from Russian state point, Ossetia is much more important. Now Russia will be less dependent on its outpost in Caucasus. I am sure Russian military base in Ossetia will become much more important and better equipped than the one in Armenia.

Onnik Krikorian said...


I agree with you entirely. You just can't compare South Ossetia and Abkhazia with Nagorno Karabakh. The Georgian breakaway regions are more mafia regions than anything with some signs of statehood.

Moreover, Abkhazia ethnically cleansed the largest group there -- the Georgians. I think South Ossetia has more of a claim for independence given its ethnic makeup, but it is certainly nothing as evolved as Karabakh.

Here's an account of what it's like in South Ossetia. Sounds horrid although if its people want independence (and if it is truly a majority)...

Ani said...

Shortest independence ever:
"Kremlin announces that South Ossetia will join 'one united Russian state'"

August 29, 2008

Tony Halpin in Moscow

The Kremlin moved swiftly to tighten its grip on Georgia’s breakaway regions yesterday as South Ossetia announced that it would soon become part of Russia, which will open military bases in the province under an agreement to be signed on Tuesday.

Tarzan Kokoity, the province’s Deputy Speaker of parliament, announced that South Ossetia would be absorbed into Russia soon so that its people could live in “one united Russian state” with their ethnic kin in North Ossetia.

SPM, you called it...