David Matsaberidze, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University (Tbilisi, Georgia).
THE CONFEDERATION OF THE MOUNTAIN PEOPLES OF THE CAUCASUS AND THE CONFLICT OVER ABKHAZIA
This paper argues that the Confederation of the Mountain Peoples turned the ethnic relations among the peoples of the Caucasus into a zero-sum game. Initiated as a platform for peaceful collaboration among the Caucasian peoples, the Confederation turned into a kind of hub where ethnic claims and contradictions were played out among the various ethnic groups in general and between the Georgians and the Abkhazians in particular. This study claims that establishment of the Confederation was motivated by the political conjunctures generated by dissolution of the Soviet Union and that the Abkhazian secessionist, central Georgian, and Russian authorities, as well as the leaders of the North Caucasian ethnic groups, used it to pursue their radically different [political] interests. Hence, there are serious doubts about the prospect of the Confederation forming a common platform for settling the conflict over Abkhazia and building peace in the post-Soviet Caucasus.
This paper deals with various aspects of the Confederation of the Mountain Peoples that emerged at the end of the 1980s as a project for a future political entity within the Caucasus. It was designed to bring the peoples of the North Caucasian territorial-administrative units into a single political-governmental structure, attaching some other peoples of the Russian Federation (mainly Cossacks from the Kuban district) and incorporating some territories of the Republic of Georgia (Abkhazians, through incorporation of the Abkhazian Autonomous Republic, Shida Kartli, Racha, Svaneti, and a portion of Samegrelo). An analysis of the popular speeches of that time by politicians from Georgia, Abkhazia, the Russian Federation, and the North Caucasian political units, as well as of the founding Declaration of the Confederation of the Mountain Peoples, reveals that the new structure turned the ethnic relations among the targeted groups into a zero-sum game. Initiated as a platform for peaceful collaboration among the Caucasian peoples, the Confederation of the Mountain Peoples turned into a kind of hub where ethnic claims and contradictions were played out between the Georgians and the Abkhazians.
Interestingly, the post-Soviet developments around Abkhazia have always gone beyond the framework of the so-called Georgian-Abkhazian confrontation due to the involvement of wider regional political entities. At different times, Abkhazia, as a political unit, was depicted either as part of wider regional political structures (the Confederation of the Mountain Peoples) or was seen as a member of non-materialized ideological inventions (the Caucasian House). Paradoxically, since the late 1980s, relations between Sukhumi and Tbilisi were………