International recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia

International recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia

Abkhazia and South Ossetia are partially recognised countries, which Georgia considers as parts of Georgia's sovereign territory. [cite news | title = Abkhazia, S.Ossetia Formally Declared Occupied Territory | location = Tbilisi | publisher = Civil Georgia | date = 28 August 2008 | url = | accessdate = 2008-09-05]

The UN resolutions adopted prior to the 2008 South Ossetia war (the last one was in May 2008 [cite web|url= |title=General Assembly Adopts Resolution Recognizing Right Of Return By Refugees, Internally Displaced Persons To Abkhazia, Georgia | |date= |accessdate=2008-10-03] ) also state, that these regions should be considered parts of Georgia.

Abkhazia declared independence from Georgia in 1992, when it invoked the right of secession under an interpretation of Articles 70 and 72 of the USSR Constitution. [ [ 1977 USSR Constitution, Chapter 8: The USSR - A Federal State] ] [ [ 1990 USSR Law on Secession] ] Failed verification|date=September 2008 South Ossetia also declared independence from Georgia in the early 1990s during the 1991–1992 South Ossetia War. [cite book |others=Robert H. Donaldson, Joseph L. Nogee |title=The Foreign Policy of Russia: Changing Systems, Enduring Interests |year=2005 |publisher=M.E. Sharpe |isbn=0765615681, 9780765615688 |pages=p. 199]

The Constitution of Abkhazia [ [ Constitution of Abkhazia] (in Russian)] and the Constitution of South Ossetia [ [ Constitution of South Ossetia] (in Russian)] declared each country's independence as the Republic of Abkhazia and the Republic of South Ossetia, respectively.

The self-proclaimed independence of the two regions was officially recognised on 26 August 2008 by Dmitry Medvedev, the President of Russia. [ [ Statement by President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev] .] Russia's recognition came after Kosovo's declaration of independence, which occurred several months prior to the 2008 South Ossetia war. The 2008 South Ossetia war was fought between Georgia on one side and South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Russia on the other.

The European Union, [ [ EU agrees to support Georgia, but stalls over more severe action] International Herald Tribune 2008-08-28.] NATO, [ [ NATO’s relations with Georgia] NATO] 2008-09-02.] OSCE, [ [, OSCE Chair Condemns Russia’s Recognition of Abkhazia, S.Ossetia, Civil Georgia, 26 August 2008] ] the United States [ [ US condemns Russia over Georgia] BBC 2008-09-04] and many countries have voiced displeasure with Russia's decision and have reaffirmed their recognition of Georgia's territorial integrity. [ [ Security Bush backs Georgia's territorial integrity] Reuters 2008-08-08.] Georgia responded to Russia by declaring Abkhazia and South Ossetia occupied territories and downgraded its diplomatic mission to Russia to consulate level. [ [ Abkhazia, S. Ossetia Formally Declared Occupied Territory.] Civil Georgia. 2008-08-28] [ [ Безвизовые отношения. Россия закрыла свое посольство в Тбилиси, а Грузия - дипмиссию] ] [ [ Russian-Georgian Visa Ties Remain] Kommersant 2008-09-04.] Nevertheless on 5 September 2008 independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia was officially recognised by Nicaragua, while several countries have expressed support to Russia's position, though still not ready to recognize the independence of the two regions.



Following the Bolshevik Red Army invasion of Georgia in 1921, Abkhazia was made a Soviet republic with the ambiguous status of Union Republic associated with the Russian SFSR. [ [ Абхазия. Проблемы международного признания] MGIMO 2006-05-16.] In 1931, Joseph Stalin made Abkhazia an autonomous republic within the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic. [ [ Soviet Abkhazia] Global Security]

On 21 February 1992, Georgia abolished the Soviet-era constitution and restored the Democratic Republic of Georgia's 1921 constitution, which provided provision for Abkhazia's autonomy, but did not specify its exact legal status. Due to lack of formal status under Georgia's newly introduced constitution, the Abkhaz Supreme Soviet on 23 July 1992 reinstated the 1925 Constitution, which under Article 4 Abkhazia was "united with the Soviet Socialist Republic of Georgia on the basis of a special union-treaty", providing for federation between Georgia and Abkhazia on equal footing. [cite book|last=Potier|first=Tim|title=Conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia: A Legal Appraisal|origyear=2000|url=|publisher=Kluwer Law International|location=The Hague; Boston|isbn=9041114777|oclc=154757768|pages=11-12|chapter=History of the Conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia|chapterurl=,M1]

On 21 August 2008, a rally was held in Sukhumi at which the people of Abkhazia appealled to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and the Russian Federal Assembly for official recognition of their independence as sovereign states. President of Abkhazia Sergei Bagapsh attended an extraordinary session of the Federation Council on 25 August 2008. In his address to the Council, Kokoity stated "I can say for certain that Abkhazia and South Ossetia will never be part of Georgia."

outh Ossetia

On 21 August 2008, the same day as a similar event in Abkhazia, a rally was held in Tskhinvali at which the people of South Ossetia appealled to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and the Russian Federal Assembly for official recognition of their independence as sovereign states.cite news|title=Abkhazia, S.Ossetia send sovereignty appeals to Russia|location=Sukhumi|publisher=RIA Novosti|date=21 August 2008|url=|accessdate=2008-09-09] [cite news|title=Abkhazia sends request to Russia for recognition|location=Sukhumi|publisher=RIA Novosti|date=21 August 2008|url=|accessdate=2008-09-09] President of South Ossetia Eduard Kokoity flew to Moscow on 23 August 2008 to deliver South Ossetia's appeal to the Federation Council, which he addressed and in his appeal stated "what the Georgian leadership has done in South Ossetia can only be described as a Caucasus Stalingrad."cite news|title=Russian upper house seeks independence for Georgian rebel regions|location=Moscow|publisher=RIA Novosti|date=25 August 2008|url=|accessdate=2008-09-09]

Russia's recognition

[ Transcript in English] ] After hearing appeals from both Abkhazian and South Ossetian leadership, on 25 August 2008 the Federation Council and State Duma passed motions calling upon President Dmitry Medvedev to recognise the independence of the two regions and establish diplomatic relations. [cite news|title=Russia parliament asks president to recognize S.Ossetia, Abkhazia|location=Moscow|publisher=RIA Novosti|date=25 August 2008|url=|accessdate=2008-09-09]

On 26 August 2008, President Medvedev signed Decrees recognising the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia [cite news|title=Russia recognizes Georgia's breakaway republics -2|location=Moscow|publisher=RIA Novosti|date=26 August 2008|url=|accessdate=2008-09-09] and made the following statement:

Quotation|"A decision needs to be taken based on the situation on the ground. Considering the freely expressed will of the Ossetian and Abkhaz peoples and being guided by the provisions of the UN Charter, the [ 1970 Declaration on the Principles of International Law Governing Friendly Relations Between States] , the CSCE Helsinki Final Act of 1975 and other fundamental international instruments, I signed Decrees on the recognition by the Russian Federation of South Ossetia's and Abkhazia's independence.

Russia calls on other states to follow its example. This is not an easy choice to make, but it represents the only possibility to save human lives."cite news | last = Medvedev | first = Dmitry | authorlink = Dmitry Medvedev | title = Statement by President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev, 26 August 2008 | location = Moscow | publisher = President of Russia | date = 26 August 2008 | url = | accessdate = 2008-09-04 ]

President Medvedev stated that "western countries rushed to recognise Kosovo's illegal declaration of independence from Serbia. We argued consistently that it would be impossible, after that, to tell the Abkhazians and Ossetians (and dozens of other groups around the world) that what was good for the Kosovo Albanians was not good for them. In international relations, you cannot have one rule for some and another rule for others." [ [ Why I had to recognise Georgia's breakaway regions] Financial Times 2008-08-26.]

Prime Minister of Russia, Vladimir Putin, noted previous Georgian aggression against Ossetia, and went on to say that "those who insist that those territories must continue to belong to Georgia are Stalinists - they stick to Yosif Visarionovich Stalin's decision", given that it was Joseph Stalin, an ethnic Georgian-Ossetian, who gave the territory to the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic, the predecessor of the modern day Republic of Georgia. [cite news | title = Transcript: CNN interview with Vladimir Putin | location = Moscow | publisher = CNN | date = 28 August 2008 | url = | accessdate = 2008-08-30 ] [ru icon [ Interview of Prime Minister Putin] in original, RIA Novosti]

The Ambassador of Russia to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin stated that Russia's recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is "irreversible" but called upon "NATO countries to withdraw and review their decision concerning Kosovo's independence" and subsequently "act on the premise that this is the new political reality." [cite news | title = Russia says recognition of S.Ossetia, Abkhazia irreversible | location = Brussels | publisher = RIA Novosti | date = 27 August 2008 | url = | accessdate = 2008-08-28 ] [cite news | title = What the Russian papers say | location = Moscow | publisher = RIA Novosti | date = 27 August 2008 | url = | accessdate = 2008-08-28 ] He warned, moreover, that any NATO attack on Russia-supported regions would "mean a declaration of war on Russia." [ [ Russia: NATO interference means war] ]

United States President George W. Bush reaffirmed this view by condemning Russia's decision. [ President Bush Condemns Actions Taken by Russian President in Regards to Georgia] Office of the Press Secretary. 2008-08-26.] President Bush stated that Russia was "inconsistent with numerous United Nations Security Council Resolutions that Russia has voted for in the past, and is also inconsistent with the French-brokered six-point ceasefire agreement which President Medvedev signed on August 12, 2008."

Vitaly Churkin, the Ambassador of Russia to the United Nations, attacked the United States' moral high ground in the United Nations Security Council by recalling the US-led invasion of Iraq. [ UN document |docid=S-PV-5969 |body=Security Council |type=Verbatim Report |meeting=5969 |page=16 |anchor=pg016-bk02-pa03 |date=28 August 2008 |speakername=Mr. Churkin | speakernation=Russia |accessdate=2008-09-03 ] [cite news | title = Russia: UN hypocritical over Abkhazia and South Ossetia independence | publisher = Russia Today | date = 29 August 2008 | url = | accessdate = 2008-08-29 ] Others have noted that the United States' position would be credible if it hadn't supported the violation of the territorial integrity of Russian ally, Serbia, when it recognised the independence of Kosovo in February 2008. [cite news | last = Reding | first = Andrew | title = That Caucasus hypocrisy | publisher = The Globe and Mail | date = 28 August 2008 | url = | accessdate = 2008-08-29 ]

Georgia's response

President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili considered Russia's move as an attempt to alter the borders of Europe by force. Below are some excerpts from his statement:

This is the first attempt on European territory... since Hitler's regime and Stalin's Soviet Union where a large state is trying unilaterally, with the use of force, to completely crush a neighbouring country and openly annex its territory.
This is unconceivable lawlessness and insolence... Russia has done unthinkable damage to its place in the international community.
The question of the re-establishment of the territorial integrity of Georgia and the protection of its freedom - this is not an internal Georgian problem, or a question of Georgia and Russia. This is now a question of Russia and the rest of the civilised world. Georgia's future, is not only the future of Georgia, this is the future of the whole civilised world... [ [ Михаил Саакашвили назвал действия России в отношении Грузии "силовой попыткой изменить границы внутри Европы] ]

Deputy Foreign Minister Giga Bokeria said, "This is an unconcealed annexation of these territories, which are a part of Georgia." [ Russia recognises Georgian rebels] BBC 2008-08-26.]

On 28 August, the Parliament of Georgia passed a resolution declaring Abkhazia and South Ossetia "Russian-occupied territories" and instructed the government to annul all previous treaties on Russian peacekeeping. [ [ Abkhazia, S.Ossetia Formally Declared Occupied Territory] . Civil Georgia. 2008-08-28.] The following day the Government of Georgia announced that they were severing diplomatic relations with Russia, with the Georgian Embassy in Moscow and the Russian Embassy in Tbilisi to close as a result. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs commented on this decision, saying that some 600,000 to 1 million Georgians in Russia would be left to the "mercy of fate". [cite news | title = Russia and Georgia to close embassies | location = Moscow | publisher = RIA Novosti | date = 29 August 2008 | url = | accessdate = 2008-08-30 ]

Comparisons with Kosovo

The Assembly of the Serbian Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija, under administration of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo since 1999, unilaterally declared independence as the Republic of Kosovo on 17 February 2008." [ Kosovo MPs proclaim independence] ", BBC News Online, 17 February 2008] The Republic of Kosovo was instantly recognised by the United States and the EU-3 and now has been recognised by Kosovorecognition internationally recognised sovereign states. [ [ Countries that have recognized the Republic of Kosova] ]

In an emergency session of the UN Security Council Serbian President Boris Tadić asked the Council, "Are we all aware of the precedent that is being set and are we aware of the catastrophic consequences that it may lead to?" The Permanent Representatives of the United States, United Kingdom and France presented their opinion that the Kosovo case is sui generis in nature and could not be perceived as a precedent. [cite press release|title = Security Council meets in emergency session following Kosovo's declaration of independence, with members sharply divided on issue|publisher = UN Security Council|date = 18 February 2008|url =|accessdate =2008-09-09 ]

The setting of a precedent was mentioned by many countries, such as Argentina, [cite news|title=Argentina rules out recognition|location=Buenos Aires|publisher=B92|date =29 February 2008|url=|accessdate=2008-09-09] China, Cuba, [cite news|last = Castro|first = Fidel| authorlink=Fidel Castro|title=I hope I never have reason to be ashamed|publisher=Granma Internacional|date = 29 February 2008|url =|accessdate = 2008-09-09] Greece and Spain. India stated that Kosovo "can set a very dangerous precedent for similar cases around the world." [cite news|title = Ambassador: India's Kosovo stand consistent|location=Belgrade|publisher=B92|date=31 March 2008|url=|accessdate=2008-09-09] The then Russian President Vladimir Putin described the recognition by Western powers of Kosovo independence as "terrible precedent, which will de facto blow apart the whole system of international relations, developed not over decades, but over centuries."cite web|title=Kosovo independence a 'terrible precedent'|url=,23739,23263323-954,00.html|publisher=The Courier Mail|location=Moscow|date=23 February 2008|accessdate=2008-09-09] He then went on to say, " [t] hey have not thought through the results of what they are doing. At the end of the day it is a two-ended stick and the second end will come back and hit them in the face."

In hearings before the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs, California Republican Congressman and member of the Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight, Dana Rohrabacher, said: [ [ Statements by Congressman Rohrabacher (R-CA) during State Department testimony to U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, Washington D.C., 9 Sep 2008] ]

"Now we can talk until we're blue in the face trying to say there is no analogy here, but it doesn't cover up the obvious analogy between Kosovo and what's going on in Georgia where you have breakaway republics similar to what the Serbs face.
Now the only difference is of course, we're Americans and they're Russians. And the people trying to breakaway there were pro-Russian.
And either we're for democracy -- either we're for those people in Kosovo and in Ossetia and elsewhere -- and in, I might say, in Georgia and their right to be separate from Russia in the beginning -- to begin with -- if we lose that, we've lost the high ground. We're already losing our creditably right now, let's not lose the high ground." [ [ U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing on U.S.-Russia relations in the aftermath of the Georgia crisis, Washington D.C., 9 Sep 2008] ]

Some analysts at the time called ignoring Russian objections and the move by the United States and the EU-3 a mistake, with Ted Galen Carpenter of the Cato Institute stating that their view of Kosovo being sui generis and setting no precedent as "extraordinarily naïve".cite web|last=Galen Carpenter|first=Ted|title=Kosovo Independence Grenade|publisher=Cato Institute|date=22 February 2008|url =|accessdate =2008-09-09 Archived by WebCite® at [] .] It was also suggested that Russia could use the case of Kosovo as pretext for recognising Abkhazia and South Ossetia in the future. [cite web|last=Friedman|first=George| title = Kosovar Independence and the Russian Reaction|publisher = Stratfor|date = 20 February 2008|url =|accessdate = 2008-09-10] Other analysts, including the Heritage Foundation, offer that Kosovo is no precedent due to its administration by the United Nations as a protectorate for seven years and was blocked from being recognised by the United Nations due to Russia and China being able to use their veto in the United Nations Security Council. [cite web|last=McNamara|first=Sally|title=Russia's Recognition of Independence for South Ossetia and Abkhazia Is Illegitimate: They Are Not Kosovo|publisher=Heritage Foundation|date = 28 February 2008|url =|accessdate = 2008-09-10]

Reaction to independence declaration of Abkhazia and South Ossetia

thumb|center|650px|A world map showing the status of international recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia independence by nation:">legend|red|Abkhazia and South Ossetia.legend|#A3A3A3|Other states.

Recognitions by UN states

Positive views on recognition


ee also

* International reaction to the 2008 South Ossetia war
* Controversy over Abkhazian and South Ossetian independence
* List of unrecognised countries
* South Ossetian independence referendum, 2006
* International reaction to the 2008 Kosovo declaration of independence
* Controversy over Kosovo independence

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