Ossetia, Abkhazia, Adjaria... Georgia... The Caucasus has always been a melting pot of populations, languages and religions as well as a region known for smuggling. The linguistic diversity of the Caucasus is probably something Americans cannot understand. Three valleys at walking distance can use three different languages, belonging to totally distinct linguistic groups.

Georgia (საქართველო) is also where the oldest remains of a european homo erectus have been found. 1.6 to 1.8 million years in the past...

The Georgian language is rather isolated in the world's linguistic landscape. A few theories link it to Basque, Burushashki and Na-Dené indian languages (making the Dené-Caucasian superfamily) but I must say the link with Basque and Burushashki must be extremely tiny - and extremely old - if it exists at all... Back to Georgia, the name of the most famous hotel in T'bilissi is "Iberia", named after the ancient name of the kingdom of Georgia. Does it ring a bell ? Not sure it's related to Iberians of the south-west europe though...

The first Georgian writing system (Asomtavruli) was allegedly created by Pharnabaz the 1st, first king of Georgia, in the 4th century A.C, and is now extinct.. Georgian now uses a more modern script called Mkhedruli. A third script, Khutsuri, was only used in religious writings.

Ossetians are not Georgians, they are indo-europeans. Their ancestors are the Alans, who spoke an iranian language and settled in Ossetia during the 7th century AC. North-ossetians were islamized long ago while South-ossetians joined georgian orthodox christinianity. Most of modern Ossetians are orthodox christians, while christianity is the official religion of Georgia since year 327 ! Ossetic uses the cyrillic script even if the georgian script was also used to note Ossetic. Back in the 7th century, Ossetians settled in areas that were already Karbad, Georgian or Vainakh (Chechen, Ingush, ...).

Abkhazia is another region of Georgia, at the north-west corner, along the Black Sea. Abkhazian is a very complex caucasian language, and its writing system is a modified cyrillic script. Abkhazs are christians. Their capital, Sukhumi, was founded by the Greeks... Abkhazia had a majority of caucasian (mingrelians) inhabitants with only a minority (17%) of Abkhazs before the 1993 conflict with Georgia.

Adjaria is a region of Georgia touching Turkey. Adjars were muslims until the final collapse of USSR. Then the region became a part of Georgia, making people adopt georgian christianity but a rough 30% of Adjars are still Sunni Muslims. They speak a caucasian dialect called Guruli, related to Georgian.

If you except reasons that are absolutely not political, ethnical or religious (the South-Ossetian leader is thought to be linked to the russian maffia, the Adjar leader was an autocrat dreaming of becoming a local czar), there are a few facts :

  • Abkhazia, South-Ossetia and Adjaria have been georgian regions for at least two thousand years, despite of invasions, ruling empires and other religious changes,
  • Adjars are ethnically and linguistically closely related to Georgians,
  • Abkhaz is a caucasian language, and Abkhazia is not seeking Russia's support based on ethnical relationship,
  • Ossetic is an indo-european language. South-Ossetia has always been a part of Georgia but Georgians were a minority group in South-Ossetia (30%) while Ossetians represented roughly 70% of the population. Ossetians settled in the region so long ago, and so many changes happened in the region that only the soviet division of North-Ossetia and South-Ossetia prevented Ossetians from having their own territory.

Personal conclusions:

  1. Adjaria and Abkhazia will very hardly be ever recognized internationnally...
  2. the conflict between South-Ossetia and Georgia is ethnic, linguistic, religious and is backed by the maffia.
  3. Russia has a lot of interests in Ossetia, a rich region, and the fact Ossetians are orthodox christian indo-europeans in a very diverse Caucasus where islamic fundamentalism can find settlements is wonderful for Russia.
  4. the Caucasus has always been a mess, and it's not going to change any time soon...