Giorgi Pliev and Nino Pilieva are the young leaders of the Ossetian Youth Organization based in Tbilisi, Georgia. Since the war in 2008, relations between Georgia and South Ossetia have greatly deteriorated and the Ossetians of Georgia suffer from this situation. When meeting them on February 24, 2011, Nino and Giorgi insisted on the current necessity to promote dialogue between the Georgian and Ossetian communities, starting with those cohabiting in Georgia.
According to Giorgi and Nino, belonging to a national minority in Georgia today is not easy, and belonging to the Ossetian minority is even more difficult. Although historical relations between Ossetians and Georgians show a positive record of peaceful cohabitation and intermarriages throughout time, the “de facto” independence of Ossetia which was declared in 1991 in a secessionist move and the 2008 South Ossetia war threw cold water on this background.
Some Ossetians recall that when they were kids, they would be stigmatized at school for being Ossetian. Some fellow pupils would tell them to “go back to Ossetia”. It was in the years of the first independent government of Georgia, set up by Zviad Gamsakhurdia in 1991, which promoted the motto “Georgia for Georgians”. Back then, ethnic minorities of Georgia were put under great pressure.
Even though President Saakashvili* acknowledged the fact that the 2008 war in South Ossetia was a conflict between Georgia and Russia, some Ossetians living in Georgia experienced very negative attitudes of Georgian people right after the war. In 2011, ordinary xenophobia towards Ossetians remains an issue.
The Ossetian Youth Organization hopes to tackle this problem. Today, one of the main priorities of the organization is to promote improvement in the relationships between Ossetians and Georgians, both on the grass-root level and the institutional/diplomatic level, in order to “rehabilitate the Ossetians living in Georgia”. Nino and Giorgi intend to set up a community center whose aim would be to give space for both populations to meet and exchange. Also, they defend the need for more Ossetian representatives to take part in the activities of the Georgian government.
Civic participation and representation is an issue shared by all minority groups of Georgia. “Diasporas cannot solve their problems on their own”, highlighted Giorgi. The Ossetian community is therefore willing to support other minorities of Georgia and receive support in return. Cooperation should be one of the main perspectives of the Ossetian Youth Organization in 2011.
* Mikheil Saakashvili is the 3rd and current President of (independent) Georgia. He became president in 2004 after the bloodless “Rose Revolution” which he led.
Many thanks to Mia Marekhashvili for kindly translating the content of the conversation from the Russian and Georgian languages into English –
Photo: Nino Pilieva, Giorgi Pliev, Méline Bernard and Midia Marekhashvili (left to right) met at PMMG on February 24, 2011.
South Ossetia is located in the North of Georgia, in South Caucasus. It is a disputed region, currently governed by a secessionist government backed by Russia. Following the 2008 war, Russia recognized South Ossetia as an independent state, but the European Union, the Council of Europe, the NATO and most UN member countries did not.
Source: Map of South Ossetia. Available at: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/country_profiles/3797729.stm> [online]
THE OSSETIAN YOUTH ORGANIZATION
The two groups aim at uniting the Ossetians living in Georgia, providing them with support (e.g. insurance, legal assistance, free medicine) both in the capital and in the regions and preserving their language, culture and traditions.
The “Ossetian Association” cooperates with Ossetian diasporas around the world. It is a member of the Union “Public Movement Multinational Georgia” (PMMG). The “Ossetian Youth Organization” is a member of the Youth Union of PMMG.
Source (Photo): South Ossetian Performers. Available at: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:South_Ossetian_performers.JPG> [online]
BBC News – Regions and territories: South Ossetia. [online] Available at:<http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/country_profiles/3797729.stm >