Karadeniz Araştırmaları Dergisi, vol.18, no.70, pp.245-263, 2021 (Peer-Reviewed Journal)
This study aims to answer two interlinked questions with respect to ethnic conflict in Georgia: (1) Why and how
two ethnic groups -the Abkhazians and Ossetians- sought secession in the 1990s rather than accepting unity
under a common Georgian roof? (2) what explains the occurrence of ethnic conflicts between the Abkhazians and
Georgians and between the South Ossetians and Georgians? The central argument of this paper is that Soviet
nationality policy was a foremost driving force in shaping consciousness of being ethnic groups in Georgia and set
the stage for the inter-ethnic conflicts of the post-Soviet era. A number of factors explain the particular interethnic conflicts in Georgia among ethnic groups, including a long historical relationship between the Georgian
people and the Abkhaz and Ossetian minorities. However, I argue that the foremost factor was the role of Soviet
nationality policy that evolved from Lenin to Gorbachev, a policy that granted ethnic groups some level of
privileges and fostered a wave of national self-assertion, Soviet nationality policy and the Soviet federal structure
created numerous ethnic- and territorial-based autonomous units during the Soviet era. These units shaped their
own political institutions, national intelligentsias, and bureaucratic elites, forming the basis for later nationalistic
movements and developing a wish for self-determination and full independence. These institutions and beliefs
made ethnic conflict in post-Soviet Georgia inevitable.
Keywords: Inter-Ethnic Conflict, Soviet Nationality Policy, Self Determination, Abkhazia, South Ossetia.