Russian Legislature Recognizes Breakaway Provinces

The Federation Council and the Duma, the upper and lower houses of the legislature of the Russian Federation, have voted in favor of recognizing the independence of Georgia’s two breakaway provinces, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, from Georgia:

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s parliament unanimously approved on Monday resolutions calling for the recognition of two rebel regions of Georgia as independent states, a move likely to worsen already strained relations with the West.

Both houses of parliament, which are controlled by Kremlin loyalists, swiftly approved non-binding resolutions calling on President Dmitry Medvedev to recognize the pro-Moscow breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The lower house, or State Duma, approved a second resolution calling on parliaments worldwide to back independence for the two regions, saying they had many more reasons than the former Serb province of Kosovo to aspire to international recognition.

Where does the 500-lb. gorilla sit? Anywhere it wants. Both of the regions have had de facto independence from Georgia since they broke away more than a decade ago so in one sense giving these two areas recognition is just an acknowledgement of the facts on the ground.

I was skeptical of the idea of Kosovo as an independent country when we were supporting the ethnic Albanian Kosovars in their bid on several grounds including that the area was landlocked, had no historical independent identity, and was culturally important to the Serbs. But there was at least some argument for independence on the grounds of the overwhelmingly ethnic Albanian population of the region.

Both Abkhazia and South Ossetia are geographically smaller than Kosovo and don’t have anything like a tidy ethnic identity absent the “ethnic cleansing” that’s been going on and no doubt is going on right at this moment. If I recall correctly under the Soviet Union they were an autonomous okrug and an oblast, respectively.

In particular it’s hard to imagine South Ossetia as a viable state. Not only is it landlocked but it’s tiny. It’s 8% smaller geographically than the county in which I live (Cook County, Illinois) and, perhaps, has 2 or 3% of the population. The average income of South Ossetians is less than a dollar a day—they’re among the poorest people in the world. Unless you believe that a torrent of Russian foreign aid will flood into the country it’s hard to imagine how the area is going to dig itself out of its hole on its own.

Well, the other shoe has dropped and Russia is all but certain to be the first country in the world to recognize the independence of the two territories. What’s next? The Independent Republic of Springfield, Illinois?

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Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.


  1. Ace Armstrong says:

    This vote reminds me of when Dubya and the Neocons were riding roughshod over a republican majority in the upper and lower houses of the american congress taking us to war in Iraq.
    What would one think if Russia was selling military arms and sending military advisors to Mexico and encouraging them to take back the Gadsden Purchase.

  2. PD Shaw says:

    The viability of South Ossetia increases when its independence is tied to North Ossetia. One Ossetia to rule them all . . .

  3. Michael says:

    Unless you believe that a torrent of Russian foreign aid will flood into the country it’s hard to imagine how the area is going to dig itself out of its hole on its own.

    No, they’re going to pull a Texas and as for admission into the Russian Federation. Independence is just a necessary step in between.

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    That may solve Russia’s problems but it won’t solve South Ossetia’s economic problems. The amount of foreign direct investment that’s been pouring in to George is phenomenal. Were South Ossetia integrated into Georgia in some way some of that might make its way into the region. Without that there’s not a chance.

    The FDI issue is one I’ve posted about before and plan to again. Whether the recent incursion by the Russians has a chilling effect on FDI (I think it will) may determine Georgia’s economic future.

  5. Dave,

    Just for the record (and handful of us who even know what these terms meant): Abkhazi was an autonomous soviet social republic and South Ossetia was an autonomous oblast. I decided to look all of it up and posted on it here. Really, Georgia’s claims on those territories is quite tenuous, even going beyond the last decade (I discuss some of it in the post linked above).

  6. Dave Schuler says:

    Thanks, Steven. I’d remembered that one of them was an autonomous oblast but couldn’t recall the status of the other. It thought perhaps an okrug. Thanks for the clarification.