After February 17th, 2008 when Kosovo Albanian parliament proclaimed Kosovo independence with U.S. diplomatic support (unilateral recognition)
Владислав Б. Сотировић, 02.03.2010
with explanation that Kosovo case is unique in the World (i.e., it will not be repeated again and it is not similar to any other World’s case) one can ask the question: is the problem of southern Serbian province of Kosovo really unique and surely unrepeatable in some other parts of the World as U.S. administration is trying to convince the rest of the international community?
The possible negative consequences of international recognition of Kosovo independence are already mostly visible in the Caucasus because of the very similar problems and situation between these two macro-European regions. At the Caucasus (where 50 different nations are living) it is similar situation with Abkhazia and South Ossetia (former parts of Georgia), but consequences could be felt and in Nagorno Karabah (province in Azerbaijan) as well.
The experts from German Ministry of Foreign Affairs already before February 2008 expressed their fear that in the case of U.S. and E.U. unilateral recognition of Kosovo independence the same unilateral diplomatic act could be implied by Moscow by recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as a matter of both diplomatic compensation and as result of domino effect in international relations. It is also known and from official O.S.C.E. sources that Russian delegates in this pan-European security organization were constantly warning the West that such scenario is quite possible, but with one peculiarity: they stopped to mention Russian recognition of Nagorno Karabah’s independence. It is most probably for the reason that Moscow does not want to spoil good relations with Azerbaijan – a country with huge reserves of natural gas and oil.
Why South Ossetia could be different?
On the first glance it can be said that Orthodox South Ossetians are equally separatist as Muslim Kosovo Albanians. However, South Ossetians are having sympathies towards Serbs (not because both of them are Orthodox) but not towards, as we could expect, separatist Kosovo Albanians. The real reason of such sympathies is similar legal state rights applied by both Serbs in Kosovo and South Ossetians.
Historically, South Ossetia was in fact never integral part of sovereign Georgian state, differently to Kosovo which was not only integral but culturally the most important part of the medieval Serbian state till 1455 when Ottoman Turks occupied Kosovo and at such a way separated it from the rest of Serbia that was also conquered by Turks in 1459. Moreover, Georgia itself was never before entered imperial Russia a united state territory, also differently to Serbia which lost independence in 1459 and regained it in 1804. Present day territory of Georgia entered Russia in parts – segment by segment. Biggest portion of Ossetia became voluntarily part of Russian Empire in 1767/1774. The Russian Empress Catherin the Great, in order to be surely convinced that the Ossetians are really independent, before incorporation of this province sent a special commission to Ossetia which informed St. Petersburg that the “Ossetians are free people subordinated to no one”.
Georgia itself together with a smaller part of Ossetia became part of Russia in 1801 (a quarter of century later then bigger part of Ossetia). This fact is the most important argument used by the Ossetians in their dispute with Georgian authorities. Differently to Ossetians, Kosovo Albanians such argument do not have in relation to Serbs. However, one historical similarity between the South Ossetia and Kosovo is clear: as the South Ossetia never was a part of Georgia, Kosovo was never part of Albania except during the Second World War. Southern part of Ossetia was given to be administered by Georgia only in the USSR in 1922 by decision of three Georgian Communists – Josif Visarionovich Dzugashvili Stalin, Sergei Ordzonikidze and Avelj Enukindze. South Ossetia was partially Grusified being part of Soviet Georgia. Between these two parts of Ossetia never was a border before 1994.
The people of South Ossetia on the referendum upon destiny of USSR on March 17, 1991 voted for existence of Soviet Union (like Serbs upon Yugoslavia, but and Kosovo Albanians on illegal referendum to become independent from Serbia like Georgians from USSR). The referendum on March 17, 1991 was organized two months after Georgian army started the war against South Ossetia in which till September of the same year 86 Ossetian villages have been burned. It is calculated that more then 1.000 Ossetians lost their lives and around 12.000 Ossetians fled from Southern to Northern Ossetia. This is the point of similarity with expelled 250.000 Serbs from Kosovo by Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army after NATO peace-keeping troops entered this province in June 1999.
Independence of Republic of South Ossetia was proclaimed on May 29, 1992. However, this legal act has not been understood as “separatist” because at that time Georgia was not recognized by any one state in the world as independent one and Georgia was not a member of the United Nation Organisation. Oppositely to the South Ossetian case, the act of proclamation of Kosovo independence in 2008 by the local Albanians cannot be treated by international community as a legal one (without permission by Belgrade) as Kosovo by international law and agreements is integral part of Serbia and Serbia (differently from Georgia in May 1992) is internationally recognized independent state and a member of the United Nations. This is and common point of similarity between the Ossetians and Serbs: both of them are fighting against separation of one part of national body and land from the motherland; in the other words, for united Ossetia and united Serbia.
International system of governing and separation
The main argument for the western politicians upon Kosovo independence, as “unique case” of Kosovo situation, is the fact that according to “Kumanovo agreement” between Miloshevic’s Serbia and NATO on June 10, 1999, and UN Resolutions 1244 (following this agreement), Kosovo is put under UN protectorate with imposed international system of governing and security. However, such “argument” does not work in the case of South Ossetia as the Ossetians are governing their land by themselves and much more successfully in comparison with internationally protected Kosovo. It was quite visible in March 2004 when international organizations and military troops could not protect ethnic Serbs in Kosovo from violent attacks organized by the local Albanians when during three days (March 17-19) 4,000 Serbs exiled, more then 800 Serbian houses are set on fire and 35 destroyed or severely damaged Serbian Orthodox churches and cultural monuments. The “March Pogrom” revealed the real situation in Kosovo.
The position of South Ossetians in independent Georgia could be compared with position of Serbs in northern Kosovo after 1999 and recognition of Kosovo independence in 2008. However, differently with Kosovo case after 1999, South Ossetia, Abkhazia and even Pridnjestrovlje showed much more political-legal bases to be recognized as independent as they showed real ability to govern themselves by only themselves but not by any international organization as it is the case of Kosovo Albanians. They also proved much more democracy and respect for human and minority rights in comparison with Albanian-ruled Kosovo.
Nagorno Karabah and Kosovo
There are several similarities but also and dissimilarities between conflicts upon Nagorno Karabah and Kosovo. In both cases the international community is dealing with autonomy of compact national minority who is making a majority on the land in question and having its own national independent state out of this contested territory. Both Nagorno Karabah Armenians and Kosovo Albanians do not want to accept any other solution except separation and internationally recognized independence.
Both conflicts are in fact continuations of old historic struggles between two different civilizations: Muslim Turkish and Christian Byzantine. In both conflicts the international organizations are included as the mediators. Some of them are the same – France, USA and Russia as members of both Contact Group for ex-Yugoslavia and Minsk Group under the O.S.C.E. umbrella for Azerbaijan. Both and Serbia and Azerbaijan are against that their cases (Kosovo and Nagorno Karabah) would be proclaimed as “unique” ones as it would be a green light to Albanian and Armenian separatists to secede their territories from Serbia and Azerbaijan without permission given by Belgrade and Baku.
However, there are and significant differences between Kosovo and Nagorno Karabah cases. Firstly, Kosovo is internal conflict within Serbia (which is after 1999 internationalized) but in the case of Nagorno Karabah we have to speak about external military aggression (by Armenia). Secondly, in difference to Armenia in relation to Nagorno Karabah, Albania never accepted any legal act in which Kosovo was called as integral part of state territory of Albania (with historical exception during the Second World War when Kosovo, Eastern Montenegro and Western Macedonia have been included into Mussolini’s the so-called “Greater Albania”). Delegation from Albania did not take any participation in the talks on the Kosovo “final” status between Belgrade and Prishtina, while Armenia has official status of “interested side” in the conflict concerning Nagorno Karabah. However, the Armenians from Nagorno Karabah such status still did not obtain. Regular army of Albania never was involved in Kosovo conflict, while Armenian army (from the state of Armenia) was directly involved in military operations in Nagorno Karabah, officially part of independent state of Azerbaijan. As result, Armenia occupied 1/5 of Azerbaijan territory and the victims of ethnic cleansing are only Azerbaijani. Differently from the Kosovo case, weaker Azerbaijani side did not apply to NATO for the military help but weaker Albanian side did it during the Kosovo conflict 1998-1999.
Finally, it can be concluded that the Kosovo conflict and independence is not “unique” case in the world and more important it is not without direct consequences to the similar separatist cases following the “domino effect”. That is the real reason why government of Cyprus is not supporting “Kosovo Albanian rights to self-determination” as the next “unique” case can be easily northern (Turkish) part of Cyprus which is by the way recognized by Republic of Turkey and under Ankara’s protection from 1974.
Владислав Б. Сотировић
Оснивач и уредник онлајн магазина
Serbian Patriotic Front