IWPR's Caucasus Reporting Service, No. 86: Refugees in North Ossetia

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Subject: IWPR's Caucasus Reporting Service, No. 86: Refugees in North Ossetia

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IWPR's Caucasus Reporting Service, No. 86: Refugees in North

CHECHENS 'PLAN SUMMER OFFENSIVE'  Basaev's videotaped appeal provides
no shortage of grist for the Russian propaganda mill. By Musa Alibekov
in Mozdok
CAUGHT IN A VICIOUS CIRCLE  Maskhadov's latest appeal for peace talks
meets with icy disdain. By Erik Batuev in Moscow

UNWANTED GUESTS  North Ossetians claim their ethnic kin from
neighbouring Georgia have abused their hospitality. By Valeri Dzutsev
in Vladikavkaz
BALKAR GHOST TOWN  Tyrnyauz's industrial complex is struggling to
survive in the post-Soviet wilderness. By Yuri Akbashev in Nalchik
********** VISIT IWPR ON-LINE: www.iwpr.net **************


North Ossetians claim their ethnic kin from neighbouring Georgia have
abused their hospitality
By Valeri Dzutsev in Vladikavkaz
The 38,000 South Ossetian refugees marooned in North Ossetia are
caught, as the saying goes, between the hammer and the anvil.
On the one hand, their ethnic homeland across the Russian border still
struggles to maintain its de facto independence from the Georgian
state. On the other, their hosts, the North Ossetians, make it clear
they have long outstayed their welcome.
And the international aid agencies, whose efforts are focused on
neighbouring Chechnya and Ingushetia, remain apparently indifferent to
their plight.
In the late 1980s, the South Ossetians became victims of the rise of
nationalism in Georgia and Moscow's efforts to retain control over the
Soviet republic.
They soon became aware that the autonomous oblast was in danger of
being torn away from its ethnic twin since North Ossetia was destined
to remain part of the Russian Federation.
In the build-up to independence, non-Georgian nationals found
themselves excluded from top government positions and their prospects
for social advancement were drastically reduced.
With the declaration of Georgian independence, the South Ossetian
autonomous oblast declared its own right to secede - a right denied by
Tbilisi which promptly renamed South Ossetia "Shida Kartli" - Inner
Moscow was quick to seize upon the Ossetians' discontent as a means of
retaining a foothold in the south Caucasus. As a result, Ossetians
living in Georgia were branded "Kremlin spies" and enemies of the
newly independent state.
The consequences were predictable. Fighting broke out in 1989 and
dragged on until 1991. Of the 174,000 Ossetians in Georgia (according
to the last Soviet census), only 55,000 lived in the autonomous
province of South Ossetia with the majority resident in Georgia.
Between 1989 and 1991, an estimated 100,000 Ossetians fled north to
North Ossetia, which then boasted a population of just over 600,000.
The massive influx of refugees, compounded by a steady stream of
Ossetian migrants from Central Asia, put an impossible burden on the
local infrastructure.
Without help from the Russian government and humanitarian aid
organisations, the situation would undoubtedly have spiralled out of
The refugee problem also served to fuel tensions between North
Ossetians and Ingush settlers and was a contributing factor to the
1992 conflict when bitter fighting in the Prigorodny region claimed
around 300 lives.
However, it wasn't long before the South Ossetian refugees -
immediately recognisable by their strong Ossetic accent - began to
sense the growing local resentment. Against a background of rising
unemployment and plummeting living standards, the North Ossetians came
to see the refugees as scapegoats.
Resorts, sanatoriums and hotels were crammed with South Ossetian
families, putting a huge strain on a tourism industry which once
welcomed around a million visitors a year.

The refugees are also blamed for rising crime and the daily police
reports never fail to associate at least one incident with a "South
Ossetian national".
But, despite the growing hostility, the refugees have little hope of
returning to their ethnic homeland which has become a notorious haven
for smugglers and organised crime gangs.
And the government in Tskhinvali makes little attempt to seek a
political rapprochement with Tbilisi  -- not least because the
Georgian economy is in an advanced state of collapse and trade
opportunities across the Russian border are infinitely more
Valeri Dzutsev is a regular IWPR contributor

IWPR's Caucasus Reporting Service provides the regional and
international community with unique insiders' perspective on the
Caucasus. Using our network of local journalists, the service
publishes objective news and analysis from across the region on a
weekly basis.
The service forms part of IWPR's Caucasus Project based in Tbilisi and
London which supports local media development while encouraging better
local and international understanding of the region.
IWPR's Caucasus Reporting Service is supported by the UK National
Lottery Charities Board. The service is currently available on the Web
in English and in Russian. All IWPR's reporting services including
Balkan Crisis Reports and Tribunal Update are available free of charge
via e-mail subscription or direct from the Web.
To subscribe to any of the news services, e-mail IWPR at
For further details on this project and other information services and
media programmes, visit IWPR's Website: <www.iwpr.net>.
Editor-in-chief: Anthony Borden. Managing Editor: Yigal Chazan;
Assistant Editor: Alan Davis. Commissioning Editors: Giorgi Topouria
in Tbilisi, Shahin Rzayev in Baku, Mark Grigorian in Yerevan, Michael
Randall and Saule Mukhametrakhimova in London. Editorial Assistance:
Felix Corley, Heather Milner and Mirna Jancic. To comment on this
service, contact IWPR's Programme Director: Alan Davis alan@iwpr.net
The Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR) is a London-based
independent non-profit organisation supporting regional media and
democratic change.
Lancaster House, 33 Islington High Street, London N1 9LH, United
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The opinions expressed in IWPR's Caucasus Reporting Service are those
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Copyright (c) IWPR 2001

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