Dear Mrs. Nino [Burjanadze, the Parliamentary Chairperson],
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honor for me to address you today on behalf of the Ossetian people. With your permission, I will speak in my native language.
First of all, I want to use this opportunity to thank the President of Georgia Mr. Mikheil Saakashvili, you Ms. Nino, all the representatives of the legislative and executive branches of government, and members of political parties, who expressed support for what is truly our people’s movement. This shows that there is a political will in Georgia to find a realistic solution to this conflict by mutual compromise. This will is reflected in the recent economic reconstruction of our region, which raised hopes for final and peaceful resolution of the conflict. Now there is a belief that Georgians and Ossetians will live side by side in fraternity. This belief encouraged me and my friends to become leaders of the newly formed social-political movement that aims to establish peace and democracy in the region.
More people were attracted to our movement out of protest. For many years, people have been kidnapped and killed each day in the state of frozen conflict. Georgians and Ossetians living in the conflict zone are in constant fear of the future. Together we can put an end to this. Our people deserve a better future. Today we would like to live in a free and democratic state, where our future and the future of our children will be protected. I think that such a future is possible for my people in a united, democratic and stable Georgia, where the rights of every citizen and the identity of every people, including Ossetians, will be preserved.
Before sharing this belief, my friends and I trod a difficult path. In the beginning of the conflict, I stood at the other end of a broken bridge between us. Many Ossetians really thought that their identity was under threat. Many took up arms. I was among them. Yet, we all saw that armed conflict brought nothing but disaster to our people. It became clear to me that we reached an impasse.
In order to find a way out of this situation, I took an active part in the peace process from the 1990s. I found many like-minded people and gained many friends among Georgians. Mr. Mikheil Machavariani was one of them. Together we tried to initiate projects for economic rehabilitation of the region and peaceful resolution of the conflict. Unfortunately, this attempt failed. At that point, I finally understood that there was no political will to solve the conflict. I could not change this even though I was Prime Minister of South Ossetia.
There is only one solution – direct dialogue between Georgians and Ossetians and neutralization of destructive external and internal forces with the help of democratic international society. The role of the European Union is very important in building trust and reviving the region economically. We should oppose antidemocratic propaganda and agitation with the peaceful initiatives of our movement and economic development projects. I know that certain compromises will be required and we should be ready for that. We, the younger generation of Georgian and Ossetian politicians, now have a unique opportunity to set a precedent for the peaceful resolution of conflicts in the post-Soviet space. We must show to everyone that Georgians and Ossetians can build a unified state based on mutual respect and trust. This is the mission of our movement and of me, personally, as a representative of the Ossetian people.
Now, dear Members of Parliament, allow me to address my Ossetian compatriots.
Brothers and Sisters!
I speak to you from the Parliament of Georgia as an ordinary representative of the Ossetian people – as one who has gone through all the tragedies that the people of South Ossetia have experienced during the last 17 years.
There is no doubt that the conflict – which was caused by the bad Soviet heritage, by grave mistakes on both sides, and by the policy of an external force guided by the imperial principle “divide and rule” – must end and become part of history as a tragic and shameful mark in the annals of centuries-old fraternal coexistence of Ossetians and Georgians. History tells us that since St. Nino turned our common ancestors to Christianity in the fourth century, we have fought side by side many times for freedom and identity. Without the contribution of Ossetians, the golden age of Georgian statehood – the eras of Kings David and Tamar – would be unimaginable.
Today, as never before, we need to think about the ways to save our future, to preserve our identity and culture for our future generations. To live in united Georgia does not mean that our contacts with North Ossetia will be weakened or that our identity will be threatened. On the contrary, our culture and our traditions will develop in a unified, democratic Georgia.
This thought has brought me to the conclusion that a peaceful and fair resolution of the conflict is impossible without the restoration of trust and respect between Ossetians and Georgians. And this, as I said before, can be reached only through direct dialogue.
The leaders of the regime in Tskhinvali and their foreign “supervisors” understand this and do everything to provoke hostilities between the two people. Their aim is to suppress every effort toward restoration of trust at the very beginning in order to accomplish their geopolitical interests in the region.
In Tskhinvali, the propaganda machine works to maintain fear and hatred among the local population toward our brothers – Georgians. Those suspected of criticizing the regime are persecuted. In fact, the Ossetian people have become hostages of the regime, which tries to maintain the status quo in the conflict zone under the dictate of our northern neighbor.
The Ossetian population is gradually leaving South Ossetia. This trend is supported by the regime’s intolerable personnel policy: a process of dismissing local residents, Ossetians, from different positions in government and appointing representatives of foreign special services, who destroy our future, instead.
Our Ossetian children grow up in an environment of endless conflict, under constant stress and tension. They don’t have a normal childhood.
They don’t know what is going on beyond checkpoints and turnpikes; on the other hand, they are aware how a machine gun sounds, how it can be assembled, how an armored carrier is driven, and how cannons drone.
And this is how our generations grow up – or, to be correct, how they are demolished! We cannot continue in this way! This is the current catastrophe of my nation! Tskhinvali, Znauri, and Djava are confined by violence! Our children who live there grow up within a society squeezed and suppressed by a violent regime. We are losing generations right now.
I will not allow it! We should not allow it!
I didn’t fight for it!
I fought and will fight for a better future of our children. I will fight for what is already possible for today.
I will fight for a future where our younger parents take their children not through the checkpoints, but to the parks and playgrounds.
For children who will have good schools and kindergartens, to let them have concerts and plays, to let them have computers, participate in sports competitions and scientific Olympiads and achieve success.
This is the real freedom! The freedom of choice and opportunities! This is the freedom I will fight for!
I am not speaking about unrealistic dreams! All of these can be done today!
In order to have unhindered access to success! In order to be involved in any sphere of activity within our great country!
This future has no alternative! This is the liberty we are fighting for! (And I want to repeat) – I am not speaking about an unrealistic dream! All of these can be done today!
We fight so that our wonderful place, Ossetia, can have the possibility to realize and develop its abilities. I am sure that world-class tourist centers can be created here, where visitors from the whole of Georgia, Russia, and foreign countries will arrive not to fight, but to relax and take pleasure.
Where there will arrive not soldiers and military observers, but tourists, businessmen, sportsmen, and singers. We shall invite all of the politicians who are coming from different countries to assist us during the negotiations as tourists in the future.
Where tourists can visit us as if they were visiting Austrian and Swiss resorts, Kushavel or Bakuriani, Sochi or Gudauri, Dubrovnik or Batumi.
Where everybody will arrive as our friends and brothers.
Where people will arrive in order to value Ossetian culture, to see our unique Ossetian dances, to respect our traditions, and to appreciate our hospitality and unique beauty.
Ossetian people have a lot to say to the whole world! We don’t deserve to be known by the rest of the world only as a place of violence.
From a conflict zone, Ossetia must develop into a zone of peace and tourism.
This is our current challenge! This is our current goal! To create a new Ossetia, strong and delightful, free of violence: an Ossetia of free people.
Our way is the way to freedom! The way from confinement to freedom of opportunities!
Reasoning from what I said above, I consider the realization of ideas proposed by our movement as the only way to save our people. This implies the beginning of direct dialogue between Ossetians and Georgians and restoration of trust through mutual compromise. I hope that this approach will set the stage for building a common state, which would secure the interests of the Ossetian population.
Finally, Ms. Nino, dear Members of Parliament, we must all understand that great effort is required to heal the wounds of the near past. The correct, consecutive, and result-oriented steps of the Georgian government will play a decisive role in this process. Our movement is ready to cooperate as much as possible with the Georgian authorities to find a universal settlement to this conflict.
I hold that the comprehensive Georgian-Ossetian dialogue must ultimately result in granting broad autonomy to the region and guaranteeing political representation and cultural identity to the Ossetian people within a unified state. This must be preceded and followed by joint social and economic projects. Such projects will serve as the grounds for building trust and improving the conditions of the population, which has long suffered from conflict. First of all, the law on restitution of property to those affected by the conflict, which has already been passed by the Georgian Parliament, must be put into practice.
Today, at the top of this building there is a flag under which Georgians and Ossetians have achieved historical victories. I believe that under the same flag we will lay the foundation for new joint victories of our two fraternal people. The eras of Kings David and Tamar are still considered as the golden age by our people. And today we must create a new golden age together. I believe that together we shall build a modern state, which will be worthy of our great ancestors and where our children will live in happiness.
May St. George [Uastargi in Ossetian] be the guardian of Georgian and Ossetian people. God bless the Ossetian people, God bless the Georgian people, and God bless the whole of Georgia.