The Batsbi?

Other Peoples

Resources & Links



Exchanging the rule of Moscow (via Makhachkala)
for that of Tbilisi

An intriguing story from Georgian television (a big pinch of salt) — monitored, translated and relayed by the BBC's foreign press monitoring office in Tbilisi:

Dagestani ethnic group wants to break from Russia and join Georgia - TV
Wednesday December 15, 2010 07:01:43 EST
Dec 15, 2010 (BBC Monitoring via COMTEX News Network) --

[Presenter] A statement signed by 14,000 Dido-Laks [as heard; Didos and Laks are ethnic groups native to Russia's Dagestan] was submitted today to the chairman of the [Georgian] parliamentary committee for Diaspora and Caucasus issues, Nugzar Tsiklauri. In the statement the North Caucasians, who are citizens of Russia, express the desire to live as a part of Georgia because in Russia their rights are violated and their culture, history and native Dido language are being destroyed. Georgian MPs say they will ask international organizations to help the Dido-Laks.

[Video shows what appears to be a petition with signatures in the Russian language]

[Magomed Gamzatov, captioned as Dagestani resident, in Russian with Georgian translation overlaid] We have familiarized them [Georgian MPs] with our problems. We are being forced to learn other languages, our native language is being taken away from us. We ask that the Dido region be joined to Georgia.

[Tsiklauri] For our part, we have decided to appeal [for help] to UNESCO and all other organizations which work on the rights of small nations, as well as to the Georgian Linguistic Institute in order to ensure that the study of this language is advanced to the next level.

Source: Rustavi-2 TV, Tbilisi, in Georgian 1100gmt 15 Dec 10

BBC Mon Alert TCU jh

BBC Monitoring. Copyright BBC.

* * * * *

Two days later, the Georgian English-language newspaper Georgia Today published an article on the same subject:

Georgia’s ‘United Caucasus’ policy receives response
By Maia Edilashvili
Georgia Today, 17.12.10

Against the backdrop of Tbilisi’s efforts to intensify ties with North Caucasus republics of the Russian Federations, concern has been expressed that for the endeavor to be successful, the engagement of international organizations in the process is vital. Meanwhile, there are signs that the countries of the North Caucasus might also be seeking friendship in Georgia.

“If direct [links] are established, Russia will try to use this against us [blaming Georgia for] supporting terrorist groups in the North Caucasus and then it will be pointless to argue it’s not the case,” Paata Zakareishvili, a Georgian political commentator said on Thursday in an interview with interpressnews, a Tbilisi-based news agency.

While supporting the idea that the North Caucasus is useful for Tbilisi in negotiations with Moscow, Zakareishvili says that taking the direct route without international mediation could be seen as the Georgian government using the issue as a tool to upset Russia. “Have we ever initiated a visa-free regime with Iran without agreeing it first with the Iranian authorities?! Why didn’t we do this without agreement from the Russian government?!” – he asked rhetorically on December 16.

The criticism refers to Georgia’s unexpected decision in mid-October to grant citizens of Chechnya; Ingushetia; North Ossetia; Dagestan; Kabardino-Balkaria; Karachay-Cherkessia and the Republic of Adygea - Russian republics in the North Caucasus - a visa-free stay in Georgia for 90 days.

Against mounting confrontation between North Caucasian and Russian nationals within Russia, most notably in violence in Moscow this week, Tbilisi’s move was a big blow for the Kremlin. Up until recently, it had been Russia that had manipulated nationalist sentiment in the Caucasus, using Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia as pawns in its political games.

As civil confrontation in Moscow deepened this week, the Dido ethnic group from Dagestan appealed to the Georgian Parliament, requesting that the Dido people be accepted into Georgian jurisdiction. Magomed Gamzatov, the chairman of Revival, an organization which has submitted 15,000 signatures petition from members of the Dido community to the parliament in Tbilisi, said that the cultural and political identity of the Dido are under threat from “discriminative” Russian rule.

Citing Russian sources, the Civil Georgia news portal says that a total of 15,200 Dido reside in the Russian Federation, primarily in the Republic of Dagestan which borders Georgia. Other sources, however, give a higher number.

Nugzar Tsiklauri, an MP from Georgia’s ruling party, said that Tbilisi will do its best to mediate, with the help of international organizations, to help the Dido get their voices heard.

Interestingly, Tsiklauri’s committee, which used to be known as the Committee for Relations with Compatriots Living Abroad, was renamed on December 15 to the Committee for Diaspora and Caucasus Issues in move congruent with Georgia’s “United Caucasus” policy voiced by president Saakshvili at the UN General Assembly this past September. This very committee is overseeing discussions on the recognition of the murder and forced migration of the Circassians, an indigenous people of the Northeast Caucasus, in the 19th century as act of Russian genocide.

“It’s impossible to hold Sochi Olympic Games on land which was the site of genocide [referring to the Circassians deportation],” Tsiklauri contended.

* * * * *

Jost Gippert of the University of Frankfurt has uploaded a map which shows the geographical distribution of the peoples of Daghestan and their languages. (This link only shows the relevant page of the map in question; for the full experience, click here.) The Tsez [Dido] inhabit the valleys just to the east of the Tush, scattered among two dozen or so small villages (most of them mere hamlets built close to patches of arable land in remote valleys).