The North Caucasus Factor in the Georgian-Abkhaz Conflict Context

International Alert is proud to present the latest in the “Dialogue through Research” process, produced by a group of experts from both sides of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict divide, on the theme of the North Caucasus Factor in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict.

The experts – prominent public figures who play a role in shaping public debate in their respective societies – selected this topic as one having particular relevance for a number of reasons, a few of which we highlight below.

The role of Russia in the conflict is perceived by Georgian and Abkhaz societies each through the prism of the history of Russia’s involvement in the conflict, and Russia’s image in both Georgian and Abkhaz internal discourse is quite contradictory. This in itself is an obstacle to building understanding between the sides of the different public discourses.

However, when assessing Russia’s role, the sides do not always take into full consideration Russia’s relations with the North Caucasus and related tendencies, both with respect to internal and external Russian processes, inter alia the South Caucasus.

Clearly, official policy analysis and prognoses on the conflicts – in this case the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict – do not fully take into consideration Caucasian commonalities, which many people living in the Caucasus identify with.

At the same time, we can see how, for example, after the 2008 war Georgia stepped up efforts to establish links with the people of the North Caucasus. The aim here was to draw them into mutually beneficial partner relations, based on Georgia’s own vision of partnership and interests.

However, socio-political trends in the North Caucasus are mostly hidden from the outside world for reasons of lack of free access and the close-knit nature of the traditional communities living there. Therefore, we invited new experts into the Georgian-Abkhaz dialogue group who could expand our understanding of this issue.

We hope that this publication will stimulate public debates on the North Caucasus factor in Georgian and Abkhaz societies. This could help to improve understanding of the role this region plays, where internal Russian and South Caucasian interests are intertwined.