Sergey Lavrov in Sochi, October 16, 2017. Photo: MFA Russia
The Debunker - Civil Georgia’s new product - tracks and analyzes the disinformation on Georgia and its occupied regions. The Debunker topics are selected by Civil Georgia editorial team to meet the core themes that we cover in our articles. We then uncover legal, conceptual and technical facts underpinning the topic at hand and provide detailed analysis to our readers.
Our first entry scrutinizes the statement of Sergey Lavrov, Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, made during his speech on the sidelines of the 19th World Festival of Youth and Students in Sochi on October 16.
Responding to the question on the possibility of unification of South Ossetia and North Ossetia (a republic in the North Caucasus) within the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov posited: “in the Soviet Union, as you are aware, this was the case – there was a united Ossetia and then, it was divided into two by an arbitrary decision. Back then many things were transferred from one republic to another, including Crimea, in disregard of the Soviet Constitution.”
With that, Sergey Lavrov made a claim that at some point during the Soviet period the territory of Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia was transferred to Georgia from a supposed “united Ossetia” that existed within Russia.
After centuries of existing within the borders of the Kingdom of Georgia, the eastern Georgian Kingdom of Kartli, Tiflis [Tbilisi] Governorate of the Russian Empire, and, during 1918-1921, the first independent democratic republic of Georgia, the territory of modern-day Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia was occupied together with the rest of the Georgian republic by the Soviet Russian armies as a result of the Soviet-Georgian War of February-March 1921.
Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic, 1922. Photo: National Archives of Georgia
Throughout the entire Soviet period, South Ossetia existed within the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic, as the country was called by the Soviet Constitution. The Soviet Union adopted three constitutions after being formally established in 1922 - in 1924, 1936 and 1977.
The Soviet Constitution of 1924 did not detail administrative units within the constituent “republics” of the USSR. Their status was regulated by the constitutions of the “republics.” In the case of Georgia, the Soviet Georgian constitution was adopted one year after the country’s occupation by the Russian Bolshevik troops - in March 1922. In its Article 1, the constitution explicitly states that “the South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast” was a constituent part of the Georgian Socialist Soviet Republic.
Article 9 of the second Soviet Georgian constitution, adopted in 1927, says exactly the same thing.
Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic, 1939. Photo: National Archives of Georgia
In the constitutions of the Soviet Union of 1936 and 1977, the status of administrative units within the “republics” of the USSR is defined directly.
The Soviet Constitution of 1936 lists South Ossetia within Georgia in its Article 25. None of this constitution’s subsequent amendments, introduced between 1936 and the adoption of a new constitution in 1977, change anything in the text of Article 25.
The Soviet Constitution of 1977 also states directly that “the South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast is part of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic” in Article 87. Just as was in the case of the 1936 constitution, no later amendments of the constitution of 1977 change anything regarding the status of South Ossetia, including the very last version of the Soviet Constitution adopted in December 1990.
No administrative unit encompassing both North Ossetia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia has ever existed - neither within the Soviet Union, nor during any other historical period.
Therefore, Sergey Lavrov’s statement has no factual basis at all, and blatantly contradicts all basic historical facts regarding the status of South Ossetia within the USSR, including all Soviet legal documents that touch upon South Ossetia.