Review: “Discordant Neighbours: A Reassessment of the Georgian-Abkhazian and Georgian-South Ossetian Conflicts” – B. George Hewitt

George Hewitt’s “Discordant Neighbours: A Reassessment of the Georgian-Abkhazian and Georgian-South Ossetian Conflicts” is the most authoritative account of the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, especially since the ‘Five-Day War’ in August 2008.

In this book Hewitt takes aim at many of the myths propagated by Georgia and its Western allies that Abkhazia and South Ossetia are Russian ‘puppets’, that Russia and its so-called ‘puppets’ started the war in 2008, that Georgians were/are the victims of ethnic cleansing in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, etc. Indeed, Hewitt argues that the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia are largely the creation of Georgia’s own chauvinistic policies against the country’s non-Kartvelian minorities, including Abkhaz, Ossetian, Armenian, Azeri, etc. Hewitt draws many parallels between the chauvinistic policies of post-Soviet Georgia and the current conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and those of Menshevik-controlled Georgia in the early 1920s.

What makes this book so impressive is Hewitt’s wealth of knowledge. As a specialist in Caucasian languages, with a Ph.D. in linguistics, Hewitt is fluent in Georgian, Abkhaz, and other Caucasian languages, making it possible for him to use sources otherwise unavailable to Western scholars. Moreover, Hewitt has lived in Abkhazia, is an honorary professor at Abkhazian State University, and has interviewed several important actors in Abkhazia, such as Vladislaw Ardzinba (first President of Abkhazia), as well as (I think) Sergei Bagapsh (second President of Abkhazia), and Stanislav Lakoba (former Secretary of the Security Council in Abkhazia, Professor of Archeology, Ethnology and History at the Abkhazian State University, and a distant relative of Nestor Lakoba). Hewitt’s knowledge and close relationship with Abkhazia has even earned him the wrath of Georgian leaders.

After reading this book, I think Stalin was well justified in highlighting the danger of local nationalism in the USSR, especially that of Georgia.

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