Government of Georgia – Tskhinvali region

Information on Tskhinvali/South Ossetia Region

Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia (the former South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast) is located on the south side of the Greater Caucasus range, in the northern part of Georgia, with its area comprising 3,800 square kilometers (5.4% of Georgia's territory), and consisting of four administrative entities: Znauri, Akhalgori, Tskhinvali, and Java Districts. Tskhinvali Region is bordered by the Russian Federation to the north, Kazbegi and Dusheti Municipalities to the east, also Kaspi, Gori, Kareli, and Khashuri Municipalities to the south, and Sachkhere and Oni Municipalities to the west.
The earliest human traces discovered in this territory date back to the Upper Paleolithic, some 40-40 thousand years ago. The mid-1st millennium B.C. ruined burial site discovered near the village of Sadzeguri, Akhalgori Municipality bears witness to the high level of development in this region. Historically, Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia was populated by ethnic Georgians, Ossetians, Armenians, Jews, and other ethnicities.
Tskhinvali Region, known historically as Samachablo, was always part of the Georgian state as a single military and administrative entity. Since the establishment of the Kingdom of Kartli in the late 4th century B.C., Shida Kartli emerged as the country's central principality. Populated by Georgians since time immemorial, this territory was an integral part of the Georgian cultural space, as evidenced by both Georgian and foreign historical sources, also by numerous artifacts discovered in the region.

Ethnic Ossetians have lived for centuries throughout Georgia, including in Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, with the Ossetian language being their native tongue. Ossetian is an Indo-European language, belonging to the eastern branch of the Indo-Iranian group. Until the 18th century, the Ossetian language did not have its own script. The earliest translations into the Ossetian language were made by Igumen Grigori, using the Georgian alphabet, in 1747-1753. Those were the first manuscript (ecclesiastical) books in the Ossetian language.
In 1798, the Ossetian alphabet was created based on Cyrillic script, with inputs from Bishop Gaioz (Baratashvili) of Mozdok and Priest Pavel Gentsaurov (Kesaev), and the first alphabet books and primers were published. Theology Basics (published in 1798), translated by Gaioz the Rector from Georgian into Ossetian, was the first book printed in Ossetian. As for Ossetian grammar, Academic Shegren (1794-1855) was first to compile it using Russian script in 1844.
Since 1923, attempts were made to use Latin script for the Ossetian language, though it never took root in practice. From 1938 until 1954, the Ossetian language still used an alphabet based on Georgian script. Since 1954, a Cyrillic-based alphabet is in use.

Besides Georgians and Ossetians, Jews, mostly perusing commerce, have lived in Tskhinvali Region since the 13th century. In the 1870s, seven synagogues and a religious school operated in the Jewish quarters of the city of Tskhinvali. A strong Armenian community also resided nearby, making up Akhalgori's absolute majority together with the Georgian population by 1802. Large Armenian communities also existed in Tskhinvali: According to the 1917 census, Jews made up 38.4% of Tskhinvali's population, Georgians 34.4%, and Armenians and Ossetians 17.7% and 8.8%, respectively.
For centuries, the territory of present-day Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia (Samachablo) was uninterruptedly incorporated into the unified Kingdom of Georgia, the Kingdom of Kartli, or the Kingdom of Kartli and Kakheti. After the annexation of the Kingdom of Kartli and Kakheti in the 19th century, Shida Kartli was fully-including the territory of the future South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast-incorporated into the Gori and Dusheti uyezds of the Tbilisi Governorate. In 1840, Tsarist Russia carried out an administrative reform in the Caucasus, resulting in the establishment of the Ossetian Okrug in 1842.
The 1847 General Map of the Caucasus features the Ossetian Okrug to include Japa, Patara Liakhvi, and Nari (historical Dvaleti) Districts and exclude both Tskhinvali and Akhalgori-this map is found in B. Kaloev's monograph, Ossetians, published in 1967. After conquering the North Caucasus in 1859, Russia once again introduced administrative changes in the Caucasus. The Ossetian Okrug-similar to Georgia's historical province of Dvaleti in its entirety-was incorporated into the newly established North Caucasian Military Okrug of Ossetia. The second half of the 19th century saw the birth of the term South Ossetia, previously missing from historical sources.

After Georgia's occupation by Russia's Red Army in 1921, administrative borders were arbitrarily redrawn, including the establishment of the South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast (SOAO) within Georgia, with its capital in Tskhinvali, based on the April 20, 1922 Ordinance #2 of the Council of People's Commissars of the Central Committee of the Georgian SSR. Previously, no Ossetian state formation ever existed in the territory of Georgia.
On September 20, 1992, the local members of the Communist Party of the SOAO, independently from Georgia's central authorities and in defiance of then applicable legal norms, declared the SOAO as the so-called sovereign Soviet Socialist Republic of South Ossetia within the Soviet Union. The Georgian Government led by Zviad Gamsakhurdia denounced the ordinance above as illegitimate and, on December 11, 199o, abolished the status of the SOAO. The segments of society opposing the government's decree turned to civil disobedience, which further escalated into an armed confrontation with law enforcements.

Based on the Sochi agreement signed on June 24, 1992, between the Chairman of the State Council of the Republic of Georgia, Eduard Shevardnadze, and the President of the Russian Federation, Boris Yeltsin, detachments of the Russian Federation's armed forces-enjoying a peacemaking mandate from the UN Security Council-were stationed together with detachments of Georgia's armed forces in the territory adjacent to Tskhinvali.
In August 2008, the Russian Federation's armed forces crossed the Georgian-Russian border via the Roki Tunnel and, joining forces with the peacemaking mandate-holding troops stationed in Tskhinvali Region, occupied the territory of the former South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast after five days of war.