After independence in 1991, followed a long period of
deterioration in socio-economic conditions, large internal
contradictions and a growing proportion of poor residents.
Economic growth in the 1990s led to improved living
conditions for some, but the gap between the large amount of
poor and the small group of newly rich people increased. The
development was halted by the 2008 war and the global
economic crisis, which reduced the assistance of countries
in the West. In 2009, 31 percent of the residents lived
below the poverty line.
When the country became independent, there was a free
medical care, but it was ineffective and corrupt and mainly
located in the larger towns. A health care reform was
started in 1994 and included privatization and paid medical
care. The sickness insurance was previously linked to
employment and did not apply to the majority of the
population who lacked work or were farmers or self-employed.
Continued reforms have meant that the state now provides
free healthcare for those living below the poverty line.
However, many interventions are chargeable, as is all
medicine. At the end of the 1990s, the residents utilized
health care to a much lesser extent than twenty years
earlier. This is especially true for those who do not have
employment or live just above the poverty line. The
differences in quality and accessibility are very large
between private health care in the cities and the health
care that is located in remote mountain areas, which is
state-run, poorly equipped and has staff with low and
outdated education. Low tax revenues have meant that the
state has not been able to realize the decisions that have
been made on increased health care investments.
In 2006, there were 37 beds and 47 doctors per 10,000
residents. Qualified help was available at almost all
deliveries. Visit AbbreviationFinder to see the definitions of GEO and acronym for Georgia.
In 2010, the retirement age was 60 years for women and 65
years for men. Unemployment is higher than in neighboring
countries and during almost the whole of the 1990s it was
over 20 per thousand. Nearly half of the employees are
unionized. Threats and reprisals against elected
representatives are not uncommon. Since the middle of the
1990s, the regime has succeeded in cleaning up most of the
corruption at lower levels in society. In the two decades
since the country became independent, the position of women
South Ossetia History
The origins of the Ossetians are not entirely clear, but
among the theories are that they originate from the Alans,
an Iranian people, and that they settled in the southern
Caucasus during the early Middle Ages after being expelled
from their former settlements south of the River Don in
present-day Russia. Most were Christianized under the
influence of the Byzantine Empire, but a minority converted
The Ossetians who lived farthest south came under
Georgian influence while their neighbors in the north were
incorporated into the Russian Empire in the 1760s. In 1801,
the Ossetians were also occupied in the south, and the
entire Georgian kingdom, in the Russian Empire. After the
Russian Revolution of 1917, North Ossetia became part of
what was to become the Soviet Union, while South Ossetia
became part of the short-lived independent Georgian state
(1918-1921). During these years, several South Ossetian
rebellions were broken down by the Georgian leadership.
Since Georgia was also invaded by the Red Army and
incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1921, South Ossetia
was given some autonomy within the Georgian Soviet Republic.
When the Soviet Union began to fall apart, South Ossetian
leaders raised demands for increased self-government and
connection to North Ossetia. This led to clashes between
Ossetians and Georgians living in South Ossetia, and in
September 1990 the Ossetes issued a declaration of
independence. The Georgian government responded by revoking
South Ossetia's autonomous position, and civil war broke out
Civil War of 1990
The war lasted until June 1992, when the parties managed
to conclude a ceasefire agreement. By then over 400
Georgians and 1,000 Ossetians had been killed. A joint
Russian, Georgian and South Ossetian peacekeeping force was
deployed in the province. Later that year, the Organization
for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) set up an
office in Tbilisi to monitor the ceasefire and establish a
dialogue between the parties.
Following the ceasefire, lengthy peace talks were held
under the OSCE leadership, and in 1996 the parties signed an
agreement on a peaceful solution to the conflict but no
lasting relaxation could be achieved.
In 2001, 37-year-old businessman Eduard Kokojty was
elected South Ossetian "president". He announced that he was
holding talks with Abkhazia's leaders on common requests for
"associated status" with Russia. Kokojty also did not
exclude the possibility of letting South Ossetia merge with
Russian North Ossetia. Since the Civil War, many South
Ossetians had been granted Russian citizenship.
When Micheil Saakashvili took office as President of
Georgia in the winter of 2004, he declared his intention to
unite Georgia and re-establish the outbreak provinces of
South Ossetia and Abkhazia under the control of the Georgian
government. During the summer, repeated clashes occurred
between Georgians and South Ossetians, and several people
were killed. In mid-August, Georgia agreed to withdraw its
domestic troops and hand over to the joint Russian-Georgian-Ossetian
peacekeeping force to try to maintain order in the area.
Referendum on independence
In November 2006, South Ossetia organized a referendum on
independence. As expected, almost all South Ossetians voted
yes. At the same time, Kokojty was re-elected as President.
The Georgians in South Ossetia also held their own
presidential election. It was won by Dimitrij Sanakojev, who
organized a government and local administration in Kurta
north of South Ossetia's capital Tschinvali. At the same
time as the election, Georgians in South Ossetia voted for a
proposal to begin negotiations with Georgia to convert the
country into a federation where South Ossetia would be a
sub-republic. In May 2007, Georgia's parliament passed a
resolution that made Sanakoyev head of what was called South
Ossetia's temporary administration.
When Kosovo declared its independence in February 2008,
the conflict gained momentum. The South Ossetian parliament
in March called on the outside world to recognize the
province as an independent state.
Russia then announced that it no longer intended to
observe the ban on trade and other contacts with South
Ossetia adopted by the Commonwealth of Independent States
(CIS) in 1996. Russia's reasoning was that "conditions had
changed" and Moscow announced that contacts between Russian
ministries and their counterparts in South Ossetia would be